Unmapped Sugarlands-GSMNP

On February 8th, we joined several of our friends to hike to the “unmapped” stone cabin in the Sugarlands area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The roots of the two-room stone cabin are a bit of a mystery, but the most reliable story is that it was built in 1927 as a hunting and fishing lodge. The owner was given a lifetime lease in the early 1930’s when the park was established. According to park details, the owner abandoned the property in 1937 and the structure was left to decline.

The hike begins on the Old Sugarlands Trail (across the street from the Sugarlands Visitors Center) then drifts to the right, following the river. The trail to the stone cabin is unmarked and not on the Park Service map.

It was a bluebird day, cold, sunny with few clouds. We were bundled up in various stages of cold, colder and coldest.
A piece of the trail follows along an old, highway, TN 71. Before it became a dirt path, the road was paved, before that it was a wagon path.

History is visible everywhere in the area including stone foundations, walls and the telltale signs of daffodils from an old community and of course the remnants of a CCC camp.

This is the old CCC Clock Tower.
Remnants from the historic community can still be found on both sides of the trail.

Due to heavy vegetation, the old stone cabin is not visible most of the year. It’s really not very visible in winter unless you are looking for it. On our first hike here some 15 years ago, John and I were wandering around and stumbled on it. What a surprise, we had only heard rumors of such cabin.

To get to the cabin, a creek must be crossed, and a steep bank covered with rhododendron must be scaled. The creek crossing is not as easy as it looks. On this day the creek was high due to recent rain.

Bob and I were the only two who crossed the creek, a real feat for me. The rest of the group sat on the bank and watched us cross and climb. I am sure John was wondering if he would have to fish me out of the water.

While I noticed some structural deterioration since my last visit, the cabin is weathering the years remarkably well. The roof and floor are missing but those beautiful river stone walls are strong.

The left room of the cabin had a fireplace and served as the sleeping, living quarters. Rusted mattress frames still lean against the wall.
The right section of the cabin was a small kitchen. A stove, coffee pot, frying pan, large kettle and kerosene can are still in place. One gets the feeling the owner planned to come back “the next weekend” and just didn’t.
This is a closer view of the fireplace and stone structure. You can see windows on each side of the fireplace.

After exploring the cabin, Bob and I recrossed the creek and joined the others for lunch. As we sat and gazed at our surroundings, we noticed that the Great Smoky Mountains Fire of 2016 had raced through this area. Many tree trunks were blackened, soot littered the forest floor. The damage was very distinct and limited to a relatively narrow path. The fact that the fire path was so narrow in this area occupied a good portion of our lunch conversation.

Several blackened trunks are visible in the above photo.

Our final stop was the Sugarlands cemetery. Considered on of the largest cemeteries in the park, the graves date back to the mid 1800’s. So many young children that never reached their 1st birthday…

I don’t know what facinates us about the graves of those departed but something. Maybe it is the thoughts of a life lived and gone, maybe it’s thoughts of our own mortality. In the photo BJ, John and Tom
John and Tom (in the background)

This was a great hike with good friends and lots to explore. So glad we got a chance to see the stone cabin again and as always with this group, we look forward to the next adventure.

This entry was posted in Friends, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Outside, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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