Smoky Mountain Field School Celebrates 38 Years of Educational Adventures!

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Smoky Mountain Field School staff and students at LeConte Lodge on June 20, 2015.

The Smoky Mountain Field School Celebrates 38 Years of Educational Adventures in 2015! Which exciting adventure are you going to claim as your own this year? Here’s just a few of the many popular programs along with some brand-new workshops and activities that you’ll want to check out!

The University of Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came together in 1977 to form the highly successful Smoky Mountain Field School. High-quality weekend workshops, hikes and other adventures are taught by UT professors, naturalists, and other experts at many locations in and around the National Park. Courses are considered non-credit personal development.

Saturday, August 15, 2015 @ 9:30 amsmoky-mountain-field-school-logo-heysmokies
The Calderwood History Tour with Bill Landry
Join the host of the Emmy award-winning Heartland Series, Bill Landry as he takes you on the “Dragon Tour” of scenic Highway 129 visiting Chilhowee, Abrahms Creek, Tallassee, and Calderwood. Not a lot hiking on this tour, but you can bet there’ll be a whole lot of gabbing! Bring a sack lunch and enjoy the day exploring the ways and sayings of southern Appalachia with the Smokies’ favorite storyteller. (Cost $79)

Saturday, August 29, 2015 @ 10:00 am
Care and Release of Orphaned and Injured Bear Cubs with Coy Blair
Coy Blair, biologist with Appalachian Bear Rescue, shares the rehabilitation process for orphaned and injured black bears. Blair shares the mission of the organization, safety and veterinary care, work-up techniques, and stories of successful releases into the wilderness. (Cost $79)

Saturday, September 12, 2015
Understanding the Black Bear with Joel Zachry
Zachry is a biologist and author of Bears We’ve Met – Short Stories of Close Encounters. Additionally, he’s spent time guiding hikes in Alaska’s black and brown bear country. This course offers you the opportunity to learn about black bear habitat and life in the Smoky Mountains. Class includes an easy-to-moderate hike to explore den sites, foods and other interesting facts about the elusive black bear. (Cost $79)

Saturday, September 15, 2015 @ 9:30 am
Cades Cove History Tour with Bill Landry
Spend another delightful day with Bill Landry, the popular author of Appalachian Tales & Heartland Adventures, in beautiful Cades Cove. Landry will spin tales of the original settlers, bringing them to life in the telling of their early adventures in the mountains. Pack a lunch and get ready for a little walking and talking with a historian and master storyteller. (Cost $79)

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Saturday, October 17, 2015 @ 10:00 am
Bears of Our Smokies with Joey Holt
It’s seems that everyone this year has gone “bear crazy” so the Smoky Mountain Field School is meeting our need for all things bears with another informative course taught by expert outdoorsman Joey Holt. As a board member of Appalachian Bear Rescue, Holt has a unique knowledge of bears in the Great Smoky Mountains. Join him for a beautiful autumn hike to learn how to identify bear tracks and trails, and other often overlooked signs. (Cost $79)

Saturday, October 31, 2015 @ 9:00 am
Mt. LeConte Hike and Overnight in the Lodge with Arthur “Butch” McDade & Brad Knight
Historic LeConte Lodge is the only lodging available in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has been a popular destination for hikers and backpackers since the 1920’s. At 6,000 feet in elevation the five-mile hike is strenuous, but you’ll enjoy the rustic accommodations and hearty meals at the Lodge. Instuctor “Butch” McDade is a 30 year veteran of the National Park Service and author of two books, The Natural Arches of the Big South Fork and Old Smoky Mountain Days. Brad Knight is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, naturalist, and founder of HeySmokies.com. Join them for an unforgettable experience on the mountain. (Cost $195)

For a complete list of available 2015 Courses, visit Smoky Mountain Field School. For more information on the Smoky Mountain Field School, email smfs@utk.edu or call 865-974-0150.

Smoky Mountain Field School’s LeConte Lodge Overnight Hike Travelogue June, 2015

The Smoky Mountain Field School guided a group of 18 students of various ages on an overnight hike to the lodge on Mt. LeConte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on June 20, 2015. Mt. LeConte is the highest vertical rise and the third highest peak in Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 6,593 above sea level.
The hike began at the Alum Cave Bluff Trailhead on Newfound Gap Road (Hwy. 441 South). The forecast for this last day of spring called for rain in the mountains. The students met field school instructors Brad Knight, Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, naturalist and founder of HeySmokies.com, and Chris Hoge, expert guide with The Wildland Trekking Co., only minutes before the rain began to fall. The group had an orientation talk on trail safety and etiquette and then stepped into the wilderness to begin their adventure. The hike up Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave trail is five miles and climbs nearly 3,000 feet. It is a hiker favorite because of the many dramatic views appearing like windows in the forest.
The group paused at the popular stone formation Arch Rock to discuss the unique geology of the Anakeesta shale formation which comprises the bulk of Mt. LeConte. Arch Rock is a tunnel-like opening in the  mountain created by eons of freezing and thawing erosion. The hikers passed through the arch via a steep, stone staircase to reach the summit. The instructors paused to point out many varieties of native plants and the improvements that dedicated volunteers have been making to the trail this year.Soon the group was afforded an amazing view of Little Duck Hawk Mountain where Peregrine Falcons roost. The Little Duck Hawk ridge has experienced the effects of fracturing erosion and windows have appeared in its crest. The windows came and went from view as rain and clouds blew in from the southeast. The group hiked on in the rain with the promise of a lunch break not far ahead.
Near the halfway point the hikers stopped at Alum Cave Bluff for lunch. Knight described the history and geologic significance of Alum Cave which is more akin to a rock house, a large rock overhang, than an actual cave. The bluff offered welcome shelter from the storm as the group watched it pass.
After a few more miles, the hikers reached the summit and LeConte Lodge by mid-afternoon. The mountain was shrouded in clouds with only brief glimpses of the valley below. Everyone was thrilled to be on top of the mountain, especially after enjoying hot coffee and cocoa. Once settled into their cabins the students had a few hours to explore on their own before dinner. Many hiked the .2 miles to the Cliff Tops view while a few trekked the .7 miles on to Myrtle Point (arguably the best place in the Smokies to view sunrise). Everyone was amazed at the beauty of this mountain island in the clouds!
There was no mistaking the sound of the ringing iron triangle beckoning hungry hikers to the dining hall for dinner. The professional staff of the lodge served up all-you-can-eat roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, peaches, spiced apples, cornbread and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Over the delicious meal everyone compared hiking stories and shared the things they love about the Smokies. After dinner, a fog engulfed the mountain and the hikers gathered on the cabin porches to talk into the night. The nearly 100 year-old history of Leconte Lodge was one of the many topics delved into and soon the day on the mountain was drawing to an end. Midnight marked the summer solstice as the temperature dipped to 55 degrees.
In the morning the group enjoyed coffee and eagerly awaited the call of the iron triangle. Upon its chime, hungry guests stampeded the dining hall to find the staff had set the tables with all-you-can-eat pancakes with hot syrup, ham, eggs, grits, cathead biscuits, apple butter, and fruit. No one left  hungry and all made sure to heartily thank the new lodge caretaker, Ruthie Puckett, and her attentive staff.
After waddling out of the dining hall and taking a few last photos everyone readied their gear. Goodbye to the summit for now; the group turned back down toward the real world and civilization. The first day of summer provided much improved weather. In minutes the hikers were below the clouds and the views were striking. They stopped many times to soak up the sun, savor their lunches, and enjoy the day. Back at the trailhead with the mountain behind them, they all agreed it was a wonderful trip.
“I have a terrific sense of accomplishment and memories to last a lifetime,” said a student from Alabama, “I hope to return to LeConte again and again!”

Check out this great video from our hike to Mt. LeConte this summer!

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