Friends of the Smokies hike – What a day!

Today was a day that poets write about. So do tourist bureaus. It was a warm, bright autumn day. The trees were in full color up in Purchase Knob in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Friends of the Smokies.

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Anna Lee and I had scouted this hike in June if you’re curious about the details.

Purchase Knob was the home of Kathryn McNeil and Voit Gilmore, who had owned the property since 1964, and had built a summer home upon it. Instead of selling the land to developers, they donated the property with the house to the national park. Now it houses the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center.

Climbing Thunderbolt Mountain
Climbing Thunderbolt Mountain

We had forty-one hikers today, which we broke into two groups. Our hikes are getting known all over the country. We had plenty of folks from out of state, including Florida and California.

Those hikers from far away didn’t come just for the hike. But what is significant to me is that they joined Friends of the Smokies to come on the hike. They knew that they were getting a guided hike with value added.

We started from Purchase Knob, visited the Ferguson Cabin and got on Cataloochee Divide Trail. After we passed The Swag, we climbed Thunderbolt Mountain the steep way. The top picture shows the view from Thunderbolt Mountain.

We could have followed a path, not a trail, that wiggled around the Cataloochee Ranch property. But the group chose to just climb straight up. and It was up.

The Swag

Deener Matthews and Holly Demuth
Deener Matthews and Holly Demuth

On the way back, we stopped at the Swag.

Deener Matthews told us the story of The Swag. In 1969, she and her husband Dan bought 250 acres adjoining the Smokies from a woman who had inherited the land and didn’t seem to know what to do with it.

The Matthews put in a road the next year and built the house the  year later. For several years, it was a family house. But in 1982, the Worlds Fair came to Knoxville. But there weren’t enough accommodations. So the organizers came to the Matthews to ask if they would put up some guests. They agreed and were surprised that people wanted to come back again. A business was born and The Swag became a luxury resort.

The Matthews are great supporters of Friends of the Smokies. In fact, Dan is now the president of the Board of Trustees. Today, Deener greeted the group with ice cream pops. I hope the hiking group doesn’t get too spoiled with these treats.

Once we arrived back at Purchase Knob, we got an introduction from Ranger Paul Super,Research Coordinator/Biologist

Our next hike will be on Tuesday November 10 on Chimney Tops Trail with a surprise. No, not ice cream.

You know the drill by now. To sign up, contact Anna Lee Zanetti at at Friends of the Smokies on 828.452.0720.

5 thoughts on “Friends of the Smokies hike – What a day!

  1. It was a great initiating hike. Thanks to walk the awesome leaders & speakers. Well be driving from JC for more events… even though there won’t be ice cream.

  2. Best time ever up at the Purchase and the features along the Cataloochee Divide. Exploring The Swag’s Nature trail was a bonus.

  3. I don’t think we could have crammed any more into the day–hiking along ridges and up hollers, through rhododendron hells and up wide open meadows, historic Fergeson cabin and Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center and Swag, talks from a Park Ranger and adjacent to Park landowner/Friends of the Smokies board director emeritus, horses along the trail then wondering dogs, and lots of great Friends–new and old! Whew. That’s a lot. No wonder I’m exhausted!!

      1. I want go say our Friends hike was the best one yet, well maybe second in line to Mt Le Conte, it may have been one of the best days ever, just perfect in every way! Thank you, Anna Lee, Holly & Danny
        Lunch atop Thunderbold was worth the climb & every afternoon would be spectacular with a mug of hot cider at The Swag!

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