Little Greenbrier School

The old school at Little Greenbrier (Great Smo...

The old school at Little Greenbrier (Great Smoky Mountains), built ca. 1880 by the community’s residents. The walls are made of hewn yellow poplar logs with dove-tail notches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you recognize this structure?  If you do it means you’ve been into the back side of the park near Metcalf Bottoms and have spent some time in Little Greenbrier School. Little Greenbrier School is where the kids from the area were taught how to read and write in the winters in the early 1900’s. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to get to the school, it was hard enough getting there in a car on roads provided by the park service!

You can find this little gem of a building by getting to Metcalf Bottoms in the park, and following the river road. Ask at the visitor’s center, they will know the best way into this area. Be prepared though, the gravel road is two-way but can only accommodate the width of one car, so you may have to back up if you meet another vehicle. Just one of those interesting things to talk about after your trip.

Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse

Notice the width of the boards used to build the schoolhouse. They were milled from nearby Tulip Poplar trees which can grow to be very large. There aren’t any trees this size in the park anymore, but they were put to good use by the area settlers.

In addition to the schoolhouse there is an old cemetery and a hiking trail to Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. Definitely worth the trip.

Useful Links:


Sugarlands Visitor Center Movie

A visit to the Sugarlands visitor center to see the movie is a must in my opinion.  I’ve seen it twice and would see it again on my next trip.  The movie is a great introduction to the history of the park and the biodiversity.

The movie is about 20 minutes long and they play it at least once an hour.  After you see the movie you will have a better understanding of the park and an idea of what you want to visit in the park.

On occasion they show other movies.  Stop at any visitors center and ask a ranger.  When we were there they were showing a movie at 1pm about the Civil War in the area.  I’m sure there are other movies and I’m going to try to see more of them on our future visits.

View from the paved trail near Sugarlands Visitor Center

If you can, please drop money in the collection box – there is no admission to the park and your donations will help maintain this beauty.

And just for fun – here is a link to the live webcam at Purchase Knob.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountains National Park Visitors Center

Sugarlands Paved Trail

Are you planning a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park?  Or maybe you are living vicariously through other’s adventures in the Smoky Mountains?  Whatever the case may be the National Park Service provides a terrific online website with loads of information about planning your trip and visiting the park.

There are actually four visitors centers in the park any of which will be helpful during your trip. In addition there are four other park information locations in Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend.

My favorite visitors center, and probably the busiest, is Sugarlands. They have a 20 minute movie about the park, from initial concept through to today’s relevance.  The movie chronicles park history, people of the Smokies, natural habitats and the varied plants and animals in the park. I think it is worth the visit and plan to see it again this week.

There is a hike that starts right from Sugarlands and takes you to a waterfall, a good way to warm up those muscles for other more vigorous hikes in the park. There are live park presentations just about every day, and the information about this is available at Sugarlands.

Want to hike in the park but you need easy accessibility?  There is an accessible paved trail not far from Sugarlands Visitor Center which takes you right along a river – beautiful. Look for the bear prints left behind when the concrete trail was created!


Cabin Rentals

Do you need a place to stay when you are vacationing in the Gatlinburg area?  How about a stay in your very own log cabin?

Check out this video for Jackson Mountain Homes, a Gatlinburg cabin rental company.  The video also shows some of the Gatlinburg area.

The cost is comparable to a nice hotel room, but the amenities are much better!  You have your own home which equals privacy, a full kitchen, hot tub, fireplace, front porch with rockers and a grill, pool table and/or other games for entertainment.

Southern Serenity is a cabin you can rent through Jackson Mountain Homes.  Bonus – you can even bring your canine companion!

Not so common Things to Do in Gatlinburg

Are you the traveler that likes to go off the beaten path?  You’re always looking for things to do that aren’t mainstream, or can be a real challenge?  This is the post for you then.  Here are some things to do in or near the Smoky Mountain Park that are perhaps less popular, and therefore roads less traveled.

  1. Hike to Mt. LeConte  – Like to hike? Want to stay someplace you can only get to on foot?  Go to Mt. LeConte Lodge. If you only have a day you can just do lunch up there, but call ahead for a reservation to make sure they can feed you.
  2. Elk Viewing – See the Elk in Cataloochee Valley in the southeastern area of the park. Make a day of it and plan to travel slow. The only way into the valley is winding gravel roads.
  3. Backpacking – Hike deep into the park and camp. Make sure to get a permit and plan your trip well. Contact the park service before doing any extensive hikes.
  4. Cherokee, NC – When people think of Smoky Mountain National Park they think Gatlinburg, but the entrance at the south end of the park is through Cherokee, NC. A city with a history. Take a day trip to Cherokee and see what they have to offer.
  5. Hikes, Fishing, Scenic Drives – See the park service website for ‘Off the Beaten Path‘ suggestions.

Tulip Trees and Photography

Tulip Tree off the front porch of Southern Serenity

We attended “Taking Better Photos” which is a photography class conducted by Jim Eastin – it was fabulous!!  All 6 of our group loved the class and we definitely learned a lot about how to get more from our cameras.  In addition to the tips about photography Jim fills you in on Park history and the local flora and fauna.

Turns out we have Tulip trees right off the front porch of Southern Serenity.  Tulip trees grow very tall, the tallest in the eastern US.  The tallest recorded is 179 feet.  These trees  were important to the Smoky Mountain settlers, they provided long, straight trunks to use for milling the lumber that would create their homes and farm buildings.  You may know them as some kind of poplar, but I will forever remember them as Tulip trees now.

Take the photo class, it’s worth every penny.  And remember to seek out these majestic trees and appreciate their role in local history when you hike the Smoky Mountains.

Old Trees

You can find them at the Chimneys picnic area in the park.  I’m told this part of the Smoky Mountain National Park has some of the oldest trees in the park, virgin hardwoods.

It was a beautiful day when I visited.  It was a little chilly but most importantly it was foggy.  So when you walked through the forest it was very quiet, as if you were in a room created by fog with just trees all around.  Very few people were there, it was an ethereal experience.  The trees and the fog made for some fun snapshots.