Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains

“I’m done walking,” Sam declared solemnly, and he stopped. After mountain hikes the two previous days, the prospect yet another overwhelmed him.

On Monday, Lisa and I, and seven of our ten children hiked to the summit of Clingman’s Dome. At 6643 feet, it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. To be clear, we drove most of the way. 90 minutes after leaving Gatlinburg, we were standing at the beginning of the trail. To the observation tower is a walk of one half mile – and the path is paved – so how difficult could it be? Serious hikers with sturdy boots and walking sticks jockeyed for position with parents in running shoes pushing strollers and teenagers in flip flops.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hiking at Conkle's Hollow

Conkle’s Hollow is a gorge – 200-300 feet wide and half a mile long. Its Blackhand sandstone cliffs rise almost vertically, 200 feet straight up. The wind and rain have created many recesses and small caves in the sandstone.

Legend has it that one of these recesses still contains the booty of a Shawnee Indian raid of an Ohio River paddleboat. After the Shawnee relieved the passengers of their valuables, they made their way north. A posse trailed the raiding party straight into the dead end cliffs of Conkle’s Hollow. The Shawnee cut down a giant Hemlock, and let it fall against the cliff wall. They climbed up the tree and hid the loot in a small recess. They climbed down and pushed the tree over. The plan was to return when the posse had left, fell another hemlock to use as a ladder, and take the loot at their leisure. But the small party was captured just outside the hollow. They were hanged without telling anyone where they hid the loot.