We love the Smoky Mountains. Wish you were here!

Archive for January, 2010

A Harmless Spider …Unless it Spells Your Name

The first sighting of a Writing Spider (Argiope Aurantia) can be a bit unnerving. The body alone is more than an inch long. Yet despite their intimidating size and threatening appearance, they’re actually quite harmless …and with a healthy appetite for grasshoppers and other garden pests, they’re nice to have around your tomato plants.

The female, pictured here, spins a nearly-invisible web — except for the characteristic white zigzag pattern at the center. According to legend, if the writing spider spells your name in her web, your days are numbered.

This spider was photographed on the porch of a Bryson City cabin, but they can be found in temperate climates worldwide.

Comments are off for this post

Are You a Picker? Join These Twice-Monthly Jam Sessions.

Twice a month, there’s an informal gathering of string musicians at Bryson City’s Marianna Black Library for the Community Music Jam. The group generally includes a mixture of professionals, amateurs and learners; and in the Summer — when they usually gather outside under the shade tree — there can be as many visitors as locals. Anyone with a banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle (anything unplugged) is welcome.

Larry Barnett of Grandpa’s Music keeps the music flowing and the fun going. Normally, Larry calls out a tune and its signature and the group plays it together. But there’s also an opportunity for anyone to perform a favorite tune for the group. The jam sessions offer a chance for musicians of all ages and levels of ability to share music they have learned over the years or learn the old-time mountain songs.

Community Music Jams are held on the first and third Thursdays of every month, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm at the Marianna Black Library. For more information, call 828-488-3030 or visit the library web site.

Comments are off for this post

Millstone Marks Horace Kephart’s Favorite Smoky Mountain Refuge

Shortly after Horace Kephart’s death in 1931, the newly-formed Horace Kephart Troop, Boy Scouts of America, placed a millstone marker on the site of the writer’s last permanent campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park above Bryson City. The plaque reads —

On this spot Horace Kephart – Dean of American Campers and one of the Principal Founders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – pitched his last permanent camp.

In his book, Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City author George Ellison wrote “… Kephart found refuge from summer visitors seeking him out by camping at the old Bryson Place, now a designated camping area in the national park, situated about 10 miles north of Bryson City alongside Deep Creek. He would sometimes go there for an entire summer, hauling in by wagon or on horseback the supplies and equipment he required, which included a small folding desk and writing materials.”

The marker’s location is generally described as “Campsite 57, at Bryson Place”, yet many hikers have tried unsuccessfully to locate the marker. But with a GPS it can be found at 35° 31.197′ N, 83° 25.182′.

On the Historical Marker Database website, W. Frank March of Sevierville, TN added the following assistance — “The memorial is located approximately 322′ SW (bearing 220 degrees) from the Martins Gap Trail sign. From the trail sign, go back down the trail toward Deep Creek campground approximately 150′, then go off the trail at an angle, to the right. The marker is below the trail, on the right.”

Horace Kephart is buried in the Bryson City Cemetery.

Photo by Sharon McCarthy, Smoky Scout

Comments are off for this post

Winter in the Smokies — A Forest of a Different Color

It’s no surprise that visitation to the Smokies rises and falls with the temperatures. Most people simply prefer the warmer months with the wealth of outdoor activities available from March thru October. But the hardy individuals that weather the cooler temperatures are treated to an entirely different and equally beautiful Smoky Mountains landscape. The colors are more subtle, even monochromatic. And with the leaves on the ground, they can see much deeper into the woods revealing a striking array of patterns and textures …like the crosshatch pattern of Poplar trees and shadows in this week’s Postcard.

Comments are off for this post

A “Catbird Seat” for Smoky Mountain Backcountry Hikers

When hiking deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the last thing you expect to find is a piece of office equipment. Yet that’s just what Sharon McCarthy discovered last Fall when she and fellow hiker Judy Gross reached the peak at High Rocks, high above the North Shore of Lake Fontana.

In her excellent “Smoky Scout” online hiking journal, Sharon explained, “High Rocks is the site of a long-removed fire tower, but the view is still there. The short trail up seemed endless as we fought our way through more blackberry brambles and overgrowth. We topped out at the rocky bluff upon which the tower once stood. The foundation and the caretaker’s cabin remain, although the cabin is extremely deteriorated and there are currently no plans to rehab it. Since I was here last year, someone has made a statement by placing a chair on top of the rocks, inviting valiant hikers to pause and enjoy.”

Photo by Judy Gross

Comments are off for this post