Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!

The high altitude scarlet beauty Mountain Ash is exhilarating!

Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of leaves, pure white buds and blossoms in late spring followed by bright red edible berries in the fall, a tree that lives for up to 200 years and has the added (albeit folklorish) benefit of protecting us against evil spirits?  Then meet the mountain ash, also known by its more romantic European name, the Rowan tree.

The first thing to know is that the mountain ash is not an ash tree at all.  While the ash is a very large tree, the mountain ash varies greatly in size, according to the growing conditions, but tends to be much smaller (no more than 10 – 20 feet tall) than the towering ash and belongs to a completely different botanical family—namely, the rose!  Indeed, the mountain ash is often so small that it is thought to be a shrub instead of a tree.  It does, however, have a compound leaf similar to that of the ash (only smaller and with fewer leaflets), which is the apparent source of confusion.

The variety of mountain ash that grows in the Smoky Mountains is the American mountain-ash (Sorbus americanus), which is very similar in nearly every respect to its European cousin (Sorbus aucuparia).  The berries of both varieties often last through the entire winter into blossom time the next spring and thus provide an important source of food for wildlife, especially birds which play an important role is spreading the indigestible seeds of the mountain-ash.  In England the berries, which are inedible raw, are cooked into a jam or combined with apples in a chutney and served with wild game and other meats.

The tree itself is very rugged and adaptable thriving in the Southern Appalachians.  While it prefers a rich, well-drained soil, it will grow in nearly all soils, including our stubborn East Tennessee red clay, compensating for any lack of nutrition it encounters by simply adjusting its size.

In the British Isles the rowan tree is associated with many aspects of Celtic folklore and Christian traditions.  Both Celts and Christians believed that the tree provides those close by with protection against various evils, especially witches.  Hence, rowan branches were often fastened to the lintels of cottage windows and doors as well as over barn doors (for witches especially loved the prank of souring cows’ milk).  Rowan trees were also planted in cottage and church yards for protection.  The fact that rowan trees often grow in mountainous areas was also thought to drive witches from their favorite habitat, although the real reason seems to be that browsing animals, especially deer and elk, love rowan saplings and so devour those growing in the valleys.

During Candlemas (February 2—the traditional midpoint of winter) residents of the English Westlands (Thomas Hardy country) place crosses made of rowan twigs tied with red yarn about their houses to banish the dark of winter and welcome the coming light and warmth of spring.  In Ireland the rowan tree is associated with St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland, whose feast day is February 1st.

The mountain ash lives so long, at least in part, because it has no pests or diseases that assail it.  Deer, however, do browse on its leaves—a point to keep in mind if you plan to grow a mountain ash in your yard.

Whether for cultural or botanical purposes, the mountain ash is a native tree well worth considering for our own properties, both to add beauty and provide for wildlife.

Mountain Ash can be found be found in many popular high elevation destinations in the Smoky Mountains such as Mount LeConte and Clingmans Dome in addition to our sister national park the Blue Ridge Parkway.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

 

Sources:

http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/mtnash.html

https://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/mythology-folklore/rowan2/

Laurel Falls Trailhead Closure

Laurel Falls Trail Closure
Laurel Falls Trail Closure

Laurel Falls Trailhead closure will begin Monday, November 7, 2022 and end Thursday, November 17, 2022. A geotechnical crew will be conducting a survey during the closure. The walking path will be closed to all use Monday through Thursday during the survey period. The trail will be open to hikers on Friday but there may be work in progress.

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Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories

The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in stories of the supernatural.

The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in stories of the supernatural.

Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories. The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in strange and unexplainable occurrences that some say are supernatural. We have heard these tales in our exploration of the region and there is no better time than All Hallow’s Ever to share a few of them.

The Specter of Old Greenbrier Restaurant

It is only a short drive from the heart of Gatlinburg to one of the most haunted spots in the Smokies. The old Greenbrier Restaurant at 370 Newman Road hosts one of the most famous ghosts in the Smokies. The facility opened it doors as a lodge in 1939. Not long afterward, a young resident named Lydia was jilted by her fiancé- a heartless betrayal done literally at the altar of a local church. The young bride-to-be was humiliated and despondent. Still clad in her wedding finery, she returned to the Greenbrier, tossed a rope over one of the rafters and hung herself.

Only a few days later, in an ironic twist of fate, her heartless fiancé’s body was discovered. The young man had been horribly mauled by what some say might have been a large mountain cat, but locals contended that such a cat was long since extinct in the mountains. The mystery remains but through the years many have surmised that it was Lydia’s vengeful spirit that exacted a dreadful revenge on her faithless lover.

Although the restaurant has recently remodeled the actual beam where the unfortunate young woman hung herself is visible in the restaurant’s bar. For decades diners have reported seeing a bereft looking young woman on the staircase below where Lydia hung herself; while others report a brief chilling presence wafting through the site. The restaurant is noted for its good food and that is reason enough to visit-but keep an eye over your shoulder for Lydia’s pale misty figure lingering on the stairs.

The Devil’s Courthouse

The Devil’s Courthouse is a sinister name for a barren rock face cliff that shelters a small cave. Legend has it (or at least tales handed down from early settlers that were inspired by the rock’s foreboding visage) that the Devil himself once held court in that cave. The story is perhaps enhanced by early Cherokee tales of the god, Judaculla, who was said to live in the cave. According to Cherokee legend the slant-eyed giant Judaculla shook the surrounding hills with a voice of thunder and pelted low valleys with arrows of lightning. The Devil’s Courthouse is found on a short drive down our sister national park, Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Haint of Roaring Fork

Waterfalls are not the only attraction of Roaring Fork Motor Trail, whose entrance is located in downtown Gatlinburg, A picturesque drive, the trail offers spectacular views, waterfalls, great hikes and perhaps an eerie chance encounter. According to local legends, a lovely young woman named Lucy died in a cabin fire near the trail sometime around 1909. A short time later a man named Foster encountered a beautiful woman in the woods, fell in love with her, and sought out Lucy’s parents to gain approval for his courtship. Imagine his horror when they informed him that Lucy had died the year before. If you are very brave take a twilight drive around this scenic loop, but, be warned, if you encounter a beautiful pale woman on the side of the road near the remains of a burned cabin- DO NOT offer her a ride.

Ghostly Lantern

The Noland Creek area has numerous abandoned homesteads and cemeteries that bear the name of many pioneers that settled land that now lies under the deep waters of Lake Fontana. You can imagine sad stories of lost land, homes and gravesites associated with this place. One such features an early farmer who died while searching for his lost daughter. This story gave rise to the legend of an eerie lantern that is said to appear and guide lost hikers to safety at the trailhead. Most decidedly a scary, but welcome sight, on a dark cold night in the vast forest!

Huggins Hell

Trail maps of the Smokies offer up many strange place names, some of which conjure images of Dante’s Inferno. Huggins Hell, located on the steep slope of Mt. LeConte in East Tennessee, occupies a sinister, foreboding landscape. The site was named by early settlers, who perhaps decided that only the Devil himself would choose such a forsaken landscape. Inaccessible by maintained trails, the site draws rugged backcountry enthusiast with a taste for a challenging hike, and those who make the 4-hour vertical climb do it at their own peril. A misstep on one of the steep cliffs could be disastrous and since the area is not listed on authorized trail guides the odds of someone finding you or help arriving quickly is questionable.

Many adventurers entering the wild back country of the Southern Appalachians have disappeared from time to time. Some are found and some are legend. Take our advice, stay on marked trails and avoid encounters of the supernatural, or more importantly the caprices of Mother Nature.

The Cherokee legend of Spearfinger is cursed with constant hunger. Photo credit - Goodman Darkness

The Cherokee legend, Spearfinger, is cursed with constant hunger. Photo credit – Goodman Darkness

Spearfinger

One of the oldest tales in the Smoky Mountains is the Cherokee legend of Spearfinger famous along the eastern side of Tennessee and western North Carolina. Her Cherokee name, U’tlun’ta translates to “she had it sharp” referring to a sharp finger on her right hand which was said to resemble a spear or obsidian knife. Spearfinger was a horrifying sight – her mouth stained with the blood from the livers of her victims and a stone-clad body. According to legend, when Spearfinger walked her stone body sounded like rolling thunder. The stone clothing came from a time when Spearfinger upset the “higher beings” by building a soaring “tree rock” bridge in a brash attempt to reach their domain. The “higher beings” struck down the bridge with a gigantic lightning bolt and cloaked Spearfinger in the rock and rubble. Today, it is said, the remains of Spearfinger’s “tree rock” is located in the area Nantahala. The Cherokee name for this place U’Tluntun’yi which means “the Spearfinger Place.” The next time you hear a loud clap of thunder on a clear mountain day you might want to pick up your pace and move far away from Spearfinger’s “hood.”

Wheatland Plantation

Wheatland’s Plantation in Sevierville has perhaps the bloodiest history in the Smokies. The Battle of Boyd’s Creek is the spot where Cherokee, supported by Redcoats, fought against John Sevier and the East Tennessee Revolutionists. Bodies of 28 Cherokee and two Revolutionary heroes, who died in the battle, are said to be buried in a mass grave on the property. A nearby cemetery is the final resting place for some 69 African slaves. According to legend, 70 murders and deaths are attributed to the property. It is said that the blood, still visible, on the living room floor marks the spot where a father was murdered by his son centuries ago. Such tragic events left a legacy of unquiet spirits that may still roam the halls of the historical site.

A Smoky Mountain poet was inspired by the season of haunted hikes and submitted this chilling poem.

Once upon a midnight dreary, as I hiked alone and weary,

searching for a lost  blazed path.

While I stumbled, nearly falling, a scream rang out that was quite apalling.

A foreboding castle perched on a nearby hill, shrieks rent the night and parted the clouds – then only silence as bats took flight.

I hurried past, with no glance back; crossed a stream and dropped my pack.

It was drenched and cold but I shrugged it on, setting off again to try and find home.

 A strange house appeared in the next small cove, a wondrous place with gingerbread walls, a refuge I thought then neared for a look. The kitchen glowed with fire in the oversize oven. The cook inside was straight from a coven. Inside were cages suspended from hooks.

 I backed away slowly and continued my trek.

A cloak of darkness slowed my pace; just as hollow footsteps joined mine in this awful place. A lumbering giant shuffled near, his outstretched arms brushed me aside and I fell to the ground as he slowly went by.

What horrors remain,” I sobbed to myself, as the full moon pierced the darkness from behind dense clouds bringing a dreadful howl from an unearthly wolf.

I ran through the brambles and slogged through the mud,  then,

What wondrous sight do I see ahead?” It’s my home nothing further to dread.

I fell through the door and shut out the night, threw the deadbolt and locked it quite tight.

My shaking fingers untied mud-encrusted boots – I laid my slimy, dripping pack on the floor, and thought myself safe.

From a darkened hall came a voice straight from hell, it chilled my blood and turned me quite pale, The most horrifying sound I had heard on this night.

I thought it familiar and soon came to know she had heard me arrive when I fell at the door. With a voice, quite satanic, Mom bellowed out loud “Wipe your feet I just mopped that floor!

 

Do you have a spooky Smoky Mountain experience to share? Send it to us and we may feature it the next time things go bump in the night.

Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe

Smoky Mountain Southern Mac and cheese is the perfect dish for your comfort food cravings!

Smoky Mountain Southern Mac and cheese is the perfect dish for your comfort food cravings!

Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe is the perfect side dish for any meal and sometimes it is a great meal all by itself. All you need is a pot and a stove to make this treat. This recipe is perfect for the holidays or any time you are in the mood for some Southern comfort food.

Each time we make this recipe we are reminded of the first time we cooked it up. It was a cold, January day in the Smoky Mountains. Snow blanketed the hills and a wet chill had seeped into our bones during a long hike. Icicles hung low from the roof when we returned home and a fierce wind shook the house. We were in the mood for something that not only tasted great but would also lift our spirits. While raiding the pantry we discovered all the ingredients needed to make this simple, savory dish. We rolled up our sleeves, grabbed a cheese grater and the rest is history. The first taste brought a smile to our face and a warm, full feeling to our bellies. Needless to say there were no leftovers!

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups of pasta (elbows or shells)

12 ounce can of evaporated milk

1 1/2 cups of whole (sweet) milk

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of shredded cheese (we love a combination of extra sharp cheddar and aged Swiss)

Directions:

Combine the pasta, evaporated milk, milk, and salt together in a large pot. Bring ingredients to a boil until the milk is almost completely absorbed by the pasta. It should take about twelve minutes to absorb the milk. After the bulk of the liquid has been absorbed add the butter and shredded cheese. Stir until the butter and cheese have completely melted. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. We also like a dash of cayenne pepper to take it to a  another level!

Bonus HeySmokies culinary tip: Adding a dash of fresh ground nutmeg will have your friends begging you for the secret ingredient.

We can’t take all the credit for this scrumptious dish but we always will take another heaping helping. Big thanks to Ms. Haymaker and busy bee who always bring love to the kitchen!

 

Smoky Mountain Hunters Full Moon

smoky mountain full hunters moon HeySmokies.com
Smoky mountain full hunters moon HeySmokies.com

Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon. Most of the time, the full moon isn’t completely full. We always see the same side of the moon and part of it is in shadow. When the moon, earth and sun are perfectly aligned is the moon completely full and this alignment produces a lunar eclipse. Occasionally the full moon appears twice in one month and this is called a blue moon. The next full moon will occur on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 at 4:54p.m. EDT, but the moon will appear full the night before and after its peak to the casual stargazer.

This full Moon is often referred to as the Full Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon. Native Americans named this bright Moon because the leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead.

Fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. Probably because of the threat of winter looming close, the Hunter’s Moon is generally accorded with special honor, historically serving as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.