For those of you heading to the FGS Conference in Knoxville next month, I'm sure you have been monitoring the official Conference blog for wonderful suggestions about what to do in the Knoxville area. They recently noted that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is only 45 minutes away from downtown Knoxville. Not only is the park itself an incredible and potentially spiritual experience for nature lovers, but there are still some amazing pockets of Native American and Appalachian history within and surrounding the Park. If you decide to add this excursion to your agenda, make sure you do some homework as to the historical wealth of the region. One book I highly recommend is History Hikes of the Smokies. This item is published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, with proceeds going to assist the Park. At 352 pages, this guide directs you through 20 trails just bursting with historic importance. You can buy it at many of the welcome centers in the area, but purchasing ahead of time is also a good idea....let's face it, how many times during travel do we get the chance sit down and leisurely read up on where to go next?
For those of you who might have ancestors lurking in the Eastern Tennessee/Western North Carolina region, you might also want to monitor another blog focused on the genealogical/historical roots of the region: Mike Maples's Blog on the Go Smokies Ning Site. I am very impressed by the surname information he regularly includes in his posts! Here is just one example that includes a history hike and all of the farming families that you would have encountered many years ago. Way to go Mike!
Even if you aren't heading to the conference this year.....if you are in the area, don't forget about this wonderful historic resource! Not only did the formation of the Park preserve the natural landscape, but it also preserved a heritage that was fading quickly. Most of the families moved out of the land claimed by the Park, but they kept their stories alive through historic structure sites, folklore, cemeteries, reunions and folk art. Our family loves visiting this region - not for the shopping - but for the vast opportunities to experience a very special part of our country. But hey, shopping and restaurants are great incentives to get the rest of the family as excited as you will be when you set your sites on all the history that awaits!
See you in the Smokies!
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