This is an old photo that I had taken in Wear’s Valley while on the way to Pigeon Forge a few years ago. If there is one thing I love about heading to the Smokies first thing of the morning, it’s to see the fog billowing over the mountains.
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A few days ago, K & I went on an unexpectedly nice hike. Which is not to say we weren’t expecting the hike to be nice, it’s just that it was nice in unexpected ways. We walked the Little Greenbrier Trail from Wear Cove Gap and then took the Little Brier Gap Trail to Metcalf Bottoms. We more or less arbitrarily picked this trek because we didn’t have a lot of time (we went after K got off work around 4:00 or so), so we chose a short hike on a trail relatively close to us.
At first, it was simply a pleasant hike with some nice views of the mountains and some a panoramic view of Wears Valley, which really would have been enough. It was what we were expecting and looking forward to. But, after we turned on Little Briar Gap Trail, we found a lot of fascinating sights along the way.
First of all, we came across a trail with a sign letting us know that the Walker Sisters cabin was that way. We decided to go check it out.
At the time, we didn’t know much about the Walker Sisters, other that there are always tons of books about them at all of the Smoky Mountains National Park visitors centers and gift shops. Since then, we looked them up a little and they were pretty awesome.
That’s the homestead where the five spinster Walker sisters all lived until their deaths. When the National Parks Service was creating Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s, they had to buy up the property to form the park from whoever owned it at the time, but the Walker sisters did not want to sell. They had no intention of leaving their home. Ultimately, the Parks Service and the Walkers came to a compromise: the sisters would sell their land for the park on the condition that they could continue living their for the rest of their lives. The last Walker sister didn’t die until the mid-1960s, and for all those years, they continued living in the small cabin which had no electricity or indoor plumbing. They were definitely some tough old broads who had no intention of selling out, whether it was to the Parks Service or to the mod cons of the industrial age.
This is the Walker sisters’ refrigerator, aka the springhouse. It’s the building to the far left in the above picture of the whole yard. It’s a little building with a stone floor and a creek running through it. And it was indeed noticeably cooler than the outside air.
The cabin consists of two sections: a small, one-room single-story cabin and a larger two-story section built onto the original structure. The two buildings don’t have a door leading from one to the other. The porch has two doors leading to the two separate rooms.
The door to the right leads to the smaller room, which the Walkers used as a kitchen.
There was this bunch of random junk on a shelf in the kitchen. I guess it was left by the last Walker sister, but I don’t know for sure.
The kitchen has a nice sized fireplace, but there’s an even larger one in the main room of the cabin. This is it:
This ladder leads up to the second story, which is another large open room:
The third and final structure on the Walker property (in the middle, back behind a bush in the picture above) is the corn crib, which was apparently more of a catch-all storage shed than a corn storage facility.
We didn’t know anything about the building while we were there, and we were pretty perplexed by it. That little window on the ride side you can see there? That’s the only way in and out of the structure. But it’s like two feet off the ground. We thought it might have been some sort of chicken coop maybe, since it had a latch on the window/door. But no, it’s just a strange door leading into a strange little building.
After leaving the Walker property, we came across several interesting and kind of scary sights along the trail. First was this:
If you can’t read that, it says “NPS WILD HOG TRAP DO NOT DISTURB” and it is, indeed, a wild hog trap. Apparently the parks have been having problems with wild boars lately. And those are animals you do not want to meet. And the signs of wild boars did not end there. Next we saw this:
This is a weird burrow off the side of the trail where a boar has been using its tusks to forage. And it’s a pretty huge burrow, which to us indicated a pretty huge boar. Finally, we started seeing a lot of these:
There were tons of rocks in the trail with these scratches which seem to have come from boar tusks. So, the rest of our hike was spent with the spectre of a possible wild boar sighting/attack looming over us, but we didn’t let that spoil our fun.
There was still a lot to see nature-wise along the trail, particularly a little stream with small waterfalls scattered here and there all along the way.
A little later, we came upon the Little Greenbrier School, which was built by the Walker sisters’ father (who also built their home). And next to the school was a little graveyard, which seemed like it would have been kind of depressing for the kids going to school there.
The desks were all still in the school, but unfortunately the whole place (desks, walls, floor) was covered with graffiti and carvings of all sorts. That’s one more nice thing about the Walker sisters’ property: since it’s not as near a road or camping area as this school happens to be, it has almost no graffiti. Some of the school’s graffiti was recent, but some of them might have dated back to when it was an actual functioning school.
This carving from 1929 was on the door. Or at least is says 1929. I guess I could carve any old date I wanted in the wall, 1776, 1492, whatever, but it wouldn’t make it actually that year. Oh well.
After the school, we went through Metcalf Bottoms to the picnic area. The picnic area is alongside a picturesque river. We took a few photos here, but by that time it was getting quite late and the pictures didn’t come out too well. After Metcalf Bottoms, it was a short walk up the road back to the trailhead where we started from. Between the various trails we walked, we walked somewhere between three-and-a-half and four miles. And we managed to do it all without being killed and eaten by wild boars.