Hiking and Storytelling at the Swag

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 www.billharley.com.




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).