The Swag

June 25, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 6:42 pm


A week or so ago, The Wall Street Journal had an article about a Roll Call on popular sports (see Saturday/Sunday June 9-10). “Governments around the world spend millions to get their citizens off the couch and onto the sports field.” Companies work hard to make sports equipment to tantalize people to get going. A report from the National Sporting Goods Association shows that the percentage of participants seven years of age and older participated more in hiking than tennis, soccer, baseball, golf and basketball. So now you know why our Romantic Mountaintop Hiking Resort is such a hit. In 2011 more than 40,000,000 participated in hiking!

So we had such fun when one of our couples (from Florida) decided to take a hike that no one has thought about taking. They left The Swag on the Cataloochee Divide trail, down Double Gap Trail to Caldwell Fork, up past The Big Trees to Rough Fork and Paul’s Gap and back home to The Swag. When Dan and I saw them coming home by way of the vegetable garden, they said the hike was just “four miles longer than they would have liked.” However, they said it was beautiful.

Last weekend Charles Maynard and a group hiked two excellent hikes. One from The Swag to Cove Creek Gap and back past Taylor’s Turnaround and then up via The Purchase, Ferguson’s Cabin and home.

The next day they drove down into Cataloochee and walked the beautiful gravel road trail to Little Cataloochee Church. This has always been one of my favorites. I have taken people there to see the dates on tombstones of little children lost to illnesses we no longer fear.

Charles Maynard

Of course each night we heard another story from Charles — some of his “Jack Tales” and some of just fun stories like his adventures in elementary school and Old Cy, the school janitor. Those of you who have been here for Charles’ stories, remember the fire drill and “stop, drop and roll.”

FYI,  Janice, his wife,  has hit the big time with her romance novels. Charles continues to write and put together new facts for new books.  Each evening, before hors d’oeuvres, he met us in the Chestnut Lodge to tell us bits from new books he will write.  One was about the Conqistadores who trod these trails long before the Cherokees did.  We learned that man has been in these oldest of mountains for at least 12,000 years.  Charles’s remarable coffee table book, The Blue Ridge, has fabulous photography and delves into the history of these remarkable mountains and their people.






Charles enthralled us with an account of D.R. Beeson and C. Hodge Mathes’s exploration of our great mountains before they had been really discovered by those who put in the trails, roads, and cut down some of our most beautiful trees. (See In the Spirit of Adventure, A 1914 Smoky Mountain Hiking Journal, written by D.R. Beeson.)


Another fantastic afternoon, Charles told us of Horace Kephart’s instrumental role in the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Libby Kephart Hargrave will be with us for a book signing October 2 and 3.  She is Horace’s great-granddaughter.  In 2009 she authored the foreward to his novel, Smoky Mountain Magic. The manuscript for this was not discovered until fairly recently and is a real page-turner.



Also last week we had the honor of helping Nancy Tanner celebrate her 95th birthday. Her family came from all over the country. Those of you who go “way back” with us remember that Nancy’s late husband was Dr. Jim Tanner. He was a professor of ornithology @ The University of Tennessee, and one of our first Special Events leaders. He was the foremost authority on the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Nancy has co-authored a book about this extinct bird and is the only living person to have seen it.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker








A fun bit of incidental information. A  guest finally told us what he did for a living. We had been curious, because he had teased us about it. He farms alligators and currently has 25,000 gators! Guess what he does with them? He sells them to Hermes! They turned out to be such a delightful couple. They were one of our big hikers.

Bill Harley


This week we have Bill Harley here with us. A two time Grammy winner, and gifted songwriter as well as story-teller, he has enthralled a full house @ The Swag with hilarious tales. To know more about Bill and his many talents — especially with school kids — look him up at




Birding On The Lawn

Hot off the Press: Bob and Louise Collier have had a change of plans and are going to be here for the week of July Fourth, getting here on Sunday night for “birding on the lawn” on Monday morning. There is nothing like a stroll in the Park or on The Swag trails with Bob and Louise.





The Hill Country Band here from 5:00 – 7:30 in the Dog Trot.
We will have the ever-popular Lawn Games: Egg Toss, Egg Race with a spoon, Sack Race, Tug-of-War
6:00-7:00 hors d’oeuvres.
7:00 Prayers for our Country, songs around the flagpole and Pledge of Allegiance.

7:15 Chef Keith Davis has gone all-out with his very popular grill menu: Ahi Tuna, Grilled Chicken, Slow-Roasted Baby Back Ribs, Beef Tenderloin, wonderful Caprese Salad, Corn on the Cob, Asparagus, Deviled Eggs, and the fabulous assortment of desserts by Linda Duckett.

We will have the maestro of the keyboard, Dan, playing the player piano with a selection of our favorites, as well as such specials as You’re a Grand Old Flag, etc.

At 9:30 we will gather on the Swag steps to see Lake Junaluska’s stellar fireworks. (far from the maddening throng, we will wave our own sparklers and thrill to the spectacular fireworks).


June 6, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 7:09 pm

At dinner one evening last week — all of a sudden everyone got up from the big table and darted out to the frontporch.  A big rainbow was arching from the Cataloochee Ski Slope right over to Gooseberry Knob.  The sun was setting on Utah Mountain and it was spectacular.  We have never seen a rainbow like that in all the 43 years we have been here.

Our hummers have finally come to settle in!  Since April 15, we have had a few who would stop by for a sip — working their way north.

Also to be treasured are the first water lily down at the pond and the last remaining trillium (Vasey’s) seen along the Cataloochee Divide trail (which we learned recently from Donald Davis has always been called to “locals” the Asbury Trail.  This is the same trail that bishop Asbury took to reach hi scattered mountain communities in Cataloochee.   The Vasey’s trillium is the last to bloom of the spring wild flowers (to my knowledge) and is the only one that has a fist-sized bloom under the three green leaves.  You have to be keen-eyed to be sure  to see them along the trail.  They are spectacular.

With Mathew and Mark from jumping Rocks Photography back to update our room and outdoor photos, I had the fun of taking them on Dan’s most favorite trail.  I call it “The Forest Primeval”.  It leaves the Nature Trail and parallels the horse trail, but goes over rocks and past huge trees that have roots raised and arched over what was once other trees that are no longer there.  There are three little foot bridges and one big bridge called Coookie’s Bridge.  On this trail you have no sense of civilization anywhere.  There are some very large rocks and little streams over which to step on select rocks.  On Thursday, McRae, our gardener, and her husband, Louis, took the photographers to see the Indian marker on the Cataloochee (Asbury) Trail that is very old and led many people before us to find the way over toward Cherokee, by the way of Hemphill Bald.  The tree was bent to point the way.

May 31, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 3:57 pm
Wow! What a weekend! 
Dan and I have been here @ The Swag over holiday times since 1969.  We genuinely think these were the most perfect days we have ever experienced.  There was a gentle breeze and the view went forever.  We could even see Mt. Mitchell.  There were a lot of mellow weekenders who checked out on Monday and Tuesday.
Family Fun
The Foster family returned for their twice-seasonal visit — all 10 of them.  This was a magical time for the grandchildren.  They got to  enjoy Donald Davis’s after-dinner stories and went white-water rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday four campers from Campsite 41 down by the Big Trees appeared at the Dogtrot.  They ended up staying for brunch.  I had a chance to visit with one.  He said they came up the Hemphill Bald Trail and had intended to go to Hemphill Bald, but decided to take the Park’s Asbury Trail to the left for a bit when a scarecrow appeared in the field across from the Park Fence.  Then they saw a man with a Navy blazer on and a Sunday NYTimes in his hands.  Dan greeted them and that is how they ended up having brunch with us.
New Trail Signs
Dan and I spent quite a bit of time — last week and this week — working on signs for the trails.  Dan had a man rout some really big heavy oak boards with trail signs.  We have been filling in the routing with white paint.  (Sometimes I wonder if there was someone in Dan’s family’s past who was involved with making those highway Burma Shave signs!)  I promise you that you will never have to wonder if you are taking the right direction when you get off of the Nature Trail.
On Monday two couples took the “Round the Block” all-day hike down to Caldwell Fork, via McKee’s Branch or Double Gap Trail (recently renamed by the Park as Hemphill Bald Trail).  They left @ 10:30 and got back @ 4:30 — just in time for cookies and a dip in the Hot Tub.
Birmingham, Alabama Guests
We had a coincidence earlier this week — two separate couples arrived within hours of one another, each after taking their child to Greystone Camp.    They are both from Birmingham and were familiar with one another but had not known of each others’ plans to visit The Swag!  Tuesday morning at breakfast, just about everyone decided to sit at “The Grownup Table”  to visit and talk about favorite hikes.
“The Chestnut Grove”
Mac and Margaret Foster have been working for some time on what they call “The Chestnut Grove” in the land below our Cottage.  They have been collecting chestnuts from our land, nurturing them over the winter, and then planting them back @ The Swag.  McRae, our gardener, has put some fencing around the smaller ones, but there are some that are quite tall and the trunks are thickening.  We plan to put up some signs, when we have a good trail marked around them so that folks may take a look at them in the fall.
Jumping Rocks Photography
Yesterday,  Matthew and Mark, our web site photographers, arrived to photograph for you
 the spruced-up rooms with their new quilts, window treatments, and meals, etc.
They will be here for a couple of days.

May 25, 2012

Details From Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 8:21 pm

The Swag – A Family Business Retreat For The Weekend

On Sunday, the four-generation family that spent three days with us over the weekend — looking at ways in which they can serve others and relate to one another — departed after brunch. Just before they left, their leader for this weekend came to me and said “We want to come back here next year!” They can go anywhere their hearts want to take them and their hearts said “The Swag.” We knew they had on their agenda where they would go next year and were keen to find out where they would go. Wow!

What a thrill!






Yesterday was one of those top-notch events for the Smokies! Because Dan chairs Friends of the Smokies, Dan and I went over to Clingman’s Dome (just about at the spot where Tennessee and North Carolina meet in Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to celebrate the success of Trails Forever. Several years ago, the Aslan Foundation gave $2 million dollars to the Park in memory of Lindsay Young to fund the perpetual maintenance of the Park’s trails. Lindsay loved the Park and was at two of our benefit weekends @ The Swag for Friends of the Smokies. The goal was to have others match the $2 million. Well, the others did! So, yesterday, with the van that has the Trails Forever logo on it and the contents ready to go where needed to maintain the trails, the RIBBON was CUT to perpetually fund our trails! Present were many of those people who dedicate time to lead hikes and maintain the trails; Frank and Whit Addicks, Danny Bernstein, Joan Cronan, Stan & Sam McGroom, Richard and Debbie Way, Jack E. Williams, Sam and Jody Curtis, Janice and Bill Shepherd and Missy Kane.

Storyteller Donald Davis Returns To The Swag

Wow! What a week we have had with Donald.  Wednesday night we had several couples who — for very understandable reasons — opted to go back to their rooms.  So, Donald and Merle sat with us and Donald around the three sofas and he told us how he became a story-teller.  If you plan to be  here when Donald returns, be sure to ask him to tell you about this.  Thursday night we learned why he is not named Joe.  (His father was a Joe and his brother is a Joe.)  I have always wondered, but never got around to asking him.

We have a full house this weekend — with lots of returning Swaggers.  On Sunday night (a first for Memorial Day     weekend)  we are having a cook-out and the Hill Country Band.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  And, of course, we will have one last night of Donald’s fabulous stories.

           Good news for me is that Dan returns for the weekend.  I imagine that means that we will have some
           sing-alonging around his grandfather’s player piano before Donald’s stories.




May 18, 2012

Details from Deener

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Swag @ 2:54 pm

Food and Fellowship at The Swag
What a treat to have a New York friend and her siblings (brother from Highlands Falls, NC, and sister from Seattle, WA) here for our Wednesday picnic at Gooseberry Knob. It was their first visit to The Swag, and I so enjoyed showing them some of the rooms and the Chestnut Lodge. What a glorious day we Swaggers had eating the delectable burgers, salads, desserts and sipping our root beer floats in the spring air.

This was only our second Wednesday picnic of the season. It has been too cold or too rainy. So it was a treat for all of the staff and guests to be able to see the brand new greens of leaves and grass in the valley below.

Exploring the Trails
We had a number of first time guests this week who loved walking the trails with Michael Pelton and Tamra Willis and gleaning their depth of knowledge. Using a plethora of pelts and skulls from furry mammals, Michael gave us a treasure trove of information about the black bear (and all the bears of the world).

What’s Blooming at The Swag
Spring is definitely here. The flame azaleas are budded and hinting at what colors they will be when they bloom in a the coming weeks. Blueberries are blooming. The new galax leaves are waxy and glorious — so, of course, they are gracing the soap dishes of Swag guest lavatories. The mountain laurels, like the flame azaleas, are ready to bloom when the time is right. Hybrid rhododendrons are aglow around all of our buildings. Their native cousins will grace the woodlands in a few weeks. The greenbrier tips are tender and tasty. The squaw root is tall and budded.

Celebrations at The Swag
We had a couple drive over from Asheville this week — just for one night — to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary. They called it an “in town vacation.” They were delighted to enjoy Gail’s Room, and we were so pleased to be a part of their celebration.

This weekend we are hosting a three-day family gathering which brings together four generations (the youngest is just months old) for reflection, business, hiking, yoga and dining. Dan officiated at the weddings of three couples in this family, so it is very much a treat to have them with us. The van arrived at noon on Thursday with cribs and bouncy seats, along with all manner of new and colorful things that the baby industry has come up with since our kids were born. We are so complimented that they chose The Swag as the place where their family would spend time together.

It doesn’t get any better than today at The Swag!

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