Tag Archives: Friends of the Smokies

Elkmont with Friends of the Smokies

FOTS group

Elkmont is the “it” section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The houses in Elkmont have been neglected, forgotten and hidden in plain sight for years, really decades. Now , it’s all over the news.

Finally the park is tearing down most of the old houses and rehabilitating a few of them . The area is (dare I say it) what the Fontana Road to Nowhere was eight to ten years ago. See the history on  my previous blogs.

So I was so glad that the Classic hikes of the Smokies decided to schedule a hike with so much history and easy hiking in December.

Crossing on Cucumber Gap Trail

It always a little tricky to postpone a group hike, especially one planned months in advance. But Friends of the Smokies decided to move the usual Tuesday hike to Thursday because of iffy weather. Nine hikers showed up at Elkmont.

We started on Millionaires Row, passing by the Spence Cabin. All the other houses on Little River Trail have been removed; only chimneys and stone foundations are left. We almost completed the circle on Cucumber Gap Trail but took Jakes Creek Trail to the Avent Cabin. Marielle and I recently found the cabin, though other hikers had known about it for years.

We came down through Society Hill, where only one house, Col. Chapman’s cabin, has been saved. After a visit to a very modern-looking cemetery, we walked down Daisy Town to the Appalachian Club.

Blowdown on Jakes Creek Trail

It looks like almost all of the houses in Daisy Town will be saved.

I’m not surprised since the houses there  were the best maintained and they are easiest for visitors to find; i.e. you can drive through Daisy Town.

Finally we drove down to the Wonderland Hotel site and climbed to the top. According to Julie Dodd who writes a blog for Friends of the Smokies,

The Wonderland Hotel Annex was one of the structures scheduled for removal . The Wonderland Hotel was removed in December 2006, after a selection of historic materials was salvaged for conservation in the park’s museum collection.

The Wonderland Hotel closed in 1992. The annex burned in 2016. Recently someone set fire to one of the Elkmont houses in Daisytown and the park is searching for the culprit(s). We saw the damage on the porch of one house.See the picture at the top.

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!

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.