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!

inside stone house old sugarlands trail smokies  - 1.jpg
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

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

What’s Better? One Brushstroke Or A Thousand?

Is One Brushstroke Or A Thousand Best?

By Wes Siegrist

It seems this question is a conundrum particularly in today’s environment where technology can reproduce with exacting precision and artistic response has mostly been about saying more with less. But is this true in miniature art?


Siegrist brushstrokes in art
Why work harder to get the same look?

Since the late 1890s, miniature art societies have strove to retain their genre’s historical attributes while evolving alongside contemporary art of their period. At some point, they, their critics and their admirers realized a fundamental precept with miniature art: While all miniature art can be fine art, not all fine art can properly be miniature. Miniatures have defining characteristics about them that preclude some fine art from their class … or at least, make one question their belonging.

As small, precious objects, miniatures beg to be examined closely. They whisper to be picked up and cradled with intimate endearment. They’re not art objects that are to be admired from across the room, or shout for attention. By nature, those holding them anticipate great reward while inspecting them closer. Viewers crave the satisfaction of finding more to see in the composition but also seek to find deft artistic skill and patience. Artists working in conventional scale seek to grab attention from afar while miniaturists aim for captivation under a magnifying glass.

Miniature painting by Wes Siegrist
“Inspired and In Awe”, 2.5 x 3.5 inches

For us miniature painters, it takes more brushstrokes per square inch, to satisfy our admirers. While it would be easier to achieve the same “feel” with one stroke, guaranteeing the viewer’s reward is better done with a thousand. Having exhibited our miniature paintings now to over a half-million public viewers we’ve heard most every response imaginable. Our favorite is still . . . “Wow!”

Continue reading “What’s Better? One Brushstroke Or A Thousand?”

Visiting My Family In Florida

A Visit With My Family In Florida

By Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist having a boat picnicHaydyn and I enjoying our boat picnic

Wow . . . I can’t believe it’s been a week ago already since we attended the opening for the MASF show in Tarpon Springs, FL! I guess time flies when you’re out playing in the sunshine though, and that’s what we spent this past week doing, while visiting my family in Okeechobee, FL. Every day brought blue skies and sunshine as well as very mild temps, which I personally thoroughly enjoyed! Wes and I spent most of our time outside playing with my niece and nephew and working on the pond at my parents’ place. After many hours of tugging, Wes managed to free up much of the pond, exposing open water for the kids to go out and play in the boat. One day, Haydyn and I even enjoyed a picnic lunch out in the boat, which was very nice, while certainly getting a great dose of vitamin D!

Uncle Wes making miniature pancakes with the kidsUncle Wes making miniature pancakes with the kids

rachelle siegrist picnicing at Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaA beautiful day for a Picnic!

Last Monday, the family enjoyed a delightful picnic lunch at the Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment Area and trail. The tables located underneath a magnificent Live Oak tree, provided the perfect location for just such a picnicking adventure! Afterwards we all enjoyed riding our bikes around the trail while seeing numerous waterbirds, buzzards and of course my favorite . . . alligators! While riding with clear blue skies above and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, I was as happy as can be and even more so when we came up on a gathering of about 75 buzzards, which I love to watch! Of course with the flock of buzzards, there were lots of discarded feathers, so the kids and I had lots of creative fun, putting them in the ends of our bike handlebars and in their bike helmets. We then gave ourselves “Indian” names such as Chief Buzzard, and Flying Buzzard, adding even more fun to this outdoor adventure!

alligator and turtles at Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaA beautiful gator and his turtle buddies

alligators at Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaMore gators!

blue heron at Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaA gorgeous Blue Heron

buzzards at .Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaHaydyn talks with one of the friendly buzzards

riding bikes at Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaChief Flying Buzzard

sandhill cranes atTaylor Creek Stormwater Treatment AreaHaydyn flies along with the Sandhill Cranes

Later that afternoon, I joined my brother Marshall and his family at one of my favorite places, Grassy Island Trail, where we spent a couple of hours hiking and playing in the woods. The kids had a ball tossing “meadow muffins” . . . or dried cow patties, into the creek and watching them float. Of course yours truly had to do it as well, as I returned to a childhood pastime for a few minutes! They swung on grapevines, played on dirt hills and we watched an Armadillo and ate wild oranges, all while just relaxing and enjoying this time together in the beautiful oak hammock.

hiking grassy island bike trailAlicia, Haydyn, and Marshall watch while Tyler swings

tyler and haydyn at grassy island trailPlaying with “meadow muffins”
playing at grassy island bike trailWashing hands in the creek afterwards

The next two days were spent just enjoying time with the kids, while soaking in the beautiful south Florida weather! Tuesday, we met my dad for lunch, while eating delicious pizza. We spent the afternoon playing in the boat and all helped Wes clean out more grass and water lettuce out of the pond. We played in the big sandy hole, while sculpting sand turtles and sand snakes. We hiked the path through the wooded backyard and searched for critters, and even made paper boats and launched them in the pond one afternoon. Before we knew it, my boat had floated over to Tyler’s, and I told him my pirate men were invading his boat! Soon afterwards, his sank, so I guess they took it over.

wes siegrist and haydyn with drawingUncle Wes drew Haydyn while waiting on our pizza

wes siegrist working in the pondMarshall and the kids bringing in more grass while Wes waits to help haul it out

Friday, we met my dad for a delicious lunch at a restaurant called Tin Fish located in Okeechobee. That afternoon, we spent playing and working outdoors again, and Haydyn thoroughly enjoyed playing in the mud! That evening Marshall, Tyler and I rode our bikes at Grassy Island Trail, a favorite pastime of mine, and as usual, we had a wonderful time! Just as we completed our ride, the sun was setting, painting the sky above in oranges and pinks, creating a stunning masterpiece indeed! The next morning I spent time riding the 4-wheeler, another favorite pastime of mine, as I love the feeling of wind blowing through my hair, and riding just for the sheer delight of it! I must admit it was very hard to stay away from the mud, but knowing we had to leave for the airport soon, I somehow managed to resist. My parents dropped us off at the airport in Sanford later that afternoon, we said our goodbyes, and flew back to the Smokies. Walking to our parked van through the rainy, cold night, it was hard to imagine that just a few hours earlier I was wearing shorts and flip flops and riding the 4-wheeler! More wonderful memories indeed!

rachelle siegrist at tin fish in okeechobeeHaydyn and I test out the Tin Fish truck

rachelle siegrist riding a 4-wheelerHappy . . . Happy . . . Happy!

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~ Rachelle