If you’ve ever been to the Great Smoky Mountains, roamed the surrounding hills of the Blue Ridge or stepped onto the Appalachian Trail then you know firsthand the magic that lies in the hills of the Appalachians. The beauty and magic that can be found along the ridges and peaks and even in the valleys are timeless. For centuries people have come to the mountains from all corners of the earth and from all walks of life and time after time, they have fallen in love with everything from the streams to the views and the million slivers of beauty in between.
William Ogle was one of those people that found himself standing in a corner of the Smoky Mountains that we all know now as Gatlinburg, TN. William ventured into the area from South Carolina and, like many of us, knew that the tucked away corner of the Blue Ridge needed to be home. He returned to the Carolinas to tell his wife of his dreams, only to part this earth before he could move his family to Gatlinburg. However, I am certain that as he took his last breath – he knew in his heart that the Smokies were always meant to be his home. His wife, Martha must have known the same as well because after his death – she packed up their seven children and moved to the hills of Tennessee.
Today, 200 years later, the Ogle family still lives in the ridges and curves of the Smokies.
And, their journey, is just one part of why this story is being told…
A Trail Is Born
You see, a man named Benton MacKaye was also a dreamer and a lover of the Appalachians. In 1921, 100 years after William Ogle discovered the magic of the mountains, Benton turned his love of the area into what some would have considered an impossible dream… He dreamed of a trail that would run from Maine to Georgia and that would connect city folk to rural areas and the wilderness. Like Martha, Benton also was moved and motivated by the death of a spouse.
Two years after Benton’s wife passed away, the first section of what we now know as The Appalachian Trail was opened in New York. A couple of years later, in 1925, MacKaye also put together a conference for the Appalachian Trail that sparked the beginning of what today is called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). A little over a decade later, in 1937, the Appalachian Trail was completed. Benton MacKaye’s dream came true.
An Appalachian Oasis
Flash forward to today, 2018, and their stories with others have come together in a place. A place built on the memories of the dreamers. A place for dreamers and lovers of the mountains to come together. A place called The Appy. The Appalachian Lodge – a Gatlinburg gem that is filled with passion and history. A place that came to be because of the dream of one of William and Martha’s Ogles descendants. Nestled in the same corner of the mountains that Ogle dreamed of calling home, it is a place that would make MacKaye smile. Yes, it’s a hotel… But more so, it’s a museum and a place that gives honor to so very many that have put their dreams first and spent time on the Appalachian Trail. A place that will only make you love their stories and our mountains even more than you already do.
I can only imagine the two men walking together down the hallways of The Appy, both with their wives by their sides. They would certainly stand in awe of all that has happened in the hills that they love and most likely be in disbelief of the number of wanderers that came after them and that will continue for years to come. But, most importantly, they would shake hands with the owner of The Appy, David Ogle, as well as The Appalachian Conservancy and all others that have kept that Appalachian Trail alive and that have worked together to bring the trail and it’s stories to Gatlinburg.
Because you see, it’s a place like no other – just like our mountains and just like our beautiful Appalachian Trail. It’s a home, away from home.
Bringing The Outdoors In
Working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, David Ogle and The Appy have pieced together the story of the Appalachian Trail along the hallways and in the rooms of The Appy. The lodge is filled with photographs and facts. The faces of so many that have walked on that trodden path that so any love. The path has brought adventure and evening healing to the lives of many. The work of local artists line the hallways, rooms and even the indoor pool area. Each room of The Appy is named after a shelter or a campsite that you would sleep at along your own journey of the AT. Once you check in, you’ll find out your location, elevation and where you’ll be dreaming of being for the night. There are handmade trail sign replicas around every corner made by Phillip Ouellette, a thru-hiker and owner of @TrailSigns.
Outside, you’ll find fire pits to keep you warm as you laugh about the day’s adventure and breakfast ready to refuel you for your hike each morning. In the lobby, grab a book about the AT and take a break by the fireplace. Pick up a few souvenirs, which will only benefit the trail from the proceeds that are passed on the to Appalachian Conservancy, and give you something to dream about at home. Go for a swim or rejuvenate your sore muscles with a soak in the hot tub. With The Appy being only minutes from trailheads with such Smokies destinations as Mount LeConte and Ramsey Cascades as well as only 30 minutes from Newfound Gap and the Appalachian Trail – it’s the perfect spot for hikers wanting to take a break from their tents and shelters, yet still looking to soak up the beauty and history of the trails.
Where does The Appy go from here?
The Appy will continue adding details of The Appalachian Trail to the hallways, working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to put funds into the AT and will also be working on an addition to the lodge that will support thru-hikers passing through Gatlinburg in search of celebrating the victory of their dreams and goals as well… And, well of course – they’ll be waiting for you to experience their property and the Appalachian Trail firsthand. They’ll have your breakfast ready, your room will cozy, and they’ll do their very best to keep those pesky, but loved, Smoky Mountain black bears away.
Kristi Parsons is a woman of the Smokies, lover of the Blue Ridge Mountains, writer, photographer, and seeker of beauty.