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.

Explore and Enjoy

Joel & Kathy Zachry

Kathy and Joel Zachry have been leading small groups into the Smokies black bear habitat for 40 seasons as instructors and former directors of the University of Tennessee and National Park Service award-winning Smoky Mountain Field School. With more than 50 combined years of backcountry experience they have conducted group trips into the Alaskan wilderness beginning in 1988. Together they completed section-hiking the 2,175 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail in 2005. Join the authors of Bears We’ve Met – Short Stories of Close Encounters on daily hikes and for evening presentations as they share their vast knowledge and experience on the culture, history, and both flora and fauna of our Smokies.

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!

Birding & Traditional Folk Music

Ruth Barber & Keith Watson

Ruth and Keith are musicians and have been performing Old-Time traditional folk music in the Sevier and Knox County area for over 13 years (www.boogertowngap.com). Keith is also a bird guide and leads tours for the Great Smoky Mountains Association and Ventures Birding Tours based in Asheville, NC.

Hikes & History

Lynda Doucette

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!

Hiking & Outdoor Photography

Steve Yocom

Steve is an outdoor adventure photographer based in Western North Carolina who consistently delivers some of the region’s most inspiring outdoor photos. Steve Yocom’s work has been featured in a number of publications and websites in recent years, including the cover of BACKPACKER Magazine, Visit North Carolina and Blue Ridge Outdoors. Join Steve for guided hikes and photography lessons.

 

 

Foraging Strolls

Natalie Dechiara & Luke Gilbert

Natalie Dechiara began foraging over 10 years ago and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with as many people as possible. In the past she has worked with Asheville based foraging tour company, No Taste Like Home, and has guided thousands of people through our beautiful forests of Western North Carolina. Currently Natalie is the director of operations at Wild Goods Foraging, and you can find her selling mushrooms and wild edibles at four different farmers markets weekly. When Natalie is not perambulating through her home woods foraging mushrooms, she enjoys concocting wild ferments, elixirs, tinctures and treats. Not only at home in the mountains, Natalie is also a rescue diver and loves scuba diving when near large bodies of water. 
 
Luke Gilbert began foraging while working in and managing hydroponic greenhouses in Raleigh, NC. Foraging from the wild presented an alternative to the plastic bubble of a greenhouse, allowing more time to explore outdoors. Luke brought to life his company Wild Goods over four years ago and is so grateful to do what he loves while sharing natures abundance.  Last year he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in under one hundred days. When he’s not trail running with a basket full of fungi in the forest or constructing tiny houses, you can find him at one of the farmers markets with Natalie helping put wild mushrooms into the good people of Western North Carolina’s bellies.  
 
Together, Luke and Natalie have a combined 20 years of foraging experience and are passionate about sharing their knowledge, stories, and excitement for the natural world. They have recently been training their Lagotto Romanolo, Eva, to hunt the native truffles of Western North Carolina and currently reside in West Asheville. 

Cooking School

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.