Thursday, August 30, 2018

Crowders Mountain on New Years Day 2018

Crowders Mountain:  New Year’s Day 2018 – 1/1/18 – 5 Miles

This is a hike that I’ve done many times in my “backyard” park, the closest one to my home in Charlotte, NC – Crowders Mountain.  The state park stretches between two monadnocks, Crowders and Kings Pinnacle.  The visitors center sits at the midpoint between the peaks.  Starting from the VC and hiking out to each peak and back to the middle is a great 9-mile effort.  Today, Jim and I hiked with our friends Cathy and Mike from the VC to Crowders and back for a 5-mile leg-stretcher for New Year’s Day. 

‘Twas cold outside

From the rock outcropping at the top of Crowders Mountain, the city of Charlotte was visible on the horizon like the City of Oz

Rock scrambling along the Rocktop Trail

Lunch at Sammy’s Neighborhood Pub in Belmont, NC


"If you asked me for my New Year's resolution, it would be to find out who I am."  ~Cyril Cusack

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Smokies 900 Round 2: Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters Cabin

Smokies 900 Round 2 Hikes: Metcalf Bottoms Trail/Little Brier Gap Trail – 10/28/17 – 4.4 Miles

Soaking rain throughout the night, slowed down a little by morning but not expected to stop.  We didn’t want to waste a day, so Carol and I looked for a hike that offers more than just checking a box while getting drenched. Today’s the day for a little Smokies history hike to Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters Cabin.

We broke down camp, throwing everything in the car soaking wet (to dry out in the garage back home), and drove to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. We watched the rainfall increase as we sat in the car eating our protein bars, then suited up for the damp cold. There were a few other brave souls out there.

The school can be accessed by car from April until December, but the short walk on the Metcalf Bottoms Trail is far better, evoking the feeling of a student going to school.  Walking it in the rain is even more authentic.  (But I'll bet the schoolkids didn't first go down a little side trail and have to turn around...)

 Little Greenbrier School

[Be careful not to confuse the community of Little Greenbrier on the western side of Gatlinburg with the community of Greenbrier on the eastern side.] 

Back in the day, the mountain community of Little Greenbrier requested a teacher for its children, and were told that when they provided a schoolhouse the county government would provide a teacher. The Little Greenbrier School served the community from 1882 to 1936 as a schoolhouse, a community center, and a worship space for a Primitive Baptist congregation.  The church’s cemetery is beside the building. 

Leaving the schoolhouse, Carol and I walked on Little Brier Gap Trail to its junction with Little Greenbrier Trail, then turned around and walked back to the turnoff to the Walker Sisters Cabin. 

Wylie King and his wife Mary Jane started their family in a little log cabin close by in Little Greenbrier Cove in the 1840’s. As the family grew to 10 children, he built the larger home that stands today. When Wylie died, daughter Margaret and her husband John Walker moved in with their own young family, which increased to 11 children, and John dismantled the original cabin and appended it as the kitchen.  (John Walker also helped to build Little Greenbrier School.)

So far not an unusual story for mountain families in the 1800’s – self-sufficiency and lots of kids – albeit noteworthy that so many children survived to adulthood.  Some married and moved away, but five sisters remained on the homestead after the parents were gone. In the 1930’s when the national park was being formed, the five sisters refused to leave.  A compromise was struck where the sisters allowed their land to be purchased in exchange for a life lease, an arrangement that was subsequently used for many other farmers to agree to sell their land for the creation of the park.  The Walker sisters remained in their home. The last one, Louisa Susan, died in 1964. 

Of all the outbuildings on John Walker’s hardworking farm, only the corn crib (pictured here) and the springhouse remain

Hiking Trails of the Smokies, also called “the little brown book,” gives more history of both the school and the Walker Sisters Cabin as it describes the trails where they are located, along with several anecdotes about life in that time. Interested readers can also find detailed descriptions of the trails and buildings here and here.

The simply furnished house is fascinating, picturing that large family living life inside its walls (did winters seem long?). There are photographs depicting the interior as it was when the sisters lived there, crammed full of belongings, walls covered in newspaper.  The ladder to the upper floor sleeping loft is daunting – imagine five women of advanced age climbing it each night!  Surely they were hardier souls than we are today. 

As the rain abated, Carol and I backtracked to our car, happy that we’d walked through a little history today.  Now we faced a five-hour drive home.  Of course we took the scenic route. Home run.

“I’ve come here [Little Greenbrier School] barefoot…frost on the ground…when our toes would be as red as turkey snouts when we got here.”  ~ George Melton, excerpt from Hiking Trails of the Smokies