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October 22, 2019

Grandma Gatewood and her Inspiring Story

Have you ever heard of Grandma Gatewood?  She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself.  She also was the first person to walk it three times.  Even more surprising is that she did all of this after age 65!

Ben Montgomery’s book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk:  The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” http://www.amazon.com was published by Chicago Review Press in 2016.  This is the story of a great-grandmother who left her small Ohio town with a change of clothes, a pair of thin-soled sneakers, and less than $200.  She did not have a tent nor any professional hiking gear.  By September 1955 she was standing atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin proclaiming “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”  Emma Gatewood had lived through poverty, an abusive husband, and raised 11 children before she began her walk.  

Grandma Gatewood utilized the healing powers of physical activity and natural beauty.

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180 mile long public footpath.

On the trail she faced fierce storms and saw the beauty of nature.  She walked up steep ridges and down treacherous ravines.  She often relied

on the kindness of other hikers or community members to keep going.  It is not only a tale of grit and determination, but also of the healing power of nature.

The author interviewed family members and others that Gatewood met along her journey.  He also had access to her trail journals and diaries as well as media coverage of her amazing journey.  

Grandma Gatewood Benefitted the Trail

Gatewood became a celebrated hiker.  She appeared on television programs with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter.  Her celebrity brought public attention to the Appalachian Trail.  She was not shy about voicing criticism of parts of the trail which were not well-maintained and hence difficult.  This public spotlight led to enhanced trail maintenance.  Many believe that this attention very likely saved the trail from extinction.

At age seventy-one she hiked the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail.  By the time she passed away at age 85, she likely had hiked more than 10,000 miles!

January 7, 2019

Plenty of Winter Activities in our Area

Need a winter get-away?  While summer is the peak tourist season, our area offers plenty to see and do.  

Gatlinburg is gussied up through February for Winterfest.  Literally millions of lights and displays make the area glow.  This is a great time of year to stroll the downtown streets, admire the lights, and visit some of the shops and restaurants.  Because there are not the crowds of summer and fall, now is the time to visit some of the local indoor attractions.  You might want to check out Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the new Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the Guinness World of Records Museum.  The mild

Winter vistas are beautiful.

When the leaves are down the views go on forever.

seasonal weather also makes it a great time to visit Ober Gatlinburg.  The resort has eight ski trails with varying levels of difficulty for beginners, intermediate, and experienced skiers and snow boarders.  Certified instructors are available and an on-site shop rents skis and other equipment.  The view from Anakeesta goes on for miles!  Enjoy a meal or a snack, try your hand at zip-lining, or enjoy the treetop walk.

Winter Hiking

In this area about half the days in winter have high temperatures at more than 50 degrees F, making it very comfortable for hiking.  Fewer tourists means more quiet.  The absence of the leaves opens new vistas.  It is easy to spot the stone walls, chimneys, foundations, and other reminders of past residents of the area.  If there is snow on the ground, spotting and identifying animal tracks adds to the fun of your hike.  If the weather has been below freezing for a length of time, you will see frozen waterfalls, sparkling icicles, and azure blue skies.  Please note that as of today the federal government shutdown is still in force.  That means that for most national parks there will be no park-provided services such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities, or road maintenance.  For information go to the park website https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.html.  Before you start out, be sure to check the weather in the area you intend to hike.  In addition to temperature and precipitation, wind is an important consideration.  Limbs blowing down create danger.  Our guests report that some of their favorite winter hiking trails are:  Rainbow Falls, Porters Creek, Max Patch, and Andrews Bald.  Please share some of your favorite hiking adventures!

 

October 1, 2018

Autumn Activities in the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountain Association (GSMA) has announced autumn hiking and learning opportunities in our area this October.

Autumn Birding

Both novice and expert birders will find a rich variety of late-season habitats at the Seven Islands State Birding Park in Kodak, Tennessee.  The park is on a peninsula nestled in a bend of the French Broad River and features a diverse landscape of aquatic and grassland habitats, hiking trails, and spectacular mountain views.  In a single day, birders may see or hear as many as 80 different species!  The hike will be conducted on Sunday, October 7 at 8:00 am.  Birders can expect to hike no more than 5 miles on trails rated as moderately difficult.  To learn more about all the activities in this blog post, please visit http://www.gsmassoc.org.  

On an autumn hike you may very well spot a red crossbill.

Autumn is the perfect season for birding.

Another birding opportunity, this one on Monday, October 8 at 8:00 am starts at the Newfound Gap Rockefeller Memorial to seek out high-elevation bird species such as vireos, nesting wood warblers, and flycatchers.  After several hours at Newfound Gap, the birders will drive to Clingman’s Dome to follow a nature trail in search of red crossbills, common ravens, and more.  This hike is rated moderate and will be about 5 miles in length.

Hiking

If you are in the mood for an easy to moderate hike of about 6 miles, then be sure to go to Mingus Mill in North Carolina on Monday, October 8.  The hikers will follow a portion of Mingus Creek.  Local hiking enthusiasts will lead the way to Floyd Cemetery and perhaps also to Queen W.H. Cemetery.  The hike includes passing the still-operating Mingus Mill which was built in 1886.

As the group goes to the Enloe Slaves Cemetery they will enjoy spotting wildlife activity, late-season wildflowers, and early fall foliage colors.

 

On Tuesday October 30 you can meet at 8:30 at the Little Brier School in Tennessee.  Park volunteer Robin Goddard, dressed in character, will take you back in time to 1881 in the one-room Little Greenbrier schoolhouse.  As the hike continues, a professional naturalist will share the cultural history of the Walker family.  She will explain the natural resources they needed so the family of 13 could be self-sustaining.  They worked in their livestock pastures, fruit orchards, and vegetable fields until the 1960’s.  Be prepared to walk about 5 miles on easy to moderate trails.

Autumn is a wonderful time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains.  The weather will be perfect for hiking and exploring, and then for enjoying a delightful dinner and cozy accommodation at the Buckhorn Inn.

 

October 23, 2017

Mount Le Conte is Buckhorn Inn’s Backyard

Mount Le Conte is a beautiful backdrop to dinner at the Inn.

The view of Mount Le Conte from the Buckhorn Inn veranda is breathtaking.

Rising 6,593 feet, Mount Le Conte accounts for the majestic view from the Buckhorn Inn veranda.  It is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is entirely within the state of Tennessee.  It is the third-highest peak in the national park, behind Clingman’s Dome and Mount Guyot.  

Who is Mount Le Conte named after?  There is a bit of controversy about that.  Joseph Le Conte is listed by the United States Geological Survey as the famous geologist for whom the mountain was named.  Others believe the mountain was in fact named for Joseph’s brother, John Le Conte, who was a physicist at South Carolina College.  What we do know for sure is that Paul Adams, an enthusiastic hiker, had a major impact on this area.  In 1924 he joined the Great Smoky Mountain Conservation Association, whose mission was to make the region into a national park.  As part of the campaign Adams led a group of Washington DC dignitaries on a hike up the mountain so that they could appreciate first-hand its rugged beauty.  The trip was successful and eventually the entire region became protected as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are five trails that hikers may use to reach the summit of Mount Le Conte.  They are the Alum Cave, Boulevard, Bullhead, Rainbow Falls, and Trillium Gap Trails.  Millions of years of erosion and weathering have given Mount Le Conte its gently sloping shape.  It is composed largely of sandstone, siltstone, and shale that was formed hundreds of millions of years ago.  One remnant of the Ice Age can be seen today–a dense stand of Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest blankets the upper slopes.

Lodging at the Top of Mount Le Conte

The Le Conte Lodge, established in 1925, is the inn with the highest elevation in the eastern United States.  Guests may only access the lodge by hiking.  Its inaccessibility means that supplies are brought to the lodge by llama train and helicopter.  http://www.lecontelodge.com

During your next visit to the Buckhorn Inn we encourage you to appreciate Mount Le Conte, whether that means hiking to the summit or enjoying the view, spiced tea in hand, from one of our veranda rocking chairs.

September 25, 2017

Fall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall is a great time to be in eastern Tennessee!  The experts are predicting a magnificent display of colors this year and the Buckhorn Inn is so convenient to the Park.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers have planned many free activities to help you enjoy the park.  Here are some of our favorites!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park explodes with color in the fall.

Fall is a beautiful time of year in eastern Tennessee.

Evening Campfire

A ranger is available to tell stories and histories around the campfire from 7:30 to 8:30 pm in the Elkmont Campground.  The campfire program runs on Friday and Saturday evenings from September 16 through October 28.

The “Good Ol’ Days”

Walk the Mountain Farm Museum with a ranger and learn about the early settlers in this area.  The Museum is located by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.  This event is available every Saturday at 10:30 am from September 16 through October 28.

Porters Creek Hike

Join a ranger in “our own backyard” to engage in an eye-opening exploration of how much, and how little, things have changed over the years in the Greenbrier Cove area.  The hike is conducted on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Hikers should meet at the Porters Creek trailhead.

Fall Amble

This is one of our favorite ways to take in all the beautiful colors of fall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Locations for this hike vary as the ranger will take you to the elevation where the leaves currently are at their peak.  The hikes begin at 10:30 and are classified as moderately difficult.  This hike is available on Sundays and Wednesdays from September 17 through October 25.

School Days at Little Greenbrier

Discover what it was like to live in a mountain community and to attend a one-room school house.  This trip back in time happens every Tuesday through October 24 at 11 am and 2 pm.  Meet at the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse near the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area.

All of these events, and many more, are detailed at the National Park Service website.  Please visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/calendar.  We look forward to seeing you this fall!

 

July 31, 2017

Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Many of our guests spend quite a few of the hours they have here hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  One of our favorite trails for hikes is the one which leads to the Grotto Falls.  The Grotto Falls are the only falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which you can walk behind!

Hikes to Grotto Falls are beautiful, especially in the morning.

The hike to Grotto Falls is very popular with Buckhorn Inn guests.

The Trillium Gap Trail leads to, and behind, the Grotto Falls.  The trail winds through old-growth forests and many large eastern hemlocks.  The path is wide and well-worn, but be careful of the rocks and exposed roots!  Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring water.  The Buckhorn Inn has hearty and delicious sack lunches available if you choose to take one on your hike.  The trail is a moderate climb.  The roundtrip to the Falls and back takes about 2-3 hours.   During the hike you will cross four small streams.  In the springtime watch for the blooms of white and yellow trillium, white violets, and Dutchman’s breeches.  The Dutchman’s breeches are so called because the flowers resemble men’s trousers hanging by the cuffs on a clothesline.

Hikes on the  Grotto Falls trail feature many spring wild flowers.

White trillium are plentiful in the spring on the hike to Grotto Falls.

The Grotto Falls cascade down 25 feet.  The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has all the elements for beautiful waterfalls–ample rainfall and an elevation gradient.  In an average year, the mountains receive more than 85 inches of rain.  The rain trickles, then rushes down the mountainsides, cascading beautifully onto the large boulders below.  

Directions to Grotto Falls for Hikes

From the Parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at light number 8.  Follow the Historic Nature Trail into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to the large parking area near stop number 5.  You will see a sign for the trailhead.  For more information on planning your hike, visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/grotto-falls.htm  Happy hiking!

June 14, 2017

Buckhorn Inn is Gateway to Greenbrier Area

Just 1.5 miles from the Buckhorn Inn is the Greenbrier entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Often referred to as “the locals entrance to the park”, the Greenbrier largely is undiscovered by tourists.  The Greenbrier area of the park boasts the Ramsey Cascades–the tallest cascades in the Smokies.  In the Greenbrier, named for the thorny vines common in this area, one can find beautiful hiking trails, fishing, and picnic areas tucked among the towering hemlock and maple trees.

History of the Greenbrier Area

During the Ice Age, the high mountain slopes fractured, creating boulder fields.  The natural forces of erosion carried smaller boulders to lower elevations.  The early settlers in this area used these stones to build long rock walls, many of which are still standing today.  In fact, the Old Settlers Trail has dozens of these picturesque rock walls.  You will notice that the streambeds in this area are lined with sandstone and slate rocks of all sizes.

Natural forces carried the rocks from the high mountain slopes.

The stone walls built by early residents of Greenbrier still stand.

The first inhabitants of the area were the Cherokee, who had a seasonal community at Porters Flat.  The first recorded residents of European descent in the area were brothers William and Middleton Whaley who settled here around 1800.  In 1818 John Ownby and his family joined the area.  They were subsistence farmers, who supplemented their income by hunting and trapping.  By the early 1900’s, the population of the Greenbrier area was near 500.  The Greenbrier area has many streams which have cut deeply into the terrain.  Because of this natural feature, residents lived in many small communities along the streams, rather than being part of one large community.  General stores in the area provided a venue for residents to trade chickens, eggs, and animal furs for such necessities as clothing, medicine, and coal oil.  They farmed corn and potatoes, and dug ginseng.

Hiking along the trails in the Greenbrier, one can easily imagine the lives of the previous residents of this beautiful area.  This is a special place to spend one, or many, days exploring.  Guests at the Buckhorn Inn can keep up their exploring stamina by pre-ordering hearty, delicious sack lunches to take with them.  

Sandwiches and yummy treats for the Greenbrier hiker.

Gourmet sandwiches are the mainstay of Buckhorn Inn sack lunches to enjoy in the Greenbrier area.

https://www.buckhorninn.com/dining  We will see you on the trail!