Boogerman Loop Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Robert “Booger” Palmer may have a silly nickname, but there’s one thing we can always appreciate him for. He never would allow loggers onto his 220 acre homestead in Cataloochee Valley. As a result, still today there is old growth forest that includes poplar trees with trunks six feet in diameter. The massive hemlocks have unfortunately succumbed to the...

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Little Cataloochee Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Little Cataloochee developed as an expansion to Cataloochee Valley with many of the sons and daughters of the original founders spreading their wings, albeit just a few miles away. Travel these days is limited to hiking boots and horseback, but a sense of time and place is still available through the historic restorations made by the National Park Service. Little...

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Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smaller than Cades Cove on the western end of the national park, but similar in many respects, Cataloochee was named “Gadalutsi” by the Cherokee for the row upon row of mountain peaks that surround this picturesque valley. Just as Cades Cove, Cataloochee is home to many old historic structures restored by the National Park Service, as well as a wealth of...

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Kephart Prong Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kephart Prong is one of the many water drainages that give the Smokies its character and provide refreshing nourishment for all the flora and fauna. Named for Horace Kephart, an author who was very instrumental in helping the Great Smoky Mountains achieve national park status, this scenic mountain stream is especially inviting during the spring greening season....

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Dave Landreth – Griztrax (Part 2)

Researcher, Conservationist & Bushwhacker   Dave Landreth is an outspoken Southern Appalachian conservation advocate who, through years of researching wildlife in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, has developed a passion for protecting clean air and water, public lands and the plants and animals that live among us. His penchant for collecting plaster...

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Dave Landreth – Griztrax (Part 1)

Researcher, Conservationist & Bushwhacker   Dave Landreth is an outspoken Southern Appalachian conservation advocate who, through years of researching wildlife in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, has developed a passion for protecting clean air and water, public lands and the plants and animals that live among us. His penchant for collecting plaster...

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Purchase Knob: Essays from a Mountain Notebook by Kathryn K. McNeil

There’s a summer place, a farm, forever imprinted on my memory, spacious in its views, lovely in its close-ups, on the gentle slopes of Purchase Mountain in the southern Appalachians. I built a house there at 5,000 feet. That’s high for these parts. Mt. Mitchell, not far from me, is 1,600 feet higher. It’s the highest point on the eastern seaboard...

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Murder at The Jumpoff by Jenny Bennett

Jenny Bennett first crossed my radar when I happened upon her website Endless Streams and Forests. She writes about many things, but among them are trail and hiking reports for areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park that were very familiar to me. What intrigued me about Jenny’s reports was the type of hiking she does. Jenny is what is known as an off-trail...

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Cataloochee Divide Trail to Hemphill Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cataloochee Divide Trail follows the eastern national park boundary for 6.4 miles from Cove Creek Gap to a junction with Hemphill Bald Trail. It is then another half-mile climb to the 5,520′ summit of Hemphill Bald. We shaved 4+ miles off the round trip by starting at Purchase Knob rather than Cove Creek Gap. You will pass fabulous views to the east and south...

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Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Purchase Knob is found on the far eastern flank of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cataloochee Divide, north of Maggie Valley, NC. Near the summit and located at 4,850 feet, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is part of a network of what will be 32 centers supporting research and education about science in our national parks. The Purchase Knob...

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Forney Creek Cascade and Andrews Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Most people who head out Clingmans Dome Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are there to climb the half mile to the summit of the 2nd highest mountain in the East. But here at Meanderthals, we aren’t most people. Below Clingmans Dome are trails that explore the ridges and drainage on the south face. Included among those are Forney Creek Cascade, a classic...

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Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Appalachian Trail straddles the Tennessee/North Carolina state line in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than 70 miles. A particularly scenic day hike on the AT is the four mile stretch from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, a remote and rugged outcropping that sits on the ridge between the states. Along this sharp ridge you will pass magnificent views of...

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Mt. Sterling Trail and Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Crowning the Mount Sterling Ridge, 5842 foot Mount Sterling is another of the tall peaks that give the Great Smoky Mountains their character. Located in the far eastern area of the national park in North Carolina, the 7-mile Mount Sterling Ridge rims the scenic Cataloochee Valley to the southeast. There are trails to the summit of Mount Sterling from every direction, but...

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Ramsey Cascades, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A spectacular waterfall isn’t the only highlight of the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail to the cascade gains more than 2,000 feet as it follows rushing rivers and streams filled with moss-covered boulders for its four-mile length. The last couple miles pass through old-growth hardwood forest with giant...

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Low Gap and Appalachian Trails to Mt. Cammerer, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You don’t have to climb to 6000 feet to get spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. In fact, Mt. Cammerer has some of the best views in the national park, yet doesn’t even reach 5000 feet. You can see Snowbird Mountain and the Pigeon River Gorge to the east, and Mt. Sterling south, and the full expanse of the national park to the west. Mt. Cammerer was...

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Chestnut Branch and Big Creek Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sitting right along the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the far northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an enjoyable section of forest and creek side trails that navigate the Big Creek area of the park. The Appalachian Trail goes through the area, as does the Benton MacKaye Trail, named for the planner of the AT. There are mountains in the region as...

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Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the enduring pleasures in the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scaling the 6,593 feet of beauty that is Mt. LeConte. It isn’t quite the highest mountain in the park, but it is by far the tallest hike from its base. The summit is so popular, there are five distinct trails to the top, varying in distance and difficulty. My...

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