Tag Archives: great smoky mountains National park

Noland Creek with Friends of the Smokies

I always say that there are no flat trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After all, we’re in the mountains. But Noland Creek is as flat as we’re likely to get. Friends of the Smokies hikers enjoyed a perfect autumn day, walking ten miles with only about 800 feet of ascent.

On Noland Creek Trail
On Noland Creek Trail

When we planned the 2016 Classic Hikes, back in November 2015, we wanted an easy low-altitude hike for November. We were concerned that it could be a wet, nasty day. Instead yesterday was a colorful, warm hike on a road bed which followed the creek the whole time.

Starting at Lakeview Drive (Road to Nowhere, to many people), we hiked down to the trail. We headed right and walked the wide trail/road that allowed us to converse.

Yellow and brown leaves fell like rain as we kicked and crunched them underfoot. We crosses several bridges.


On Noland Creek
On Noland Creek

Just before the last one, on the left on the trail, was a structure left over from a foundation that provided electrical power to the area.

I kept stressing that people lived here until the 1940s, and some people still call it the “new part of the park”. We were in the North Shore Road area which was flooded by Fontana Dam during World War II.

Our first destination was campsite 64, about 4.1 miles from the trail head. It’s a huge campsite with many picnic tables. I guess the park had the room so they really spread out the tables.

We brought an array of sweets to share – so many goodies that we ended up taking most of it home. See the picture below.

At Campsite #64
At Campsite #64

One of the regular FOTS hiker says that “It’s not a Smokies hike for Danny unless there’s a cemetery.”

So, yep, we had a cemetery stop.

On the way back, we split into two groups. The “fast” group took a detour on a steep path to a small cemetery. Back on the trail, we stopped at a large, obvious home site, with overgrown boxwoods and the remains of a rock fence.

Later we regrouped and walked the mile or so to the end of the trail and Fontana Lake. The photo at the top of this post shows a little cascade at the end of Noland Creek and the beginning of the Lake.

Some of us walked quite a bit to actually see the lake. Not only do we have a drought but Fontana Lake has been drawn down quite a bit. TVA controls the waters in the lake, not the park.

The last hike of the year will be on Tuesday December 6 to Grotto Falls on Trillium Gap Trail. Here’s how to sign up.

Forney Ridge, the A.T. and some weird leaves

What do you do when you want to hike an outstanding trail but it’s too short to warrant a long drive? You really don’t want the drive to be longer than the hike. So you get creative and add another trail to the day. That’s what we did today at the Friends of the Smokies Classic Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Josh Shapiro
Josh Shapiro

Today we all met at Clingmans Dome to first hike the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, the first trail to be rehabilitated with funds from Trails Forever. Before the rehab work, it had been a wet, rocky slide.I hadn’t thought much of it; I was happy to have a trail at all at 6,500 feet.

“After a rain, you could canoe down this trail,” Josh Shapiro, the Trails Forever crew leader said. Josh had accompanied us to explain how the trail work was done.

But after three hard years of work, hikers have a solid and mostly dry trail. It’s still a good uphill climb on the way back from Andrews Bald.

But to make the hike worthwhile, we climbed on the Appalachian Trail going south. The views were magnificent. We couldn’t stop taking photos. See above.

Purple leaves
Purple leaves

But wait! What are these purple and green leaves? The leaves look perfectly ordinary in the Smokies, but the color? Leaves should be red and yellow right now. Were they painted? Does anyone have an answer? Can you smoke them? As one hiker said,

“Why do you think they call it the Smokies?”

Now that I have your attention, sign up for the next hike on Noland Creek on Tuesday November 8. Though it’s 10 miles, it’s almost flat and so historic.

CampCon in the Smokies

How did I happen to stumble or get invited to National Council on Public History Mini Conference in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? I’m a history user – you know like a computer user. The professionals define it as history applied to real-world issues. These are folks who work in museums, national and state parks, curators…

Most of the attendees were academic, either professors or graduate students. Forty-five attendees came as far away as Washington State to camp in Cades Cove and talk and walk. Just like a conventional academic conference but in a group campsite instead of a convention center.

The first presenter was the facilitator for Supervisory Ranger Lynda Doucette who usually works at Oconaluftee Visitor Center. She talked about how the park had been devoid of Cherokee history until recently.

Then the park, along with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who border the park, created signs in Cherokee and English along the Oconaluftee River Trail. Lynda told a hilarious story of a visitor who thought the Cherokee syllabary was an Arabic language and why was the park translating signs into Arabic. Lynda explained to him, without sarcasm, that the language was indeed Cherokee.

The next presenter, Brian, talked about interpretation – the connection between people and resources. The discussion was very sophisticated, as you would expect from an academic conference, even if we were by a creek.

After dinner, Nigel Fields, the new Chief of Resource Education, talked about his job, his career and his mission – to get more unrepresented population in national parks. By then, it was dark – so no photos. We ended the evening with a bonfire and S’mores. Who says historians don’t have fun?

CampCon 2016 at Elkmont
CampCon 2016 at Elkmont

When I crawled into my tent, everything was dry and comfortable. Then the skies opened up in the middle of the night. My 12-year old single wall tent isn’t as water tight as I had thought. By morning, everything in the tent got soaked.

After breakfast, I took participants to the Elkmont Historic District, one of my favorite in the park.

Could I hold my own, speaking to history academicians? I didn’t have the lingo but I had the resources on my side. They loved walking through Elkmont and seeing the ruined houses.

Again, the questions were very pointed – and so were my answers.

The park isn’t acting on the Environmental Impact Statement and its conclusions because it doesn’t have the money. Pure and simple.

Elkmont cemetery
Elkmont cemetery

No walk or hike that I lead is complete unless we go to a cemetery. The Elkmont Cemetery is very upper crust with interesting tombstone. There are several recent tombstone.

But the following quote found on a plain tombstone moved me tremendously:

Once in a lifetime, you find someone special,
your lives intermingle,and somehow you know . . .
This is the beginning of all you have longed for,
A love you can build on, a love that will grow . . .