Cocke County TN

Honoring Cocke County’s Century Farms Highlights TN Agricultural Heritage

As part of the festivities celebrating the Cocke County Fair‘s diamond jubilee this month, an appreciation event is scheduled Aug. 19 to honor local families whose farms have been in continued operation for many generations.

“Century Farms” are an essential part of the Tennessee Heritage Farms Program. Administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, the program recognizes and works to conserve farms that have remained in the same family and in continuous agriculture production for 100 years or more.

About 2,100 such farms have been certified across the Volunteer State — a dozen of them in Cocke County:

  • Baxter Farm, 1875
  • Bible Farm, 1887
  • Dwight L. Bundy Farm, 1907
  • Heritage Farms, 1849
  • Jim and Alice Freeman Gulf Farm, 1910
  • Leibrock Farm, 1886
  • M.G. Roberts Poplar Tree Farm, 1859
  • Neas Farm, 1885
  • Oakleaf Farm, 1902
  • Ottinger Farm, 1894
  • Pitts Farm, 1897

River Dale Farm, established in 1794, is also a designated Pioneer Century Farm, meaning that its operation dates back to the founding of the State of Tennessee in 1796 or before.

“Despite drought, floods, the Civil War and the Great Depression, these families have remained tillers of the soil, persevering where others have failed,” wrote state historian Carroll Van West in his 1986 book, “Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective.”

The Tennessee Heritage Farms Program plays a crucial role in preserving rural culture and regional identity – especially in small, mostly-rural counties like Cocke. The program provides educational resources and extension outreach to farm families and the general public, raising awareness of the importance of keeping Tennessee’s agricultural heritage well tended.

The program helps encourage and promote a sense of community pride among the farm families, local historical societies, county extension offices, student groups, city and county governments, and other stakeholder individuals and organizations interested in conserving Tennessee’s countryside and maintaining authentic connections to our cultural roots.

The Heritage Farms Program also aims to promote economic development in rural areas by highlighting the importance of agriculture to the state’s overall economy. Historic farms often attract visitors and tourists who not only appreciate the beauty of the pastoral landscapes, but admire the character, persistence and resourcefulness of Tennesseans who make their livelihoods as producers of civilization’s sustenance.

Given the range of continuing challenges facing today’s farmers, words that Van West penned more than three and a half decades ago — in the midst of the 1980s American Farm Crisis — take on even greater import today: “In a time of agricultural crisis, the legacy of the Century Farmers is a potent reminder that farmers in the past have survived similar hard times to prosper in the future.”

 

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Cocke County’s Fair Means More than Mere Fun

Cocke County’s Feisty Summer Fair Marks 75 Years of Celebrating Local Culture, Building Community Bonds and Preserving Ties to Rural Life

County fairs are a beloved tradition of late summer, filled with nostalgia, excitement, and friendly competition. Fairs hold a special place in our hearts, with songs, books and movies dedicated to capturing their magic. As we stroll through the fairgrounds, memories of childhood come flooding back – the exhilarating rides of the midway, the tantalizing smells of fair food, and the vibrant displays of animals, canned goods, pies, and other products of country living vying for that esteemed blue ribbon or prize money or, perhaps most coveted, bragging rights.

The history of the modern fair dates back to 1811, when it was established as a platform for farmers to share their innovative farming techniques and foster a sense of community among farming families. It became a friendly battleground where farmers and their families competed for the title of “best of show,” presenting before the community their prized animals and delectable preserves.
Popular media celebrates fairs in small towns.  Consider the fictional town of Mayberry R.F.D when the fair took center stage in several episodes, celebrating everything from beauty pageants to Aunt Bee’s famous pickles. These depictions only served to reinforce the significance of fairs in both small and large communities.

In Cocke County, the first organized fair was held in 1948 at the fairground’s current location. Since then, these friendly community competitions have evolved beyond pickles, pageants, and poultry.  Come to enjoy Gospel Singing, Bluegrass music, tractor pulls, and the midway filled with rides and carnival foods.  The demolition derby and the firemen challenge add an extra dose of excitement to the fair. And this year, as the fair celebrates its 75th anniversary, there will be a celebration of the Century Farms of Cocke County.

County fairs are not just about the attractions and competitions; they are about coming together as a community, celebrating our agricultural heritage, and creating lasting memories. So mark your calendars for August 15-19, 2023 at the Cocke County Fair.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Celebrating Cosby- 2024 Summer Programming Announced

Each summer, the Great Smoky Mountain  National Park Service teams up with Cocke County Tourism to host the “Celebrating Cosby”   community programming which honors the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area through storytelling, dance, music, and history walks.

“These programs offer incredible opportunities for visitors to discover Cosby by experiencing it firsthand with the people who live and work here,” said Chief of Resource Education Stephanie Kyriazis. “We are grateful to our friends from the local community who are leading these unique experiences.”

Plan your visit to the Smokies to include these fun, free events held in the Cosby Campgrounds.

June 21, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.    Mountain Edge Band

Enjoy traditional bluegrass music and stories of Cosby families during this musical night! Featuring musicians Judge Carter Moore (guitar and vocals), Andy Williams (mandolin and vocals), Kurry Cody (banjo and vocals), and Carty McSween (bass).

June 28, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.    Cherokee Storytelling and Dance

Learn about the Cherokee culture and stories through dance, music, and storytelling featuring members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee People, including Daniel Tramper, Dustin Tramper, and Sonny Ledford.

July 5, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.      Honoring Those Who Served

Honoring those who served and a presentation of Quilts of Valor. Join park staff to learn about community members’ roles in the military and public service, yesterday and today!

July 12, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.     People of the Mountains

Take a step back in time and learn from the locals about what daily life was like working and living in the Cosby community and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn directly from the families connected to the land.

July 19, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.     Moonshiners

White lightning, mountain dew, moonshine! Distill myth from fact as you learn details of making moonshine in the mountains from Moonshine Legends Mark Ramsey, Sally Clark, Digger Manes, and Kelly Williamson.

 

 

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Local Lure Company Angling for Big Bites

Growing up on Douglas Lake, angler and business owner, Hobie Rice knows a thing or two about fishing lures.    The sport of angling is about so many variables- skill, equipment, fish, and weather.

A lure is as essential as the bait for fish. The first lures were brought to this country by the English settlers.  The lure replaced live bait by mimicking the  “action” of live bait, whether the lure mimics a deep dive, zig-zags, or floats near the surface.  There are dozens of types  and colors of lures to choose from.

At Ledge Hog Fishing Supply in Dandridge, TN, they have reengineered the blade lure for fishing a multiple depths. This is a lure that is popular with professional anglers for its ability to attract trophy size fish.

In May, Cocke County Tourism and Brad Wiegmann from the Fishing Guide Podcast had an opportunity to sit down with Hobie and talk about Douglas Lake fishing and other attractions in Cocke County.  Listen in and get a few “tips” on fishing for the big bite.

If you are heading to Douglas Lake for a fishing trip, stop by Bucks an’ Bass to pick up a Ledge Hog lure.   Find a place to stay here.

 

 

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

The Legend of the Moon Pie- A Campfire Story

Summer’s sticky sweetness is often celebrated around a blazing campfire with the delicious making of  the confection called ‘smores and the storytelling of tall tales and folk legends.

Here on the Adventure Side of the Smokies, the legend of the Moon Pie is a story worth telling.

Marshmallows and graham crackers are the stuff legends are made of. Near one of the entrances to the sprawling Union Cemetery in Newport, you’ll find the grave of Earl Mitchell, a salesman for the Chattanooga Bakery and the force behind the Moon Pie.  Mitchell was born in nearby Greene County and his travel route brought him to towns in East Tennessee and Kentucky.

According to the company website, Mitchell got the idea for the Moon Pie  after a conversation with a Kentucky Coal miner in 1917.  The miner wanted a snack “as big as the moon” and Mitchell delivered with a snack that would fit in a lunch pail.   A small marker at the foot of Mitchell’s grave gives him credit for “inventing” the Moon Pie.  Quite often folks will leave a Moon Pie and an RC cola at the foot of his grave

Which gooey confection of graham crackers, marshmallow, and chocolate came first?  The Moon Pie was being sold by 1917, and has been continuously produced for over one hundred years.

Legend has it that roasting marshmallows began as early as 1890.  The first recipe for ‘smores appeared as a recipe in a Girl Scout handbook in 1927.

It seems that the irresistible  combination of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers have continued to be a sweet treat for many generations.

Contributed by Clayton Hensley, #knoxroadtripper

 

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Stop in Hartford and Start a Journey into Cocke County’s Recreation Heartland

Welcome to Your Wild & Woolly Destination for Wilderness, Whitewater & Open-Air Wonderment

Exit 447 along I-40 about 14 miles south of Newport doesn’t really look like much on a map. But this wide spot in the road just five miles from the TN-NC state line is brimming with all manner of nature-based activities to please outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Hartford, Tennessee has become a magnet for adventure seekers. It offers a range of sensory stimulation suggestions that’ll ignite your spirit of exploration and set you on a course for seeking more of everything the waters, woods and wild landscapes of Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer.

With genuine hospitality and an eagerness to please those with a predilection for embarking on outdoor excursions, Hartford invites visitors to embrace an escape into the wonders that abound in the mountains and valleys all around.

Hiking: Backpackers and day trekkers can go trail stepping along countless footpaths and arboreal alleyways that wind through primeval forests and past falling water, leading to an abundance of awe-inspiring vistas and innumerable hidden treasures of nature.  Want to get your feet on the Appalachian Trail?  You can do that in Hartford.

Rafting: The Pigeon River, with its roiling freestone currents and rough-and-tumble rapids, promises to swamp you with invigoration. Trip Advisor recently featured the Volunteer State’s most adrenaline churning river-running put-in points, and Hartford topped the list. For that matter, it’s regarded as one of the most praiseworthy whitewater joyride jumping off spots in America, if not worldwide. Expert guides navigate you through Class III and IV rapids, ensuring a delightfully soggy but assuredly safe experience.

Ziplining: The 37753 zip code offers the kind of thrill-filled airborne escapade you’d normally associate with an amusement park. But on this ride, you can experience the weightless sensation of flight while immersed in nature’s wonders. Get familiar with a bird’s eye perspective on the landscape below as you soar through the tall temperate rainforest canopy, suspended by a harness from which you will be held safe and harmless.

Fishing: Sink a line in the pristine rivers and many gurgling high mountain creeks surrounding Hartford. A variety of gamefish species inhabit these scenic waters, providing ample hook-setting opportunities for action-seeking anglers. Lay back and reconnect with nature as you lazily await a twitch of the rod tip. Or get hyper-focused and hone your fly casting skills as you try to entice a hungry trout or bass to burst the surface and slurp up a hand-tied bug you’ve pitched into the strike zone.

Biking: Strap on your helmet, mount your trusty steel-and-titanium steed, and pedal into an exhilarating network of bike trails  and more planned for in the backwoods forest service roads around Hartford. From mellow slow-roll meandering to intensely sheer gravity-fueled down-mountain descents, Hartford’s rugged terrain beckons mountain biking enthusiasts of all skill and age levels.

So whether you’re looking for a chill weekend getaway or a thrill-charged vacation of a lifetime, the endless opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, rafting, zip lining, and mountain biking make Hartford a gateway where exhilaration and rejuvenation are always available in a heartbeat.

Discover your next adventure here.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Packrafting the French Broad River – 2 Day Paddle Adventure

The mud from the crudely cut road flew into the air on either side of the SUV. We were slowly making our way parallel to the French Broad River on a prime piece of property being developed into a campground. The goal was to get on the river close to the Tennessee/North Carolina border but the road was presenting an early and unexpected challenge. The last thing we wanted was to get stuck and have to walk all our gear to the put-in. Luckily, the road was just cooperative enough to allow us through.

The owner of the land was gracious to let us access the river for what was to be a two-day pack rafting trip. We crept down the road for two miles, passing old fishing shacks that may or may not still be in use. Finally, the road abruptly ended at a small beach on the water. We quickly unloaded and began inflating our rafts.

For this mini adventure, I’d brought along my friend and expert paddler, Bobby Johnson. Bobby is one of the best endurance paddlers in the world, having won numerous long-distance races. This trip would be both of our first times in a packraft though, so we both went into the experience with plenty of unknowns.

As we began the process of inflating our rafts and compiling our gear, I found myself staring out across the river to the mountains partially shrouded in fog. Even before getting on the water, we were already in a beautiful setting that would be tough to beat. Instantly, it felt like we were the only people around for miles and miles, and this adventure was going to be special.

We pushed our rafts off the beach and within less than a minute we were bouncing over small shoals. Other than the river in front of us, all we could see were the misty mountains rising sharply on either side. It felt both otherworldly and uniquely East Tennessee.

The plan was to divide the 21-mile trip into two days, giving ourselves the opportunity to enjoy our surroundings at a pace barely faster than the river would carry us. The end destination was a take-out spot near Newport, a town built on moonshine distilling and ripe as a potential hub for outdoor recreation.

The beauty of packrafting this section of the French Broad is that every bump and ripple is magnified. You don’t need Class 2 and 3 rapids to feel like you’re having a whitewater adventure in these boats. We were treated to some easy rapids throughout the first day, which gave us plenty of time to get used to how the rafts operated in the water.

High above us, a variety of birds made the trees lining the river their home. I counted no less than 20 bald eagles during the entire trip and each sighting was as special as the last. When the river would flatten out, I would grab my phone from its dry case and attempt to get video of the eagles in flight overhead. The river would spin the boat around in slow circles as I focused on these majestic creatures.

We had a predetermined stop about halfway through the trip at the Bobarosa Saloon. This gritty bar and restaurant next to the river is a biker’s paradise. We had heard that the food was really good and that was enough to convince us to stop. Less than 200 yards from our destination though was a rather large rapid, easily the largest so far of the trip. The roar ahead of us from the water crashing against itself was slightly anxiety-inducing but the thought of a burger and opportunity to dry off was enough to push us through. Steering to the right side, Bobby hit the rapid at a perfect angle, showing me the way through. The packraft easily absorbed the impact from the rapid and he was quickly through and paddling up to the restaurant. It was the perfect final exciting moment for our first day of paddling.

Day 2 began with temperatures in the low 50s and darker skies. After staying overnight next to the saloon, we slowly pulled on still-wet clothing and walked to the river’s edge. Less than 20 yards from the put-in we could see the first rapid of the day. It didn’t appear to be too challenging from a distance as we pushed our rafts off the shore. Immediately, our initial assessment of the rapid was proven wrong. What we hadn’t seen was a second set of rapids around a slight bend that were much bigger. Before we knew it, we hit them head on, water shooting over the front of the raft and completely soaking both of us. It was the perfect way to immediately wake up and prepare us for what was ahead that day.

After a quick stop to dump out the water in our rafts, we restarted our adventure. The first day had been a fairly easy, relaxed paddle. Today was going to be a bit more action-packed. The rapids were more frequent and slightly bigger now. The rafts handled each one quite well but it took some skill to keep them going straight with each encounter. The river current seemed to always want to pull us somewhere we didn’t want to go, forcing us to paddle harder and faster in order to hit the right line.

Sometime after an hour or so of continuous bumping over shoals, the river flattened out and we were treated to high cliff walls on one side and farmland on the other. It was a stark contrast between shores. With calmer waters, the silence all around was suddenly more obvious. It would only be a brief quiet though.

Throughout this area of the country, cryptozoology is all the rage. If you’re not familiar, this is the study of the legendary creatures that have graced the covers of tabloids for decades—the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch, likely the most famous. Bigfoot stickers cling to countless cars and every gift shop offers t-shirts and trinkets in honor to these creatures. Sightings have been reported for years and years in the area. It’s easy to dismiss these things as just another tourist item and an attempt to make it something uniquely Appalachian.

Our tranquil moment in this section was abruptly broken by a sound that can only be described as something between a shout and a growl. We had just floated past a small section of trees between two high cliff walls. Though we had joked about a potential run-in with Sasquatch a couple of times earlier, this suddenly felt less humorous. As is the nature of a flowing river, we were well beyond the source of the sound before we could fully digest what we had heard. Could it have been the legendary creature? We would never know.

The current was progressively slowing as the area around us became more flat and houses became more abundant. Before we knew it, we were at our takeout next to a historic bridge and the journey was over. Soaked to the bone, we pulled the rafts from the water and began the process of deflating and finding our dry clothing. We retrieved the car we had dropped off a few days before near the takeout spot and began driving back to my SUV deep in the woods.

Twenty-one miles down the French Broad River had been the ideal introduction into packrafting. But more importantly, it was the perfect way to see Cocke County, TN in a way that few others have. From the natural to the supernatural, this water adventure had everything you could want in a weekend in the outdoors.

Greg Wingo is the owner of ROAM Projects, an outdoor recreation consulting company. He is the race director for Great Alabama 650, the longest annual paddle race in the world.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Amongst the Rhododendrons

I really love camping. That’s a statement not all too uncommon by many outdoors enthusiasts. There’s a certain freedom that exists with temporarily laying claim to a spot of earth and spreading out your basic necessities for a period of a few days. For a small fee, and sometimes no fee at all, you can embrace nature from the comforts of a tent.

Recently, I took a long weekend to explore the remote beauty of Martha Sundquist State Forest. This little-visited wooded area in Cocke County is almost fully surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. Like so many of the country’s best destinations, this area is remote and mostly without cell service. Getting into the state forest requires following some windy single-lane roads and even through a small creek. What off-the-path destination isn’t complete without a creek crossing!

Before venturing to the forest, I made a stop at The Bean Trees restaurant in Hartford. Located right on the Pigeon River, The Bean Trees probably has the best burger in all of the county. Knowing that I would be deep in the woods for a few days, I wanted to get one last big meal and some hot coffee at the adjacent cafe. I sat on the deck overlooking the river and began daydreaming about the relaxing long weekend ahead.

Plugging in the address of the park into my phone’s GPS, I began the 30-minute drive to the first entrance. I found myself daydreaming about a life out here tucked away nestled between the bubbling and fragrant flowers. Though creature comforts aren’t far away, it really does feel like you’re disconnecting from society as you drive along. Houses become fewer and fewer as the road becomes more narrow.

I crossed the small creek at the entrance, an easy feat for my SUV, and almost immediately found my campsite for the first night. The spot was like something out of a nature book. Rhododendrons surrounded the campsite in a semicircle with an opening in the middle revealing a rippling creek. Stones rounded by countless years in the creek created the perfect sitting spot to enjoy the cool water after a hot day and long drive. Setting up camp was quick and even though the campsite was next to the main road in the forest, I never saw another vehicle pass.

Nighttime presented itself with a quick drop in temperature. This gave me the opportunity to light my first campfire of the year. There’s something very special about sitting by a campfire and getting lost in the dancing flames. I was seeking out solitude in the woods and I had found it.

The next morning, I set out to hike within the forest. I left my vehicle at the campsite and started down the gravel road to the main trailhead and park map kiosk. In keeping with the theme of solitude, I still hadn’t seen another soul. There was a sense of calm mixed with the twinge of adventure with knowing that I had this quiet, beautiful place all to myself.

The park map displayed several trail options and I chose to combine two. The Horse Route is a 9-mile trail that loops the perimeter of the forest. I started out on that trail and was immediately met with my first creek crossing. In true fashion for the trails throughout Tennessee and North Carolina, the bridge was a log split in half to create a perfect path across the water. It even had a knotted handrail perfect for balancing while taking stunning photos perfect for making your Instagram followers jealous.

The path continued on, and within a mile I turned off onto the TN Gulf Trail. The 3.5-mile point-to-point trail immediately engulfed me in its rhododendron tunnel. I spent the hike continually stopping next to the creek that followed by my side and taking in the sounds of rushing water over rounded rocks. It was hypnotic, calming, and perfectly cold to the touch.

After looping back on the other side of the Horse Route, my hike for the day was complete. Seven miles stretched out over several hours felt both leisurely and not long enough. I kept with the slow pace of the day and took my time making a meal back at the site. Though I was definitely hungry, there was no need to rush the experience. My loose plan for the next day was to stay at the campsite and write all morning while sitting by my private creek. I knew that would round out the ultimate solitary excursion in the woods.

Nighttime approached and the symphonic sounds of creatures all around signaled that the day was coming to a close. I felt privileged to be the only person around experiencing all that the forest had to offer. It was providing me with something that is increasingly harder to find – escape from the pressures and duty of everyday life. Sleep hit quickly thanks to the long hike, warm sleeping bag and fading thoughts of a backcountry trip not too far from civilization and yet perfectly withdrawn from the world.

Greg Wingo is the owner of ROAM Projects, an outdoor recreation consulting company. He is the race director for Great Alabama 650, the longest annual paddle race in the world.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Adventure Run on Mt. Cammerer Loop

At most, I stared only a few inches in front of my feet as I moved slowly up the rocky trail. Each step required full focus in order to convince myself to keep going up, up, up. The initial excitement of this trail running challenge faded almost instantly when my labored breathing and pounding heart rate quickly surpassed the pace of my running. One thing was clear—this trail was determined to defeat me within the first mile.

In a casual conversation around a hiker hostel campfire the night before, I’d mentioned my plan to run the Mount Cammerer loop. Slightly less than 16 miles in length, the counterclockwise loop was a challenge I’d wanted to undertake for some time. My contribution to the conversation felt slightly less impressive given that I was sitting with a group of thru-hikers currently tackling the Appalachian Trail. These seasoned, gritty trekkers seemed quite interested in my pursuit though, clearly a result of the respect all trail lovers have for any worthwhile adventure. As I retired to my rustic accommodations for the evening, I felt an increased excitement for the following day’s journey.

I chose a rather easy start/finish spot for my run—Cosby Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This section of the park is perfect for anyone wanting to experience the beauty without the hassle of the crowds. Tent and RV camping are offered at this entrance, and the area feels secluded yet safe. The campgrounds have several trails to choose from with a variety of distances and difficulty levels.

My adventure began on the Low Gap Trail, which has a trailhead right at the parking lot. The first quarter-mile was easy single track running that lulled me into a sense of wonderment as I looked around in all directions at the abundant rhododendron plants. Crossing a wooden footbridge over a storybook-like creek, I passed some day hikers taking advantage of the beautiful morning in the woods. Within a matter of minutes though, things took a turn in a more challenging direction. What had started out as a pretty good running pace was suddenly reduced to what felt like a crawl.

The Low Gap Trail takes you up to an intersection with the famed Appalachian Trail. When looking at it on a map, you don’t get a realistic feel for what this initial short trail experience will be. All I saw when I first researched the entire loop was that Low Gap Trail would only be 2.8 miles long before meeting the AT. What I was now experiencing in real life was the 2,000 feet of elevation gain that occurs in that slightly less than three mile “run.” The trail was testing my athletic ability and it was winning.

I love a good challenge (it’s why I was doing the run in the first place) but this loop adventure was doing everything it could to defeat me in the first hour. On a ridgeline, I finally met the Appalachian Trail and could put the Low Gap Trail in my rearview. Several hikers were resting at the intersection and seemed surprised to see me slowly run up. I struggled to respond to the questions they asked as my breath had staged a mutiny on my body about a mile earlier. After some nodding and one-word answers, I turned to see that the AT was continuing the ascending trend!

Onward and upward! In a matter of minutes, the trail was traversing the ridgeline and the trees gave way to stunning views of nearly all of Cocke County, Tennessee. White blazes on the trees, the infamous markers of the AT, began to pass at a faster rate as the trail leveled out and running became more effortless. The trail weaves in and out of the Tennessee/North Carolina border for about two miles and around every turn I was sure that I was about to see the iconic Mt. Cammerer Firetower looming over me.

I finally came to a sign indicating that I’d need to take a spur trail to the tower and would thus have to come back down to this same spot to get on the AT to continue the loop. This trail only went about a half mile to the tower and it was well worth it! Like a boxer in the late rounds, the firetower has taken a beating from the weather over the years but it still stands as a marvel to each person able to reach it. Chipped paint and warped floorboards add to the allure of the building as you take in the 360-degree views from the wraparound deck. Built in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it has seen generations of adventure seekers arrive at its nearly 5,000 foot summit. I spent about 30 minutes taking in the views and eating some much-needed calories before heading back down to the loop.

Once I was back at the loop, I was met by more thru hikers on their way to Maine. At only 230 miles into their journey, it was clear their adventure was long from being over. Mine was one-third of the way done but it had felt like 230 miles for me at some points. I proceeded to descend down the AT on what felt like the staircase for giants. The stone steps were just far enough apart to make running at a consistent pace very difficult. Thick mud from a recent storm created an additional obstacle between each step. But I was descending instead of climbing and that felt like a small victory. Somewhere around mile 8.5, I left the Appalachian Trail and turned onto the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail.

Though I had seen countless hikers for the past couple of hours, from this point on until I got to my car I didn’t see a single person. It was like having two completely different running experiences in one trip. This trail felt isolated and slightly eerie, and I loved it. I was finally feeling like I could run more than power hike. The trail winds around the side of the mountain range and slowly drops a couple thousand feet. This was a manageable and enjoyable downhill that almost made me forget the first two uphill miles of the adventure that nearly brought me to my knees. Back at the car, my 15.5-mile adventure was coming to a bittersweet end. I’d accomplished what I set out to do but I was feeling a sense of sadness that it was over. A short drive to Adventure Distilling Company for a taste of the local moonshine and a well-earned rest was the perfect end to the long weekend. My legs ached but the satisfaction made it all well worth it.

Greg Wingo is the owner of ROAM Projects, an outdoor recreation consulting company. He is the race director for Great Alabama 650, the longest annual paddle race in the world.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more

Welcome!

Thank you for stopping by Y’all Visit the Smokies! Keep checking back for more information about all of the great things to do in the Cocke County TN area.

Already have a login ? 

Login

Please login to your account.

Create Your Account
Read more