Monday, April 12, 2010

Exploring with Friends

We got together with friends, Rich and Patti, yesterday for a little exploring.  We parked the car at the large parking lot near the Park Headquarters building behind Sugarlands Visitor Center and headed up the Old Sugarlands Trail.  This trail, according to the guidebook, would take us near an old CCC camp and the old Sugarlands Cemetery.  Both these features were off the trail, so with very few words contained in the guidebook about their locations, we left the main trail to begin our search.

Before the Park was a park, this area was occupied by pioneer settlers, mostly farmers, just trying to make a living by growing crops on this rugged patch of land.  Scattered throughout the park are several cemeteries, the final resting places of these early residents.  As part of the deal with settlers living in the area at the time of the Park’s formation, the Park Service agreed to keep these cemeteries accessible to the families of those buried there.  “Accessible” doesn’t mean you can drive there.  To get to the old Sugarlands Cemetery, we had to walk about 2 miles.  Even though we had an old roadbed to walk along, at the end, after we had left the main trail, we searched for maybe a half hour before finding the cemetery.

The CCC was responsible for doing a lot of work in the park.  They built and repaired roads, built trail, and even help build Fontana Dam.  There is evidence of the old CCC camps scattered around the Park, in both Tennessee and North Carolina.  Some of these old camps are clearly visible from trails, others are not.  The one we explored yesterday was near enough to the trail to see, but you had to know where to look.  There wasn’t much lift, just the remains of the camp sign and a few other piles of stone.

After several hours of poking around in the woods, we adjourned to Rich and Patti’s, for a fantastic dinner of grilled jerked chicken, asparagus, and baked sweet potatoes.  Another truly great day.

We’re off to the trail again today.  I better get ready.

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