Tag Archives: great smoky mountains National park

Friends of the Smokies at Purchase Knob

Fall Trail

The weather forecast was not encouraging today.

However over twenty Friends of the Smokies members ignored the threat of rain and even thunderstorms and went hiking at Purchase Knob.

It would be more correct to say  we hiked from Purchase Knob, home of the  Appalachian Highland Science Learning Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beth R. of Tampa led the group.

The day started out gray but the yellows, reds, green and even brown more than made up for the lack of brilliant sunshine.

We left the Science Center on the Cataloochee Divide Trail, which is the dividing line between the park on one side and private land on the other.

Bill Woody’s cabin

First we stopped to admire the view from Bill Woody’s cabin. If you look to the left of the cabin, you see the private road that allows the owner to get from his house to this tiny cabin.

Gooseberry Knob, at the Swag Resort, allowed us to feel like we were staying at this high-end luxurious mountain hotel.

Since the trail passes by the property, the owners, Deener and Dan Matthews, encourages hikers to stop and sit a while. And we did. See the picture at the top of this post.

Then the climb started to Hemphill Bald located at Cataloochee Ranch, a private dude  ranch. The ranch is managed by the third generation of Alexanders.

To their credit, the owners have protected the property with a conservation easement. Though they can graze cattle and ride horses on the property, they can’t have developers put houses and condos on these high mountain knobs.

Marker trees

We came back down and took a short detour to a Native American Trail Marker Tree. The Cherokees bent back saplings to grow with a curve to indicate a trail marker – like our trail blazes but without the paint.

Here are Jack and Linda under the Trail Marker Tree.

By now, no one knows what “trail” the tree was supposed to mark.

After we returned to Purchase Knob, Ranger Paul Super gave us a short history of the Learning Center and its purpose. You can read more about the Learning Centers here.

Thanks, Beth, for leading the hike.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, November 14 on the North Shore Road Loop. Sign up here.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Book review

What can you say that’s new about the most visited park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Maybe not much, but you can surely present it in a different, novel way.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Daniel S. Pierce, Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson is a beautiful coffee table which tells of the wonder, beauty of the park without forsaking its history. In less than 130 pages, the book depicts each section of the park along with a full-page poster-like painting.

The introduction shows a timeline of human activity in the Smokies area.

In 1000 CE, the first settlement of Kituah became the Mother Town of the Cherokee. European settlers moved into the Oconaluftee section of the park in 1802. The book is as recent as the devastating fires during in the fall of 2016.

At LeConte Lodge

After reading the introduction, I turned to the pages on LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States, to read about its origins. In my experience, it’s the most deluxe high-mountain lodge – ever. You can stay at 6,360 feet and not have to carry a sleeping bag. That’s luxury!

Dan Pierce is now Professor of History and National Endowment of the Humanities Distinguished Professor at UNCA and former chair of the history department.

When I came to Asheville in 2001, I enrolled in a course Intro to the Southern Appalachians at the College for Seniors in Asheville. Dan was the instructor. His first book, The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park had just come out. I read it eagerly and recommended it to other as THE book on the park. So, he is the certainly the right person to write the copy for this illustrated guide to the Smokies.

You can’t discuss this book without mentioning the Anderson Design Group. They created the drawings of waterfalls, cabins, views and picnic areas in the classic poster art styles from the 1920s to 1940s. The back page of the book shows posters of the 59 national parks, which they gathered into a book. I counted all the national parks that I’ve been to – 40 over the years.
The details
You can buy the paperback book on the Great Smoky Mountains Association website  for $24.95.

A hardback copy is available at the Anderson Design Group website,  for $39.99.

Think Christmas – Your shopping all done

Book Launch
The three authors will be speaking about the book on October 5 at 6:30pm in the University of North Carolina – Asheville Humanities Lecture Hall. After the presentation, they’ll move to the Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery for a reception to open the exhibit of art work from the book. The exhibit will be up until the end of November.

Steve Kemp retires from the Great Smoky Mountains Association

Every once in a while I go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I don’t hike. Today was one of those days.

Smokies Headquarters

I was one of many, many people who met in the lobby of Park Headquarters to say good bye to Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA).

Everyone who’s anyone was there including Superintendent Cash, Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan, and other park officials, Laurel Rematore, Executive Director of GSMA, and much of her staff, Jim Hart, Executive Director of Friends of the Smokies, and Frances Figart, the new face of publications at GSMA.

Steve has been on the job for thirty years, growing the number and quality of the GSMA publications. He’s edited Hiking Trails of the Smokies, the beloved “brown book”, Wildflowers of the Smokies, Birds of the Smokies and all the “of the Smokies” book series. He started Smokies Life, a semiannual journal, with long, in-depth, thoughtful articles on some aspect of the park, a journal that published two of my articles.

After many toasts and reminiscences, Steve had the last word. He told a story that I wish I had caught on tape:

Steve grew up in Iowa, where, as he put it, the state motto was “There’s nothing to do around here”. With no public land available to hike or camp, he and his friends camped illegally in private fields by ponds. Farmers kept chasing them away.

Then one day, his posse found “Benny’s Happy Valley”.  Benny had a Welcome sign and allowed the public to camp and use his land. Steve and his  group were ecstatic and camped, fish and ran around along with others.

Cataract Falls

The moral of the story was that the Smokies and all the national parks have a welcome sign out for the public. And visitors really appreciate the chance to use the parks. Steve told the story with great humor, which reminded me of Garrison Keillor.

So whenever you pick up a GSMA publication and wonder who was responsible for the book or magazine, remember Steve, and soon, Francis. They are the “they” behind the interpretive products sold in the Smokies stores. See the picture above – Francis, Steve and Laurel.

PS What is the picture of Cataract Falls in the middle of this post? OK. I got to Sugarlands Visitor Center area early and I walked to Cataract Falls. I wanted to see the torrent of water after the rain. No torrent, not much more water than usual.