Dear "Home Folks":
Let's take a flight on the wings of fancy to the Smokies of Tennessee, Kinzel Springs, and Sunshine, two small resorts, bordering on opposite sides of Little River, nestled among four mountains: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Sunshine, on the highway, consists of two small stores, two filling stations, a storage garage, and Smoky Mountain Inn, built on the side of Mt. Matthew. Kinzel Springs has a charming, homey-looking hotel by the same name, one store (post office included), a dancing pavillion, tennis courts, and many cottages, hidden or partly hidden in the mountain recesses among the trees. A swinging bridge connects the two resorts. A narrow, concrete bridge is built a little farther up the river. We crossed this bridge, and drove along the narrow mountain "lane" into Kinzel Springs. There, on the hotel grounds stood the Texas car! A beautiful girl with golden hair came flying across the lawn to meet us. That was Judith, aged 13 (named for our mother, Judith Gilkerson). A dear little red-head, with blue, blue eyes, came trudging in from the river in her bathing suit; that was Geraldine, 8. Out onto the wide hotel veranda came "Muggins," 10 (christened Ellen Mary), whose eyes take your heart by storm. Joe, 12, tall, athletic, with soft brown eyes like his mother's, came reluctantly from the tennis court at his sister's call. Mary was in her room dressing. Words cannot express the joy of that meeting; two "only" sisters, separated by the irony of fate since babyhood, except for visits; and their children, some of whom had never met. I laid eyes on Mary's three oldest for the first time. When we all gathered around the table in our cottage that evening for our first meal together, I thought we were in Paradise. It was Joe, I think, who brought me back to earth with, "Golly, Mother, is this all we're going to have for supper? I'm hungry as a bear."
Our cottage was on Mt. John, facing Mt. Mark. (If my letters sound sanctimonious, its due to the influence of the Biblical setting). One hot afternoon we saved John's beard from what might have been a horrible singeing. Occupants of a cabin high above us had carelessly thrown rubbish down the mountain slope, and then set fire to it. We heard the crackling of burning twigs, and hastily formed a bucket-pitcher-dishpan brigade. The fire was climbing up the mountain side, bent upon destruction; but we caught it in the early stages, and Joe put it out in the most approved Boy Scout manner. This episode helped me better to appreciate Frank Owen's cartoon in Collier's for Sept. 9. The picture suggests that a whole forest of pine trees are in flames, all because, as the fat old tourist explains to the forest ranger, "I only tried to fry a couple of eggs." Our cottage was high enough from the little mountain road to give us all the mountain climbing we wanted. But it was grand when we got there. A huge cottage with four bedrooms (two downstairs), a large open-faced livingroom with cobble stone fireplace, kitchen, breakfast nook and wide sun porch, clear across the front; all completely and generously furnished (except bed linen), even to a victrola, the delight of the children. We could look out on St. Mark - I mean Mt. Mark, covered with beautiful trees - pine, fir, poplar, different kinds of oak, tulip, beech, and many others I could not name. Between the two mountains ran a little brook that sounded at night exactly like gently-falling rain. The whippoorwill came each evening, and in the night that awful hoot owl. In the morning the sun rose in the gap between Mt. Mark and Mt. Matthew and dispelled the heavy fog. And such bird music!
We didn't explore our mountain on foot for one very good reason: these mountains are infested with rattlesnakes. We saw only one, a Black Diamond - safely enclosed in a cage. What a temper he had! Maybe rattlesnakes are responsible for the reputed heavy distribution of "moonshine" in the mountains. They say that a moutaineer, when picking berries, always carries his jug of "corn", as a swig of that is the best counter irritant for a snake bite until a physician can be reached. The Smoky Mountains are so-called because of the constant purplish-blue haze over the highest part - just like the haze of Indian summer, only more dense. The Smokies are among the oldest mountains in the world. Geologists say that some of the rocks of this region are among the earliest formed on the globe, their age estimated at some hundreds of millions of years. Many of the trees are very old, too. One writer puts it thus: "Many of them were full-grown when Columbus was a babe in arms." The Cleveland man who mapped out our route for us has seen all the mountains of the northeast - the White mountains, Green mountains and the Adirondacks; and he thinks they do not compare with the Smokies. There are thousands of acres of virgin forest. In 1924 Congress passed a bill providing for the creation of a National Park of 428,000 acres in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. The plan, I understand, is to provide many good roads and "playgrounds" for all tourists without spoiling the natural beauty of these "woods and templed hills."
There are about twenty peaks over 6,000 feet above sea level. The highest, Clingman's Dome, is near Bryson City, N.C. But it doesn't seem nearly so impressive as Mt. Le Conte, whose peak rose high above the clouds both times we viewed it. It is said that the perfect mountain view is to be had from the top of Mt. Le Conte. Mary and I had so hoped to climb Le Conte together. We all took a trip to Gatlinburg one day. It is 25 miles east of Kinzel Springs, almost in the heart of the Smokies. What an enchanting drive that is! Winding in and around the mountain, under rocky bluffs, along the crystal-clear Little River, with its huge, rounded boulders, showing ages of weathering. The road, hard surfaced, leads over high places, too, with wonderful views, one of them Le Conte. We pass Elkmont, a most inviting resort, with its small inn, sandwich shop, and pretty cottages, set near the river, which is at its best in Elkmont. The river is said to abound in trout. The chief attraction in Gatlinburg is the mountain climbing, either on horse back or by hiking. Mountain View Hotel, located there, is said to be one of the finest mountain hotels in the country. We ate our "nose bag" lunch in a shady spot by a mountain brook. The children got into their bathing suits and paddled in the brook; also floated in the mill-race, into which the waters of this brook were converged. They delighted in forming a human dam in this mill-race. We hope they didn't interfere with activities in the little wood factory below, where all kinds of mountain wood craft are turned out. In the afternoon we went horse back riding. Only four horses were available that day, so we had to take turns. Raised as I was, on a pony's back, you might say, I thought I would show those youngsters a thing or two. Alas! I experienced all the discomfort of a rank amateur, and failed utterly to impress my companions. Mary and the little Moffatt's are very good riders; Estelle and Virgil put up a good bluff, though their faces were tense. Charles, the youngest, rode with me, and made no bones about being uncomfortable; too rough bare-back, and too "squashy" in the saddle with me. All, except Charles and me, made a second trip to Gatlinburg for longer rides. Perhaps the cost - fifty cents an hour - helped me to decide to remain at home, content with my memories of thousands of free rides on my little gray pony, Noble.
We spent a day in Knoxville. This city is one of contrasts; the main highway is very wide; many other streets are narrow, one-way streets, confounding a tourist. There are some fine, modern hotels; and some very dingy-looking ones. In the central part of the business district most of the shoppers and shop-keepers are people of charm and culture. Right around the corner, in the farmer's market, are to be seen the poorest of "pore white trash". The Smoky Mountains Travel Bureau is in the midst of hustling, modern industry. Only three or four blocks away is the William Blount Mansion, relic of frontier life in the wilderness. This grand old "mansion" built in 1792, is in perfect condition, well painted, and lovingly cared for. It was the home of William Blount, appointed by George Washington to be Governor of "The Territory South of the Ohio River." It is worth a day's journey to see that old furniture, beautiful in its simplicity, the original flooring and woodwork, of North Carolina heart pine, the old grandfather clock that looked on as history was made in that famous house. At the rear of the mansion stands the little office where Gov. Blount signed the famous Peace Treaty with forty Cherokee warriors, in 1791. Knoxville and immediate vicinity produce the world-famous Tennessee pink and gray marbles. The University of Tennessee is located there, with a campus that is considered one of the most beautiful in America. ***
Next week I'll tell you about our trip to Asheville, N.C., and return.
Sincerely, Florence B. Taylor
Next - Motor Travel Sketches #6