Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

More SMHC History
by  Paul Threlkeld

On March 15, 1986, Carol Coffey led 28 members and guests to Bob Stratton Bald to camp overnight and watch Haley's Comet come sailing across the sky. The idea being that up at 5,000 feet elevation we would be closer to the Comet and could see it better. Also, having no city lights around would help. As the "For the Record" says, "Those hikers who were not driven off the mountain by the half hour hail storm at noon, enjoyed fog, mud, cold, rain, starry skies at 2:00 AM, clouds at 5:00 AM which occluded views of the Comet and a warm sunny day". This hike definitely should be repeated next time Haley's Comet comes around.

For a while, during 1986, the Club had what was called Perambulation Hikes. There were four Perambulation Hikes during 1986. These were 'walk around' hikes centered on a special interest such as history, animals, flowers, birds, photography, etc. These were mainly short day hikes and were similar to our present day 'easy hikes'.

One sad event took place on July 15, 1979. The Club had a day hike to Cove Mountain from the Little Greenbrier. About 1/4 mile from the end of the hike Tom Duncan suffered a heart attack and died on the trail between the Walker Sisters Homestead and the Little Greenbrier School. Tom was an avid tennis player and was the veteran club member who prepared and distributed our 50 year Club History Book covering the period from 1924 to 1974.

Over the years the SMHC has supported or fought controversial issues. The basis for our support or opposition has generally been to lessen the impact on the backcountry to avoid the destruction of the fragile alpine environment. We supported the removal of Mt. LeConte Lodge and the Appalachian Trail shelters. We supported the abandonment of the one-way Parsons Branch road. We joined with other groups in urging abandonment of the summer cottages at Elkmont. We lost some environmental battles and won others. The effort goes on to lessen the impact of overuse of the wilderness. The Club Conservation Committee leads the way in these controversial activities, and is still working on the effort to have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park officially designated a wilderness area. 

The Club has gradually increased its responsibility for maintaining the Appalachian Trail from Wesser, North Carolina to Davenport Gap. In the early days, painting blazes and weeding one or two days per year was the extent of the work. Now, complete responsibility for total Trail maintenance rests with SMHC. The Appalachian Trail Conference helps with the Konnarock work crew assignments.

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