All posts by Danny Bernstein

About Danny Bernstein

I’m a hiker, hike leader for the Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies and an outdoor writer.

Hunting for a Cabin in the Smokies

Today, I scouted the December hike for Friends of the Smokies (FOTS). Marielle Dejong, Outreach & Development Associate, and I met at a parking area in Elkmont on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bridge to the Avent Cabin

I had walked the Little River Trail many times and then through the Elkmont neighborhoods. But today, we were also going to find the Avent Cabin.

Sarah Weeks of FOTS sent me an article on a cabin owned by Frank and Mayna Avent.

Mayna (1868-1959) was a regionally famous painter from Nashville who was classically trained in Paris.

She and her husband bought the cabin in 1918, close to local mountain people who lived there year-round. Mayna used the cabin as her summer studio, where the Smokies mountains was her inspiration. If you search out Mayna Treanor Avent, you’ll find pictures of her work.

Like all people who lived in the general Elkmont area, she sold the cabin to the National Park Service in 1932 but leased it back. Her family continued to use it after the painter’s death. But as years were numbered on the lease, her granddaughter saved the cabin by putting it on the National Register of Historic Places. Otherwise, it probably would have been dismantled like her neighbors’ homes.

At the Avent Cabin

Today, with some directions gotten on the web and a lot of searching and some fruitless bushwhacking, Marielle and I found the cabin. It is not on a maintained trail.

We could only get in the outer room of the cabin, where we found a copy of the application for the National Register and a copy of an article by Courtney Lix in Smokies Life Magazine(Volume 4 #2). The article, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, answered several questions:

How is the cabin maintained? Look at the picture of the bridge above? It is better than most of the Smokies bridges on officially maintained trails. The Frank and Mayna Avent Trust was created by the family, I assume, to provide funding for the cabin’s maintenance. Friends of the Smokies oversees the flow of the funding to the park.

The answer to the second question is not as clear. How did Frank and Mayna Avent get to the cabin? Come on the hike and see.

I’ll be leading a hike through Elkmont and up to the Avent Cabin, on Tuesday December 12. Go to the FOTS events page to sign up.

I’ll lead the hike, if and only if our government passes a budget and doesn’t shut us down. Yes, we’ve been on that path before.

Sign up!

Wilderness First Aid course – Rule of 3

WFA 2017

Every few years, I decide that I should renew my Wilderness First Aid certification and CPR training. So this past weekend, I went down to Nantahala Wilderness Center and spent two days learning and practicing what I should do if a terrible thing happened on a  hiking trip.

SOLO was the pioneer of wilderness first aid – which is easily defined as “what do you do if you can’t call 911?”

When I first took the course, it was twenty hours of instructions and we started our intensive weekend on Friday evening. Now it’s 16 hours of lecture, discussions and scenarios. We learned what to do if we come upon a hurt hiker on the trail, sprains and fractures, wounds, hypothermia and possible allergic reactions.

Randy M., the instructor, kept it lively and moving. He emphasized several important points – it’s not first about the patient. You need to assess the scene:

  • Is it safe for you, the first responder?
  • Is it safe for the rest of the group?
  • Then, can I help the injured person?

One of many fascinating thing I learned was the rule of three (3). You can live

  1.  3 seconds to make a decision and not panic
  2. 3 minutes without air
  3. 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment (not icy water)
  4. 3 days without water. Ouch!! That would be tough for me
  5. 3 weeks without food – if you have water and shelter
  6. 3 months without companionship. Our instructor referred to “Wilson” but I don’t think most got the reference from Castaway.
Shelby in CPR

On Saturday, I found out that I could also take the two-hour CPR course that evening. Shelby, the instructor, had a tough job.

All the students were fried from eight hours in various WFA courses. But she made it fun and memorable and I now feel better prepared than I’ve been after other CPR courses.

I stayed at the NOC base camp, several small cabins around a base kitchen and bathroom building. On Sunday morning, we discovered that the water wasn’t running. Not a great thing to find out before eight more hours of class, but somehow we all managed.

There are other ways to get your WFA certification, but SOLO to me is the gold standard. If you’re in the woods a lot, take a weekend to take this course – and hope you never have to use it.

Friends of the Smokies Lake Shore Hike

Our FOTS group

Yesterday, Gracia Slater led the November Friends of the Smokies hike. Gracia is a two-time completer of the Smokies 900M; that means that she’s done all the trails in the Smokies twice.

I’ve done this hike so many times, first for my first hiking guide, Hiking the Carolina Mountains, then with Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies.

What could I say that’s new and different?

To begin with, the hikers are different. A couple of people had never done this hike before. The water in Forney Creek was running high.


Forney Creek

Without all the history bits that I relate when I lead it, the hike went a lot faster. We had our lunch at Campsite #74.

We also took a detour on Lake Shore Trail to a finger of Fontana Lake. See the picture above. You can see that at various times, the lake is higher than it was yesterday. TVA controls the level of the lake to its needs.

We continued on Lake Shore Trail and took a side trip to the Woody Cemetery. The most fascinating aspect to this cemetery are the eight graves that say “Infant Freeman”. Imagine losing eight babies.

Last time I wrote about this cemetery, I speculated that the babies died before they were even named and baptized because of an Rh Factor incompatibility. I haven’t found anything else that explains these grave stones.

Eight Baby Freemans

But this time, I looked up when the Rh factor was discovered – 1940. So if this was the reason, medical science in the mountains would certainly not have a cure for this problem. Here’s what a source says:

Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943) discovered the Rh factor—a type of protein, or antigen, on the surface of red blood cells—in 1940. Most people are Rh positive. But if a pregnant woman is Rh negative and her fetus is Rh positive, her body may mount an immune response against the fetus’s blood and cause harm.

Now for something completely different, the next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, December 12  in Elkmont. It’s an easy hike followed by a short tour of the Elkmont houses. Sign up here.