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.

Explore and Enjoy

Joel & Kathy Zachry

Swag Experts since 2013, Joel and Kathy Zachry share their vast knowledge and experiences of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on intriguing hikes and through enlightening evening presentations about the region’s history and natural diversity. Having completed backpacking the 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail and leading small group trips to remote regions of Alaska for over 25 years, they are accomplished naturalists, photographers, and writers. As authors of Bears We’ve Met – Short Stories of Close Encounters, they share their insight of the bruin and the plethora of life that coexist within its habitat. With over 40 years as instructors for the award-winning park and University of Tennessee Smoky Mountain Field School they bring entertainment and awareness to every hike and evening gathering.

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!

History & The Outdoors

Florie Takaki

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.

Nature & Trail Tales

Matt Dobson

Matt has lived and travelled all over the world, but has made his way back home to southern Appalachia. Having studied Horticulture and Landscape Design at the University of Tennessee he has a passion for the natural world, especially relating to plant life. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2016 changed the course of his life and career. He went on to complete the Triple Crown by thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. Matt is now a professional backcountry guide and has hiked almost all of the trails of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest. With over 600 nights in the wilderness and 15,000 miles on his legs, he is as at home in the forest than away from it. He loves sharing stories of his trail experiences and of his continuing educational voyage through our natural world. Join Matt as he shares stories, history, culture and lore of Southern Appalachia and the National Park.

The Diversity of Plants

Lee Trebotich

Lee is a world traveler and a seasoned biologist who was born & raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. He started his biology career in the oceans surrounding the eastern hemisphere working with different universities & organizations such as NOAA tagging sharks & researching coral reefs. He holds a masters in botany with a focus on edible/medicinal plants and medicine making. He has over 15 years of educational experience teaching at all levels including collegiate & kindergarten. Lee’s passion outside of his lovely wife and beautiful daughter is the mountains. He is a high alpine athlete with a passion for altitude.

Lee and his wife, Meghan, own and run their own outdoor cooking company called Food For Adventures where they offer services such as: Private Chef, Outdoor Education, Expedition Cooking, and more! Come join Lee as he walks you through the woods to observe native and non native plants and their uses and local lore. In the evening, Lee will offer a hands on presentation where he will discuss and show how local tribes, pioneers, and others used plants for a diversity of uses.