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Up and Down The Bear Creek Trail!
Elk, Civil War Graves, Steve Woody House in Cataloochee
Elkmont Cabins: Then and Now
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Wild Turkeys: My Three Amigos
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Janice's Hiking Journals, Photographs and
Affirmations of the Ephemera of Life......

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Pooey pooey on those who disclose the location of rare wildflowers (orchids) in and around our parks, both national and state.  JD Schlandt wins the goose egg for this one! (grin)


August 23, 2012

Today Al and I hiked the Deep Creek Trail from end to end, beginning at the trailhead on Newfound Gap Road and hiking to Deep Creek Road (Deep Creek campground in Bryson City, North Carolina).  We staged a car at the Deep Creek Campground in Bryson City and drove back to the Deep Creek Trailhead on Newfound Gap Road to begin our hike.  Believe it or not, driving from Maryville and staging our cars took almost three hours.  We started hiking around 9:30 a.m. and finished the hike around 4:30 p.m.  We've hiked portions of the Deep Creek trail many times during the past 10 years but never have we hiked the entire trail -- 14.2 miles -- in one trek.  It was fun for me.  It is a horse trail and as such, there were several muddy/boggy areas.  Most of the planks/boards we saw staged along the trail some years ago have been used to construct elaborate boardwalks for hikers and horses.  Thus, the footpath is much improved.  There's also numerous waterbars along the trail now.  Trail maintenance had been performed on the entire trail and there were no overgrown areas.  This was really nice.  Thank you to those responsible for the upkeep of this trail.  We saw numerous (and beautiful) Indian Cucumber Root in seedpod stage, several Cranefly Orchids, a few Jacks-in-the-Pulpit in fruit stage and a first for us was seeing within two feet of each other both Bluebead Lilys and Speckled Wood Lilys in berry stage.  Yep, there were blue berries and black berries within two feet of each other.  We've hiked for ten years and never have we seen these two in such close proximity.  The trail was not difficult to hike but there were a few steep short stretches which Al likes to describe as finger ridges.  And they were mostly uphill (grin).  I was also amazed that there were EIGHT backcountry campsites (2 horse camps even) on this one trail (campsites #53 (Poke Patch), #54 (Nettle Creek), #55 Pole Road), #56 (Burnt Spruce), #57 (Bryson Place), #58 (Nicks Nest Branch), #59 (McCracken Branch) and #60 (Bumgardner Branch)).   Beginning with campsite #54, there's a campsite approximately every half mile.  Bryson Place is the site of Horace Kephart's last permanent camp.  Kephart, the author of Our Southern Highlanders and an advocate for the establishment of the park spent many years living with and writing about mountain people.  His camp is marked with a millstone placed by the Kephart Boy Scout Troop in 1931.  I didn't know this when I hiked it today or I would have looked for the marker. 


The historic Spence Cabin in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now open for public use

(and additional information is also included here for the restored Appalachian Clubhouse in the Elkmont area as well.)

After standing empty for many years, the historic Spence Cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been restored and is available to the public for day-use according to a recent NPS news release. The cabin is located in the Elkmont Historic District, about 9 miles from Gatlinburg, TN.

“Spence Cabin sits right on the Little River in the middle of historic
Elkmont and is a beautiful setting for a special event,” says
Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “The park’s Historic Preservation Crew did an outstanding job restoring the cabin. We’re very excited to finally make it available to the public.”

Constructed in the late 1920s, the cabin is named for the Spence family,
who were the last to hold a lease on the home. It is also known by many
former Elkmont residents as the River Lodge. The true-to-original pink and green color scheme, stone chimney and rock entryway lend the cabin a quaint charm and are vivid reminders of the rich history of the Elkmont area.

To retain its historic character, the cabin was not upgraded to modern
standards. For those seeking a rustic space in a beautiful setting,
however, it may be just right. Accommodating up to 40 people, the cabin has four small meeting rooms, one large room with a gas fireplace and two restrooms. It is equipped with folding chairs, dining tables and buffet
tables. Although the cabin has no cooking appliances, there is a
refrigerator and electrical outlets in a small “warming kitchen.” Behind
the cabin, there are two stone patios, one of which overlooks the Little
River. With the exception of the riverside patio, the cabin is fully
accessible to mobility impaired individuals.

Reservations for the Spence Cabin may be made beginning June 13. November 15 is the last day to rent the cabin this year. It may be rented on a daily basis from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. The rental fee is $150 per day Monday - Thursday and $200 per day Friday - Sunday.

The Appalachian Clubhouse, also located in the Elkmont Historic District,
is available for rent, as well. The historic clubhouse was rehabilitated in
2011 and is rented on a daily basis for a fee of $300 per day Monday –
Thursday and $500 per day Friday - Sunday. The clubhouse accommodates up to 96 people.

The park will hold an open house for both facilities on Friday, June 29
from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend.

The park regularly offers ranger-led tours of the Elmont Historic District
every Friday at 10:00 a.m. These tours are an excellent opportunity to
learn more about Elkmont’s history as a turn-of-the-century logging
boomtown and summer resort community. Those interested in joining a tour should meet behind the Elkmont Campground Ranger Station a few minutes prior to the start of the tour.

Reservations and additional information for both the Spence Cabin and
Appalachian Clubhouse, including maps and photographs, are available at
www.recreation.gov. Links to video tours of both facilities are posted at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/spence-cabin.htm and
http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/appalachian-clubhouse.htm. The videos are also available on the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains Association You Tube channels.


June 12, 2012


For fall foliage status in the Great Smoky Mountains, check out the following website:
A great fall activity for the entire family......
Bugling Elk, Civil War Graves, the Steve Woody old homeplace in Cataloochee ..... and more
....Story and photos by Janice Henderson
We left Maryville, Tennessee at 6:15 a.m. anticipating hitting our first Smokies trail in Cataloochee Valley around 8:30 a.m. Well, we lollygaged for almost an hour watching the elk and listening to their bugling! It is the annual season of the "rut" for the elk and the bulls were rambunctious. What pleasure. We started hiking the Big Fork Ridge Trail around 9:30 a.m. A highlight for me on this trail was seeing the holding area where the elk lived while awaiting release into the Park around 2001. It is a massive fence/pen structure. Elk were reintroduced into the park in February 2001 when 25 elk from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area were released in Cataloochee. Elk once roamed the highlands of Southern Appalachia, but were eliminated by over hunting and loss of habitat. Elk herds are a common sight in Cataloochee in the spring and fall.
Most of the wildflowers were past peak but we did enjoy looking at and photographing patches of Stiff Gentian - my first ever sighting. There were a couple abandoned pastures along the way where homesteads once stood and I think it fun to pause and ponder just how life was at these locations. One such site was that of Harrison Caldwell’s farmstead. Another such farmstead not too far away was that of Jim Caldwell, a relative of Harrison’s, whose 155-acre farm had a spring house that is now on display at the Mountain Farm Museum at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center (near the Cherokee, NC park entrance).
To read the rest of this hike journal, click here.  Enjoy!
An email from Liz Clift Ramirez who has ties to the Elkmong community of yesteryear.  Posted June 24, 2011
I hope you enjoy her comments.  Thank you Liz and I hope to hear from you again soon after you've visited Elkmont during the Open House (see announcement below about this event) on June 25 and June 26, 2011.
Hi Janice,
I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your photography of the Elkmont area. I'm 66 and when I was about four or five, my family spent a rainy night at the Wonderland Hotel. It was probably 1949 or 1950 and it was my first stay in a hotel. Wonderland was the perfect name because my older sister and I slipped away from our mother to explore the hotel from top to bottom and falling into a rabbit hole couldn't have been any more magical for us. I have continued to visit the Wonderland Hotel over the years, and even though I was never able to stay there again, I would take my daughters there and we'd have dinner in the big dining room with the double screen doors. I was heartbroken when I heard the news that it was closed and was being demolished.
Last week I went with my outdoor club to camp out in Elkmont and see the lightning bugs. While the younger ones hiked to the top of the Chimneys, I took my camera and explored what was left of the Wonderland and the old cabins and lodges there. I wish I could find some of the photos from the old days for contrasting. I ordered the book Last Train to Elkmont and am enjoying reading it now. But most of all, I found you through a google search and am amazed with what else I'm learning from your photos and blog. Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful, magical photos. I didn't even know about the old areas you showed and now hope to be able to attend the event on June 26 and see them as well. I discovered through recent genealogy research that my great great great grandfather immigrated from Ireland to the old Fair Garden community of Sevier County in the very early 1800's, which makes me feel even more attached to the Smokey Mountains and the remains of the past left there.
Yours, Liz Clift Ramirez


Posted June 17, 2011

 New Supervisory Wildlife Biologist Announced for the Great Smoky Mountains NP 

An announcement has been made for the selection of Bill Stiver as our Supervisory Wildlife Biologist in charge of the park's Wildlife Program. Bill will replace Kim Delozier, who recently retired from Federal Service. Bill is a native of Michigan. He is married and has three daughters. He has a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University, 1987 and a Master of Science in Wildlife Sciences from The University of Tennessee, 1991. Bill has worked as a Seasonal Biological Science Technician in Shenandoah National Park and as a Wildlife Biologist/Data Analyst for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Bill has worked in the Wildlife Branch at Great Smoky Mountains National Park since May 1991. As a wildlife biologist, Bill has been instrumental in shaping the park’s wildlife management program most notably in black bear management, wild hog control, and T&E species management. Combined with his knowledge of the park backcountry, Bill’s long-established working relationships with GRSM staff from all Divisions, as well as Local, State and other Federal workers in various wildlife programs, provide a strong foundation from which to manage the park’s wildlife program.

~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To check the status of current temporary road and facilities closures in the Park, click here to go to the National Park Service's website.
To Sweat or not to Sweat:  A "Must Hike" Loop
Kephart Prong Trail-Sweat Heifer Creek Trail-Appalachian Trail-Dry Sluice Gap Trail-Grassy Branch Trail-Kephart Prong Trail Loop
Today we hiked a 14.5 mile loop starting at the Kephart Prong trail, trekking up the Sweat Heifer Creek trail, walking a piece on the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Charlies Bunion, hiking a short distance on the Dry Sluice Gap trail to the Grassy Branch trail and then backtracking along Kephart Prong trail to our car.  It was a "be sure to eat your Wheaties for breakfast " kind of day.  More..... 

Kentucky Lady's Slipper
Cypripedium kentuckiense
This beautiful orchid draws its specific name from the area where it was originally discovered, Kentucky.  The plants are very large; an individual can be 30 inches tall.  The flowers -- at 4 inches plus measured from tip to tip and  the largest orchid in the southern Appalachians -- may be either single or double, one above the other. 
Updated 5/21/2011
The Kentucky Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium kentuckiense) were in bloom today--prime blooms they were!  We were a couple happy hikers today!

You will find lots of historical information about the founding and development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the
Have fun looking and navigating!
Elkmont Cabins:  Then and Now
Click here to navigate to my
 Elkmont Cabins:  Then and Now page.


Old Sugarlands Trail/Rockhouse
To see more photos we took of the rockhouse,  click here.
Mystery Building in the Sugarlands

In the early years prior to the movement to establish a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains, much of the Sugarlands, that long gentle sweep of woodlands descending from the base of Bull Head, was cleared and inhabited by a few scattered settlement farms possessing log cabins, barns, fences, and other accoutrements of pioneer life. In time, Dave Ogle would build a store in the lower Sugarlands and higher up, the Pi Beta Phi fraternity would open a settlement school and build a teachers’ cottage nearby. The state of Tennessee would commission a road through the Sugarlands. Up in the far reaches of the Sugarlands, the Indian Gap Hotel would be built to accommodate the influx of travelers hoping the reach the Chimney Tops, Alum Cave and other points on the higher slopes. Today, the road is abandoned, and the store, the school, the teachers’ cottage, the hotel, and all the cabins, barns and outbuildings of the farms have been torn down—with one exception.

This one exception is an abandoned one-room house situated on a high bench overlooking Bear Branch.  The house is a tall structure, constructed of stacked river rocks with a low sloping kitchen unit affixed to the back. It sports a large fireplace at one end and what appears to be an outside porch or deck on the opposite end. The building apparently had a wooden floor and a loft, but these, along with the roof, are completely gone. 

     (Excerp from the Great Smoky Mountains Colloquy, Fall 2007, Volume 8, Number 2, The University of Tennessee Libraries).

Want to read more about this rockhouse?  Click here.


My Last Unhiked Step in the Smokies

Random Image from Jan's Photo Gallery

I can vividly recall my first trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1963 when I was only 13 years old.  Joan Giles, a good friend and neighbor, took my younger sister Jane, younger brother Johnny and me to the Smokies with a side trip to Cherokee in 1963.  It'd be another sixteen years before I'd hike in the Great Smokies again.

Thirty Years Later (July 2009)...

It was to be a three-day outing but shortly after our trek began, we decided to truncate our hike by one day.   More....

Click to read my hiking journal and see photos for "My Last Unhiked Step in the Smokies"


Keeping the Faith: Hiking Hazel Creek & Bone Valley Trails
Another Smoky Mountains hiking adventure story by Janice Henderson

We’d long anticipated hiking the Bone Valley Trail and on the fourth of July 2009, my dream came true. Al and I backpacked 31.1 miles July 2 through July 4, 2009 via the following route: Clingman’s Dome-Bypass Trail-Appalachian Trail (AT)-Double Springs Gap Shelter (overnight)-Welch Ridge-Hazel Creek, overnighting at Bone Valley campsite (#83)-Bone Valley and then onward via Hazel Creek trail for a Fontana Marina shuttle pick up just beyond Proctor campsite (#86).



The Fifth Trail from Never

Today's Route.....

Anthony Creek to Bote Mountain (3.6 mi)-Bote Mountain to Appalachian Trail (1.7 mi)-AT to Jenkins Ridge (.3 mi)-Jenkins Ridge to Hazel Creek (8.9 mi)-Hazel Creek to Lakeshore Trail (4.5 mi)-#86 to boat ramp (.5 mi).

"Rarely in Smoky Mountain nomenclature is a ridge named for a trail. One exception is a short, stocky ridge extending south from Blockhouse Mountain to Pickens Gap known as the Jenkins Trail Ridge. Following the spine of the Jenkins Trail Ridge is the Jenkins Ridge Trail." (Kenneth Wise, Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains)

Al and I hiked 19.5 miles of trails today, June 2, 2009, for me to complete the 8.9 mile Jenkins Ridge Trail that I’d not previously hiked. Only a friend would do this for another friend. This hike represents the fifth trail from the end of my hiking all 900 miles of maintained trails in the Smokies--a feat I once thought would "never" happen.......

Click here to read the complete hiking journal where you can also link to my photo gallery for this hike.



Janice Janice Henderson


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Copyright 2011 by Janice Henderson. All rights reserved.