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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Only One Hike?!

Well, it was one of the strangest RV trips we've taken yet.  Truck trouble meant we never reached our intended destination but arrived in the Smokies a week early instead.  Sounded kinda sweet, but then fate stepped in again and instead of getting an extra week there we got a little less than a week at all.  Just because you're on vacation life does not stop.  Vehicles need maintenance, both of us struggled with a virus we are still fighting and tragedy struck back at home.  I did manage to get one hike in with my Smokies buddy, Sharon.

She took me to Metcalf Bottoms Trail for a pleasant stroll to Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters Home.  At just under 3 miles round trip it was a good length for a morning hike before hitting the road for a 5 hour drive.

old homestead site marked by stones and purposeful plantings

There was a little bit of a steep climb at the beginning but it was mostly level.  The birds were singing and the lack of much elevation gain made it easy for us to talk, talk, talk.

Mostly we talked about our disappointment in not getting to go on some more hikes together, but we do have that trip to Kentucky coming up and yesterday I dug out my research.  Lots of good hiking in the Red River Gorge area and I can't wait to get started!

creek crossing by Little Greenbrier School

The Little Greenbrier School was built in 1882 and among those who helped build it was John Walker, father of the Walker Sisters.  It was used continuously as a school and church until 1936.

Lots of small branches littered the trail as evidence of all the rain and wind the area had been receiving, but we did come across one large section of maple tree that came down smack in the middle of the trail too. It was easier to get around than it might seem.  See that walking stick Sharon is holding?  It's the one I bought earlier this year.  I finally remembered to bring it and still haven't used it because I gave it to her to use.

When the Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission tried to purchase the property from the five Walker sisters who owned it in the 1930's they refused to sell.   The sisters raised sheep, grew corn and cotton, plowed their own fields, and made their own clothes from the wool and cotton they raised.

Walker sisters' home

Finally, in late 1940, faced with a condemnation suit, the Walker sisters accepted $4,750 for their land, provided they were "allowed to reserve a life estate and the use of the land for and during the life of the five sisters."  Fearing backlash for appearing heartless the offer was accepted.

Walker home interior

For many years the sisters welcomed visitors to their homestead, but in 1953 the two remaining sisters wrote this letter to the superintendent of the park:

Dear Sir

I have a request to you Will you please have the Sign a bout the Walker Sisters taken down the one on High Way 73 especilay the reason I am asking this there is just 2 of the sisters lives at the old House place one is 70 years of age the other is 82 years of age and we can't receive so many visitors We are not able to do our Work and receive so many visitors, and can't make sovioners to sell like we once did and people will be expecting us to have them, last year we had so many people it kept us buisy from Sun up till sun down besides our own work We haven't bin feling very well this winter can't do much at our best. I write poems to sell but cant write very well I use to write of winter but I havent bin able to do much for the 2 last ones My Brother is in the Hospital and cant stay with us much We mis his help We have a Grant Nephew and his wife with us now There was 5 of us living here when we began to receive visitors and we enjoyed meeting so many nice people from different places from every state in the union and many out side, some of them came every time they came to the park, there was more of us and we were more able to care for things, they bought things from us and made it easier to have spinding money. they buy things yet if we was abel to fix them but it is to confining on us now with no more help if we get to feeling better or get till we can receive them a gain we may want to receive them a gain but we want to rest a while it is to much work for us now. Come visit us if you have time.

Very Respectively
The Walker Sisters
Margaret and Louisa

Sharon shared with me that she loves this spot and the fact that people were living their lives here so simply during her lifetime.  She comes here often with a lunch and we sat on the bench and shared a snack together...after she thumped the bench a few times to make sure no snakes were hiding in it.  And here I am walking around not thumping things to check for snakes.  Something else to try to remember.

I'm going to be lazy and not look up the fungus I found on a branch in the leaf litter above.

orange jelly fungus - witches butter maybe?
Or the one pictured below.  Feel free to chime in if you know what it is!

Well, that's it for our brief time in the Smokies.  Wayne was already talking about "the next time" as we were leaving.  I think the next time we're staying on the North Carolina side and doing that zipline at the NOC in Bryson City.  Doesn't mean we won't stay in Townsend again too!


  1. What an amazing story about the sisters. It must have been a beautiful place to live

  2. Love the story about the sisters! How cool to know a bit of the history - love going to historical places and learning more about how life "used" to be!

  3. It really would have been interesting to meet the sisters. Like stepping back in time. Cool letter, too.