Spring isn’t over yet. There are still plenty of fresh natural wonders to see in the Smokies. The Smoky Mountain Field School has a special Saturday lined up to help you experience those wonders.

Old Growth Forest: Albright Grove

Albright Grove has perhaps the greatest variety of old growth Cove Hardwood trees found anywhere in the Great Smokies that are in a small area accessible by trail. We’ll begin the 6.5 mile roundtrip easy hike on the Maddron Bald Trail that winds by former corn fields, the historic Baxter cabin, and other signs of settlement before reaching an old growth forest. A footpath then leads beneath giant hemlocks, by spring wildflowers, across surging Indian Camp Creek, to the Albright Grove loop trail – named for Horace Albright. As we walk the quiet loop, dwarfed by giant Tuliptrees, Silverbells, Fraser Magnolias, maples, hemlocks, and others, we may choose to whisper in this seemingly outdoor cathedral. We’ll learn to identify trees by sight, touch, smell, and taste – with or without leaves. We’ll measure girth, and discuss the signs and adaptations of an old growth forest. And we’ll discover salamanders, birds, and other critters and how they fit in.

Birding in the Smokies

An opening discussion considers basic materials (binoculars, field guides, checklists, and CDs/tapes of calls and songs) as well as non-technical methods of identifying birds by both visual clues and their distinctive vocalizations. The remainder of the morning will be devoted to birding in the lower elevations of the park where anticipated species will include: bluebirds, indigo buntings, various swallow species, scarlet tanagers, red-eyed vireos, wood thrushes, white-breasted nuthatches, oven birds, vultures, ruby-throated hummingbirds, etc . The afternoon will be devoted to birding middle and higher elevation hardwood and spruce-fir forests, where anticipated species will include: ravens, rose-breasted grosbeaks, black-capped chickadees, black-throated blue warblers, golden-crowned kinglets, winter wrens, hairy woodpeckers, brown creepers, least flycatchers, red-breasted nuthatches, etc.

The Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier

This program will explore the fascinating and compelling story of the Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier. The six unmarried Walker Sisters, born in the 1870s-90s, lived a 19th century lifestyle until the mid 1960s in a hand-hewn wooden house with no plumbing or electricity in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over the years, they were featured in many newspaper stories and even The Saturday Evening Post as the independent “spinster women of the Smokies.” Along the way, they gave thousands of park visitors a glimpse into the rural lifestyle of southern Appalachia. In living out their lives in the park, they became a lasting tribute to the self-sufficient, independent mountain folk of the Smokies. This program will include an illustrated talk about the sisters (using historic photos and documents) along with a moderate hike of 4 miles roundtrip to Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters home.

Come, spend a wonder-filled day in the Smokies.

Explore – Learn – Enjoy