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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Friends of the Smokies supports efforts to save eastern hemlocks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

by Julie Dodd

Sprayer truck spraying hemlocks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Friends of the Smokies purchased the sprayer truck that is used to treat eastern hemlocks.

The eastern hemlock is one of the most common trees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Called the “redwood of the east,” eastern hemlocks can grow to more than 150 feet, with trunks measuring six feet in diameter. Some of the hemlocks in the park are more than 500 years old.

Take a hike on many trails in the Smokies – especially hikes at lower elevations in the Cosby and Elkmont areas — and you’ll be hiking through hemlocks.

Not only do the hemlocks provide much of what you see in terms of forest canopy but they help keep the area cooler, regulating temperatures that support Brook Trout and some bird and animal species.

So the attack of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a serious issue.

Continue reading

Celebrate National Trails Day with Appalachian Trail Workday in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

22nd Annual National Trails Day® / 18th Annual Appalachian Trail Workday

Would you like to improve the hiking conditions on the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Make some “trail magic” on Saturday, June 7th by joining us for this all-volunteer workday.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s a breakdown of the day’s schedule – Continue reading

Volunteers needed for Smokies Trails Forever 2014 trail work

by Julie Dodd

Smokies Trails Forever work is beginning for 2014 on the Chimney Tops Trail.

What does trail work mean for hikers?

The Chimney Tops Trail will be closed Monday through Thursdays, from May 5 through October 16, while trail work is in progress.

Can I volunteer to help with Trails Forever trail work?

Trails Forever works crew - Chimney Tops Trail. Photo by Jack Williams

Volunteers are needed to work with the Trails Forever crew on the Chimney Tops Trail restoration. Volunteers receive training for their workday duties. Photo by Jack Williams

For those who would like to give back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can be a volunteer with the Trails Forever trail crew, working on the Chimney Tops Trail.

The volunteers work on Wednesdays only from May 21 through Oct. 8. You need to register in advance to volunteer. You  can’t just show up at the trail.

Click on this link to go to the Trails Forever volunteer page to download a form to volunteer and to get a handout of information for trail volunteers.

Here are the basics for volunteering:

Continue reading