Friends of the Smokies kicked off a new season of Classic Hikes today. Thirty-two people walked on Mingus Creek Trail to the Mingus Family Cemetery and back.
As this was our first hike of the year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we chose a four-mile hike with lots of history and artifacts.
From the time we got on the trail at the Mingus Mill parking lot, it was obvious that there had been an active human history in the area. The trail started out paved and wide. We passed a firing range, still used by park rangers. Then a water plant built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. You can still see the pipes. But we also identified yellow and purple violets, blood root and hepatica. Spring is definitely here.
We got to the intersection where Mingus Creek Trail takes off to the left and the cemetery trail (not its official name) goes right. And though the trail is not an official trail and not on a map, it is well-maintained by the park. Two sturdy walking bridges makes it obvious that this path to the cemetery hasn’t been forgotten.
The turn to the Mingus Family Cemetery is obvious since there’s a sign. We scrambled up the short but steep way to a small field of field stones marking the graves.
Hikers wandered around trying to glean information on the people buried here. A few markers had faint dates.
Back at the cars, we headed over to Oconaluftee Visitor Center where Supervisory Ranger Lynda Doucette talked about the Mountain Farm Museum.
“It’s a museum because on a real farm, you wouldn’t have buildings so close together.”
She spent most of the time describing the challenges of dealing with elk who just love all the crops in the fields. She and her staff have come up with various fence configuration to keep out the elk.
The elk reintroduction brought challenges. In olden days, farmers would have just shot the elk but that’s not an option today. Elk have now been seen (but not confirmed) as far as Cades Cove.
The next Friends of the Smokies Classic Hike will be on April 11 to Big Creek. Register online and bring your flower book. You’ll use it.