Smoky Mountain Hiking History

I get lost in the research sometimes and having the chance to just spend hours looking through old documents photos and publications really makes my imagination wonder. I spent the better part of the week doing some research into the background of Look Rock observation tower and it’s history of it being a hiking destination. I’m so lucky to be able to use the parks library located in the basement of the Sugarlands Visitor center, especially because many of the books are now being carted off to be kept at the new curatorial and archives building in the community of Townsend, which is quite a drive from park headquarters. The Park Librarian Michael Aday told me that I actually grabbed a bunch of my resources just in time because many of the books I need to write my NRHP nomination were going to be relocated. Michael also let me know about all of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club’s yearly programs that were stored at the library and go all the way back to the 1920’s. This was a great find for my report because I can establish the cultural significance of the site to the early outdoor recreational movement here in the Smokies.

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club JR Program

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club JR Program

Looking through the box of Smoky mountain Hiking Club programs was a treat. The programs reminded me of zines that you may find at a local info shop or art collective space. They were small format so that you could put it in your pocket or knapsack to easily carry on the trail. Each year the club would publish a program that contained the logistics and a description of various planned hikes through the year. Look Rock was often a destination for these outings and many times Look Rock was the destination of their post club election hike. Some of the earliest booklets I looked at were signed as the property of Horace Kephart (1862-1931) a travel writer and librarian, known for writing Our Southern Highlanders a book about his life in the Smokies, he was also an early member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club.
Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Program Look Rock

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Program Look Rock

The club was founded in 1924 to encourage visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Smokies and was open only to “reputable white people”. It was not until 1947 after the war that the club changed its membership policies so as to not discriminate on the bases of race of social class. In 1961 the first woman club president took office. Today the club continues to encourage folks to enjoy the hiking in the Smokies. On the front page of their website they feature a photo of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash, the first African American person in that role, he is wearing a Smoky Mountain Hiking Club t-shirt encouraging folks to get out and celebrate the National Parks Centennial, by hiking 100 miles in the park in 2016.
Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Program 1929

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Program 1929

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club MAP

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club MAP

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