Surely you’ve stopped at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Sugarlands, or maybe, at the Swain County Visitor Center to buy a book, honey or a T-shirt. They have nine stores in and around the park.
But GSMA is also a publisher of all things Smokies.
They are the authority on trails, flowers, birds, salamanders … of the Smokies. If you’re a hiker, you should have Hiking Trails of the Smokies. If you’re a birder, they have Birds of the Smokies in a small-format book.
GSMA has carried all my books including Forests, Alligators, Battlefields. But now they’re going to publish it as well. They might put a new cover, change the price, make all the decisions that a traditional publisher does.
And they’re going to distribute it as well. That is always be the biggest challenge with independent publishing.
So if you’re thinking that you might want a copy (or two or three), go to the Official Park Store and buy a copy from them. Or in a Smokies store, of course.
Every national park has boundaries. There’s no question when you’re in the park and when you’re out. Today’s Carolina Mountain Club hike showed this off at its best. Our hike went back and forth from “town” to “gown” or Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this case. Because of the park’s history, dwellings and farms can be right over the border.
Our hike started at the gate to Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, informally known as Purchase Knob. In the winter, the Science Center is closed-it is over 5,000 feet in altitude, so hikers have to walk about 1.5 miles to the Cataloochee Divide Trail. It was cold and windy and my fingers were frozen.
The land on which the Science Learning Center is located was owned by Kathryn McNeil. She and her family had built a summer home. But in the year 2000, she donated the house and 535 acres of land to the park. Now, school children and scientists use it as a base for scientific exploration.
But once we reached Cataloochee Divide Trail, we were in between two sets of trees and I felt a little warmer. I could at least find my fingers.
Cataloochee Divide Trail forms part of the eastern boundary of the park. If you have any doubts about that, you can see the fence separating the park from private land.
We reached a small cabin, called Taylor’s Turnaround. It used to be a shelter but now is a full-fledged cabin. We all thought that it belonged to the Swag, coming up, but no… We met the owner in the afternoon who said his property adjoined the Swag.
Now the Swag.
Dan and Deener Matthews built this upscale lodging in the mountains. first as their summer home. Dan is the Rector Emeritus of Trinity Church, Wall Street in New York City.
The Swag is open from mid-April to the end of November. The rooms, with all meals, go from $625 to almost $900 a night. It’s a beautiful place for a honeymoon or anniversary or just to see the Smokies in comfort.
You can always figure out when you’re on private land, since there are always more signs. The most puzzling one is a memorial to Drayton Robertson. Look at the photo. The memorial is no older than about two years. Any idea who this person was?
Cataloochee Ranch is the last piece of private property. It’s a ranch where you can ride horses, rent a cabin or just have lunch. Much of the top of Hemphill Bald has been saved as a conservation easement, guaranteeing that it can never be developed.
We then headed back.
By now, the sun was shining and we stopped on the porch at Purchase Knob before walking the road to our cars.
If you want to see unbroken wilderness, this hike is not for you. But I love seeing the different ways that our land is being used.
There will be talks on the Battle of Kings Mountains and Guilford Courthouse – subjects of two national park units that I visited several times. I do hope that the speakers will go beyond “the red stood here and the blue stood there.”
Maybe they might explain one the most fascinating monuments at Guilford Courthouse, the “No North, No South” monument. This monument, erected in 1903, was an attempt to unify the country still raw from the Civil War by pointing out that we were all unified during the American Revolution.
But have no fear. These talks will only be 15 minutes each and be repeated throughout the day.
Muskets and rifles will be fired. Members of the company will be camping in authentic Revolutionary style. I wonder if anyone will be reenacting the redcoats, you know, the British Army soldiers.
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVVI) unifies several battlefields. Its eastern end starts in Elkin. The western end is in Virginia. There’s a rumor that the Superintendent of the Historic Trail will also be there, talking about OVVI and stamping your national park passport.
But the most fascinating part of all of this for me is talking to the men who are the descendants of the OVVI soldiers. Imagine knowing about your grandfather (N times removed) who lived in the 1780s.
I could give you the schedule but there are so many activities. Just come to Elkin on Friday and enjoy. And though technically, you don’t have to register for the Friends of the MST meeting to participate in the reenactment, just remember who made this possible.