Friday, February 13, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Elkmont

We've got a guest in town visiting all the way from New Mexico and so we decided that today would be a good day to head over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and do some exploring. A few months ago you may have seen a headline on Yahoo! that read "Hiker Discovers an Abandoned Town Inside Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park". The abandoned town referred to in the article was Elkmont, though the town was hardly rediscovered. The remains of the old Appalachian Club resort area lies just outside of the Elkmont Campground and would mark the site of today's exploration.

After a quick stop in Gatlinburg (our guest had to see the tourist trap that is Gatlinburg to believe it) for lunch at Five Guys and a quick sampling of moonshine at Sugarlands Distillery,
Tish Samples Moonshine
we headed away from the crowds and into the national park. We stopped at the visitor center and then made the short drive over to Elkmont. I believe that Noelle and I camped at the Elkmont Campground back in 2008, but we did not know about the old resort site back then. We drove to the trailhead for the Jake's Creek and Little River trails and started to explore.

We started out by walking along the paved road through the Daisy Town section of the Appalachian Club.
walking road
Immediately we were in the thick of the old resort structures. One of the first we stopped to look at was the old Hale Cabin.
old home
Tish on porch
Like many of the structures in the area, this one was posted with a "No Trespassing" sign.
no trespassing
However, there were a few structures without signs posted that we stepped inside for a quick look around, including the Cook Cabin next door.
old home 2
fireplace inside
We made our way down the road. Among the more interesting structures were the Levi Trentham Log Cabin
old cabin
and what Sierra called the "Rabbit House" which is actually called the "Adamless Eden".
rabbit house
Adamless Eden was a very small log structure that our friend Tish called a "Hobbit House". Sierra thought she had said rabbit house though, and so that's what we ended up calling it.

At the end of the road was the large, restored Appalachian Clubhouse.
Appalachian clubhouse
We stopped for a short break on the rocking chairs there,
Tish on porch (2)
before turning around to head back towards the car.
road and homes
Noelle and Sierra
On the way back we again admired, and even peeked inside some of the structures.
big cabin
old home 3
big old home
Near where we had parked we found another old building mouldering back to the earth. We decided to have a closer look. It turns out that we had stumbled upon the Society Hill section of the Appalachian Club. The buildings in Society Hill were in a much more dilapidated state than those in Daisy Town which it appears to me have been partially stabilized. We toured through the decay but did not dare go inside any of those structures.
looking off porch
home in bad shape

really bad shape

falling apart

As we made our way further up the road (actually the Jakes Creek Trail) we found more intriguing decay.
cabin and propane tank
tall home
another mouldering home
We stepped off the road for a bit to explore near the Kuhlman Cabin
white house
and Garage. Nearby we found a faint path that led to the old water supply for the resort
water tower
and a small dump site littered with what appeared to be wine bottles.
wine bottle
At this point we were at the end of the old resort site
decrepit sign
and so we started to make our way back to the car again.
Daddy and Sierra
As we approached the car we took a side road that led to a bridge
crossing bridge
over Jakes Creek
flowing creek
and then up to the Jakes Creek Cemetery.
Elkmont Cemetery
This was one of the most modern looking cemeteries I've seen inside the park boundary. Many of the graves were quite recent and some headstones did not even list a date of death on them which I guess means the intended burial is not yet deceased. By this time Sierra was getting quite tired and cranky and so we did not spend a whole lot of time there.

After doing some research it appears that we've just scratched the surface of what there is to explore in Elkmont. We did not make it to the Millionaire's Row or Wonderland Club sections of the old town. Needless to say, we will be back to explore this part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park some time in the near future!                                  

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