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

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!

Naturalist & Smokies 900-Miler

Nancy East

Nancy leads hikes through a MeetUp group in the Smokies on a volunteer basis (as well as volunteer to teach “Backpacking 101” courses with another member of their search and rescue team). She is also a certified naturalist through U.T. and the Great Smoky Mtns. Institute at Tremont and is an avid hiker in the Park. She officially became a “Smokies 900-Miler” on Labor Day weekend 2019. She also writes frequently on her blog, Hope and Feather Travels, about outdoor education, naturalist topics, as well as her hikes both near and far. And finally, she is an ambassador for Gossamer Gear, a well-known brand in the backpacking and hiking industry, and she does her best to represent them well as a hiker.

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.

 

 

Hiking Far & Wide

Chris Ford

Chris brings a unique passion for distance hiking and backpacking, having hiked over 11,000 miles since 2015. After retiring from the U.S. 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. When he’s not on a long trail, he’s usually hiking in his backyard, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where he’s hiked 5,500+ miles. In 2022, Chris completed the Triple Crown of hiking after completing the Continental Divide Trail.  Join Chris in the evenings to hear his trail tales and each morning for a hike or more long trail stories.  

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.

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.