Metcalf Bottoms Trail

Anna and her son Paul write about their experience of Metcalf Bottoms Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Metcalf Bottoms Trail
Little Greenbrier School

Anna, the Mom

Metcalf Bottoms is a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. It is our back-up trail on a busy day in the national Park or on a day when we just want to have a relaxing stroll in the woods.

At the picnic area before hitting the trail with relatives, two years ago.

Coming from the Foothills Parkway, a scenic road just at the entrance to Townsend, we can tell by the time we get to Metcalf Bottoms picnic pavilion if the park will be too crowded towards Gatlinburg. Towards Gatlinburg, around Newfound Gap is where all who come to visit this side of the Great Smoky Mountains want to get to, that's where we like to hike most when it is not too crowded.

This caught my eye while on Foothills Parkway scenic road. I loved the trees huddling together between sky and earth. 

The trail is easy to hike, can be done in less than an hour, even with little children. As we noticed by the number of people hiking there and having a snack at the picnic area, it is a popular trail. Going through the woods, at times crossing over streams of water, the trail ends at the Little Greenbrier school which is open to visitors all the time.

The Little Greenbrier School which was also used for church services by the Baptist church of Little Greenbrier community is a historic building made in 1882 and was used until 1936. Now it looks like a memorial people who made it through a school alive dedicate to themselves … I am saying that because it seems like many visitors who came here want to make it known that they have been to this particular school, but that it doesn't mean they are now more educated, on the contrary. The multitude of inscriptions of names and dates scratched on all the sides of the building and all the furniture inside of it are a testimony to it. It appears that something like a spirit against the institution and against all that it stands for, possessed all those who, having gone through the ordeal, have now found the very place to express it and get it over with.

If the blackboard were a palimpsest under archeological scrutiny….

I can't say I do not sympathize with the poor souls who had poured out their names in anguished scribbling, so they will never be forgotten. I, myself, was an anguished soul while in public school in the communist Romania, a long time ago, longer than I care to remember :))). But, I digress…

The end of Metcalf Bottoms Trail. 

I don't like to stay in this particular spot for a long time, I enjoy thoroughly the path to the school and the path away from it, its surroundings are idyllic, too. I can imagine the fun children must have had in the forest behind the school playing hide and seek, tag and other entertaining outdoor games that have been lost in the dusty folds of history. The breaks from classes must have been fun and worth the effort of going to school.

Pretty catbrier leaf on the path.

Metcalf Bottoms Trail to the Little Greenbrier School is quite short by our standards of beginner hikers, so last time when we went there, (a little before Christmas, on a beautiful, balmy day), we decided to continue on our way, going up on a path from the school into the forest.

Walker Sisters' Cabin

After a while, we came across Walker Sisters' Cabin Trail, and we decided to do it. This was the first time we went on this trail. At the end of the hike, we got to the cabin of the Walker sisters where, at the time when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created, six spinster sisters were allowed to continue to live.

A well-preserved building. We thought that it might have been a chicken coop with space for hay on the sides for cattle.

Hundreds of families used to live in the Great Smoky Mountains, you can find other such cabins or the remains of them in the National Park. When the Park was created, the American government bought the properties and the houses of the mountain people. A few of them, like the Walker sisters, didn't want to leave their homes and eventually were allowed to live for the rest of their lives in the log houses in which they were raised.

Lots of broad leaf evergreens in the woods. 

Paul, 12

I sprint up the steep hill leading to the path. Behind me, my brother chases after me. Finally reaching the top of the trail, a muddy path appears, stretching in front of me. Splashing through it, I hear the gurgling of a nearby stream meandering its way across the many rocks in the riverbed. The trees stand tall in the golden sunlight that pours from above. I jump over a small patch of brown mud and see a small sparrow flying in the cool breeze. It chirps and flies away to its home far up in one of the tall, majestic trees.

Winter forest. 

This is what Metcalf Bottoms Trail felt like to me.

I liked going on the trail to the school house. This trail reminded me of life because at the end of it was a small graveyard. We didn't stop hiking when we got to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse, but we continued to a cabin where the Walker sisters had lived. I liked walking down the narrow road listening to the water,  looking at the trees shaking in the wind, and hearing the birds chirping.

The Walker Sisters' Cabin trail.

When we arrived at the Walker Sisters' Cabin, we saw a small wooden shack that looked like an outhouse, but was probably a mill. The cabin where the six sisters lived was being renovated. On the way there, I found a small penny that was from nineteen fifty-six. I believe that it was a penny dropped by one of the sisters.

In the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse.