Welcome our newest Friend, Anna Lee Zanetti

Friends of the Smokies is pleased to welcome another addition to its staff, Anna Lee Zanetti as the new Outreach & Development Associate. Welcome to the team, Anna Lee!

Anna Lee Zanetti

Anna Lee is a native of South Carolina and graduate of Appalachian State University where she studied Sustainable Development. After college, she worked with the Student Conservation Association in Montpelier, VT, and then served in AmeriCorps Project Conserve where she worked with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

As part of her new role, Anna Lee will be guiding our monthly Classic Hikes of the Smokies. As an avid hiker, she is no stranger to the great outdoors and also enjoys cooking and volunteering with Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville.

Anna Lee Zanetti

In her first week in the North Carolina office, Anna Lee has already hit the ground running, leading the August Classic Hike to Charlies Bunion and helping with the 20th Annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon which raised over $200,000.

We already know Anna Lee will be a great asset to the organization and we are so pleased to have her on staff!

A Special “Thank You” to Holly Scott

Hello Friends,

While we normally share scenic photos, hiking trails, and great stories from the park on our blog, I’d like to take a brief detour to introduce myself and thank a special Friend of the Smokies. My name is Brent McDaniel and I am the new Marketing Director for Friends of the Smokies.


Brent – tired and drenched, but happy on a rainy hike to Charlies Bunion

After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2011, I served in AmeriCorps for 3 years, most recently with Project Conserve, where I first found Friends of the Smokies. I am excited to have moved to our Tennessee office for my new position after one year as AmeriCorps Outreach Associate in our North Carolina office. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share more about the Smokies with you as we work to protect this amazing natural treasure.

No doubt you were familiar with the great work of my predecessor, Holly Scott, on this blog, our website, monthly email newsletters, and our many social media channels. After careful consideration, Holly decided to leave Friends of the Smokies to pursue another job opportunity in the area and her last day was July 3rd. Holly had been with Friends for 11 wonderful years, first as Special Projects Assistant before she became Marketing Director in 2006.

Holly Scott

Holly Scott

Holly worked diligently to pull together countless special events like our annual Friends Across the Mountain Telethon, coordinated board meetings, and served on volunteer days throughout the park, all while effortlessly handling her day-to-day job responsibilities as Marketing Director. Holly had a knack for keeping things running smoothly and after a few weeks on the job, I am already well aware I have some very large shoes to fill. Holly may have left the organization as a staff member, but once you are a Friend of the Smokies, you are always a Friend, and Holly will continue to spread her love for the park by sharing her time and talent with us. I hope you will join me and everyone at Friends of the Smokies in wishing her all the best in her new role and giving her our sincerest thanks for her years of hard work, dedication, passion, and service to our Smokies.

Be sure to check out Holly’s work with the Rocky Top Wine Trail as they continue to support Friends of the Smokies through Sugarland Cellars and other fundraising events.

Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Grotto Falls provides refreshing destination for day hike in Smokies

by Julie Dodd

The hike to Grotto Falls is a scenic and moderately challenging hike – and a particularly good hike in the summer.

After hiking about 1.5 miles on Trillium Gap Trail to reach Grotto Falls, you can take off your shoes and soak your feet in the cool water below the waterfall and enjoy the view.

This is a good hike for those getting into hiking and for families. Trillium Gap is not a paved trail, so is not for hiking groups with children in strollers. Pets and bicycles are not allowed. The 3-mile roundtrip hike to Grotto Falls takes about 2 to 3 hours. (For a shorter hike with a paved trail, check Laurel Falls Trail.)

If you want a scenic destination and are up to hiking three miles, Grotto Falls is a good choice. You can eat a picnic on the rocks below the waterfall and watch all the activity of nature and people. If you have children in your group, be sure to keep an eye on them, as the rocks are slippery.

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Hikers celebrate Margaret Stevenson’s 102nd birthday atop Mt. LeConte

Group celebrating Margaret Stevenson's 102nd birthdayTo celebrate hiking legend Margaret Stevenson’s 102nd birthday, 68 hikers gathered at LeConte Lodge on July 16. The hikers used five different trails to hike to Mt. LeConte, with the goal of arriving at noon. Danny Bernstein, the leader of Friends of the Classic  Hikes of the Smokies, wrote about the day on her blog.

Margaret hiked to Mt. LeConte 718 times and was the first woman to hike all 900 miles of trails in the Smokies. Her Wednesday hiking group, based in Maryville, turned into the Margaret Stevenson hiking club and continues to hike on Wednesdays. (That’s why the hike in Margaret’s memory was on Wednesday, July 16, and not July 17, her birthday.)

Margaret is one of three Friends of the Smokies Pathfinders, whose hiking legacy continues through contributions to the Trails Forever program.

2014 Trails Forever Crew Members

Volunteer with Trails Forever Crew on Chimney Tops Trail

By Holly Scott Jones, former Marketing Director of Friends of the Smokies


Sam Hobbs Owl in Elkmont

A Brief Look Back at Smokies Trails Forever Beginnings

Throughout my eleven-year career with Friends of the Smokies, there were some definite highlights, and by that I mean some really important and impressive things that Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s leadership asked the organization to make happen with much-needed fundingGreat Smoky Mountains National Park Entrance Sign

The accomplishment which stands out in my mind as the single best example of what amazing things are possible when people join together to help Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Trails Forever program. It started in 2008 with a $2.3 million challenge grant from the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville and a desire to create a legacy project for the Park’s 75th anniversary celebration.

If Friends of the Smokies could galvanize enough support to match Aslan’s gift from people who love hiking in the Smokies, then an endowment to care for the Park’s 900+ miles of hiking trails could be established in perpetuity.

Remember 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011? The economy took a nosedive. But the campaign went on, and it succeeded. Today the endowment stands at $5 million.

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Hike to the Albright Grove offers rare Smoky Mountain quietude in nation’s busiest national park

By Julie Dodd + Holly Scott

Maddron Bald Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Maddron Bald Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo by Julie Dodd

Hike to the Albright Grove via Maddron Bald Trail

Holly: The July 4th holiday is always a very busy time here in the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so this seems like a good time to share a lesser-used trail for anyone who is looking to escape the peak visitation in Cades Cove and enjoy the beauty of our nation’s most visited national park with a hike in the Smokies. My pal Julie and I scouted this route in early June on a weekday.

Julie: When Holly suggested that we hike the Albright Grove Loop, I thought it was a great idea. I had heard of the Albright Grove Loop but had never done the hike. The loop is off the Maddron Bald Trail, which is about 15 miles east of Gatlinburg, so driving to the trailhead wouldn’t take too long.

Holly: To prepare for the hike, which I had done once before with family, I pulled out my trusty “little brown book” (Hiking Trails of the Smokies) to re-familiarize myself with the Maddron Bald Trail and what to expect. I wanted to be sure that the round-trip distance was realistic for the time that we had available. I noted on the elevation grid that the trail steadily climbed for 3.2 miles or so from the trailhead to the junction with the Albright Grove Loop; it gains about 1500′ over that distance, making for good exercise without interfering completely with plans to chat along the way.

The Maddron Bald Trail’s notoriety comes from the Albright Grove which is one of the rare remaining stands of old growth forest on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Little Greenbrier School provides trip back in history and hiking opportunities

Little Greenbrier School

Visiting the Little Greenbrier School takes you on a trip back in history. Photo by Julie Dodd

by Julie Dodd

Little Greenbrier School interior

Little Greenbrier School was built in 1882 and used as a community school until 1936. Photo by Julie Dodd

Visiting the Little Greenbrier School in the Metcalf Bottoms area is a great way to step back in time – and an opportunity for some hiking, too.

Just sitting in the school gives you a perspective of the school experience in the early 1900s – with wooden desks and a real blackboard (boards painted black).

For a more complete school experience, attend one of Robin Goddard’s presentations at the school on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Goddard is at the school on Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the presentations and to answer questions.

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