April 2015 - Where in the Park are We?Posted by | 04.29.2015
By Lisa Duff
Marketing and Membership Director
The answer to this question begins on a beautiful spring Saturday in the Smokies. Anyone who has ever hiked with me will tell you that I prefer loop trails or two-car treks to an out-and-back adventure. I’d just rather not retrace my steps, I suppose. With that in mind, my mother and I earlier this month hatched a plan that would allow me to walk one-way the length of Little Cataloochee Trail out to old Highway 284.
“See you in a couple of hours,” I told her after she dropped me at the Pretty Hollow Gap trail head. She and my dad (who isn’t much of a hiker anymore, but loves being in the park) proceeded to drive along Highway 284 to the other end of the trail. From there, mom started wanting with the intent of getting at least as far as Little Cataloochee Church before we met up. She nearly did, too!
Another thing some of my hiking companions might tell you is that I prefer the element of surprise to an excessively researched day on the trail. I plan a hike almost exclusively by looking for loops on the Trail Map. Sure, I have a copy of History Hikes of the Smokies (a personal favorite) and Hiking Trails of the Smokies, and I often refer to them – after the deed is done.
For that reason I did not know ahead of time about the climb required to reach Davidson Gap or about the number of stonewalls I would encounter on Little Cataloochee. The people who settled this area were, likewise, unknown to me, as were the artifacts they left behind. One of these manmade features is pictured here – the remains of the Cook-Messer apple house.
Having recently hiked to the stone cottage (with Marti Smith’s assistance) via a manway off the Old Sugarlands Trail, I was intrigued to come upon the apple house remnants. The similarities between it and the stone cottage are undeniable - not only in their structural quality and materials, but also in mankind’s determination to satisfy a need using items close at hand. Just about anyone who has sunk a spade in the ground around these parts will tell you the same thing: “Mountain gardeners are renowned around the world for their rock crops!”
A quick consultation with both the afore mentioned books brought me to this: “Across from the (Dan Cook) cabin are the ruins of an apple house and the terminus of an old road which crossed Noland Mountain at Noland Gap, connecting Big and Little Cataloochee.” Humm… wonder if I could find that road…
The list of ways I’ve found to intensify my interactions with this park continues to grow:
- Become a GSMA Member!
- Learn the names of trees, flowers, animals
- Successfully reach a far-off summit
- Walk in the footsteps of those who tamed the land
If any of these methods appeal to you, Great Smoky Mountains Association is here to help.