Walks in the Woods
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
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!
Hikes & History
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.
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.
Hiking Far & Wide
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.
Executive Chef Jake Schmidt
Join our Executive Chef Jake Schmidt 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.