SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING
SORGHUM | WATER ADVENTURES | CRAFT SCHOOLS | ELK RUT SEASON AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015
Celebrating Southern Appalachians THE
HANDS-ON LEARNING | GRANDMOTHER OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL | SMOKIES ANCESTRY | PECAN PIE
Schooled in Appalachia
MAKE A FAMILY HEIRLOOM TAKE BETTER PHOTOS BREW YOUR OWN BEER FORAGE FOR DINNER
“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.” —HORACE KEPHART
+ Basket weaving,
AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 • VOL. 15 • NO. 4
wood turning, ﬂy-ﬁshing, & more
In the Footsteps of Grandma Gatewood Road Food: MoonPies & Boiled Peanuts
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FEATU RE STO RIES
THE SCHOOL OF APPALACHIA From craft schools to local workshops, hands-on learning opportunities abound in these mountains. Learn to weave a basket, cast a ﬂy line, brew beer, take better photos, and more. BY MARYELLEN KENNEDY DUCKETT
THE HIKING GRANNY Follow in the footsteps of Emma Gatewood, the 67-year-old who became the ﬁrst woman to walk all ﬁve million steps of the Appalachian Trail by herself. BOOK EXCERPT BY BEN MONTGOMERY
A WALK BACK IN TIME The discovery of a 19th-century magazine article brings family lore alive on a pilgrimage deep into the Smokies backcountry. BY JO HARRIS PAGE
HARVESTING BEAUTY Historic Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina, proves itself as an endless muse for this photographer. PHOTOS BY KEN ABBOTT PAGE
Fall in love with Blue Ridge, Georgiaâ€™s
favorite mountain town, where small town charm meets uptown shopping and dining. Luxury mountain cabins, breathtaking views, hiking trails, waterfalls, beautiful mountains and friendly people.
BlueRi dg eMo un ta i ns.c o m
Contents SWEET APPALACHIA
DEPA RTME N TS
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Comforts for the mountain soul—from a gardener’s DIY hand salve to sorghum-sweetened pecan pie and lemonade with a wild Appalachian twist. Other highlights: vintage Smokies life, a review of Ron Rash’s latest novel, new albums by regional talents including the Steep Canyon Rangers, and one writer’s musings on a couple of tough nuts to crack.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Late summer brings plenty of reasons to rove these hills and valleys, from our waterfalls and lakes to our museums and theaters. Get high at a new playground in the sky or at an early fall hawk watch, on the thrill of hiking with a four-legged companion and dancing with a whole crowd of new friends, or on the sugar rush of a Chattanooga-made MoonPie. Plus: Meet one of the region’s most proliﬁc storytellers.
ON THE COVER A hub of activity from 1882 to 1936 in what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park, today the one-room Little Greenbrier School sits at the trailhead for the Little Brier Gap Trail. PHOTO BY DELIA & MATT HILLS, M&D HILLS PHOTOGRAPHY
Good Living 4
FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 CROSSWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
AT THE PARK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 MEET OUR CONTRIBUTORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
PHOTO ESSAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 STORIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Southern Appalachian Mountains Gallery Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Visit Eastern Tennessee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Select Lodging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Who says the BEST SEat has to be in a house? There’s mountain rainforests and rocky gorges. Trails, train whistles, and swimming holes. Apple orchards, white water rapids, and secret fishing spots. Here in the “Land Beside the Water” we have the greatest show on earth and plenty of seats to choose from.
VisitMtnLakes.com SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR Community
As a new bride on my grandfather’s family farm, my grandmother VOL. 15 • NUMBER 4 Publisher/Editor . . . . . . . . . . . Scott McLeod firstname.lastname@example.org General Manager . . . . . . . . . Greg Boothroyd email@example.com Sales Manager . . . . . . . . . . . Hylah Birenbaum firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor . . . . . . . . . Katie Knorovsky email@example.com Editor-at-Large . . . . . . . . Sarah E. Kucharski firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director . . . . . . . . . . . Travis Bumgardner email@example.com Graphics . . . . . . . Micah McClure, Emily Moss Finance & Admin. . . . . . . Amanda Singletary Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Greg Boothroyd, Whitney Burton, Amanda Bradley Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Scott Collier Contributing Writers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Laura Blackley, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Maryellen Kennedy Duckett, Doug Elliott, Ashley English, Jo Harris, Don Hendershot, Holly Kays, Jeff Minick, Ben Montgomery, Michelle Rogers, Garret K. Woodward Contributing Photographers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ken Abbott, Johnny Autry, Ashley T. Evans, Jo Harris, Mark Haskett, Vicki Lynn Passmore, Gary Pinholster, Mylan Sessions Contributing Illustrators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mandy Newham-Cobb Smoky Mountain Living has made every effort to insure listings and information are accurate and assumes no liability for errors or omissions. For advertising information, contact Hylah Birenbaum at 866.452.2251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For editorial inquiries, contact Katie Knorovsky at email@example.com. Smoky Mountain Living assumes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photographs. Queries should be sent to Katie Knorovsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
taught herself how to make pie crust in secret, feeding her failed attempts to the hogs. As my mom tells it, eventually she emerged victorious with a husband-worthy crust. From then on, she was as known for her buttery pecan pies as for her iron-willed determination. As a small girl I watched, mesmerized, as Grandma taught my older sister her tricks. She believed in the power of a tried-and-true recipe, meticulously sifted ﬂour, and lard measured just so. When she passed away, I was too young to have ever spent time by her side in the kitchen. Though my mom taught me how to conﬁdently navigate a kitchen, she felt no desire to slave for hours over a dessert that could more easily be bought at the store. By the time I became a bride, I still had never attempted a pie crust. I had long since concluded that the skill was best left to farm grandmothers and professionals. Without my grandma’s secrets—or any hogs around to help me learn—for years I accepted this gap in my repertoire as if it were pre-ordained. Last fall, my husband and I prepared to host a house full of out-of-state family members for Thanksgiving dinner—my biggest culinary challenge to date. For weeks we auditioned recipes for sweet potato casserole and corn bread, vegetable stuffings and bite-size appetizers. When it came to pie, though, there was no question: I planned to outsource. But when I pulled up the website of a local bakery to place an order, a tab for “workshops” caught my eye. A pre-holiday pie class promised to teach “the basics of crafting a ﬂaky crust” and more. Buying a pie or two would be cheaper, but was this the opportunity I had been waiting for? I took a deep breath and signed up. When the day of the class rolled around, I did my best to lower expectations. Once I arrived at Smoke Signals Bakery, though, my nerves evaporated—something about squishing ﬁngers into ﬂour and butter tends to have a calming effect, especially when done so in community. Every once in a while, our pie guru, Tara Jensen, stopped to work a bit of magic on my dough. Instead of a standard lattice pattern, we learned how to embellish our pies with decorative edges and designs. I cut out logs and ﬂames and topped my pie with a campﬁre tableau made of pastry. As our pies baked in an outdoor wood-ﬁred oven, we dressed up cardboard pie boxes with hand-carved stamps, then snacked on local cheese and wine. It was, as the website had promised, an “afternoon of artful baking.” When it was over, I brought home a golden masterpiece. I opened the pie box proudly, snapped a photo for posterity, and grabbed a fork. It was the most satisfying pie I’ve ever eaten. Don’t get me wrong: It wasn’t the ﬂakiest or most delicious crust I’ve tasted. But I had made it from scratch, no Internet required, and my sense of accomplishment more than made up for any ﬂaws. Even without the lard, I know Grandma would have approved—and so would that little girl who so admired her. In this issue, we celebrate the way hands-on learning connects us to our ancestors while also opening up new sides of ourselves. Read “The School of Appalachia” to explore your own path forward. — Katie Knorovsky, managing editor
©2015. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reprinted without the express, written consent of the publisher.
Smoky Mountain Living is published bimonthly (Dec/Jan, Feb/Mar, Apr/May, Jun/Jul, Aug/Sep, Oct/Nov) by SM Living, LLC, 144 Montgomery Street, Waynesville, NC 28786. Periodical Postage paid at Waynesville, N.C., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: please send address changes to Smoky Mountain Living, PO Box 629, Waynesville, NC 28786.
Puzzle is on page 9.
CONNECT WITH US Community
Join the Conversation The April/May 2015 issue of Smoky Mountain Living featured a 1928 photo of Mollie McCarter Ogle rocking her baby on a porch. Taken by noted Smokies photographer Laura Thornborough, the image stirred the emotions of our readers and inspired a lively thread of comments when we posted it on Facebook. “Bless her sweet heart—she looks so tired,” commented Margaret Driskill.
BRISTOL RHYTHM AND ROOTS REUNION/BRANDON REESE PHOTO
Everywhere You Want to Be
NPS, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK PHOTO
Smoky Mountain Living gets around. Looks for the magazine at some of the region’s top upcoming events. The Asheville Wine and Food Festival (ashevillewineandfood.com) offers three delicious nights of eating and drinking (August 20 to 22) that culminate in a grand tasting at the US Cellular Center. A showcase of hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and more adventure activities, the second annual Southwest Virginia Outdoor Expo (swvaoutdoorexpo.com) returns to Heartwood in Abingdon, Virginia, on September 12. From September 18 to 20, the annual Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion (bristolrhythm.com) celebrates the birthplace of country music with performances by more than 100 bands including headliners Steve Earle & The Dukes. Also on the weekend of September 18 to 20, Camp Blue Ridge in northern Georgia hosts CampFest (thecampfest.com), a throwback to summer camp days with a ropes course, rock climbing tower, beach yoga and volleyball, swimming, zipline, plus musical acts Hey Rosetta! and Cold War Kids. Then on October 2 to 4, the Overland Expo East (overlandexpo.com/east) comes to Taylor Ranch outside Asheville, with more than 140 classes, demonstrations, and workshops. Hone your motorcycle and four-wheel-drive skills and take a spin on an overland driving course.
Even More INSTAGRAM.COM/SMOKYMTNLIVING
The scene of mother and child resonated personally with Bruce Stuckey. “My father was born in ’27, so it’s easy to see he and my grandmother in this same situation,” he wrote. “The look on her face is one I’ve seen more than once in this part of the world. And when you hear the stories they told, one thing they all have in common is, ‘We didn’t have much, but we never suffered really, because we had everything we needed.’ Work wasn’t about building wealth; work was a regular part of daily life. It’s just what you did.”
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Need a Smoky Mountain Living fix between issues? Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter at smliv.com. Get daily updates, such as the shot of the North Carolina Arboretum at left, and connect with our community at facebook.com/smliv, twitter.com/smokymtnliving, and instagram/smokymtnliving.
ACROSS THE MOUNTAIN
SMOKE SIGNALS PHOTO
1 John Muir: “One day’s exposure to ____ is better than a cartload of books” 7 Statue or portrait, for example 8 New, as a prefix 9 Native American carving 11 Working together 13 “What Kind of Fool ___?” song 14 Exercise class, for short 15 Be situated 16 Tightening parts 18 Louisville is ___ of Asheville 19 S. Charlotte is one in Asheville 20 Gold in French 21 Intelligence measurement 23 Madame, for short 25 Willing to seek out and get involved in new and creative enterprises 28 Nanosecond, abbr. 29 Highlands, N.C., campus offering Art by Appointment classes 31 Covered with a metal 33 Old record 34 A carpenter needs one for drilling 35 Craft skill you can learn at the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown 38 Polite address to a customer 40 You’ll do a lot of this at “Naturally Leavened Basics” at Smoke Signals, Marshall, N.C. 41 At a craft school, you can learn how to blow it!
Down 1 Subject of one of the workshops organized by the Penland School (gold, silver, copper, etc.) 2 Release 3 Once named, before marriage 4 Renowned artisan of wearable art, ___ McCarthy 5 Laid inside 6 Campbell School motto, “___ behind the plow” 7 Craft school in Gatlinburg 10 Leave out 12 Old-style plowing equipment 14 24-karat 16 Fall month, for short 17 What an artist’s model will do 22 Stitching fabric to make designs 24 Source of an artist’s inspiration 26 Cubed 27 Carpentry joint 30 Selects 31 Sewing-basket item 32 Colorists 34 You’ll learn how to do this at Hops & Vines in Asheville, N.C. 35 Silken construction 36 Good wood for furniture 37 Cookie sellers, briefly 39 Exists
Answers can be found on page 7. BY MYLES MELLOR • ILOVECROSSWORDS.COM
AT THE PARK
WHERE DOLLY PARTON GROWS ON TREES
MARK HASKETT PHOTO
Elk Rutting 101
JAMES LENDEMER PHOTO
ollowing the 2001 reintroduction of elk to Western North Carolina, about 140 elk now wander the region, including some 70 to 90 within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Timed to the fall foliage, the annual elk rut (breeding season) makes one of the most spectacular and popular times to visit the Smokies. From the beginning of September through the end of October and into early November, it’s common to see 900-plus-pound elk bulls sparring each other, antler to antler, in dramatic displays of ritualistic aggression in the fields of Cataloochee Valley and near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. “During the rut, male testosterone levels are through the roof—they barely eat or sleep and can lose up to 20 percent of their body weight,” says park wildlife biologist Joe Yarkovich. “They’re trying to keep track of all the females and to keep them rounded up in their harems until it’s time to breed.” The high-pitched squeal of their bugle echoes off the valley walls and can be heard from over a mile away. To make the most out of a park visit during this unique time of year, Yarkovich breaks down the visitor experience.
WHERE: The fields at Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed to visitors during the rut for safety reasons, but parking along the road still allows close encounters. Bring binoculars and a telephoto camera lens for zoomed-in views.
WHO: Anywhere from 125,000 to 225,000 vehicles visit Cataloochee each year, with the highest count in October. Still, a constant flow of people in and out tends to keep traffic moving, Yarkovich says. WHEN: Elk activity starts picking up at the end of August, as the bull testosterone starts to rise. According to Yarkovich, visitors are just about guaranteed to see some rutting action by late September and early October. Elk tend to disappear into the woods at daylight and emerge in the fields in the late afternoon or early evening. “Our general rule is that two to three hours before dark is your best window to see elk,” says Yarkovich. SAFETY: Wildlife watchers should stay next to or near their cars. It’s illegal to approach any bear or elk within 50 yards, and faking wildlife calls are considered harassment and prohibited within the park. Never feed the animals, whether intentionally or unintentionally (in other words, clean up those crumbs). And what to do in the rare occurrence of a charging elk? Duck, don’t run. “Put a large object between you and the animal,” Yarkovich says. “They can run a lot faster than you can.” 10
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Dolly Parton has long been in a class of her own in the Smokies. Thanks to scientists, now she’s got her own species, too. Castanea, the journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, recently named a newly discovered species of lichen for the Sevier County native. Japewiella dollypartoniana, also known as “Dolly’s Dots,” appears throughout much of the Smokies, particularly in areas over 4,000 feet in elevation such as Purchase Knob, Mount Cammerer, and Mount Hardison. According to researcher Jessica Allen, the species grows most frequently on the branches of azaleas and rhododendron at mid to high elevations, and can be recognized by its small greenish-yellow mounds of what looks like piles of tiny cotton balls. “When my co-author, James Lendemer, and I found the species fruiting on top of Hangover Mountain, we sat down to eat our lunch and discuss what to name it,” Allen explains. “We were looking over at the mountains of Tennessee and had been listening to Dolly Parton’s music on the way to our ﬁeld site, so we were thinking about her and especially her accomplishments as a musician and philanthropist.”
HARVEST TIME IN THE SMOKIES The Mountain Life Festival engages visitors in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of what life was like 100 years ago in the Smokies during harvest time—from the taste of apple cider to the aroma of hominy simmering over an open ﬁre. Held September 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mountain Farm Museum at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the festival celebrates the season Smokies style with demonstrators on hand making old-fashioned soap, apple cider, sorghum molasses, hominy, music, and more. The Mountain Farm Museum consists of a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and working blacksmith shop and is located adjacent to Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 1194 Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee, North Carolina.
MEET OUR CONTRIBUTORS Community
ou could say Ronni Lundy has a sweet streak. Actually, she’s practically got sorghum syrup running through her veins. Growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, she knew the molasses-like sweetener as a kitchen staple. Now based in North Carolina, she still pours the stuff on everything from biscuits to Asian noodles. “I assumed it was in everyone's pantry until I began to travel in my early 20s and discovered I couldn't even buy it in most of the U.S.,” she
MARTHA WILSON VOZOS PHOTO
n Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, Florida journalist Ben Montgomery follows in the footsteps of his greatgreat aunt, Emma Gatewood. Known as the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail by herself, she accomplished that feat at the age of 67. The first chapter of the book, which received a 2014 National Outdoor Book Award, appears in this issue of Smoky Mountain Living. Montgomery never met his book’s heroine—she died five years before he was born—but to read his intimate portrayal of the trailblazer, you’d think he grew up at her hip. “The family kept her stories alive,” says Montgomery, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. “My mother, a wonderful storyteller, would put me to sleep with hilarious tales about Emma Gatewood—how she once scared off a black bear with her umbrella and shooed away a rattlesnake with her walking stick. In the stories, she came across as a no-nonsense lady, quick of wit, and maybe a bit eccentric.” Reporting for the book took Montgomery on hiking trips up and down the A.T., including in the Smokies, Nantahala National Forest, and along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as to Georgia’s Mount Oglethorpe. There at the onetime southern terminus of the A.T., he bypassed notrespassing signs in order to see the same vista from the summit that his great-great aunt once took in. “Her legacy is simple,” Montgomery says. “If you want to do something, there's nothing to stop you but your own mind. She put in some 14,000 miles on foot starting at age 67 because she wanted to. Because she found a certain peace in nature, an aloneness, as she said, ‘more complete than ever.’”
says. Around that time, Lundy also began exploring sorghum folklore and the syrup’s mountain history. Her new cookbook, Sorghum’s Savor, delves into the syrup’s vast flavor complexity as well as its place in Appalachia. “This food, like so many in our culture, is not simply nourishment, but is significant in our sense of who we are as a people,” says Lundy, who has written eight books, including Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, and is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. On page 21, Lundy shares her recipe for sorghum and bourbon pecan pie. “I stopped eating pecan pie years ago because I detest the cloying saccharine effect of the corn syrup that is used in 90 percent of all recipes,” Lundy says. “But sorghum works magnificently, emphasizing the inherent butteriness of this type of pie, which is obscured by more conventional sweetening.”
’ve been focused on the natural world since childhood, roaming the woods and swamps, catching fish and frogs, studying field guides, and talking to traditional elders,” says Doug Elliott, a writer and storyteller based in Union Mills, North Carolina. Over the years, Elliott has built upon that love of the outdoors as a naturalist, herbalist, harmonicaplaying storyteller, basket maker, back-country guide, beekeeper, writer, and more. He performs regularly at festivals and conferences including Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge and the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough. In this issue, he shares “The Day the Bees Fell on My Head,” the spine-tingling story of one particularly memorable beekeeping adventure. Hear more about the highs and lows of life as a beekeeper on Elliott’s CD, Sail on Honeybee, available at dougelliott.com.
Vicki Lynn Passmore Haywood Community College Clyde, N.C.
Mountain heritage stays alive in the hands of those who preserve Appalachian arts, crafts, and traditions. Our readers share their images of old skills experiencing new life.
Ashley T. Evans Mountain Heritage Day Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C.
Vicki Lynn Passmore Cradle of Forestry Pisgah Forest, N.C.
Gary Pinholster The Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center Clayton, Ga.
Every man in the big woods is a jack-of-all-trades. His skill in extemporizing utensils, and even crude machines, out of the trees that grow around him, is of no mean order. As good cider as ever I drank was made in a hollowed log ďŹ tted with a press-block and operated by a handspike. â€”Horace Kephart, Our Southern Highlanders
Vicki Lynn Passmore Haywood Community College Clyde, N.C.
Vicki Lynn Passmore Haywood Community College Clyde, N.C.
Ashley T. Evans Mountain Heritage Day Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C.
Jo Harris Cades Cove Museum Maryville, Tenn.
Mylan Sessions Split-rail fence at Cataloochee Ranch Maggie Valley, N.C.
Vicki Lynn Passmore Cradle of Forestry Pisgah Forest, N.C.
Each issue of Smoky Mountain Living features photographs taken by our readers. For the October/November 2015 issue, send us your favorite scenes of autumn in Southern Appalachiaâ€”from the brilliance of the foliage to the bounty of the harvest. Email photos to email@example.com by August 19; include information on where the photo was taken and by whom. Reader-submitted photos are unpaid but may be rewarded with publication in our nationally distributed magazine. Connect with us at smliv.com, facebook.com/smliv, and on Twitter and Instagram @SmokyMtnLiving.
One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude. â€”Carl Sandburg
IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT Taken in 1935 by Works Progress Administration photographer E.E. Exline, this photo captures Cataloochee Valley resident Mack Hannah (1859-1942) in a moment of repose. Hannah owned one of the most productive apple orchards in Little Cataloochee, and his son Mark Hannah became one of the early rangers in the national park. Mike Aday, the librarian-archivist for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, credits Exline’s “wonderful ability to capture the spontaneity and fullness of life in the Smokies,” such as in this vignette. “Whether Hannah is telling a story or singing a song, no one knows,” Aday says. “What is clear, to me at least, is the joy and peace he must have felt living in such an idyllic locale.” NPS, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK PHOTO
SWEET APPALACHIA COMFORTS FOR THE MOUNTAIN SOUL
THE VIEW FROM HERE Sweet Appalachia
Changing Hands BY ASHLEY ENGLISH
PHOTO BY JOHNNY AUTRY STYLED BY CHARLOTTE AUTRY
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
he nail polish was the last thing to go. For the better part of 14 years, I had moved ﬁve glass bottles of silver, emerald, ruby, cobalt, and onyx hues around with me. From a home built over a creek in Weaverville to a garage apartment in Montford, from several bungalows spread across West Asheville to my current residence in a forested cove in Candler—wherever I went, the nail polish came, too. The fact that I hadn’t applied even one drop of polish to my nails in over a decade mattered not in the least. The clothes make the man, as the saying goes. But I say the place informs the look. When I initially purchased that collection of vibrant lacquer, I maintained quite a different lifestyle than the one I do at present. I dyed my hair jet-black. I still spent a pretty good amount of my non-working time shopping for clothes, still regularly went out for cocktails, still rose early ﬁve days a week to punch in on a time clock at work. Now my days follow a gentler rhythm, one involving sunlight as an alarm clock. There are still cocktails, but they’re made at home and sipped slowly out on the patio or in close proximity to the wood stove, depending on weather and inclination. The few times a year that I shop for clothing or footwear, I prioritize sturdiness and durability alongside looks. “Can I run after my 4-year-old son in those shoes?” I wonder. Does this dress have pockets? Can I garden in these pants? Will this sweater truly keep me warm in February? Wiry, wily gray streaks punctuate my mahogany hair. When the speciﬁcs of my life drastically changed—motherhood, home-based employment, and a secluded, 11-acre homestead among them—so did my need for nail polish. As the polishes lingered, they gathered dust, literally. They outlived their use. My nails now are kept very closely trimmed so I don’t scratch my son, frequently feature a trace of garden soil beneath them, and are as naked and unadorned as they come. Recently, in the middle of an annual toiletry purge, I lifted up the nail polish bottles. For the ﬁrst time in years, I no longer saw them as a sensible part my life. More than polish, dazzle, and sparkle, my hands and nails need tender loving care these days. They need moisturizer and lubrication and hydration. After daily assault from soil, sun, suds, and so much more, they need to rest, rather than show off. I silently acknowledged that I was no longer a nail polish woman and got rid of all ﬁve bottles. I fully believe there’s a time and a place and a purpose for nail polish, that ﬂash of color brightening up one’s daily routine. If and when that time returns to my life, I’ll gladly pick up a new bottle or two. These days, though, my hands and nails receive regular applications of salve come sundown, not high gloss. As my life has shifted, so too have my needs. Now, instead of showing off my hands, I show up for them. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ashley English lives and homesteads with her husband and son in a forested cove in Candler, North Carolina. She is the author of seven books, with two more in the works. Learn more at smallmeasure.com.
As the polishes lingered, they
gathered dust, literally. They outlived their use. My nails now are kept very closely trimmed so I don’t scratch my son, frequently feature a trace of garden soil beneath them, and are as naked and unadorned as they come.
Garden Hand Salve
modeled this salve on Burt’s Bees Hand Salve (“A Farmer’s Friend”). In addition to being deeply emollient, the lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils included all contain antibacterial properties. You’ll be soothing your skin and fending off infection all at once. Makes around 3/4 cup
YOU WILL NEED: 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil ¼ cup beeswax (pastilles or grated wax) 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil 10 drops lavender essential oil 10 drops tea tree oil 10 drops rosemary essential oil ½ teaspoon vitamin E oil
TO MAKE: 1) Place about two inches of water in the bottom of a small pot. 2) Put a pourable heatproof glass or metal container in the middle of the pan, submerging the bottom in the water. 3) Add the olive oil, beeswax, and coconut oil to the container. 4) Bring the water to a boil, then stir with a wooden utensil until everything has melted. 5) Once everything has liquefied, remove the pan from the heat. Add the lavender, rosemary, tea tree, and vitamin E oils and stir to fully incorporate them into the melted oils. 6) Carefully pour the oil into a container (or you can spread it out over multiple containers). 7) Once the oil has cooled and solidified, label and date. Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Use within six months.
August 20-22, 2015 MEDITERRANEAN
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SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 â€˘ ISSUE 4
FARM TO TABLE Sweet Appalachia
AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN
JOHN ROTT PHOTO, COURTESY UNIVERSITY PRESS OF FLORIDA
Pour Some Sorghum On It
hen it comes to old mountain staples reaching new heights of popularity, sorghum takes the cake—not to mention the fried chicken, pork chops, and wings. The versatile ingredient’s sweet and savory ﬂavors play well with everything from desserts to meaty entrees. Yet taste is merely one part of its complexity. In Sorghum’s Savor (University Press of Florida, $20), author Ronni Lundy dives into the sweetener’s rich history and myriad uses. Lundy was particularly fascinated by sorghum’s role in the Civil War, when the ﬂow of sugar came to a halt and both sides turned to the amber sweetener (Northern abolitionists encouraged it as a boycott of slave-made sugar). “The Appalachians were largely the only place where sorghum-making hung in after the war ended, once the sugarcane industry revived and beet sugar took over in the North and Midwest,” says Lundy. “Sorghum seemed to be an expression of our desire to be independent, to ‘make our own’ if possible. It could also be indicative of the mountain palate, which appreciates tang, complexity, and a little bit of darkness.” Sorghum’s Savor celebrates that deep ﬂavor proﬁle with recipes ranging from “gravy horse” (sorghum butter) to Bengali vegetables, miso-sorghum chicken to apple-sorghum stack cake. Here, Lundy shares her recipe for pecan pie with a kick.
Sorghum and Bourbon Pecan Pie Serves 8 1 nine-inch pie crust 1½ cups pecan halves Pinch of fine sea salt 4 tablespoons butter ½ cup sorghum syrup ¼ cup half-and-half 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons white cornmeal 1 teaspoon salt 4 eggs 3 tablespoons bourbon 1) Heat oven to 325° F. Place crust in nine-inch pan and flute to make a raised edge. 2) To toast pecans, lightly spray cookie sheet with oil. Spread pecans in a single layer and very lightly salt (less
than a teaspoon). Roast pecans in oven for five minutes, remove, and use a spatula to stir and flip the pecans. Put back in oven and roast for five more minutes. If pecans are just starting to brown and smell fragrant, they are ready; turn them out in a bowl. If not, you may need to roast them for 1 to 2 minutes more before turning out. 3) To make pie, turn heat up to 350° F. 4) In small pan, melt butter, and stir in sorghum to blend. Remove from heat and add half-and-half. Set aside. 5) In a small bowl, blend sugar, cornmeal, and salt. 6) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until yolks and whites are fully blended. Whisk in the sorghum mixture. Whisk in the sugar mixture. When all is blended, add the pecans and the bourbon and stir to incorporate. Pour into pie crust. 7) Bake on the middle rack for 40–50 minutes, until the center is set. Remove and cool on rack before slicing.
y An Old World grass, sorghum dates back to Egypt antiquity, brought to North America by way of the slave trade. Sweet sorghum got its start here in the 1850s, and the crop soon flourished across the Midwest and the South. y In Appalachia,“long sweetening” became another term for sorghum syrup and “short sweetening” for refined sugar. One theory points to how long it takes sorghum to drip from a spoon, as opposed to the quick sprinkle of sugar. y Many early moonshine recipes called for sorghum, though some Prohibition-era moonshiners turned to fast-fermenting sugar to keep up with demand. During the sugar rations of World War II, however, sorghum again emerged as a key ingredient for making hooch.
SWEET TRADITION Making sorghum syrup traditionally involves feeding sweet sorghum cane into a mill to crush out the juice, which then gets boiled until thick. Horses or mules, harnessed to long poles attached to the mill, walk in circles to turn the rollers that press out the sorghum juice. In mountain areas, neighbors often came together for a community “squeezing” each fall. Harvest festivals up and down the Southern Appalachians hark back to those annual gatherings, complete with sorghum demonstrations and other oldfashioned activities. At Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the historic sorghum mill in front of the Cable house spins to life during the Mountain Life Festival, held September 19 this year. In northern Georgia, the popular Blairsville Sorghum Festival runs the second and third weekends of October.
FARM TO TABLE Sweet Appalachia
Fork in the Trail
arrin Nordahl didn’t grow up foraging for dinner in cove forests.
A native Californian, he’s making up for lost time with his new book, Eating Appalachia: Rediscovering Regional American Flavors, which digs deep into the weeds of what he calls “real American ingredients,” aka, those that grow wild. In his mission to consume the landscape in as literal a sense as possible, Nordahl cracks hickory nuts in Cairo, West Virginia, picks up pawpaws in Albany, Ohio, and beefs up on elk cuts in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. On his North Carolina adventures, he puckers up to sumac in CheroEating Appalachia. kee and splits persimChicago Review mon seeds in Colfax. Press, $30. Along the way, Nordahl shares the stories of the people and festivals behind these special foods alongside a hearty serving of history, photos, and recipes.
Q&A with Darrin Nordahl What got you interested in the food culture of Appalachia? Actually, it wasn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who.’ A few years ago when I was living in eastern Iowa, I was promoting a book I had written about growing fruits and vegetables and herbs in public spaces, instead of just ornamental plants like flowers and grasses. A gentleman came up to me and said, ‘You know, this is an interesting idea, but many of these fruits
Sumac-ade Recipe Sumac-ade is the sort of drink that’s sure to make you smile, knowing it is entirely possible to make a better tasting, much prettier, and far cheaper “lemonade” than anything you can buy at the store. The citrusy notes of sumac are a fantastic substitute for fresh lemon. If you are able to, choose staghorn sumac and harvest it at its ripest (typically late August). Serves 8 6–8 large sumac flower heads 2 quarts cold water White sugar, honey, agave nectar, or other sweetener of choice, to taste 1 lime, sliced Typically it’s wise to wash fresh produce well. But not sumac. Vigorous rinsing of fresh sumac berries washes away both color and flavor. For this reason, avoid picking sumac after a rain. Take each panicle and separate the berries from the stems. Place the berries in cold water (never hot, as this brings out bitter flavors). Gently mash the berries with your hands, and let sit for about four hours (less or more, depending on the desired color and flavor). Strain the liquid into a large pitcher. Make sure you use fine jelly cloth or several layers of cheesecloth to catch the numerous tiny hairs of the sumac berries. Sweeten to taste. Pour into an old-fashioned glass with ice, and garnish with a slice of lime. —Recipe courtesy of Eating Appalachia, by Darrin Nordahl
and vegetables require a lot of human effort. Ever think about growing native fruits in public spaces instead?’ At the time, I couldn’t name a single native fruit. So he went to the Appalachian foothills and returned a few for me: hickory nuts, pawpaw, and American persimmon. After a single bite from each of these foods, I was hooked. I hadn’t tasted anything like these foods before. And then I wondered, ‘Why haven’t I?’ I couldn’t believe such tasty foods grew wild—and were free for the picking—in Appalachia. From that point
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
on, I was determined to introduce these incredibly delicious foods to other foodies like me. What surprised you most? I’ve read a few historical accounts of Appalachian foodways, and the underlying theme is often the same: destitute folk making do with whatever they could gather or grow in the mountains. But this common perception casts an ill flavor to Appalachian food, and nothing could be further from the truth. The native ingredients of
Appalachia aren’t make-do foods, but foods of haute cuisine. As the population of foodies grows in America, they will seek new and exciting flavors. And I think people will soon discover that Appalachia has the best stocked larder. What are the biggest threats to indigenous foods? Obscurity. I was shocked how many Appalachian citizens hadn’t heard of pawpaw. Or butternuts. Or sassafras or even ramps! These are some of the finest flavors of the United States, and yet few Americans have any familiarity with them. If they do vanish from our minds, they might vanish from our landscapes as well. What makes our food festivals special? Food festivals are really just one great big party where you eat and drink and learn and ponder. You can only learn so much about a
After a single bite, I was hooked. I
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hadn’t tasted anything like these foods before. And then I wondered, ‘Why haven’t I?’ particular food by reading about it and trying to cook with it by yourself. More educational—and certainly more joyful—is to learn from others: what flavors they taste and how they use it in various dishes. And that also sparks creativity. When I attended a pawpaw festival, I marveled at all the inventive and incredibly tasty things made with the fruit, like salsas and chutneys, simple syrups for cocktails, cream sauces for chicken and fish, and luxurious desserts like panna cotta. What makes wild foods more delicious? These foods germinate, hatch, and grow simply because of the natural order of things; not because Farmer Joe made it so. When you stumble across foods prepared exclusively by Mama Nature, you will find the flavors to be pure.
HIGH HAMPTON INN — An Inn to Remember Gracious hospitality, excellent cuisine and memories await you. Enjoy golf, tennis, fly-fishing, world-class spa, 35-acre private lake, hiking trails, golf schools, wellness retreats, bridge tournaments, and fun holiday weekends. Stay at the Historic Inn, a Cottage, or a Mountain Rental Home. Call or go online for details about Special Packages and Events. Golfers are welcome to play High Hampton’s George Cobb designed course. Call the Pro Shop at 828-743-2450 for details. High Hampton’s dining room is open for visitors staying in the area. Reservations are recommended. FOR MORE INFORMATION & RESERVATIONS:
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READING LIST Sweet Appalachia
Chasing Waterfalls BY JEFF MINICK
nly connect!” This commandment, famously written by British novelist E.M. Forster, applies to art and life, passion and love. In Above The Waterfall, author Ron Rash connects. Les is a small-town sheriff in today’s Western North Carolina. Nearing retirement, he ﬁnds himself caught up in a series of dangerous intrigues involving a meth dealer, an old-timer named Gerald Blackwelder, a boyhood friend, and the powerful owner of a local resort. Meanwhile, Les also struggles to deﬁne his relationship with Becky Shytle, a park ranger with a bleak past. As a girl, Becky witnessed a school shooting and suffered mental abuse from her parents. As a young woman, she once loved an eco-terrorist who died violently. Becky is also close to Gerald, and when the hotel magnate accuses the old man of launching a ﬁsh kill on his property, Becky joins Les in a hunt for the truth. In addition to his ﬁve other novels, Rash is well known for his poetry and short stories, and he brings both talents to Above The Waterfall. In alternating chapters, Becky and Les give their takes on events and people. The contrast in characters comes out in their narration: Les speaks directly and bluntly to the reader, as we might expect from a man who has spent most of his life in law enforcement, while Becky is a poet. Becky’s voice and her love for nature have the power of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. Listen to her as she goes for a short hike after talking to a group of school children about trout: “I close my eyes. Wash away, I whisper. Wash away, wash away. I walk down the loop trail, pass foxglove past bloom. Midsummer their ﬂowers dangle like soft yellow bells. I’d wish them a breeze so they might silently ring. The same yellow as Van Gogh’s ﬂowers. Vincent’s thick paint, like Hopkins’s thick sounds. Such grace-giving from supposed failed priests. I think of reading Hopkins in those days after Richard was killed. A failed priest saved my soul.” The Hopkins to whom Becky refers often throughout the novel
Above The Waterfall tells
a story of love and redemption, and of the triumph of justice. Les follows the law, but he also has an acute and wise sense of fair play.
is Gerard Manly Hopkins, a poet and Jesuit priest who for much of his short life felt cut off from family and friends because of his conversion to Catholicism. In poems like “The Windhover” and “Pied Beauty,” and in the circumstances in which he lived, Hopkins brings to Becky, as he has brought to others, a way of returning to the world after the brutalities of her younger days. His poetry and life offer her the grace of redemption. In addition to Becky’s love for the natural world, Rash also directs our attention to nature—and perhaps toward God—through the words of a local preacher. In a sermon, the preacher says: “Ponder a pretty sunset or the dogwoods all ablossom. Every time you see such it’s the hem of the robe of glory. Brothers and sisters, how do you expect to see what you don’t seek? Some claim heaven has streets of gold, and all such things, but I hold a different notion. When we’re there, we’ll say to the angels, why a lot of heaven’s glory was in the place we come from. And you know what them angels will say? They’ll say yes, pilgrim, and how often did you notice? What did you seek?” But as Les says, after hearing this sermon claiming that we can see heaven all around us, “Mist Creek Valley would soon conﬁrm that the same was true of hell.” Rash offers us one part of this hell in a character named Darby, a local meth addict and dealer. Here Above The Waterfall. Ecco: September 8, 2015; we see the under253 pages; $26.99. belly of nature’s paradise: the men and women who spend some nights under bridges, who steal or sell their bodies for one more day with drugs and a pipe. Above The Waterfall also tells a story of love and redemption, and of the triumph of justice. Les follows the law, but he also has an acute and wise sense of fair play. His ﬁnal dealings with Darby, his commitment and aid to his friend C.J., and his loyalty to Becky all bespeak a man who is bigger than his badge. Becky may be the poet in the novel, but Les is the sage, combining his lawman’s instincts with a real feeling for others. So there it is, a novel that reads at times like a beautiful poem and a story that celebrates the natural world while looking simultaneously into the vagaries of the human heart. In this grand setting that Rash has created, characters breathe on the page and make deep connections.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
LISTEN HERE Sweet Appalachia
A Different Shade of Blue
GARRET K. WOODWARD PHOTO
n old church stands just a few yards away from Patton Avenue, a main artery of hustle and bustle in downtown Asheville. On the outside one might mistake it to be abandoned or forgotten. Upon entering the nondescript side door, though, the sounds of string instruments and vocals ricochet around Echo Mountain Recording Studios. “I’ve been a fan of the Steep Canyon Rangers for a long time,” says bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas from behind the helm of the recording console. “Working with them in the studio has been completely different than working with them on stage. It’s been wonderful
writing songs together, and taking it all up a couple of notches.” Douglas produced Radio, the latest Steep Canyon Rangers album, which is aiming for an August 28 release on Rounder Records. Whereas the Rangers are beloved in bluegrass circles, the group is spreading its inﬂuence, as evidenced by the permanent addition of percussionist Michael Ashworth. The band’s evolving tone builds bridges into the realms of Americana and rock ‘n’ roll. “We’re making the best music we can, making this sound ﬁt —Woody Platt, Steep Canyon Rangers the lyrics, and not trying to shoehorn anything,” says Rangers banjoist Graham Sharp. “If it’s not comfortable we’re not going to pursue it. If it’s not a rock ‘n’ roll song, we won’t make it a rock ‘n’ roll song. If it’s not a bluegrass song, we won’t make it into one.” Sharp’s statement epitomizes what the Rangers are all about—a moving target within the bluegrass world. Coming into their 14th year together, the sextet has seen a slow burn of success in string music. A philosophy of experimentation has always kept one foot ﬁrmly planted in bluegrass tradition, the other in the endless possibilities of melody. “We’re not scared of bluegrass—we love bluegrass. That’s where we came from and that’s who we are ultimately, but with a percussionist it’ll sound a little different, a little more Americana,” says Rangers guitarist Woody Platt. “And this will give us a chance to stretch out, and hopefully gain fans in new and different areas.” —Garret K. Woodward
“This will give us a
chance to stretch out, and hopefully gain fans in new and different areas.”
Kevin Abernathy shamelessly proffers his rock-and-roll roots on his spring release of Ain’t Learned Yet. Produced by Abernathy and longtime fellow Knoxville rocker Tim Lee, the album is heavier on melodic rock than Abernathy’s most recent release, 2012’s Some Stories. The seasoned songwriter skirts the balance between the telling and the doing—appealing both to audiences that like their rock music loud and those that still want to hear a compelling story of hard luck. With a uniquely Southern style and sensibility, Abernathy inhabits his songs with the sorts of grifters, drifters, and assorted rounders he runs into on the gritty and hardscrabble streets of Knoxville. “I like loud distorted electric guitar just as much as the folkier acoustic country blues,” Abernathy says. “People who are familiar with my music know there’s always been two sides to me, and I think this album is the best mixture of the two.” —Laura Blackley SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
ELIZABETH AARON PHOTO
A HARD KNOX LIFE
SMOOTH LIKE HONEY Amanda Anne Platt, songstress and bandleader for the Honeycutters, has a voice like a honey-coated hammer. That voice makes itself at home in songs of country heartache, crooked-winged angels, and melancholy lovers, achieving that finite balance between softening the blow and sharpening the blade. Platt steps into the forefront with the newest incarnation of her Asheville-based band, showcasing not just her formidable songwriting strength but taking on the roles of producer and bandleader for Me Oh My. “Before, I was always focused on the band being a duo, which was a
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great artistic collaboration,” says Platt, referring to her earlier work with singer and guitarist Pete James, who left the Honeycutters in 2013. “[Fronting the band] was scary at first, but a really good growing experience.” Released this past spring, the album’s 14 tracks chronicle a modern-day woman battling age-old demons, walking as gracefully as she knows how to through her own darkness. The record willfully balances this darkness with the light that’s on the other side. honeycutters.com. —Laura Blackley
LOCAL LORE Sweet Appalachia
Everything Is Nuts BY ANNETTE SAUNOOKE CLAPSADDLE
uperstition and innovation— the delicate dance between the two just about sums up our region in a nutshell.
Actually, make that two nutshells: that of the buckeye, an Appalachian amulet when carried in a pocket, and also the boiled peanut, a soft and salty snack. These two enigmas of mountain charm largely represent the poles of this landscape, northern and southern. The traditions of both also serve as disparate reminders of our will to be more than nature provides. Unlike any of its nut kin, the indigenous buckeye teases American folklore with its precarious position as both poisonous and lucky. A buckeye is only considered lucky if carried in the right pocket, mind you. Should one carry a buckeye in the left pocket, the intent is to ward off rheumatism. When I was a girl, my father taught me how to identify the difference in the sweet meat of the chestnut, with its spiny encasement and typically one ﬂattened side, and the buckeye, its lethal MANDY NEWHAM-COBB promise betrayed by the nut’s rounded ILLUSTRATION shape. Or at least he tried to teach me— always fearful of poisoning myself, I typically turned to him and other adults for veriﬁcation. As I grew older my father told me of another nefarious use for the nut: the buckeye as political rhetoric. He recalls attending the funeral of my mother’s grandfather, a staunch partisan. As the family waited on the porch to receive condolences, a well-known state senator approached my father. Impressed that such an important man would show up for the somber occasion, he reached out his hand to thank the legislator. As the senator continued down the receiving line, my father opened his hand to ﬁnd that the politician had left him with a buckeye that read, “Good Luck, Joe Palmer!” “Some people would ﬁnd that rude, to be politicking at a funeral,” my father reﬂects. “But I think your mom’s grandfather would have loved it. He would have thought it smart not to miss an opportunity to pick up a few votes.” Creative as it may seem, Palmer wasn’t the ﬁrst to co-opt the nut’s mojo. During his 1840 bid for the presidency, William Henry Harrison handed out buckeye shells as organic campaign tokens.
Buckeyes, though they may shrink, never rot. While this did not necessarily factor into either campaign slogan, the observation may help us understand the allegiance to the majesty of the buckeye— and the irony of distributing them at a funeral. Deadly if ingested raw, the buckeye is known to be high in protein when boiled and leeched of its toxins. Of course, this leads us to another nut heralded for its simmered superiority. My favorite roadside stand sign this season displays a hand-written advertisement for ‘Flip’s boiled P-nut.’ Yes, singular. Commodity of Sharpie or casualty of poor grammar? I care not. I want to know more about this boiled “p-nut” and, of course, Flip. Unfortunately, as is typical with roadside stands, Flip has disappeared from his Route 441 corner before I can pay him a visit, and so I choose to stop at a more established vendor. I couldn’t have been luckier had I been carrying a buckeye. I soon am told that the energetic man spooning the saturated salty treats into a plastic foam cup is none other than Flippo. He tells me about the wood used to ﬁre the large cast-iron pot every day, “primarily for looks… for the tourists.” The ﬁrewood is delivered free of charge. “We get onto them though if they bring us too much sourwood.” “Why?” I ask. “Sourwood’s for the bees,” he explains nonchalantly. “They need to leave it for the bees.” He refers to the rows of honey jars lining shelves behind him. Flip and his stand compatriots sell organic honey, fruits, and dried meats along with the nuts. Flippo, it seems, makes an unlikely—but no less passionate—environmental steward. Even more improbable is the soggy snack’s circuitous history. Peanuts reached the States during the 18th century as they made their way from South America to Africa to North America, by way of the slave trade. The protein in boiled peanut mush sustained many African slaves and later Civil War soldiers through harsh conditions. During embargo, soldiers were known to substitute boiled peanut water, among other things, for coffee. According to Robert Moss in The Brief History of the Boiled Peanut, by 1903 Southern aristocracy had adopted the boiled peanut as an ironic delicacy, serving it at state dinners and high society functions in cities such as Charleston. Consider the trend similar to today’s culinary use of ramps on high-dollar menus and on mountain family tables alike. But what does it all, er, boil down to? More than regional symbols, the buckeye and boiled peanut represent an inherent truth of humanity. Everyone wants to exceed his or her hereditary expectations. If the fruits of labor are poisonous, perhaps they can be lucky. If bland, perhaps they can be reﬁned as a delicacy. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is an award-winning author and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
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MOUNTAIN EXPLORER ROVING THESE HILLS AND VALLEYS
UP IN THE AIR Like a tricked-out playground in the sky, the new High Gravity Adventures aerial park pushes the soaring views of North Carolina’s High Country to the extreme. Next to Tweetsie Railroad, kids and adults navigate a maze of outdoor nets, bridges, tight-rope walks, swinging foot loops, floating platforms, giant spider webs, and other vertical elements strung between poles and lofted some 15 to 50 feet in the air. Challenges progress in difficulty the higher the climb, marked by color-coded levels for beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Visits to the park begin at “Ground School,” where staffers give an aerial orientation and outfit guests with full-body harnesses, helmets, and a set of safety tethers. Open April through November; walk-ins welcome. highgravityadventures.com. HIGH GRAVITY ADVENTURES PHOTO
OUTLOOKS Mountain Explorer
Nature Unleashed B Y H O L LY K AY S
t was late summer in the Smokies, and
high-country greenery ﬂourished. With each step I took down the trail, leaves and grass absorbed more and more of the traffic noise from the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. The trills of birdsong soon became the only sounds on this little-used section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
It was time. “Alright, hang on, buddy,” I said to the small dog attached to the leash in my hand. I knelt down beside her, placed my hand on the leash clasp, and took a deep breath. It was ridiculous how crazy I’d become about this little whippet-terrier mix in the two short weeks I’d had her. When you think about it from a dog’s perspective, it’s also kind of crazy how big the Pisgah National Forest is. Hundreds of thousands of acres, and no fences. What if she didn’t come back? She would, I answered myself, replaying a mental video of Arti at the dog park and her full-tilt, tongue-hanging-out runs back to check in during breaks from rough-and-tumble play. She would come back, and she needed to run as much as I needed to hike. So, I unclipped the leash. At ﬁrst, Arti simply trod cautiously behind me, paws occasionally catching the backs of my boots. Gradually, though, her conﬁdence grew. She launched increasingly wider circles of exploration and eventually took off up the trail at full whippet speed. Her paws pounded the trail like a miniature racehorse’s, and my heart stopped. I had lost her, I was sure of it. “Arti!” I called. “Arti, come!” There was nothing. Silence. And then, a jingle in the distance. The beat of paws on dirt. And ﬁnally, my pup running to me at unfathomable speed, face exuding pure doggy delight. In that moment, I knew the best was true. My new friend liked hiking as much as I did. Over the last few years, I’d grown used to hiking alone. I’d moved around a bit, living in places high in natural beauty but low in readymade friends. When given the option to stay at home until a hiking buddy materializes or start exploring solo, I say carpe diem. But in Arti, I now had an automatic hiking buddy. I’d forgotten what a wonderful thing that was. I could go on and on about my fondness for hiking—why I love existing amid the realness of soil and tree and rock, or what a thrill it is to witness a sweeping mountain view or rushing waterfall. But hiking with Arti gives freshness to these experiences. From the moment I pull out my pack to the second she takes off in 32
Arti the whippet-terrier in her element. HOLLY KAYS PHOTO
Obey the rules Before you take a dog in the woods, make sure you know the house rules. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and while they are permitted on most national forest trails, particular areas and seasons come with other restrictions. Some areas require that dogs be on leash at all times, and it’s vital to leash dogs when there’s potential for conflict with wildlife such as bears or elk. Check with the agency managing the land where you’ll be hiking before taking your canine out on the trail.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Over the last few years, I’d grown used to hiking alone. But in Arti, I now had an automatic hiking buddy. I’d forgotten what a wonderful thing that was.
Nothing makes for a happier dog than a day on the trail. HOLLY KAYS PHOTO
a loop of joy through the forest, I’m party to her excitement. Like an extension of my inner child, she runs and dances around in a way that my adult incarnation of self is just too restrained to do. She reminds me of the privilege imparted through even the most low-key stroll through the city park. She shows me how the things you
smell and the people you meet along the way are just as important as the view at the end of the trail. Actually, it turns out that Arti thrives on the social aspect of the backcountry. Her on-trail introductions spurred a half-hour conversation at the top of Pinnacle Peak, in which I found
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myself divulging the ins and outs of my current writing project with a stranger. Another time, we met a couple on the Parkway whose dog appeared to be Arti’s fraternal twin, and we wound up exchanging phone numbers. One Arti-inspired trail meeting even resulted in a date. This hiking-with-a-dog thing turns out to be the perfect setup for an introvert like me. Having trouble starting a conversation? Just unleash your own Arti, and she’ll take it from there. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Waynesville reporter Holly Kays is a forester’s daughter who is happy to live, write, and hike in the land of many trees.
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SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 â€˘ ISSUE 4
FIELD GUIDE Mountain Explorer
Like a Hawk A juvenile broad-wing hawk soars overhead. MANJITH KAINICKARA PHOTO
BY DON HENDERSHOT
ach September, the skies over Southern Appalachia set the stage for one of nature’s most beautiful and spectacular dances—the migration of the raptors.
These birds of prey fill the skies by the millions as they pirouette, cartwheel, circle, climb high in thermals, and soar on updrafts en route to their winter homes in Central and South America. Caesars Head State Park in Upstate South Carolina makes one of the region’s best spots for glimpsing hawks on the move. Located where the Blue Ridge Escarpment rises abruptly from the South Carolina Piedmont, the Hawk watch at Caesars Head. SCPRT PHOTO park provides the perfect storm of flying conditions to attract migrating hawks. Jutting into the air some 2,000 feet, the rugged granite promontory of Caesars Head offers wildlife lovers a front-row platform to catch nature’s annual aerial ballet.
MIGRATION 101: The primary migrant in the East is the broad-winged hawk. About two million broad-wings nest throughout North America, the majority from the Appalachians to southern Canada. Northern birds begin to trickle southward in early August, picking up fellow pilgrims along the way. By the end
of October, few broad-wing hawks remain in North America.
BOILING OVER: Migrating raptors are experts in energy conservation. Soarers that they are, the birds look for thermals— aka rising currents of warm air—as well as updrafts, which are caused when prevailing winds collide with hills or mountains. It is believed that broad-wings can see a thermal six miles away, so a thermal could sweep up hawks along a 12-mile corridor. Other hawks see the action and join in, and the thermal quickly fills with birds. Birds in a thermal are called a kettle because they appear to boil or bubble upwards until they reach the top of the thermal and spill out. This spilling out is called streaming, during which the birds set their wings and glide southward like guided missiles looking for their next lift. Thermals can reach three miles in height, allowing the hawks to stream for miles using little energy.
HEAD COUNT: More than 14,000 raptors were counted at Caesars Head last year, with some 90 percent of the broadwinged hawks passing over Caesars Head from mid-September through early October. It’s common for several thousand of them to sail through on a single day. Last year, 9,943 of Caesars Head’s 12,044 documented broad-wings were recorded on two days: 3,683 on September 20 and 6,260 the following day.
MORE SPOTS TO WATCH: Hawks can also be spotted during migration at Pilot Mountain State Park near Pinnacle, North Carolina; the Mount Pisgah Hawk Watch at Mills River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 404); and Mahogany Rock in Alleghany County, also along the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 235).
GO WILD Mountain Explorer
JOCASSEE LAKE TOURS PHOTO
ALL ACCESS: TAKE NATURE’S COURSE
CAPTURING WNC PHOTO
Water Adventures That Make a Splash
ome summertime, Southern Appalachians take to water like salamanders to streams. Next time you’re looking for more than a lazy ﬂoat down the river, leave the inner tube at home and give one of these unique local adventures a whirl. 36
On Lake Jocassee, not only can you swim in a waterfall, but you can also learn all about its geology and biology. Offering pontoon excursions with plenty of stops for swimming, Jocassee Lake Tours gives the only naturalist-led trips through this pristine wilderness in the northwest corner of Upstate South Carolina. Brooks and Kay Wade launched their boat tour business in 2011, a couple of years after falling for Lake Jocassee on a trip to Devil’s Fork State Park, the gateway to Jocassee. After surviving dual health scares and a few Florida hurricanes, the couple had decided to hit the road in search of adventure. They had bought an Airstream trailer with plans to travel the country, then drove from Florida to Lake Jocassee—and never left. “There’s an otherworldly physical beauty here, with a quality of light I’ve never seen anywhere,” Brooks explains. “It’s a mesmerizing place. From a botany and biology point of view, the diversity is unmatched.” A special edition of National Geographic magazine recently named the Jocassee Gorges among “50 of the world’s last great places,” citing its 60 species of rare plants and high concentration of waterfalls. Those natural wonders give the Wades—both lifelong “citizen naturalists” turned certiﬁed Upstate Master Naturalists—endless fodder for what Brooks calls “thinly veiled environmental education trips” of the “Yosemite Valley of the eastern United States.” Jocassee Lake Tours offers half- and full-day tours on their handicap-accessible pontoon boats, which ﬁt 12 to 15 passengers, as well as kayak and hiking rentals, shuttles, and guided trips. Lake tour rates begin at $250. jocasseelaketours.com.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
MODERATE: HOP ON A HYDRO-BIKE Here where the Tennessee Valley Authority built its ﬁrst dam, in 1933, the glassy waters of Norris Lake provide 800 miles of shoreline and endless recreational opportunities. The latest wave of adventure to hit this historic body of water? Imagine a bicycle built on a pontoon, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of a hydro-bike. Introduced to Norris Lake by John Marquis, owner of Norris Paddling Adventures, the pedal-powered water bikes use a propeller and impulsion system that can reach speeds of ten miles an hour and are virtually impossible to tip over. “Many people have given up biking for several reasons—physical strain, fear of falling, or they feel the roads are not safe, to name
a few. Hydro-bikes eliminate many of these obstacles,” says Marquis, a certiﬁed personal trainer and former Division 1 college athlete. When Marquis moved here a couple of years ago from Maine with his wife, a native of East Tennessee, he brought with him more than a decade of experience as a recreational wilderness guide. In its ﬁrst two years at the Norris Dam Marina, Norris Paddling Adventures has built a business on facilitating family fun as well as water ﬁtness with hydro-bike, canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals. Special classes and events include stand-up paddleboard and yoga sessions held on summer weekends and evening hydro-bike tours during the full moon of each month (upcoming tours to be held August 28-30 and September 25-27). Rental rates range from $25-$35 for one hour to $75-$95 for a full day. norrispaddlingadventures.com.
Get wet this summer: Pedal across Norris Lake on a hydro-bike; rappel through a waterfall (right and previous page, left); or explore tranquil Lake Jocassee by boat (previous page, right).
NORRIS PADDLING ADVENTURES PHOTO CAPTURING WNC PHOTO
CHALLENGING: TRY CANYONEERING Known as the Land of Waterfalls, North Carolina’s Transylvania County has plenty of opportunities to get wet. Lying in the French Broad River Valley and ﬂanked by the high points of the Blue Ridge escarpment and the 6,000-foot Balsam Mountains, the southwest corner of North Carolina features dramatic changes in elevation that form gorges and ravines. Pura Vida Adventures, an outﬁtter based on the edge of Pisgah National Forest, brings the burgeoning sport of canyoneering to the unique landscape. Popular in Europe and the slot canyons of Utah, canyoneering makes an adventure out of traversing natural gorges—whether by hopping between rocks, rappelling down cascades, or swimming through pools of water.
“Transylvania County’s elevation proﬁle, as well as the fact that it gets more rain then anywhere east of the Rockies, provides for great canyoneering terrain,” explains Joe Moerschbaecher, owner and head guide of Pura Vida, which offers a variety of guided trips that range from three to nine hours and include technical instruction. No prior experience is needed to tackle Cougar Canyon, with its 75-foot waterfall. Beginners negotiate boulders, sludge through waist-deep water, and follow trails along the waterway. For the full canyoneering experience, Pura Vida leads groups of physically ﬁt thrill seekers into Paradise Canyon, where they rappel 125 feet along a waterfall, jump eight feet into a pool of water, swim 50 meters to Paradise Beach, and hike a long, steep trail back out of the canyon. Canyoneering trips run from late March through early November; costs range from $150 to $225 per person, with the option to add on a brewery tour for $35. pvadventures.com.
FACES & PLACES Mountain Explorer
The Never-ending Storyteller BY ANNA OAKES
onnie Regan-Blake has been taking honest, hard-working folks for a ride for over four decades now. If her lips are moving, she’s spinning a yarn.
“This has been my only real job,” says Regan-Blake, a celebrated storyteller based in Asheville, North Carolina. “It still amazes me that you can even do that.” Internationally renowned as one of America’s foremost storytellers, Regan-Blake is a true shepherd of the storytelling movement that re-emerged in the 1970s. She has not only written a page in history for herself but has also taken care to document those who have surrounded her in the folk art world over the years, through recordings, photographs, notes, posters, ﬂiers, and other memorabilia. Last spring, the Library of Congress announced it would house this signiﬁcant compilation of materials, which will eventually be accessible online in the Connie Regan-Blake Collection. A native of Alabama, Regan-Blake’s career began as a young woman in 1971, when she was hired as a storyteller (primarily for children) at a public library in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Soon after, she met the legendary Ray Hicks, a towering man from Beech Mountain in Watauga County, North Carolina. Hicks, a National Heritage Award winner known for his Jack Tales, became a mentor to Connie, and the Hicks family became lifelong friends. “Ray had a way of being inside the story,” Regan-Blake recalls. “He was so present—he told a story as if it was unfolding right then.” In 1973, she appeared at the debut National Storytelling Festival in northeastern Tennessee, joining 60 others who gathered on hay bales around tellers on wagons. A few years later, Regan-Blake hit the road in a pickup truck with her cousin Barbara Freeman. Together they called themselves the Folktellers and performed at folk music festivals and other events. The duo took solo turns on the stage and also told stories together in tandem, each trading lines back and forth until the tale was told. “We are credited with creating that genre,” Regan-Blake says, though they were inspired by Kentucky’s Appalshop groups who would act out mountain tales. The two spent 20 years working together, and Regan-Blake since has performed on her own, appearing at the Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian, and many other festivals and venues. The Library of Congress collection will encapsulate her remarkable career, with mementos such as a copy of
Storyteller and Asheville resident Connie Regan-Blake’s collection of materials spanning her 45-year career will be housed at the Library of Congress in D.C.
Connie’s ﬁrst Storytelling Festival paycheck, diary-like notes she scribbled in her calendars, cassette recordings of musicians at the many folk festivals she attended, and letters from the Hicks family. “I really believe that storytelling is a part of who we are as humans,” Regan-Blake says. “It might shift and change, but the stories will always be here.”
Follow the Story This October 2 to 4, Regan-Blake will reprise her role as emcee at the 43rd annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee—as the only person alive who has taken the festival stage each year since its founding. This year, more than 20 storytellers from around the globe will spin tales taller than the Washington County Courthouse at main stage performances, a story slam, an adults-only Midnight Cabaret, and at ghost story concerts under the stars. In addition to her many performances, Connie ReganBlake shares her expertise as a coach and workshop leader. In Asheville this August 21, Regan-Blake and her students will present “Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories” at Metro Wines on Charlotte Street. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. for $15 admission, including a glass of wine. For more information about Regan-Blake’s events, coaching opportunities, and storytelling workshops, see storywindow.com.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
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SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Mountain Explorer
Eugene Thomason, Bootleggers Run, oil on board, 18 x 22 inches. COURTESY OF THE JOHNSON COLLECTION.
ity grit may not seem to have much to do with a remote mountain community in Western North Carolina. Yet the Asheville Art Museum shows a different story with its current exhibition, “From New York to Nebo: The Artistic Journey of Eugene Thomason,” in which urban realism melds with the rural landscapes of Appalachia. Considered a product of the industrialized New South, South Carolina-born Thomason (1895–1972) spent the 1920s in New York among the realist artists of New York’s burgeoning Ashcan School, most notably
George Luks. After a decade away, Thomason returned to his native South, ultimately settling in the tiny Appalachian crossroads of Nebo, North Carolina, located between Asheville and Hickory. “In New York he was yet another small ﬁsh in a big pond, but in North Carolina he came into his own,” says art historian Martha Severens, who wrote the catalog accompanying the exhibition. “The setting there allowed him to get away from the competitive rat race and do what he wanted to do on his own terms. He didn’t have to answer to others.” For the next three decades, Thomason applied the dark palettes, simple subject matter, and bold brushwork of the Ashcan movement to the people and places of his adopted mountain home. His distinctive regional style earned him the nickname “the Ashcan artist of Appalachia” as he became, according to Severens, the visual spokesman for his region. Unlike other regionalists of his era, Thomason “tended to see things as they were,” says Severens. “His landscapes are powerful and in no way pretty or romantic—rather rugged.” Local scenery shines in paintings such as “Bootleggers Run” and “Linville,” showing a man ﬁshing along the Catawba River. His portraits range from a ﬁctional, hardscrabble community of Scotch-Irish settlers to notable contemporaries such as Thomas Wolfe, depicted with his hat in his hand, perhaps a nod to the writer’s restless lifestyle. Organized by Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Johnson Collection, which holds the largest collection of Thomason works, “From New York to Nebo: The Artistic Journey of Eugene Thomason” runs through September 13 at the Asheville Art Museum. 2 South Pack Square, ashevilleart.org.
What’s On Stage KNOXVILLE, TENN.: Come summer nights in downtown Knoxville, there’s much ado about none other than the Bard himself. Now in its 25th year, Shakespeare on the Square brings alfresco performances of two of the playwright’s classics—a comedy and a tragedy—to Market Square. Through August 16, the Tennessee Stage Company presents alternating stagings of The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth on Thursday through Sunday nights. Bring your own blanket or lawn chair to sit in the free section ($10 suggested donation), or reserve a ticket for the VIP seating area ($15 for a spot up front in a cushioned lawn chair). Indoor matinees will take place on August 2 and 9 at Knoxville’s Scruffy City Hall ($10). HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C.: North Carolina’s official state theater since 1961, Flat Rock Playhouse brings music, comedy, and drama to Henderson
Prize–winning tale of family dysfunction. Meanwhile, the Hendersonville Little Theatre offers up the ultimate sacrifice— The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s. The dramatic Tony Award winner will run select nights August 21 through September 6.
ABINGDON, VA.: Founded in 1933
Knoxville’s Shakespeare on the Stage. ED DUMAS PHOTO
County from March through December. Through August 16, the Flat Rock mainstage presents Gypsy, the classic 1959 musical all about show business with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Next up is Fly (September 10–27), which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. And from August 20 through September 6, the Playhouse Downtown in Hendersonville stages Crimes of the Heart, a Pulitzer
with the bold proposition to trade “ham for Hamlet”—in other words, to pay admission with vegetables and other food—the Barter Theater in southwest Virginia still offers a feast for stage goers. The historic theater’s late summer lineup ranges from Spit Like a Big Girl (August 12–16), the autobiographical one-woman show of Boone native Clarinda Ross, to The Blind Man’s Tale (August 12–23), a worship musical based on the Biblical story of Jesus healing a blind man. Plus: The Doyle and Debbie Show (September 22–November 14) spoofs country music in a rollicking comedy featuring such songs as “Stock Car Love” and “Barefoot and Pregnant.”
LIVING HISTORY Mountain Explorer
Nothin’ Square About Contra BY MICHELLE ROGERS
f it’s Thursday night, it’s the Old Farmer’s Ball just outside of Asheville, when contra dance takes over the wood-ﬂoored barn of Warren Wilson College. Amid the claps of hands and stomps of feet—with arms and legs a tangle of twirls and ﬂourishes—this folk tradition is taking on new life with gusto. As each song ends, partners switch, the room rearranging with new formations. The caller announces above the roar of the crowd: “Swing your partner… Spiral out as much as you can… Bow to your corner… Face your corner…” She walks the dancers through the steps before the music begins. A ﬁddle practices a few riffs in the middle of the shuffling. “Lady on the right, gent on the left…Roll away with a half sashay.” A few experienced dancers throw in some swing dance moves. As dancers move up and down the line, eye contact is important, to connect with fellow dancers and so newcomers don’t get dizzy from whirling and twirling. NPR’s Marika Partridge recently described the overhead view of a contra dance ﬂoor like a kaleidoscope, the inner workings of a watch, or even a quilt pattern in motion.
Over the years, Warren Wilson’s weekly dance has introduced contra to countless new fans. More than a decade later, they still attend. Asheville boasts one of the youngest and largest contra communities in the region, and some say the country. Kate Hanford moved to Asheville from Brasstown, North Carolina, after being introduced to the contra scene there. “You’ll see a lot of the same faces at these dances,” says Hanford. “I moved away for a while and when I came back to Asheville, I saw people at contra that I met eight years ago or more. I love the eye contact, the community. People join in from all walks of life.” Contra is considered a community dance in which anyone from any group or class can participate. This concept has roots in English country dance, often called the predecessor of contra. Formed by working-class people, the style is thought to have emerged in opposition to Queen Elizabeth I’s courtly dances, which required ample leisure time to practice the stylized steps as well as wealth to afford the elaborate dress. Then as now, contra dancers follow no dress code, wearing everything from casual and comfortable attire to ﬂowing dresses to guys in skirts and head bands. A unique part of contra is the “gender bending” that sometimes occurs. “With many other dance forms, there are usually more women than men that show up, and women feel like they need to sit out,” says Robin Lenner, a contra dancer since 2002. “With contra, women can dance lead with other women, or guys dance with guys, or women will lead guys. It’s really ﬂexible that way. And you don’t need to bring a partner.” Contra can be danced along to old-time, Southern Appalachian, New England, Celtic, Quebecois, jazz, blues, and other music played by live bands. National contra groups such as Elixir, known for its energetic horn section, and Perpetual e-Motion, which uses electronic samples and loops, push the boundaries of traditional music.
At the Keith House in Brasstown, N.C., a contra caller (above) keeps the dance floor in motion (top). JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL PHOTOS
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Historic Valdese Come visit Historic Valdese! Museums, art galleries, a winery and so much more! Go to townofvaldese.com for complete listing of attractions and events.
400 Main Street, West, Valdese, NC 28690 828.879.2129 www.townofvaldese.com
Emerald Village Family fun with REAL mine tours, gem mining in a REAL mine, gold panning, museum, shopping, emerald & mineral collecting, free exhibits, spectacular historic mines!
Boone, N.C. y Boone Country Dancers, every second Saturday at 8 p.m., Old Cove Creek School Gym in Sugar Grove or the Apple Barn in Valle Crucis. Beginner lessons at 7:30 p.m. East Tennessee y Historic Jonesborough Dance Society. Visitors Center Auditorium, 117 Boone Street. First and third Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Beginner lessons at 7 p.m. y Knoxville, Laurel Theater, Mondays at 8 p.m. Beginner lessons at 7:30 p.m. $7 ($3 for students).
331 McKinney Mine Road, Little Switzerland, NC 28749 828.765.6463 (828-ROK-MINE) www.emeraldvillage.com
Lake Lure & the Blue Ridge Foothills Relax and recharge this fall in Lake Lure & the Blue Ridge Foothills! Visit pages 20-21 in our online travel guide to learn how.
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Since 2008, techno contra has risen in popularity, which pairs traditional contra patterns with pop, celtic fusion, or electronica in a low-lit club setting, often with black lights. While the Warren Wilson dances are open to all levels, only regular dancers are typically invited to techno contras because of the challenges of navigating low-lighting, interpreting the calls, and incorporating them into dance moves. The rebirth of contra in the 1960s, 1980s, and again today can be attributed to younger generations looking for an alternative to popular culture. Contra offers a way to grow roots and form ties to an enriching community. This living tradition keeps people coming back. Even if dancers leave the community for a while, they know they can always jump back in, connect with old and new faces alike, and pick up where they left off.
Brasstown, N.C. y Contra and square dancing at the Community Room of Keith House, Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. Free admission and open to the public. Friendly and approachable for beginners.
Asheville Area, N.C. y Splash Dance 2015, August 21-23, Camp Pinnacle, Hendersonville. oldfarmersball.com/splashdance y Old Farmer’s Ball at Warren Wilson College, Thursdays at 8 p.m. Beginner lessons at 7:30 p.m. $6. y Grey Eagle, Asheville, Mondays at 8 p.m. Beginner lessons at 7:30 p.m. $7.
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DETOURS Mountain Explorer
A Snack Of Galactic Proportions
hat do you get when you stick two graham cracker cookies together with a layer of marshmallow, and dip the whole thing in chocolate?
It’s more than a MoonPie. The “original marshmallow sandwich” is a road-trip treat as Southern as boiled peanuts—and a whole lot more universally loved. The family-owned Chattanooga Bakery trademarked MoonPies in 1919, two years after coming up with the winning recipe, and today are said to make more than a million of the snack cakes a day. Fans can pay homage—as well as try new ﬂavors and stock up on paraphernalia and retro souvenirs—at the MoonPie General Store in downtown Chattanooga as well as at an outpost in Pigeon Forge. MoonPie General Store The only thing richer than y 429 Broad Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee its ﬂavor is the history behind 423.877.0592 the hallowed ’mallow. y 3127 Parkway, According to official MoonPigeon Forge, Tennessee Pie lore, in 1917, Earl Mitchell 865.428.5708 wanted to sell some cookies y moonpie.com hearty enough to sustain even
Appalachian coal miners. The traveling salesman asked a group of Kentucky miners how big of a snack would satisfy their hunger, as they often worked through lunch. As a miner held out his hands to frame the moon shining in the night sky, he replied, “About that big!” Back at the bakery, Mitchell noticed graham crackers dipped in marshmallow left to harden on the windowsill. The bakery turned the DIY snack into a cookie sandwich coated in chocolate. At just 5 cents a pop and a hearty four-and-a-half inches in diameter, the MoonPie became an instant success. During the Great Depression, the MoonPie became forever linked with another Southern export, RC Cola, both of which came in larger servings than their competitors. At a combined cost of a single dime, the sweet pairing was dubbed the “working man’s lunch” and inspired a 1950s honky-tonk tune by singing cowboy Big Bill Lister. In 1973, the rock band NRBQ paid nostalgic tribute with “RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” which led to a MoonPie-themed music festival that ran for many years in Hartford, Connecticut. Where two Southern traditions come together, others can’t be far off. Since the 1970s, the cellophane-wrapped cake has been the edible throw of choice at Mardi Gras parades. For a couple of years in the late 1990s, NASCAR adopted the MoonPie as its official snack cake (the rest of the time its popularity is a given). U.S. troops have received MoonPies in their care packages since World War II. Perhaps it’s only ﬁtting that the new millennium would bring even more out-of-this-world directions for the humble MoonPie. Mobile, Alabama, now rings in the New Year by dropping a 600-pound electric MoonPie accompanied by a laser show and musical acts such as last year’s headliner, the Village People. In 2009, the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a 40-inch MoonPie, served by the slice. During a homecoming event Vintage MoonPies. last fall, the University MOONPIE PHOTO of Tennessee dished up a 50-pound MoonPie that clocked in at more than 45,000 calories and claimed to be the “world’s largest MoonPie.” Though MoonPie has introduced a variety of ﬂavors over the years—from the recent addition of salted caramel to the discontinued chocolate-mint—the original s’moreslike combination remains the most popular, followed by vanilla and banana. But the latest way to consume those three favorite ﬂavors packs the most potent punch. In collaboration with MoonPie’s Campbell family, Kentucky’s seventh-generation Limestone Branch Distillery has introduced a line of MoonPie Moonshine, available in chocolate, vanilla, and banana. The uniquely Southern sip recently won a blind taste test in the 2015 World Liqueur Awards. Really, the marriage was only a matter of time: “MoonPie” has long appeared just before “moonshine” in the venerable Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS
he Southern Appalachians have a rich artistic history. As long as folks have lived in these majestic landscapes, theyâ€™ve been molding, shaping and putting together items that serve not only practical purposes but also aesthetic ones, too. From weavers to potters, painters to metalsmiths, glassblowers to woodcrafters, these artisans reďŹ‚ect generations of heritage and innovation. Promoting and perpetuating this beauty are the galleries that are as unique and varied as the artists themselves.
Southern Appalachian Galleries
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AN ISLAND FULL OF ART The Madison County Arts Council presents ‘Art On The Island Festival’ on beautiful Blannahassett Island in downtown Marshall, Saturday, September 26th, 10am until 5pm. madisoncountyarts.com AROUND BACK AT ROCKY’S PLACE The Ultimate Folk Art Gallery in the South! Representing a plethora of self-taught artists. Best selection by artist “Cornbread” in the Universe! Established 2002. 3631 Hwy. 53 E. at Etowah River Rd. Dawsonville, Ga. • 706.265.6030 aroundbackatrockysplace.com Sat. 11-5; Sun. 1-5 DOGWOOD CRAFTERS Arts and crafts co-op featuring local artisans. Stained glass, gourd art, handmade soaps, photography, painting, canned goods, metal work and more. Established 1976. 90 Webster St. • Dillsboro, N.C. 828.586.2248 • dogwoodcrafters.com EARTHWORKS ENVIRONMENTAL GALLERY Since opening in 1992, Earthworks has focused on artists who display stewardship of the Earth, whether through design or crafting techniques. Artisans from a variety of mediums grace the gallery’s collections. Artists, both regional and from around the world, fit together at Earthworks. 21 N. Main St. • Waynesville, N.C. 828.452.9500 • earthworksgalleries.com FOLK POTTERY MUSEUM OF NORTHEAST GEORGIA The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia will hold its annual Folk Pottery Show and Sale on Saturday September 5th 2015. 283 Hwy. 255 N. • Sautee Nacoochee, Ga. 706.878.3300 • folkpotterymuseum.com
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FOXFIRE Foxﬁre’s Appalachian Museum, a 22-log-cabin village with exhibits & artifacts & a gift shop featuring The Foxﬁre Book series & traditional crafts & gifts, provides heritage programs for learners of all ages, sponsors The Foxﬁre Magazine class at RCHS, and provides scholarships to local students. 98 Foxfire Ln. • Mountain City, Ga. 706.746.5828 • foxfire.org HICKORY FLAT POTTERY Functional pottery, jewelry, glass, ﬁber and wood art made by hand in the hills of North Georgia. Come see the potters at work daily. 13664 Hwy 197 N • Clarkesville, Ga. 30523 706.947.0030 • hickoryﬂatpottery.com
Southern Appalachian Galleries
Micah Evans, Hemishphere Aerating Decanter Penland School of Crafts Penland, NC | 828.765.6211 email@example.com www.penland.org/gallery
ORIGINAL PAINTINGS AND PRINTS BY ROBERT TINO • • • •
Art tiles Pottery Home Furnishings Specializing In Custom Framing
www.robertatinogallery.com Open Mon. – Sat. 10:00 – 5:00 Closed Sundays
Highlands lands Gallery y - 381 Main St St • Highlands NC 28741 287 741 4 • 828-526-9333 Sevierville Se vierville Gallery y - 812 Old Old Douglas D Dam am R Rd d • Se Sevierville vierville TN 3 37876 7876 • 865 865-453-6315 -453-6315 EXPLORE
Southern Appalachian Galleries
Ultimate Folk Art Gallery in the South!
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Best Selection by "Cornbread" in the Universe!
13664 Hwy 197 N Clarkesville, GA 30523 706.947.0030
3631 HWY. 53 E.
3631 HWY.RIVER 53 RD. E. AT ETOWAH
AT ETOWAH RIVER RD. DAWSONVILLE,GA GA DAWSONVILLE, 706-265-6030 706-265-6030
HickoryFlatPottery.com H ANDCRAFTED
HOURS: SATURDAY 11 TO 5 & SUNDAY 1 TO 5
OVER 45 Y EARS!
MAHOGANY HOUSE ART GALLERY AND STUDIOS, THE The Mahogany House Art Gallery is located in the historic area of Frog Level in downtown Waynesville, N.C. Its brick plaster walls, dark plank wood flooring and embossed tin ceiling tiles lend a timeless appeal and complement the treasures of art displayed within. At present, the artist studios feature an encaustic artist, acrylic and oil artist, a cold wax and assemblage artist and two woodturners. 240 Depot St. â€˘ Waynesville, NC themahoganyhouse.com MARK OF THE POTTER The oldest crafts shop in Georgia in the old Grandpa Wattsâ€™ Gristmill, celebrating over 45 years in the same location. Mark of the Potter features handcrafted pottery, a potter working weekends, and other crafts. Donâ€™t miss the best view on the Soque River with generations of huge brown and rainbow trout (protected, of course). 706.947.3440 â€˘ markofthepotter.com ROBERT A. TINO GALLERY Robert Tino is one of the most celebrated artists living in the southeast. He has painted the beauty of Tennessee and North Carolina for over 40 Years. Working in oils, acrylics, or watercolors, each painting is a flourish of color, depth, and texture. Leisurely shop thru the gallery for notecards, art tiles, limited edition prints and custom framing. 381 Main St. â€˘ Highlands N.C. 828.526.9333 812 Old Douglas Dam Rd. â€˘ Sevierville Tenn. 865.453.6315 www.robertatinogallery.com STECOAH VALLEY CULTURAL ARTS CENTER Traditional and contemporary works including paintings, pottery, weaving, wood-turned items, glass works, photography, note cards, jewelry, soaps, quilts, books and more. 121 Schoolhouse Rd. â€˘ Robbinsville, N.C. 828.479.3364 â€˘ stecoahvalleycenter.com SUSAN MARIE DESIGNS With visionary talent and skills acquired in thirty-three years as an award-winning goldsmith, Susan Marie transforms natureâ€™s most exceptional gemstones, diamonds and pearls into wearable contemporary elegance. As a G.I.A. Graduate Gemologist, she selects the most vibrant and highest quality cut stones to create fine jewelry. Four Biltmore Ave. â€˘ Asheville, N.C. 828.277.1272
SEE THE POTTER AT THE WHEEL EACH
SAT. & SUN.
markofthepotter.com | 706-947-3440 9982 Hwy. 197 N. | Clarkesville, GA 48
OPEN 7 DAYS PER WEEK
Southern Appalachian Galleries
THE FOLK SCHOOL CHANGES YOU.
Engaging hands and hearts since 1925. Come enjoy making crafts and good friends on 300 natural, scenic acres in western North Carolina.
JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL folkschool.org BRASSTOWN
1-800-FOLK-SCH NORTH CAROLINA
Southern Appalachian Galleries
98 N. MAIN ST. • WAYNESVILLE NC • MON.-SAT.10-5:30 • SUN. 1-4 828.456.1940 • WWW.TWIGSANDLEAVES.COM
Experience Southern Appalachia as recorded, documented, and collected by the students of Rabun County, GA—and shared with the world through The Foxfire Magazine and The Foxfire Book volumes. Visit the legacy they created in honor of their neighbors and ancestors through 45+ years of work gathering and preserving their unique mountain heritage. Museum gift shop offers regional pottery, crafts, Foxfire & other books.
TPENNINGTON ART GALLERY Teresa Pennington is a self-taught colored pencil artist who renders, in amazing detail, the scenery and landmarks of western North Carolina and beyond. See her distinctive work at TPennington Art Gallery in downtown Waynesville, N.C. 15 North Main St. • Waynesville, N.C. 828.452.9284 • tpennington.com TWIGS AND LEAVES GALLERY Stroll down Main Street in Waynesville to find a unique gallery where art dances with nature. Browse through an unforgettable collection of nature-inspired works by 140 primarily regional artists and crafts persons. Take home a piece of art that echoes the wonder of nature. 98 N. Main St. • Waynesville, N.C. 828.456.1940 • twigsandleaves.com
MOUNTAIN F LOWERS
Dances WITH WHERE
UPTOWN GALLERY (MACON COUNTY ART ASSOCIATION) Uptown Gallery showcases the work of local artists and presents Village Square Arts and Crafts shows in Highlands. Featuring an open studio and monthly presentations. Workshops and classes for adults are available, as well as children’s activities in cooperation with The Bascom, a center for the visual arts. 30 E. Main St. • Franklin, N.C. 828.349.4607 • uptowngalleryoffranklin.com VISIONS OF CREATION With over 40 years of experience, Roberto creates contemporary and one-of-a-kind ﬁne jewelry in gold and silver. Each hand-crafted piece has its own unique properties. Most are Limited Editions and signed. Roberto is constantly creating, evolving and designing new and innovative pieces. 100 Cherry St. • Black Mountain, N.C. 828.669.0065 • visionsofcreation.com
Museum & Heritage Center Take US 441 to Mountain City, GA. Turn onto Black Rock Mtn. Parkway. One mile up, follow the brown signs.
Monday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. www.foxfire.org • 706.746.5828
WAYNESVILLE GALLERY ASSOCIATION The Waynesville Gallery Association is represented by 11 unique galleries: Art on Depot, Burr Studio, Cedar Hill Studio, Earthworks Gallery, Gallery 86, Grace Cathey Sculpture, The Jeweler’s Workbench, the mahogany house art gallery and studios, TPennington Art Gallery, Twigs and Leaves Gallery, and Village Framer. The group promotes and participates in Art After Dark which happens the first Friday evening May through December. waynesvillegalleryassociation.com THE WILLOWS POTTERY Creating functional handmade ctoneware since 2003. Specializing in custom dinnerware and vessel sinks, we are proud to provide an excellent selection of locally made gifts. 7273 S. Main St. • Helen, GA 706.878.1344 • thewillowspottery.com
Southern Appalachian Galleries
ARTIST OF THE
Functional Stoneware thewillowspottery.com 7273 S. Main Street Helen 706-878-1344
“Old Home Place” Candler, NC
Colored Pencil Drawing 1795-81
15 N. Main St. • Waynesville, NC | 828.452.9284 • tpennington.com
Join Us for Art After Dark Friday, Aug 7th & Friday, Sept 4th • 6-9 pm
First Friday of Each Month 6-9 p.m.
Enjoy refreshments and a meet and greet with one of our featured artists.
May through December
WAYNESVILLEGALLERYASSOCIATION.COM Funded in part by Haywood County Tourism Development Authority • 1.800.334.9036 • visitNCsmokies.com
Southern Appalachian Galleries
80 N. Main Street Waynesville North Carolina
828.456.2260 | TheJewelersWorkbench.us
Master Mountain Traditions Old and New
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
“One day’s exposure
BY MARYELLEN KENNEDY DUCKETT
to mountains is better than cartloads of books.” —John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (1938)
The “School of Appalachia” isn’t a single place. It’s an open invitation to retreat into the mountains to think, to learn, to collaborate, and to create.
Blacksmithing at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
A collection of remote mountain sanctuaries and locally owned bakeries, shops, and other small businesses make up the school’s idyllic “campus,” providing tranquil settings to connect with Southern Appalachian heritage in a meaningful way. Seemingly around every bend in the road, artists and craftspeople eagerly share their knowledge and skills with students of all ages. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn how to weave a split oak basket, play the dulcimer, or try your hand at another traditional, contemporary, or even experimental craft, there’s likely a class or
opportunity available here. Hands-on learning remains one of the greatest legacies of the Craft Revival movement (1885-1945), which helped preserve and promote traditional Southern Appalachian art and craft. Craft schools such as Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, both founded during the revival, continue to draw people seeking to step outside their comfort zones and try something new. “People are wired to make things, yet there is so much stuff in the world that takes away our attention, or our time, or our willingness to commit ourselves to create,” says Jan Davidson, director of the Campbell Folk School. While, as Davidson adds, few people will “have the luxury of being full-time artists” during their lives,” learning a new craft here just might be the next best thing. Read on to discover the school or program where you can unplug from your typical routine and unleash your inner mountain master.
JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL PHOTO
BUILD A NEW SKILL John C. Campbell Folk School Brasstown, North Carolina
The Campbell School motto, “sing behind the plow,” dates to 1925 when the local area was primarily agricultural. Although most current faculty and students aren’t singing behind literal plows, if they’re lucky, they are “singing in front of the computer screen, under the hood of a car, or over a cook stove,” says director Jan Davidson. “The original tenet of the school was to help people remember that there can be joy in art in everyday life,” he says. That joyful spirit makes up an essential component of the school’s noncompetitive approach, which encourages students to build completely new skills. “The non-competitive aspect is the heart of what we do,” says Davidson. “We would never think of having any credits, or grades, or tests. That is why people like
y WHAT: More than 860 non-competitive programs for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, and writing. y WHEN: Year round. y TIME COMMITMENT: Weekend, fivenight, and six-night programs are available. Participants in the weeklong program typically attend class 9 a.m.– noon and 1:30–4:30 p.m. daily. The weekend schedule includes classes Friday night, all day Saturday (with lunch break), and Sunday morning. y TUITION: $334–$928, plus materials fees. y STAY: On-campus housing options include a campground, dormitory, and shared and private rooms.
Wood turning. JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL PHOTO
y EAT: Daily family-style meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are an integral part of the Danish folk school tradition. Lodging rates (excluding campground) include meals. y PLAY: Evening extracurricular activities such as contra and square dancing, folk music, and blacksmithing demonstrations are scheduled daily. Don’t miss the Tuesday night dance. y HOW: Peruse the course catalog and register at folkschool.org. To request a printed catalog, ask questions, or register via phone, call 800.365.5724 or 828.837.2775. y INSIDER’S TIP: Sit with a different group of people at each meal. “When you’re taking a quilting class and talking
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
“From Tree to Vessel–Green Woodturning,” October 4–10: Learn how to find and prepare wood for turning; operate a lathe; and create a bowl, platter, or artistic vessel to take home. y “Intro to Glass Blowing,” November 1-7: Safely master the art of manipulating molten glass, and make marbles, pendants, small glass-blown ornaments, and more. y
to a blacksmith and a poet over lunch, that will change your quilt,” says Davidson. “People translate design ideas from one medium to another simply by asking, ‘What are you working on?’”
BAKE BREAD TOGETHER An Appalachian at heart, Australian Alan Scott co-wrote the treatise on traditional bread baking, The Bread Builders (Chelsea Green Publishing, 1999), and led a 20th-century revival of the ancient craft of building outdoor masonry ovens. An oven that was hand-built by Scott forms the baking and teaching heart of artisanal Smoke Signals Baking in Marshall, North Carolina. “This connection to the past is present in all that we do,” says Smoke Signals baker and owner Tara Jensen. “Each workshop
MODERN Survival Skills participant walks away with an enhanced understanding of the local grain economy, the legacy of wood-fired baking in the area, and a set of recipes and formulas for their own kitchens.”
SMOKE SIGNALS PHOTO
us. The teachers have more fun, and so do the students.” Davidson is quick to point out, however, that an all-inclusive approach doesn’t diminish the quality of the lessons taught and pieces produced.“We are serious about everything we do, and hold our teachers and our students to the highest standards,” he says. “If you are seriously interested in baking, for example, you’ll come out of our class being a baker. This is real work, real craft.” If there’s an art or craft you’ve always wanted to try, chances are good there is a program offered sometime during the year at the Campbell School. Traditional Appalachian options include wood turning, weaving, ﬁddle playing, pottery, quilting, blacksmithing, and baking. Adding to the authentic mountain experiences are the materials, much of which are grown or found locally. Says Campbell, “When a tree falls down around here, the wood turners, the wood carvers, and the furniture makers all swoop in. Instead of being upset that the power got knocked out, they’re thinking, ‘What a lucky break.’”
Group banjo jam. JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL PHOTO
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y WHERE: Smoke Signals, 590 Barnard Road, Marshall, North Carolina, smokesignalsbaking.com. COURSE: “Naturally Leavened Bread Basics” (also pizza and pie workshops). SYLLABUS: Bake bread in the outdoor oven, and learn about milling stone ground flour, caring for a sourdough starter, and more. FEES: $75 for workshops; rates vary for private instruction. WHEN: Offered two Sundays each month for three hours; private instruction by appointment (groups of four or more). Check website for current workshops. HOW: For more information or to register online, visit smokesignals.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. EXTRA CREDIT: Visit Blannahassett Island, a French Broad River island in downtown Marshall that is the home of Marshall High Studios, a community art and craft hub housed in a former school.
BREW YOUR OWN BEER With more than 20 craft breweries and a thriving homebrew scene, the greater Asheville area is widely considered the Southern Appalachian craft brew capital. If you plan ahead, you can even learn to brew your own beer or ale at Hops & Vines, a one-stop shop for specialty beer and wine as well as home brewing supplies. y WHERE: Hops & Vines, 797 Haywood Rd. Ste 100, West Asheville, North Carolina, hopsandvines.net. y COURSE: “Beginner Home Brewing.” y SYLLABUS: Introduction to the art of micro-brewing, including everything you need to know to start making your own beer. y FEES: $45. y WHEN: One Saturday per month from 12–4 p.m. Check website for upcoming dates. y HOW: For more information or to sign up, call Hops & Vines at 828.252.5275. y EXTRA CREDIT: If possible, attend the follow-up class two weeks later to bottle and bring home your brew.
LEARN FROM A MASTER Penland School of Crafts Bakersville, North Carolina
Penland believes in the power of immersion. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains northeast of Asheville, days and evenings are spent learning by doing— whether in class, in open studios, or in mealtime discussions with artists and fellow students across all mediums. Surrounded only by art, nature, and fellow artisans, students can avoid real-world distractions and focus intently on their craft. “Total-immersion, single-subject workshops are a uniquely effective way of learning,” says Penland communications and marketing manager Robin Dreyer. The intensity of the Penland approach attracts a renowned and continually changing faculty; most instructors are full-time studio artists or teachers in degree-granting art
Clay workshop. PENLAND SCHOOL OF CRAFTS PHOTO
y WHAT: Nearly 100 workshops in books and paper, clay, drawing and painting, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking, textiles, wood, and other media. y WHEN: Summer (divided into seven sessions from late May through late August), plus spring and fall “concentrations” (eight week programs). y TIME COMMITMENT: One, two, or two and a half weeks in summer; eight weeks in spring and fall. Classes start at 8:30 p.m. on the Sunday you arrive. y TUITION: $585 to $1,302 (more for hot glass workshops), plus meals and housing. y STAY: On-campus housing is either “standard” (larger rooms located, in some cases, in newer or renovated buildings) or “economy” (smaller rooms in older buildings). Options range from dorm rooms (4–15 people) to single rooms with private bath.
y EAT: On-campus housing rates include nutritious meals, sometimes featuring ingredients grown on campus. Meal plans are available for students staying off campus. y PLAY: Before or after your session—or during the middle weekend of a twoweek workshop—drive about 30 minutes east to the Linville Falls trailhead located at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 316.3. Follow one of the three hiking trails (easy, moderate, and strenuous) to see the three-tiered waterfall cascading into Linville Gorge. y HOW: Go to penland.org and choose “Summer 2015 Open Workshops” to see which August classes still have openings. Or review the list of upcoming workshops by studio or session. Wait lists are available for all full classes. Register online, or call the registrar at 828.765.2359, ext. 106. Sign up early; some classes fill quickly.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
“Shake Hands with Hammers,” October 18-24: Tom McCarthy, a renowned artisan of wearable art and owner of Tom McCarthy Jewelry, teaches an introductory class on forging and the directional stretching of metal with hammers. Learn how to create spoons, rings, bracelets, and brooches in silver. y “The ABCs of VANDY: Letterpress and the Small Book,” October 4-10: Steve Miller, coordinator of the University of Alabama Master of Fine Arts in the Book Arts Program and a master bookmaker, offers the opportunity to learn the art and craft of making books by hand. y
y INSIDER’S TIP: It’s easy to get lost if you’ve never been to the campus. Use the directions on the Penland website (not GPS), and arrive before dark. Pack comfortable clothes, sturdy shoes, an umbrella, and a flashlight.
schools. Workshops and instructors change annually, so the courses offered depend on who is teaching that year. These master artists and craftsmen are able to devote a signiﬁcant amount of one-on-one time with each student in classes of 12 students or fewer, on average. The Penland model also encourages collaborative learning among students. Most workshops are open to people of all skill levels, including beginners. Dreyer says there’s no
Learning in and from nature. WILD ABUNDANCE PHOTO
Working with hot glass. PENLAND SCHOOL OF CRAFTS PHOTO
reason for newbies to feel intimidated by taking a class with more experienced students. “Beginners learn from being around people with more experience, and an advanced student might be surprised and inspired by the work of someone who doesn’t quite know the rules yet,” Dreyer adds. While traditional craft, most notably weaving, was the school’s initial focus when it opened as a crafts cooperative in 1929, Penland expanded its scope long ago. “We are also constantly trying to expand and blur the boundaries of craft,” Dreyer says. Today the course catalog includes a range of learning experiences, from documentary media to sculpting with hot glass. Whichever program you choose, prepare to be challenged and to work hard.
Permaculture—a combination of “permanent” and “agriculture”—models manmade systems (such as architecture, gardening, and transportation) on natural processes. The goal is to learn how to live more sustainably, and to put those lessons into practice at home and in your community. Permaculture design is one of the many Wild Abundance courses available to people who want to “get their mind and body engaged in sustainable living,” says founder and director Natalie Bogwalker. y WHERE: Wild Abundance, Asheville, wildabundance.net. y COURSE: Sustainable-living classes range from private sessions (on topics such as permaculture, survival skills, organic gardening, or food preservation) to a two-week Permaculture Design Certification Course. y SYLLABUS: Learn practical skills for living closer to the earth. y FEES: $75-$150 classes; $250-$500 daily, private sessions; $950-$1,250 Survival Skills permaculture certification. y WHEN: Private classes by appointment; Permaculture Design Certification Course, September 12–23; other classes and events available monthly. Check online calendar for updated schedule. y HOW: For more information or to register, go to wildabundance.net or call 828.775.7052. y EXTRA CREDIT: Save the date for the Firefly Gathering, an event held each June near Asheville. Bogwalker co-founded the multi-day and multigenerational celebration of nature, community, and sustainable living, with classes on eco-homesteading, primitive skills, permaculture, and more. Learn more at fireflygathering.org.
CREATE AN HEIRLOOM Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Students manipulate clay (left) and glass beads (right). ARROWMONT PHOTOS
When the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School opened in Gatlinburg, then a remote Smoky Mountain community, grateful parents gifted their children’s teachers with handmade baskets, woven textiles, and other traditional Appalachian crafts. By 1926, the school opened the Arrowmont Shop to sell the locals’ handcrafted wares. In 1945, summer workshops were added so that anyone with an interest in traditional craft could come to the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to live and learn in a secluded, wooded setting. From that initial summer program, Arrowmont has grown into
y WHAT: Create an heirloom-quality, traditional Appalachian piece such as a wood-turned bowl or split oak basket. y WHEN: Workshops, June–October. y TIME COMMITMENT: Weekend (Thursday evening–Sunday) and one or two weeks (Sunday evening– Saturday). y TUITION: $340 to $995 (woodworking, wood turning, glass, and some painting classes cost more), plus materials fees, meals, and housing. y STAY: On-campus housing options include single, double, triple, and dormitory rooms. No camping is allowed on campus; however, students can stay in local campgrounds or other off-campus housing.
a 14-acre, national art and craft education center. Nationally recognized artists lead the school’s more than 130 summer and fall courses, and adults (ages 18 and up) of all skill levels are welcome to spend a weekend, or a week or two, creating in the collaborative and idyllic cocoon that is Arrowmont. There are workshops available in every medium from bookmaking and metals to glass and photography. Included in the offerings are opportunities to create authentic Appalachian heirloom pieces such as wooden and clay bowls, and wood benches with woven ﬁber seats.
y EAT: On-campus housing rates include three daily meals. Meal plans are available for students staying elsewhere. y PLAY: Arrowmont’s main entrance is on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, less than two miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sugarlands Visitor Center. y HOW: Go to arrowmont.org and choose “Workshops and Classes” to browse the online catalogue and read course descriptions. To register, call 865.436.5860. y INSIDER’S TIP: In April, Arrowmont hosts an interdisciplinary Legacy Weekend focused on Appalachian culture and heritage. Open to all skill levels, the weekend includes
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
“Split Oak Basketry/Passing Down the Tradition,” September 20-26: Learn how to weave a split oak basket from a white oak tree, and hand-carve a handle sturdy enough to haul a lifetime’s worth of picnics, apples, or books. y “Sculptural Basketry with Bark and Vines,” October 22-25: Develop a better understanding of basketry as an art form by weaving locally harvested kudzu vine, poplar bark, and others natural materials into an original sculpture. y
workshops, guest speakers and storytellers, music, social gatherings, gallery openings, and hikes.
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MODERN Survival Skills
Orvis professionals teach the basics of fly-fishing in some of the country’s best trout streams.
THE LODGE AT BUCKBERRY CREEK PHOTO
LEARN TO FLY FISH
y WHERE: Orvis workshops are held at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. y COURSE: Orvis Fly Fishing School. y SYLLABUS: Get schooled in fly-casting techniques, knot-tying skills, choosing the best gear and tackle, reading water and currents, and safely releasing fish, as well as a primer on stream entomology. y FEES: $489 plus lodging. y WHEN: Two-day weekend workshops are held multiple times a month from spring through fall.
y HOW: For more information about Orvis Fly Fishing Schools, call 866.531.6213. y EXTRA CREDIT: Extend your stay to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Biltmore Estate. In September and April, Gatlinburg hosts the Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament.
FORAGE FOR FOOD
y WHERE: Smoky Mountain Field School, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, smfs.utk.edu. y COURSE: “Foraging for Food and Farmacy” or “Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms.” y SYLLABUS: Learn how to identify what’s edible and medicinal in the park, and about how Native Americans and early settlers lived off the land. y FEES: $79. y WHEN: Both courses are held on a Saturday from 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. The foraging workshop typically is offered once in April, June, and August; the mushroom program once in July and August (the best month to find mushrooms). y HOW: For more information or to register, go to smfs.utk.edu. y EXTRA CREDIT: Book a three-hour, forage-to-table tour ($75)
SMOKY MOUNTAIN FIELD SCHOOL PHOTO
Living off the land was an essential survival skill for early Appalachian settlers. While modern-day Appalachian explorers easily can tote food into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spending a day outdoors searching for food offers the opportunity to see and experience the park in a more meaningful and memorable way. The Smoky Mountain Field School, a partnership between the University of Tennessee and the National Park Service, offers a variety of food-related workshops.
with Asheville-based No Taste Like Home (notastelikehome.org). Tours are available daily year-round; however, mid April to mid October is prime time to forage for food in the wild near Asheville.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ART ADVENTURE The Bascom Highlands, North Carolina
The Bascom was founded on the belief that creative expression transforms lives. What began in 1983 as the BascomLouise Gallery, inside Highlands’s Hudson Library, has grown into a six-acre, parklike campus located on a former horse farm. Regional artists, local residents, and visitors gather to experience art during the day or for an evening event, and then return home or stay in area inns, resorts, and rental housing. This non-residential approach is particularly conducive to creating custom art experiences. Though the Bascom also offers a monthly calendar of adult educational programs in mediums such as ceramics, painting, drawing, journaling, and photography, those who want to customize an experience to ﬁt their interests and schedule can choose among the center’s Art by Appointment and Open Studio options. Pottery and painting studios. BASCOM PHOTOS
y WHAT: Art By Appointment or Open Studio programs. y WHEN: Year round. y TIME COMMITMENT: Flexible, ranging from a one-time private or small-group class to ongoing lessons over an extended period. y TUITION: Varies depending on medium, supplies required, and time arranged with instructor. Open Studio ranges from $50 a week to $900 a year. y STAY: There is no housing on campus. Lodging options in Highlands include the luxurious Old Edwards Inn & Spa (oldedwardsinn.com); mountaintop cabins, tree houses, and lodge rooms at
Fire Mountain Inn (firemt.com), and bed and breakfasts such as 4-1/2 Street Inn (4andahalfstinn.com). y PLAY: On campus, explore the Horst Winkler Sculpture & Nature Trail, which passes through meadows and woods before connecting with the Highlands Plateau Greenway, a five-mile (and growing) network of walking trails connecting natural areas and historic sites in the town of Highlands. In Highlands, hike to the Sunset Rock overlook for panoramic views of the town below. y HOW: To arrange an Art By Appointment experience, call the Education Department at 828.787.2865.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Landscape Photography: Walk the Bascom campus and surrounding trails while learning to take better nature photos of forests, rivers, wildflowers, and waterfalls. y Clay: Design your own tableware or traditional folk pottery on the wheel or with your hands. y
To learn about Open Studio and other classes and workshops, go to thebascom.org. y INSIDER’S TIP: Bring snacks and drinks. The Bascom offers lunch service only from May to October.
With Art By Appointment, you choose the subject, day, and time, and the Bascom creates a private class for you or a group. ABA sessions can be a one-time class or can continue over a period of time. Any workshop topic offered at the Bascom is fair game, as are printmaking, jewelry making, screenprinting, and other arts and crafts. The Open Studio option is available to Bascom members for a weekly, monthly, sixmonth, or yearly fee. During Open Studio hours, participants can use all of the tools and equipment in the Bascomâ€™s Adult Education Studio and the Dave Drake Studio Barn, a working operational clay facility. There also are free and low-cost classes for Open Studio participants. Construction of the current Bascom campus was only completed in 2009, but historic structures include an 1838 barn reinvented as a museum-quality main building and gallery, a rebuilt barn turned studio space, and a early 1800s covered bridge relocated from New Hampshire. Each building includes repurposed materials and design elements such as wood ďŹ‚ooring made from planks salvaged from historic barns.
ROCK OUT WITH JEWELRY AND EARTH SCIENCES Founded in 1983, the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts is a hidden gem of a hobbyist school that unearths the science of rocks and gems. Here in the mountains of Northern Georgia, volunteer instructors lead courses in jewelry-making, scrimshaw, cabochons, and other facets of lapidary arts. y WHERE: William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, 230 Lapidary Lane, Young Harris, Georgia, lapidaryschool.org. y COURSE: â€œFaceting 1,â€? â€œBeading 1,â€? or â€œEnameling 1.â€? Survival Skills y SYLLABUS: Learn the basics of gem faceting (cut at least one stone), professional-level bead stringing (make your own necklaces), or enameling techniques (including cloisonnĂŠ and copper etching). y FEES: $370 for a weekâ€™s lodging (including all meals), plus lab fees and materials. y WHEN: Classes run April to early November for one-week sessions. y HOW: Register online at lapidaryschool.org or call 706.379.2126. y EXTRA CREDIT: Find inspiration and make new friends at Tuesday night auctions (proceeds help offset the cost of equipment and classroom supplies) and Thursday night tailgating sessions to buy, sell, or trade jewelry and other lapidary-related items.
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CALEB CARLTON PHOTO
TRACK THE WEATHER
Anyone with a smartphone can take a photo of a mountain waterfall or stream. Capturing the motion of falling water or the sunlight reflecting off the surface of a stream, however, takes expertise and the proper tools. The difference between taking photos and practicing the art of nature photography lies in the details. At fourday photography workshops held at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the national park is the classroom, with awardwinning photographers as the instructors.
Stay ahead of weather patterns in Western North Carolina while becoming versed in mountain weather folklore.
y WHERE: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, located inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, gsmit.org. y COURSE: Photography Workshop. y SYLLABUS: Classroom and field instruction in topics such as nature and wildlife photography, close-up techniques, and Photoshop; plus a concluding critique session of work completed during the program. y FEES: $629–642 (Includes dormitory lodging and meals). y WHEN: One Friday–Monday photography workshop is offered each season. y HOW: For more information or to register, see gsmit.org. y EXTRA CREDIT: Take advantage of the optional shoots available during each session at locations such as Cades Cove, Elkmont, Tremont, and Foothills Parkway.
SUE MILINKOVICH PHOTO
TAKE BETTER NATURE PHOTOS
y WHERE: North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, ncarboretum.org. y COURSE: “Meteorology of the Blue Ridge.” y SYLLABUS: Read the skies using a cloud chart and learn how to analyze surface pressure as well as apply computer forecasting models. y FEES: $98 for non-members; fees vary for other classes. y WHEN: A five-week class will be offered this fall; see online course catalog for dates. y HOW: Register at ncarboretum.org or call 828.665.2492. y EXTRA CREDIT: The Arboretum’s full catalog of courses range from gardening and watercolor to seminars focused on how to engage children in the outdoors. “Meteorology of the Blue Ridge” fulfills a core requirement for the Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate program, a 240-hour curriculum covering ecology, botany, geology, and plant identification.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
August 1 Moonshine Cruiz-In Car Show August 15 Tomato Festival at Crane Creek August 22 Dash to the Vineyards 10K Race
Come explore our lakes, waterfalls & trails
September 5 Labor Day on Lake Chatuge September 19 Georgia Mountain Pickleball Classic
THE HIKING GRANNY Emma Gatewood:
In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood departed on the walk of her lifetime deep in the Appalachian woods, in the process becoming the ﬁrst woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself. Ben Montgomery tells her incredible story—and the secrets she carried in addition to the homemade bag slung over her shoulder—in Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (Chicago Review Press, $27). The following excerpt of Chapter 1 details the beginning of her journey.
Pick Up Your Feet May 2–9, 1955 She packed her things in late spring, when her ﬂowers were in full bloom, and left Gallia County, Ohio, the only place she’d ever really called home. She caught a ride to Charleston, West Virginia, then boarded a bus to the airport, then a plane to Atlanta, then a bus from there to a little picturepostcard spot called Jasper, Georgia, “the First Mountain Town.” Now here she was in Dixieland, ﬁve hundred miles from her Ohio home, listening to the rattle and ping in the back of a taxicab, ﬁnally making her ascent up the mountain called Oglethorpe, her ears popping, the cabbie grumbling about how he wasn’t going to make a penny driving her all this way. She sat quiet, still, watching through the window as miles of Georgia blurred past. They hit a steep incline, a narrow gravel road, and made it within a quarter mile of the top of the mountain before the driver killed the engine. She collected her supplies and handed him ﬁve dollars, then one extra for his trouble. That cheered him up. And then he was gone, taillights and dust, and Emma Gatewood stood alone, an old woman on a mountain.
Her clothes were stuffed inside a pasteboard box and she lugged it up the road to the summit, a few minutes away by foot. She changed in the woods, slipping on her dungarees and tennis shoes and discarding the simple dress and slippers she’d worn during her travels. She pulled from the box a drawstring sack she’d made back home from a yard of denim, her wrinkled ﬁngers doing the stitching, and opened it wide. She ﬁlled the sack with other items from the box: Vienna Sausage, raisins, peanuts, bouillon cubes, powdered milk. She tucked inside a tin of Band-Aids, a bottle of iodine, some bobby pins, and a jar of Vicks salve. She packed the slippers and a gingham dress that she could shake out if she ever needed to look nice. She stuffed in a warm coat, a shower curtain to keep the rain off, some drinking water, a Swiss Army knife, a ﬂashlight, candy mints, and her pen and a little Royal Vernon Line memo book that she had bought for twenty-ﬁve cents at Murphy’s back home. She threw the pasteboard box into a chicken house nearby, cinched the sack closed, and slung it over one shoulder. She stood, ﬁnally, her canvas Keds tied tight, on May 3, 1955, atop the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world, facing the peaks on the blue-black
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
COURTESY OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY
Facing a mean landscape of angry rivers and hateful rock she stood, a woman, mother of eleven and grandmother of twentythree. She had not been able to get the trail out of her mind. She had thought of it constantly back home in Ohio, where she tended her small garden and looked after her grandchildren, biding her time until she could get away.
Top: Emma Gatewood with a couple of new friends in Orford, New Hampshire, on her 1955 thru-hike. COURTESY OF PETER THOMSON. Bottom: The weathered shoes Emma Gatewood wore while hiking the Appalachian Trail. COURTESY OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY
horizon that stretched toward heaven and unfurled before her for days. Facing a mean landscape of angry rivers and hateful rock she stood, a woman, mother of eleven and grandmother of twenty-three. She had not been able to get the trail out of her mind. She had thought of it constantly back home in Ohio, where she tended her small garden and looked after her grandchildren, biding her time until she could get away. When she ﬁnally could, it was 1955, and she was sixty-seven years old. She stood ﬁve foot two and weighed 150 pounds and the only survival training she had were lessons learned earning calluses on her farm. She had a mouth full of false teeth and bunions the size of prize marbles. She had no map, no sleeping bag, no tent. She was blind without her glasses, and she was utterly unprepared if she faced the wrath of a snowstorm, not all that rare on the trail. Five years before, a freezing Thanksgiving downpour killed more
than three hundred in Appalachia, and most of them had houses. Their bones were buried on these hillsides. She had prepared for her trek the only way she knew how. The year before, she worked at a nursing home and tucked away what she could of her twenty-ﬁve-dollars-a-week paycheck until she ﬁnally earned enough quarters to draw the minimum in social security: ﬁfty-two dollars a month. She had started walking in January while living with her son Nelson in Dayton, Ohio. She began walking around the block, and extended it a little more each time until she was satisﬁed by the burn she felt in her legs. By April she was hiking ten miles a day. Before her, now, grew an amazing sweep of elms, chestnuts, hemlocks, dogwoods, spruces, ﬁrs, mountain ashes, and sugar maples. She’d see crystal-clear streams and raging rivers and vistas that would steal her breath. Before her stood mountains, more than three hundred of them
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
ART & CRAFT SHOW ON HISTORIC DOWNTOWN WAYNESVILLE, NC
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“Pick up your feet,” and that, through rain and snow, through the topping ﬁve thousand feet, the ancient remnants of a range that valley of the shadow of death, she was following his instruction. hundreds of millions of years before pierced the clouds and rivaled the Himalayas in their majesty. The Unakas, the Smokies, Cheoahs, Nantahalas. The long, sloping Blue Ridge; the Kittatinny Mountains; the Hudson Highlands. The Taconic he walked around the summit of Mount Oglethorpe, Ridge and the Berkshires, the Green Mountains, the White studying the horizon, the browns and blues and grays in Mountains, the Mahoosuc Range. Saddleback, Bigelow, and the distance. She walked to the base of a giant, skyﬁnally—ﬁve million steps away—Katahdin. reaching monument, an obelisk made from Cherokee marble. And between here and there: a bouquet of ways to die. She read the words etched on one side: Between here and there lurked wild boars, black bears, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, backwater outlaws, and lawless hillbillies. In grateful recognition of the achievements of James Edward Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. Anthills and black Oglethorpe who by courage, industry and endurance founded ﬂies and deer ticks and rabid skunks, squirrels, and raccoons. the commonwealth of Georgia in 1732 And snakes. Black snakes, water moccasins, and copperheads. And rattlers; the young man who hiked the trail four years before She turned her back on the phallic monument and lit off down told the newspapers he’d killed at least ﬁfteen. the trail, a path that split through ferns and last year’s leaves and There were a million heavenly things to see and a million walls of hardwoods sunk deep in the earth. She walked quite a spectacular ways to die. while before she came upon the biggest chicken farm she had Two people knew Emma Gatewood was here: the cabdriver ever seen, row upon row of long, rectangular barns, alive with and her cousin, Myrtle Trowbridge, with whom she had stayed babble and bordered by houses where the laborers slept, the night before in Atlanta. She had immigrants and sons of the miners told her children she was going on a and blue-collar men and women walk. That was no lie. She just never who made their lives in these ﬁnished her sentence, never offered mountains. her own offspring the astonishing, She had walked herself to thirst, impossible particulars. so she knocked on one of the doors. All eleven of them were grown, The man who answered thought she anyhow, and independent. They had was a little loony, but he gave her a their own children to raise and bills cool drink. He told her there was a to pay and lawns to mow, the price of store nearby, said it was just up the participation in the great, immobile road. She set off, but didn’t see one. American dream. Night fell, and for the ﬁrst time, she She was past all that. She’d send a was alone in the dark. postcard. The trail cut back, but she missed If she told them what she was the identifying blaze and kept attempting to do, she knew they’d walking down a gravel road; after ask Why? That’s a question she’d two miles, she came upon a face day and night in the coming farmhouse. Two elderly folks, a Mr. months, as word of her hike spread and Mrs. Mealer, were kind enough like ﬁre through the valleys, as to let her stay for the night. She newspaper reporters learned of her would have been forced to sleep in mission and intercepted her along the the forest, prone to the unexpected, trail. It was a question she’d playfully had she not lost track. brush off every time they asked. And She set off early the next morning, how they’d ask. Groucho Marx as the sun threw a blue haze on the Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the would ask. Dave Garroway would hills, after thanking the Mealers. She Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben ask. Sports Illustrated would ask. The knew she had missed the Montgomery. Chicago Review Press: April 2014; 288 Associated Press would ask. The switchback, so she hiked back the pages; $26.95. United States Congress would ask. way she had come for about two Why? Because it was there, she’d say. Seemed like a good lark, miles and all along the roadside she saw beautiful sweetshrub she’d say. blooming, smelling of allspice. She caught the trail again and She’d never betray the real reason. She’d never show those lugged herself back up to the ridge, where she reached a level newspapermen and television cameras her broken teeth or busted stretch and pressed down hard on her old bones, foot over foot, ribs, or talk about the town that kept dark secrets, or the night going ﬁfteen miles before dark. The pain was no problem, not she spent in a jail cell. She’d tell them she was a widow. Yes. yet, for a woman reared on farm work. She’d tell them she found solace in nature, away from the grit and She stumbled upon a little cardboard shack, disassembled it, and ash of civilization. She’d tell them that her father always told her, set up several of the pieces on one end to block the angry wind.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
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In Her Footsteps
n 1955, Emma Gatewood made history as the first woman to finish a solo hike of the Appalachian Trail, a feat she accomplished at age 67—merely the beginning of her relationship with the famous footpath. By 1964, Gatewood had also become the first person to hike the entire trail three times. Jennifer Pharr Davis has also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail three times. On her third go of it, in 2011, the Asheville speed hiker made headlines when she broke the trail’s official time record, completing its 2,181 miles in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes at an average of 47 miles a day. Among other accolades, she was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Gatewood and Pharr Davis share more than a pioneering spirit. Here, Pharr Davis reflects on her predecessor’s legacy.
Q&A with Jennifer Pharr Davis Does Grandma Gatewood inspire you? I first heard about Grandma Gatewood on the trail, about how she hiked in Keds sneakers in her late 60s. She is the foremost female hiker that has been influential in my life. It’s really valuable to have a woman to look up to in addition to men like Warren Doyle, Benton MacKaye, and Myron Avery. That’s one reason I love the A.T., for its strong history and culture. The people who have been on the trail are such a huge part of that. Do you recognize yourself in Gatewood’s story? When someone asked her why she was doing the trail, she said, ‘Because I want to.’ That struck a chord with me, especially now that I’m a mom. When I was going for the record, it’s hard to explain why you’re doing something like that; it’s nonsensical to so many people. There were a lot of underlying reasons—being in nature, testing my limits, proving a woman can compete with guys and win records. But so often in life you do what you have to do. It’s important to cherish and take advantage of the opportunity to do what you actually want to do, too.
That’s one reason I love the A.T., for its strong history and culture. The people who have been on the trail are such a huge part of that.
How was Gatewood’s A.T. experience universal? The trail can meet you at every phase of life. When I hiked it at 21, it was a time of self-discovery. I learned so much about myself, nature, and humanity. The experience was foundational for me and certainly changed the rest of my life—I fell in love with the trail. I think that’s what happened to Grandma Gatewood, too. She did the trail once and then it was always a part of her. I hope that I’m still hiking when I’m her age. Right now [my husband and I] go out on the trail with our 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter; I love to keep experiencing it in different ways. What lessons can today’s hikers learn from Gatewood? Right now there’s an emphasis on high-tech and expensive hiking and camping gear. Grandma Gatewood is a wonderful example that you don’t need luxury gear to hike the trail. She carried what she needed and that was all. She relied on the generosity of strangers. Her willingness to connect with people was really unique and set the standard for hikers on the trail. It’s important to be able to ask for help and connect with people along the way. Jennifer Pharr Davis runs the Blue Ridge Hiking Company, which offers guided day hikes and overnights in Pisgah National Forest. She has also published two memoirs about her experiences on the trail, Becoming Odyssa (2010) and Called Again (2013). Learn more at blueridgehikingco.com.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
Grandma Gatewood (left) with Marilyn Bell Simpson at the Bell’s Camp near the A.T. at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, Carrabasset Valley, Maine. COURTESY OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY
The others she splayed on the ground for a bed. As soon as she lay down, her ﬁrst night in the woods, the welcoming party came calling. A tiny ﬁeld mouse, the size of a golf ball, began scratching around her. She tried to scare the creature away, but it was fearless. When she ﬁnally found sleep, the mouse climbed upon her chest. She opened her eyes and there he was, standing erect on her breast, just two strange beings, eye to eye, in the woods.
hundred years before Emma Gatewood stomped through, before there was even a trail, pioneers pushed west over the new country’s oldest mountains, through Cherokee land, the determined Irish and Scottish and English families driving toward the sinking sun, and some of them falling behind. Some of them settling. They made these mountains, formed more than a billion years before of metamorphic and igneous rock, their home. Appalachia, it was called, a term derived from a tribe of Muskhogean Indians called the Appalachee, the “people on the other side.” The swath was beautiful and rugged, and those who stayed lived by ax and plow and gun. On the rich land they grew beets
and tomatoes, pumpkins and squash, ﬁeld peas and carrots. But mostly they grew corn. By the 1940s, due to the lack of education and rotation, the land was drained of its nutrients and crops began to fail. But the people remained, buckled in by the mountains. Those early settlers were buried on barren hillsides. The threadbare lives of their sons and daughters were set in grooves, a day’s drive from 60 percent of the U.S. population but cut off by topography from outside ideas. They wore handmade clothing and ate corn pone, hickory chickens, and fried pies. The pigs they slaughtered in the fall showed up on plates all winter as sausage and bacon and salted ham. They went to work in the mines and mills, risking death each day to light the homes and clothe the children of those better off while their own sons and daughters did schoolwork by candlelight and wore patches upon patches. Mining towns, mill towns, and small industrial centers bloomed between the mountains, and the dirt roads and railroads soon stitched the little communities together. They were proud people, most of them, the durable offspring of survivors. They lived suspended between heaven and earth, and they knew the call of every bird, the name of every tree, and where the wild
herbs grew in the forest. They also knew the songs in the church hymnals without looking, and the difference between predestination and free will, and the recipe for corn likker. They resisted government intervention, and when taxes grew unjust, they struck out with rakes, rebellion, and secrecy. When President Rutherford B. Hayes tried to implement a whiskey tax in the late 1870s, a great ﬁt of violence exploded in Appalachia between the moonshiners and the federal revenuers that lasted well through Prohibition in the 1920s. The lax post–Civil War law and order gave the local clans plenty of leeway to shed blood over a misunderstanding or a misﬁred bullet. Grudges held tight, like cold tree sap. When the asphalt was laid through the bottomland, winding rivers of road, it opened the automobile-owning world to new pictures of poverty and hard luck. The rest of America came to bear witness to coal miners and moonshiners, and a region in ﬂux. Poor farming techniques and a loss of mining jobs to machines prompted an exodus from Appalachia in the 1950s. Those who stayed behind were simply rugged enough, or conniving enough, to survive. This was Emma Gatewood’s course, a footpath through a misunderstood region stitched together on love and danger, hospitality and venom. The route was someone else’s interpretation of the best way to cross a lovely and rugged landscape, and she had accepted the invitation to stalk her predecessors—this civilian army of planners and environmentalists and blazers—and, in a way, to become one of them, a pilgrim herself. She came from the foothills, and while she didn’t know exactly what to expect, she wasn’t a complete stranger here.
She’d never betray the real
reason. She’d never show those newspapermen and television cameras her broken teeth or busted ribs, or talk about the town that kept dark secrets.
er legs were sore when she set off a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. on May 5, trying to exit Georgia. She hiked the highlands until she could go no farther. Her feet had swollen. She found a lean-to near a freshwater spring where she washed out her soiled clothes. She ﬁlled her sack full of leaves and plopped it on a picnic table for a makeshift bed. The next morning, she started before the sun peeked over the hills. The trail, through the heart of Cherokee country, was lined by azaleas, and when the sunbeams touched down they became ﬂashes of supernatural pinks and purples in the gray-brown forest. Once in a while, she’d stop mid-step to watch a white-tailed buck bound gracefully across her path and disappear into the woods. Once in a while, she’d spot a copperhead coiled in the leaves and she’d catch her breath and provide the creature a wide berth. That night she drank buttermilk and ate cornbread, the charity of a man in town, and spent the night at the Doublehead Gap Church, in the house of the Lord. That’s how it was some places.
They’d open their iceboxes and church doors and make you feel at home. Some places, but not all. She was off again the next day, past a military base where soldiers had built dugouts and stretched barbed wire all over the mountains, a surreal juxtaposition of nature and the brutality of man. She pressed on through Woody Gap, approaching the state line. She was joined there by an old, tired-looking mutt, and she didn’t mind the company. She climbed a mountain, cresting after 7:00 p.m., the sun falling. She’d have to ﬁnd a place to stay soon. She followed the bank of a creek down into the valley, where several small houses stood. They were ugly little things, but there was a chance one would yield a bed, or at least a few bales of hay. Anything was better than shaking ﬁeld mice out of her hair in the morning. In the yard of one of the puny homes, she noticed a woman chopping wood. It looked as if the woman’s hair had not been combed in weeks, and her apron was so dirty it could have stood on its own. Her face was covered with grime and she was chewing tobacco, spitting occasionally in the dirt. The woman stopped as Emma approached. Have you room for a guest tonight? Emma asked. We’ve never turned anyone away, the woman said. Emma followed her onto the porch, where an old man sat in the shade. He wasn’t nearly as dirty as the woman, and he looked intelligent—and suspicious. This was the tricky, treacherous part of the trail, scouting for a bed among strangers. She had not prepared for this part of the experience, for she never knew these negotiations would be necessary. There, on the strangers’ porch, she wasn’t afraid so much as embarrassed. She told the man her name. You have credentials? the man asked. She fetched her social security card from her sack and handed it over. He studied the card as the mutt that followed her down the hollow sniffed out a comfortable spot on the porch. Emma ﬁshed out some pictures of her family, her children and grandchildren, and presented those, too, for further proof that she was who she said she was. But the man was suspicious. Is Washington paying you to make this trip? the man asked. No, Emma said. She told him she was doing it for herself, and she had every intention of hiking all 2,050 miles of it, to the end. She just needed a place to spend the night. Does your family approve of what you’re doing? asked he. They don’t know, said she. He regarded her, an old woman in tapered dungarees and a button-up shirt, her long, gray hair a mess. Her thin lips and fat, ﬂeshy earlobes. Her brow protruding enough to shade her eyes at their corners. She hadn’t seen a mirror in days, but she reckoned she looked hideous. You’d better go home, then, he said. You can’t stay here. There wasn’t any use in ﬁghting. She knew where she was. She hefted her sack onto her shoulder again, turned her back on the man and his worn-out wife, and started walking. Excerpted with permission from Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery, published by Chicago Review Press.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
MountainEats.com Let your smartphone be your guide! • Find restaurants nearby • Read descriptions and explore menus • View photos and interactive maps It’s that simple! An online dining directory for Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: 866.452.2251
A Walk Back in Time Jo Harris scrambles through the Smokies backcountry to uncover family lore
A FEW MILES EAST OF GATLINBURG, a right turn off the main road leads directly into the solitude and beauty of Greenbrier Cove. The road is rough and narrow, its edge precariously close to the river, which tumbles over and around huge boulders that old-timers call graybacks. As rugged as the road is now, it’s hard to imagine its condition when my grandmother gave birth to my father there in 1916. My grandparents’ farm was one of more than 1,200 appropriated by the government in the 1920s and early 1930s to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though some of those farms were very prosperous, my grandparents lived on little more than an isolated, hardscrabble homestead. For years, knowledge of that homestead—my father’s humble birthplace—was about all I knew about my family’s Smokies history, which began more than two centuries ago when my ancestors of Scotch-Irish, German, and Dutch descent hacked their way through the wilderness from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. So a few years ago, when I caught the bug to dig up my roots, I started my search in Greenbrier Cove. I PULLED INTO ONE of those rare wide spots along the road, grabbed my water bottle and hiking stick, crossed the road, and headed into the woods. My sister and brother had joined me, but I might as well have been alone. I was on a quest into the past. After cresting the almost vertical hill, we reached the family cemetery, with no more than a dozen marked graves and remarkably clear of undergrowth and fallen branches. As I studied those ancient headstones, some battered by time and tilting this way and that like teeth in a snaggle-toothed grin, my heart brimmed with what-ifs and maybes. A litany of emotions drifted over me as I pondered what these great-grandparents,
cousins—and God knows who else—had known about heartbreak, betrayal, love, and forgiveness. About life. Getting to the old home site wasn’t easy. I followed a faint game trail that snaked along Ted’s Creek, a drowsy, stone-ﬁlled stream. I didn’t count how many times I stumbled, crawled under or over wind-thrown trees, sidestepped mounds of bear scat—which mercifully seemed to be a few days old—or crisscrossed that winding stream. Eventually, by scrabbling through thickets of rhododendron and mountain laurel, I reached the place where my daddy had lived until he was 12 years old. One glance and the land’s familial tug worked its magic. In the years since my father’s family had left, the forest’s unhampered growth had reclaimed the land that had cradled their two-room log cabin and barn. The split-rail fence that once hemmed in their property was gone. Not even a gnarly apple tree—a ghost of their small orchard—had survived. The only evidence of human existence was the bones of what once would have been a ﬁne-looking stone chimney and a ﬁeldstone spring where my Grandma Mertie would have kept her butter and milk cold. THE FACT THAT I can imagine this place as it was when my third great-grandparents lived here comes thanks to an unlikely source—the writings of a 19thcentury Knoxville attorney known only as Mr. R., who suffered from hemorrhage of the lungs. I discovered his article, “A Week in the Great Smoky Mountains,” in an 1860 issue of The Southern Literary Messenger, an esteemed periodical published in Richmond, Virginia, of which Edgar Allan Poe served as staff writer, critic, and editor for a time. A century and a half later, Mr. R.’s ﬁrst-hand account introduced my ancestors to me in vivid detail. Upon receiving the sobering diagnosis, Mr. R. heeded the advice of his physician to undertake vigorous exercise in a cold, invigorating climate. It was
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William Huskey, the author’s third great-grandfather, 1798-1861. Below: Dorothy Trotter ‘Dolly’ Huskey. PHOTOS FROM THE AUTHOR’S COLLECTION
early November 1859, and Mr. R. knew that hiking to some of the highest peaks of the Smoky Mountains, where temperatures could be 10 to 20 degrees colder than in the lower elevations, would be just what the doctor ordered. On November 3, 1859, Mr. R. set off on his horse, Billy Button, with a pair of saddlebags slung across the animal’s back. One held extra socks and shirts, two blankets, an overcoat, and some reading material: a copy of John William Draper’s Human Physiology published in 1856. Forgoing other cold-weather provisions, Mr. R. placed only one item in the second saddlebag: a quart of brandy, just to balance the weight, he said. Mr. R. crossed the Holston River in Knox County by ferry, then rode on to Sevierville where he passed the night at “a comfortable tavern.” On Friday, November 4, for about ten miles of good road, he and Billy Button followed the west fork of the Little Pigeon River, passing farms with workers busily tending acres of cultivated land. Soon, the road deteriorated to little more than a rough path with the river racing along beside him. Fording was dangerous, yet necessary. At one crossing, Billy Button lost his footing. As the balancing bottle of brandy didn’t serve its theoretical purpose, Mr. R. was plunged into the frigid water. Fortunately, hypothermia didn’t stand a chance against that bottle of ﬁre he’d stashed in his saddlebag. When Mr. R. came upon my grandparents’ cabin, he was greeted by “the ﬁerce outcry of mongrel, whelp, hound, and cur of low degree.” As my grandfather was considered a skillful hunter, I suppose it only natural he’d have as many dogs as he did children—17. “Light, stranger, light!” my grandfather called in greeting, welcoming the stranger to dismount. After Mr. R. conﬁrmed he was at Mr. H.’s cabin, the men said their howdies, then Mr. R. extended his hand to my grandmother. Using a term often bestowed upon women of her age, he said, “I suppose that this is Aunt Dolly.” Grandmother answered cheerfully, “Yes, Mister, that is what they call the little that’s left of me.” From Mr. R.’s description, she was a sizable woman. Mr. R. told them he’d been directed there, that their house was known as one of the best in the mountains. “You will ﬁnd our house mighty rough,” Grandfather replied, “but you may look at my old woman there to see if we starve up here in the mountains.” I had always pictured my ancestors near starvation in the remote mountains, but Mr. R. made me see things differently. “A nicer supper I never ate than old Mrs. H. and her rosy daughters prepared for me,” Mr. R. wrote.
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As I studied those ancient headstones, my heart brimmed with what-ifs and maybes. A litany of emotions drifted over me as I pondered what these great grandparents, cousins—and God knows who else—had known about heartbreak, betrayal, love, and forgiveness. About life.
The author’s family cemetery in Greenbrier — now a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. JO HARRIS PHOTO
“Good coffee, good bread, both corn and wheat, fresh, nice butter, rich milk, nicely cooked chicken and venison, and last though not least, the most delicious honey in the honeycomb.” My grandparents kept about 50 bee hives—typically called bee gums since they were often made from hollow sections of sweet gum logs—tended mostly by my grandmother who, according to Mr. R., “let swarms of bees crawl all over her. She worked away as though they were so many house ﬂies buzzing around her, and when they clustered too thick around the edges of her cap, she brushed them off with a delicacy and gentleness…” When grandmother was stung on the tip of her nose—a proboscis to Mr. R.—he ﬁgured she would
lose her temper. But, after applying a few drops of Radway’s Ready Relief, she casually resumed her honey gathering. Grandmother was outspoken and didn’t mind telling Mr. R., “I do declare I believe a body might larn a lawyer something if he would only use his own eyes and senses and not be forever gwine to his books to ax them everything!” Mr. R. proclaimed that my grandmother, who reminded him of Mrs. Poyser in Adam Bede—a rough exterior with a heart of gold—made the best “strong cup of good yaller coffee.” He doubted whether a better cup could be found anywhere. “One cup, reader, of the coffee she will prepare next spring will be worth a trip across the Atlantic for a taste,” he wrote.
The only evidence of human existence was the bones of what once would have been a ﬁnelooking stone chimney and a ﬁeldstone spring where my Grandma Mertie would have kept her butter and milk cold. Grandmother teased Mr. R. about strips of ribbon she’d used to decorate her bed posts. She quizzed him repeatedly, trying to get him to identify the pale pink “ribbons.” Turns out these Smoky Mountain ribbons were dried bear gut. When grandmother wanted to send a piece of this ribbon to his wife, Mr. R. vehemently declared he was single. He did, however, agree to take a piece of the unusual ribbon home with him and pledged to show it to any reader interested in seeing some genuine bear gut. During Mr. R.’s week in the Smokies, he hiked during the day, slept long after the family had eaten their breakfast, and in the evenings enjoyed lively conversations around “glorious ﬁres…where the price of wood is nothing. And what immense chimney places they have! I am not exaggerating to say that the one at Mr. H.’s would hold fully half a cord.” As the womenfolk sewed by the ﬁre, with sweet potatoes the girls had carried inside in their aprons roasting in the
Digging Up My Roots
or years, climbing my family tree didn’t appeal to me. I suppose I simply had to grow into that need for knowledge just as I had into my sister’s hand-me-down dresses. But eventually I had to know if my roots had been planted shallowly in the organic duff, or deeply in the fertile Smoky Mountain soil. My husband, ever the devil’s advocate, offered cautionary advice. “With mountain families so entwined,” he said, “what happens if your family tree looks more like a family wreath?” And, “You know digging in the dirt can get your boots muddy, right?” His well-meaning admonitions fell on deaf ears. I told him I had faith in George Bernard Shaw, who once said, “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well teach it to dance.” In the Smoky Mountains, people often had identical names,
ashes, everyone joined in nightly discussions about times there’d been nothing to eat but “taters,” and great hunting stories—grandfather said he’d killed some 25 or 30 panthers in his time, along with deer and bears innumerable. Thanks to Mr. R.’s account, I learned about the “wild and romantic scenery” that surrounded my grandparents’ humble cabin, their hard yet harmonious lifestyle, and that they were a most delightful couple— vastly different from the grim-faced individuals I’d seen in an old sepia-toned photograph. Now, nearly a century and a half later, having seen their words on paper, I can easily imagine my grandparents’ rich, lilting voices, echoing through the hills and hollows of the Smokies. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Harris lives in Jonesborough, Tennessee. She wrote about moonshine runners and the history of stock-car racing in the October/November 2014 issue of Smoky Mountain Living.
which makes it hard for genealogists to know if they’re following the right line. And, though contemporaries of Speckled Bill, Whitehead Bill, or Laughing Bill knew of whom they referred, such nicknames can be stumbling blocks for researchers. Many helpful resources exist, and one I turn to frequently is Smoky Mountain Ancestral Quest (smokykin.com). Searching with a surname and given name, it’s often possible to go back several generations. The family who established this website spent years trying to untangle their ancestry and have collected massive amounts of information. Other invaluable sources include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park archives, the genealogy department at the King Family Library in Sevierville, and the Smoky Mountain Historical Society, which has several publications including funeral home records, marriage records, and burial/cemetery listings, including some dating back to the 1850s. —Jo Harris
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Harvesting Beauty PHOTOS BY KEN ABBOTT
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
n 2004, photographer Ken Abbott signed up to chaperone his daughter’s preschool ﬁeld trip to Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina. Little did Abbott know how deeply the ﬁfth-generation family farm would get under his skin. Over the subsequent decade, he returned again and again, ﬁlling some 250 rolls of ﬁlm with his interpretations of this special place and its people. More than 80 of Abbott’s photos appear in his new book, Useful Work, with about half as many appearing alongside historic photos and artifacts in a coinciding exhibition put on by the Asheville Art Museum (through October 11). Here, Abbott shares a few of his photos and reﬂections of Hickory Nut Gap Farm: On my ﬁrst visit to the farm, one of the ﬁrst things I noticed was the boxwoods, or more the smell of the boxwoods, which reminded me of my grandparents’ house and the boxwoods there. So I immediately felt as if there was something special for me about the place—it connected with me personally. Since then, I realized that I share this feeling with many others in Asheville and the surrounding area. As a matter of fact, almost everyone I mention my project to around here knows the place and family, and feels a connection there— frequently, judging by reactions, one that’s deep and strong. Maybe their child went to camp there, or they simply buy meats or vegetables at the farm, but it’s amazing how many people say they grew up with the family or spent their summers there, and that it was a special part of their lives. Hickory Nut Gap Farm has built a community that doesn’t stop. That sense of connection and community, layered on the history and beauty of the house, was something I felt I wanted to photograph. The truth is, there were pictures everywhere I looked. I felt like a kid in a candy store. It truly has been a gift in my life.
The thing I learned over the years was that Hickory Nut Gap Farm is a place built on intention and conviction. As followers of the Social Gospel, Jim and Elizabeth McClure were driven by the principle that through hard work they could create an improved world— even that the fallen world could be made perfect again, or at least more perfect. This is a kind of faith that is pretty hard to maintain these days, though it seems to have carried on through to the current generations of the family. Elizabeth believed that creating beauty for
A Short History of Hickory Nut Gap Farm Perched near the top of the Eastern Continental Divide, Hickory Nut Gap Farm sits where the old Sherrill’s Inn welcomed stagecoach travelers and cattle drivers in the 19th century. In 1916, newlyweds Jim and Elizabeth McClure fell for the shuttered inn and transformed the grounds into a family farm. Jim, a prominent minister, formed the Farmers Federation agricultural cooperative, while Elizabeth, a Paristrained painter, set to work beautifying the home and gardens. Today the farm is protected as a conservation easement with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Run by the fourth generation of the McClure family, Hickory Nut Gap remains a working farm that’s open to visitors daily for its farm store, children’s summer day camp, seasonal you-pick fields, and picnic area along a creek. Fall festivities include a corn maze, hay rides, and other activities. Learn more at hickorynutgapfarm.com.
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others to enjoy was a part of that work, an effective tool to improve the world. It was, in other words, useful work. As you can imagine, this is an inspiring idea for an artist like me. The family continues to exhibit that same conviction, which can be observed, for example, in the reverence for ﬂowers of Annie Louise Perkinson, Elizabeth’s great granddaughter. Indeed some of her blooms at Flying Cloud Farm grow from seeds Elizabeth once planted in her gardens. When Annie Louise creates wedding arrangements, she sometimes stands out in the ﬁelds with the ﬂowers and thinks about the bride. In that same faith, I wanted to create photographs that were effective in their beauty, as Elizabeth's work had been. In that sense my photographs are an interpretation more than they are an illustration of the farm and family history. Learn more at kenabbottphoto.com.
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The Day the Bees Fell on My Head BY DOUG ELLIOTT
was 50 years old, 50 feet up a tree, when 50,000 bees fell on my head. That many bees weigh more than you might think— maybe four or ﬁve pounds. The mass landed with a buzzing thud, pushing my hat down to my ears. Within seconds bees oozed down my body like a mass of living, breathing, buzzing pudding. Luckily, I had worn my bee veil. I had my beekeeper’s gloves, too, but they dangled uselessly from my back pocket because I had wanted a better grip on the branches. Those bees tickled and itched as they crawled over my unprotected wrists— and my white knuckles as I held on for dear life. For some reason, at this moment I got to thinking about a honeybee’s stinger. It is an amazing organ, with three moving parts. When a bee stings, she jabs a needle-sharp stylus into you, and then two barbed lancets catch in your ﬂesh and push the stinger deeper and deeper. The venom gland pumps the venom and ouch—that’s when you feel the sting. When the bee ﬂies away, the stinger is anchored so securely she can’t escape until her rear end tears off. The stinger remains, with venom gland pumping away. The unfortunate bee ﬂies off and dies. If you are allergic, you could die, too. Even if you are not allergic, getting stung by a few hundred bees can be quite serious—especially if you ﬁnd yourself 50 feet up in a tree. This was not the time or place for panic. Then again, I couldn’t help but notice that these bees were not stinging me. After all, bees don’t want to sting people. If they sting, they die. However, to defend their home, their babies, and their queen, they will sting and give their lives. This was a classic bee swarm, not a virulent hoard of stinging marauders. These bees were homeless. They had outgrown their hive and left it for the next generation. Without a home to protect, they had little reason to sting. Homeless? Why were these bees homeless? I looked down and could see all my neatly painted hives lined up, where I had hauled in cinder blocks for hive stands to keep them off the moist ground. I had installed foundation for them to make their honeycomb. I had
fed them when they were hungry and given them medicine when they were sick. Who did these bees think they were, hanging out up here homeless? But such is the way of honeybees. This swarm consisted of ﬁeld bees and the queen from one of those hives below. They had been working since the maples bloomed in February. They had ﬁlled their hive with comb, brood, and honey. The hive was getting crowded, so they were leaving it to the next generation and starting over somewhere else. A typical swarm leaves the hive and lands nearby as a large, buzzing gob. From there, scout bees ﬂy off to explore the countryside looking for a new hive site. An alert beekeeper can often catch the swarm—it’s a relatively simple way to increase your hives and also reclaim runaway bees. In fact, that’s what I was doing up in the tree. This swarm was as big as a bushel basket, right near the top of the tree. These were all the working ﬁeld bees and the queen from my strongest hive. With that workforce gone, I knew I probably would not get any honey that year from the bees that remained. Yes indeed, I wanted that swarm. So I put up a 25-foot extension ladder that reached the ﬁrst branches, and from there, I climbed the tree. I carried a pruning saw and a long rope. The bees had amassed on a branch about a foot out from the trunk. My plan was to tie a rope onto that branch, carefully saw it off, and slowly lower the branch that held the swarm 50 feet down to my hive below. It might have worked, if it weren’t for that one dead branch right under the swarm. In order to test its strength I had held on to other branches and put one foot on it to see if it would hold me. As soon as I had most of my weight on it, the branch snapped. I was holding on securely to those other branches, but when that dead branch snapped, the whole tree shook. And that’s when the bees fell on my head. Now I had all these bees on my head, crawling all MANDY NEWHAM-COBB ILLUSTRATION over my body and ﬂying all around me. Their buzzing grew more intense until it was a whining roar. I was surrounded by a swirling mass of thousands of bees, which came together in the air right in front of me, and took off out of the tree. That sure took a weight off my shoulders. I watched the swarm sail across the garden, over the shop and the woodshed and over the pond. The last I saw of those bees as they headed over the trees, they looked like a ﬂoating, ever-diminishing smudge against the clear blue sky until they ﬁnally disappeared over the mountain. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Doug Elliott is proﬁled on page 11.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN LIVING VOLUME 15 • ISSUE 4
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