Hiking the Old Sugarlands Trail

Hiking the Old Sugarlands Trail!

By Rachelle Siegrist

CCC clock tower at old sugarlands trail smokies - 1.jpg
Standing by the old CCC stone clock tower

We took a walk in our beloved Smokies this week, and decided to hike up the Old Sugarlands Trail.  The name Sugarlands refers to a mountain valley located inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is thought to have derived it’s name from the large number of Sugar Maples located in the area before being settled in. A thriving mountain community inhabited the area before the National Park was formed, and one of the largest cemeteries in the Park is located in the valley. Buildings located in Sugarlands at one time included a school, stores, mills and numerous homes.

A lovely grassy section of the road    Standing by a large, old “friend”

There are still remnants of the once thriving community, even though most of it has been removed, and since winter is a great time to see the old stone walls and foundations while hiking the trail, we thought it a great time to do just that! Even though it was quite chilly and brisk when we started our hike, it warmed up quite a bit later on in the day.  The first highlight of our hike was seeing the old CCC clock tower.  Near it is the remnants of where the Flag was located, as well as old stone steps and foundations to other buildings in the CCC camp.

A gorgeous orange fungi and what I called “Popcorn” Fungi

The first mile or so of the hike follows alongside the river adding both beauty and of course the delightful sound of a stream, to our walk!  We passed several interesting fungi specimens and an interestingly gorgeous old tree!  Much of the trail is actually an old road bed, and even includes a section of Old Hwy TN 71. That gave my imagination a place to wonder while imagining what it must have been like to travel along the road, while bumping along in an old Model T!  After taking several turns in the trail, we went up and up and upon crossing a small stream, and climbing straight up the mountainside, we finally caught the first glimpse of it.

stone house old sugarlands trail smokies - 1 (1)
Standing in the doorway to the kitchen, as seen from the front

There the old stone house stood in all of it’s glory, looking like the ruins of an ancient Appalachian castle of sorts, and I was thrilled to be there to see and experience it in person!  Stepping through the doorway was like stepping back in time, and Wes and I enjoyed exploring it for quite sometime.  Unfortunately, it’s actually in pretty bad shape and with several cracks in the walls and with one wall leaning badly, I’m not sure how much longer it will be standing!

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Wes standing on the hearth inside the house

While walking around and imagining the building in it’s heyday, I came up with this poem . . . .

Oh, if only walls could talk,
The stories they could tell
Of good times and bad times,
Of the latter, most knew too well
A much simpler time and pace,
Families all lived near
Things we take for granted now
To them were so very dear!
Oh, if only walls could talk
Telling stories they knew so well,
Perhaps we’d listen and learn to live a slower pace
And the roses in life, to stop and smell.

Remnants of an old wood stove    A window next to the fireplace

A view from the kitchen door    Looking through the back door

I said “goodbye” to the beautiful old building, figuring I may never see it again, and counting myself blessed for seeing it now, and we headed toward the old cemetery.

Old bed springs and a headboard inside              The  leaning wall at one end

Soon we came to an opening leading up to the large peaceful cemetery.  Even though there were a few nice tombstones, many were handmade and carved, with inscriptions of loved one’s names lovingly chiseled on them. With so many of them representing babies and young children, it was easy to imagine how very hard life was for so many of them back then.  Leaving the cemetery we started our hike back, and we enjoyed sitting on a large rock by the river, while taking a short chocolate break. Later that afternoon, we arrived back at the trailhead, deciding it had been another great hike!

old cemetary old sugarlands trail smokies - 1.jpg
The beautiful old cemetery

The picturesque Highland Manor Inn and Conference Center, located here in Townsend, graciously let us use their wonderful Conference room for our annual neighborhood Christmas dinner party this past Tuesday evening.  With almost forty of us attending, it was a great time while enjoying lots of delicious food, while filing the air with much laughter and conversation!

christmas party at Highland manor inn and conference center - 1
Part of the gang at during our Christmas diner
we siegrist at christmas party - 1
Wes and Samuel trying to figure out if there’s moonshine in that there sweet tea . . . Ha Ha!

~ Currently On and Fresh Off the Easel ~

I’m currently painting on a miniature for the upcoming Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, SC.  My latest drawing of a beautiful Lab named Gracie was received by the happy new owners this past week.

Dog Drawing by Rachelle Siegrist
“Gracie” by Rachelle

Wes finished his painting featuring a beautiful Ruby-throat Hummingbird enjoying taking a bath in a gentle rain outside our dining room window.

A_Wee_Shower_by_Wes_Siegrist1
“A Wee Shower” by Wes

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

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4 thoughts on “Hiking the Old Sugarlands Trail

  1. daisy990@comcast.net

    Hi Guys – Loved your post. Where exactly is that trail? Maybe a new trail for us next summer! Didn’t know of Fred and Barb’s health issues – hope 2016 is better for them both. All is well here – 80 today. Tom’s son comes for a week over Christmas and will have my cousin and her daughter Christmas day. Can’t wait to get back to Townsend next summer. Merry Christmas. Paula and Tom

    1. Hi Paula,
      The trailhead is located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the park headquarters. Yes, Fred and Barb have had their share of health problems the past couple of years and hopefully the next one will be better for them! Sounds like a lovely, warm day there, and like you will have a house full of life and excitement for Christmas! I bet you can’t wait to return to Townsend next summer, and this time we’ll have to have a nice picnic and maybe go for a hike!
      May you both have a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year 🙂
      Rachelle

  2. Tony Martini

    My brother and I, both former History teachers, and he a former Park Ranger in the Smokies, are working diligently to find the origin of the old Stone House you visited. There are, of course, rumors of schoolhouse, teacher’s cottage, CCC building, hunting lodge,….even a rendezvous point for Park executives and dignitaries and their “overnight guests”. None of the rumors match any photos from the past to present, including the Park’s own version of the origin. I will keep you posted on any findings. Great hike which includes a mystery. By the way, did you know the story of the 12 year old boy named Edd McKinley who is buried in the cemetery near the Stone House?

    1. I would love to know what the old stone house was used for, so please do let me know of any findings you discover about it! Unfortunately, I don’t know about the 12 year old boy buried there, and would be quite curious to hear about him!
      Rachelle 🙂

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