Smoky Mountain Nature

Charles & Janice Maynard

Outdoorsman, author, and storyteller Charles Maynard returns to The Swag for more fun than seems possible. Charles will lead hikes in the day and regale us with his fabulous storytelling before dinner. His book, Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic, won the Reed Environmental Writing Award for 2010. His children’s books, guidebooks, and magazine articles have introduced many to National Parks, especially the Smokies. Janice Maynard is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 60 contemporary romance novels. Her website is JaniceMaynard.com. Charles and Janice have been leading Swag guests since 1995.

Walk and Talk

Donald & Trish Davis

Renowned storyteller Donald Davis hails from Western North Carolina. Featured at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world, Davis is also known as a prolific author, producer of books and CDs, and as a guest host for NPR’s Good Evening. He will take hikes and tell stories about the uniqueness of the place and the people who have lived in these mountains. Folks love their Dutch Oven cooking during the hors d’oeuvres time in the Dogtrot. Donald has been a part of The Swag family since 2006.

Walks in the Woods

Esther Blakely

Esther has a thing about birds, wildlife, and wildflowers…and her enthusiasm is contagious! Her “Walks in the Woods” will have you laughing, crying, and thinking. Esther is a master naturalist, elk expert, and certified interpretative presenter for the National Park. Most of the year, you can find her leading hikes and eco-tours in Cataloochee Valley, representing her business, Cataloochee Valley Tours.

Hikes, History & Local Lore

Steven Reinhold

Growing up in the shadow of The Swag had a profound impact on Steven’s life. The view from his childhood home was dominated by the Cataloochee Divide – home of the Swag. Every year of his youth, his family would cross over the Cataloochee Divide and host a family reunion down in Cataloochee Valley. For him, the Divide served as a gateway to exploration and he would get so excited when he would cross it because he knew it was time for an adventure! Flash forward to the present and he still feels the anticipation of adventure and a visceral excitement every time he approaches the Cataloochee Divide. He’s hiked, climbed and snowboarded on many, many mountains. Steven has served as a wilderness mentor, volunteered abroad, climbed to raise money for charities, hiked around the globe, and even opened up his own guiding service – Appalachian Outdoor Company. When hiking with Steven you will learn the history of these hills, explore the geography of the Great Smoky Mountains and hear the tales of local lore and much, much more!

Wildflowers and Wit

Steve Kemp & Janet Rock

Steve Kemp has worked as a seasonal park ranger in Yellowstone and Denali national parks and spent 30 years with nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association as a writer, editor, and publisher. He is a frequent contributor to Smokies Life Magazine and is the author of Trees or the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Impressions, We’re Going to the Mountains, and, most notably, Who Pooped in the Park?

Janet Rock graduated from Maryville College and Western Carolina University and worked for the U.S. Forest Service before embarking on her 28-year career with Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the park’s official Botanist. Her focus was on rare plants, ramps, and ginseng. She is co-author of the popular field guide, Wildflowers of the Smokies, and has contributed to several scientific articles on park plants.

Flora & Fauna of the Smokies

Scott Dean

Scott was born and raised in the mountains of southern Appalachia, specifically the coalfields of West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. Western North Carolina has been his home since 1992. After retiring from the military, he attended UNC-Asheville, earning a degree in biology, with a focus on the flora, fauna and geology of the southern Appalachians. He developed the original curricula, and teaches field classes for the Blue Ridge Naturalist program now offered at the N.C. Arboretum. Join Scott on day hikes and evening presentations to discover the many varieties the Smokies has to offer.

Hiking Far & Wide

Chris Ford

Chris has a passion for distance hiking and backpacking, having hiked over 16,000 miles since 2015. After retiring from the US Air Force and spending several years in the defense industry, he took a sabbatical to thru hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. The experience changed his life in several ways. As they say, the rest is history. He turned down his career and turned up his trail miles…a lot, typically hiking 2,000+ miles a year. In 2019, Chris thru hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail followed by the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail in 2022, wrapping up his “Triple Crown.” When he’s not on a long trail, he’s usually hiking in his back yard, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where he’s hiked 6,000+ miles. Join Chris in the evenings to hear his trail tales and each morning for a hike or more long trail stories.