20 January 2016

German artist's sketches give first-hand view of "strange new world" in 1700s; include now-extinct species, some species not known to Georgia Coast, and Uchee Indians and their dwellings

Do you ever run across a nugget of historical significance that just excites you beyond belief?

I was doing some research today and I found something so intriguing I just had to share it. I love history and when I hear something I've never heard before it's exciting, and this find doesn't involve just an awesome story, but also sketches from the 1730s of plants and animals, some now extinct, native Indians and their dwellings and much more along the coast of Georgia ... drawings that are first-hand and intricately detailed.

Yuchee Indians going hunting. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek
It seems that in 1736, a 25-year-old German named Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck sailed to America from Germany with a group of colonists. He wanted to bring back "ocular proof," he wrote, of "this strange new world."

Lucky for us, he was a gifted and super-talented artist and his watercolor and pen and pencil sketches are among the first known of many plants, animals and species ... some of which are now extinct and weren't known to even exist on the coast of Georgia.

Wild American Pigeon. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek

He captured for posterity a glimpse of the first European settlers to Georgia, their day-to-day life, what they saw, what they ate, plants that grew in the region, birds that sang in the branches of their trees, native Uchee Indians, their dwellings, their boats, the fish in the ocean ... what a gift for the ages to art, science and history.

I ran across this information on the People of One Fire blog here. Blog author Richard Thornton drops this bombshell: "Native Americans near the Georgia Coast grew calabaza (tropical) squash, watermelons, passion fruit, pineapples and cacao, from which chocolate is made. This has been completely left out of the textbooks, but would explain why chocolate was detected in beakers unearthed at Cahokia."

Cocoa nut and leaf. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek
Cahokia Mounds, the largest pre-Columbian site north of Mexico, are in Illinois and are the remains of a forgotten Indian city. Of its 4,000 acres, 2,200 acres are preserved as a state historic site. You can read an interesting article about the mounds in National Geographic here. Clay beaker vessels found at Cahokia were analyzed and found to contain residue of "black drink," a caffeinated tea-like beverage six times more potent than coffee and possibly containing a compound found in cacao but definitely made from a species of holly.

Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer and builder. He is considered one of the nation's leading experts on Southeastern Indians.

Yuchee Indian war dance. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek
On the website of the Savannah River Band of the Uchean Indian Tribe, it tells of the origins of this tribe, which has lived along the Savannah River since the 1500s. They were one of several ethnic groups in the Old Apalache Kingdom.

You can read more about the Ucheans here.

Thornton said this was a distinct branch of the Uchee, different from their neighbors in that the Tennessee Valley Uchee only built round houses and villages and the Savannah Uchee villages had a Caribbean feel to their architecture.

And there is among Von Reck's sketches the only known drawing of a fort built on the Savannah River in the early 1700s.

Military fort on Savannah River. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek

Waterspout, top, and pelican and crocodile, bottom. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek

Von Reck's sketch book is now owned by Det Dansk Kongelige Bibliotek (the Danish Royal Library) and can be accessed here.  You can scroll through each page of the sketch book and view these amazing glimpses of life as he saw and experienced it 280 years ago.

15 January 2016

Smokies Centennial Challenge - Hike 100

Hike 100 Pin
Program Overview
This year we are celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service. To honor the first 100 years of the National Park Service and launch into the next century, the Park Superintendent has committed to hiking 100 miles of park trails during 2016 -- and he invites you to join in on this challenge!

Whether you are new to hiking in the Smokies or have seen most or all the trails in the park before, we encourage you to set a goal of reaching 100 miles during this special year of celebration, between January 1-December 6, 2016. You may hike any 100 miles of maintained trails in the park. Your miles can include everything from front country nature trails to the extensive trail network in the backcountry. You may hike the same trail repeatedly or different trails; and you may hike them solo, with a group or even with a guide. The goal is to inspire you to explore and enjoy the many benefits the park has to offer. More information.

Explore the park website for information about hiking safety, trail recommendations, weather, road and trail closures, and the park's trail map. If you plan to include overnight trips in your hiking plan, be sure to obtain a reservation and permit for all overnight stays in the backcountry.
When you are ready to take on this challenge, plan your hikes and get out on a trail! Download a mileage log that you may use to keep track of your miles. Or, you can purchase one from the Great Smoky Mountains Association here for $1.00.

After you have hiked 100 miles this year, send an email to let us know! You will then receive information about the Hike 100 Celebration on Thursday, December 8, 2016 to receive your commemorative "Smokies Centennial Challenge - Hike 100" pin!
Brushy Mountain
Sample 100 Mile Hike Plan
Gatlinburg Trail - 4 miles
Little River & Cucumber Gap Trails Loop - 6 miles
Chimney Tops Trail - 4 miles
Porters Creek Trail - 8 miles
Ramsay Cascades - 8 miles
Abrams Falls Trail to the Falls - 6 miles
Gregory Bald Trail to the Bald - 9 miles
Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls - 3 miles
Laurel Falls Trail - 3 miles
Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald - 5 miles
Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls - 5 miles
Smokemont Loop Trail - 7 miles
Noland Divide to Lonesome Pine Overloop - 7 miles
Deep Creek & Sunkota Ridge Loop - 13 miles
Cataloochee Divide Trail - 10 miles
Oconaluftee River Trail - 3 miles

Any 100 miles count! Superintendent Cash's 100 Mile Plan is subject to change due to all kinds of factors - like weather, trail conditions, and fitness level of those who hike with him. The important part is that the miles he will cover by the end of the year will be 100.
Park Superintendent on Cove Mountain Trail
Hike Events with the Superintendent
In the spirit of the Centennial, many of Superintendent Cash's hikes will be with youth who may be experiencing their first such adventure in the park. There are also public events which will give you the opportunity to hike alongside the Superintendent. These include two front country hikes that are open to anyone who would like to attend and two backcountry hikes which are each limited to 20 hikers. This limit is due to our concern for the resources in the backountry, our attention to Leave No Trace and hiker safety. To reserve a space on one of these backcounty hikes, send us an email and we will contact you with further information.

Front country Hikes, Open to Everyone
Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Gatlinburg Trail
Saturday, December 3, 2016 - Oconaluftee River Trail
* Check back for more details about these hikes *

Backcountry Hikes, Limited to a maximum of 20 hikers each:
Saturday, June 25, 2016 - a trail in North Carolina
Saturday, October 8, 2016 - a trail in Tennessee
* Email us if you are interested in a spot *
Latest Trail Adventures
Check here throughout the year to see pictures and read about some of the latest trails that Superintendent Cash has explored. You might see something you will want to add to your list!
Share your thoughts
We welcome you to share your comments and reflections about your hiking experiences as you cover your 100 miles. Email your thoughts to Superintendent Cash and he will reply to some of your messages throughout the year. You can also share you photos and reflections on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainsNPS in the "visitor posts" section and/or on your own Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and tag it with #Hike100.