Tag Archives: Friends of the Smokies

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.

Boogerman Trail with Friends of the Smokies

Crossing Caldwell Fork

How much do you need to know about a hike before you sign on?

How concerned are you about getting your boots wet when the weather is warm and the water low and your fellow hikers are friendly?

September’s Friends of the Smokies hike was postponed from a rainy, miserable day last week to a perfect weather day with blue skies, warm temperatures, and low water levels.

Today was a wonderful day to be doing a classic North Carolina hike. The Boogerman Trail may be the most well-known hike on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hike has ten major water crossings on the Caldwell Fork Trail. A few years ago, a storm washed away several bridges. Other bridges were damaged, though still standing. Still, we hiked the loop and just got wet.

Mike K.

The park has replaced the first two bridges with sturdy, high structures that will withstand a lot. But other crossings require agility. The park has put in large, flat boulders instead of bridges. That’s where the agility comes in. Still you’ll get your feet wet.

The bottom of the creek is very rocky and uneven. Hikers were experienced enough to cross with their boots on and with hiking poles. Sandals, or worse, bare feet, is just asking for trouble.

Still, I would not want you to think that we were just preoccupied with water crossings.

Mike K., our leader, did a fine job of talking about the history of the Boogerman Trail. We bushwhacked to the Boogerman home site. He took us to a cemetery and the Messer property. He also pointed out huge trees.

Late summer and early fall flowers were bountiful.

We could recognize cucumber root, gentians that were almost pure white, doll’s eyes, and Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit clusters. A few turtle heads were still hanging on, though probably not for long.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, October 10 from Purchase Knob. Fall colors ought to be at their peak at that time and no water crossings will be involved.

Sign up here.