Songs from the Hearth
Doug & Kathy Peters
Join singer/songwriter and Southern Appalachian Naturalist Doug Peters and his hiking partner and wife, Kathy, for an unforgettable experience at The Swag. Since 1986 Doug has delighted guests at The Swag with his original songs about life, love, and adventure. His unique lyrics capture the history, beauty, and special character of The Swag and the Smoky Mountains in ways that will both tickle your funny bone and tug at your heartstrings.
Black Bears & “Unhuggables”
Michael Pelton & Tamra Willis
Since 1999, this popular husband and wife team has led daily hikes. Dr. Pelton is the foremost authority on the North American black bear. Dr. Willis has a Ph.D. in Science and Environmental Education, and she has a special love for the “unhuggables” (snakes, bats, and insects). At day’s end, they will conduct a presentation on Southern Appalachian mammals such as black bear and bats, natural history and ecology.
Walks – Painting – Printmaking
Gay Bryant & Rita Rothmeier
Artist and hikers, Gay Bryant and Rita Rothmeier, will lead Swag guests for morning hikes on various trails, sharing their knowledge of wildflowers, plants, and Smoky Mountain lore. In the afternoons, you can explore your creative side with beginning-level lessons in watercolor painting and relief printmaking to create original artwork that will document your stay at The Swag. Gay has been a studio painter, printmaker, and art instructor for 30 years and her work is represented in regional galleries and international collections. She has hiked all 900 miles of the official trails in the Smokies and creates work focusing on the natural beauty of the forests. Gay will be assisted by Rita Rothmeier, a naturalist, painter, printmaker, spinner, fiber artist, nurse, and outdoors enthusiast. Children must be at least 12 years old and under the supervision of an adult to participate in the art class.
Hikes, History & Local Lore
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!
Walks and Talks with a Retired Ranger
Lynda has spent the last decade-plus at the Supervisory Park Ranger at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Her career with the National Park Service has taken her far and wide, including time spent at Cape Cod National Seashore, Yosemite National Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore. As an interpretive ranger, Lynda focused on education and events that would help visitors appreciate all that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer. Lynda will share her deep knowledge of these mountains, its creatures, and its history with our guests. She will lead day hikes, night hikes, and more!
Naturalist & Smokies 900-Miler
Nancy retired from a 23-year career as a small animal veterinarian to pursue her interests in outdoor education, guiding and writing. She is a Southern Appalachian Naturalist and the author of Chasing the Smokies Moon: An audacious 948-mile hike fueled by love, loss, laughter and lunacy, a memoir about her record setting hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and her longstanding involvement with Haywood County Search and Rescue. She lives in Waynesville, NC with her husband, Larry, and their three children.
Flora & Fauna of the Smokies
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.
History & The Outdoors
Florie Takaki worked with the National Park Service for over 30 years, retiring in December of 2020. During her tenure with the park service, she spent time in Valley Forge National Historical Park, Independence Historical Park, Natchez Trace and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Her love of history and the outdoors made the National Park Service a natural choice of careers. She says the best part of her work had been providing visitors the opportunity to connect with the parks in ways they may not have been able to without a ranger to help in their curiosity. Join Florie for day hikes and evening presentations.
Sketch-Journaling in the Smokies
Kate Furman Patterson was born, raised and currently lives in Greenville, SC. She works full time for herself as the jewelry designer and goldsmith of Kate Furman Jewelry in the Village of West Greenville. Her handmade heirloom jewelry is known for its raw, refined and natural aesthetic. Kate grew up exploring our wilderness as a whitewater kayaker. Five years of whitewater raft guiding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming taught Kate how to safely share her love of the outdoors with guests, while studying abroad in Latin America with just a few sketchbooks and pens gave her the experience to lead “sketch-journaling” here in our Smoky Mountains. She has also illustrated a children’s book for an Asheville, NC author entitled “Be a Smile Maker” and won Greenville, SC “Best Local Visual Artist” award five times! Kate will lead day hikes and “sketch-journaling” sessions, teach drawing workshops and delve into the world of gemstones and precious metals. Absolutely no artistic experience is needed to participate. Kate particularly loves working with beginners!
Executive Sous Chef Josh Vilain
Join our Executive Sous Chef Josh Vilain and our Pastry Chef Phyllis Miller for one of our three cooking schools this season. Each cooking school will feature four sessions, split amongst two days. The featured dishes will change according to the season. It is recommended that you arrive no later than Sunday and depart on Wednesday, after our gourmet picnic atop Gooseberry Knob. If you would like to attend our cooking school, please let us know when you book your reservation as class size is limited to 6 adults per session.