On the warm Friday after Thanksgiving this year my wife and I set out on the Old Sugarlands Trail to visit the Sugarlands Cemetery and then hopefully find the Stone House. Descriptions we had found made it sound fairly easy to find, but that is not exactly the case. We stopped briefly at the cemetery to catch our breath and rest our feet. Leaving the cemetery, we continued up the old road bed. We both commented on a path we saw going off up into the woods on our left as we followed the road on up the river.
The road petered out as it ramped down to the riverside where a bridge had once stood. At this point we could, by looking up across the river, see the first big pulloff on Newfound Gap Road called Carlos Campbell Overlook (previously called Bullhead Overlook). We continued to hike along the river looking for the first significant creek because all the descriptions said that is where the Stone House is located. We had a GPS with topo maps and thought we had the GPS coordinates with us too. After a time hiking off trail over rough terrain we came upon the creek, which is known as Big Branch.
We scrambled up Big Branch for a distance and tried to locate our objective in the rugged landscape. There was no sign of it, and no indication of a trail either. We considered turning back. Out came the GPS. Turns out we forgot to bring the coordinates. Out came the iPhone. Amazingly, there was enough reception to get access to the web, though just barely. With the numbers in hand and a look at the GPS, I told my wife we were within 50 yards of our destination. About that time I spotted someone about 40 yards up the creek. They had followed the path we had noticed earlier which actually led to the Stone House.
We worked our way up to the area where we had spotted people and found the path. Standing at the creek at the crossing point and looking up at the knoll in front of us, the only thing we see is rhododendron – no house. We followed a steep path up through the rhododendron, and it did lead us to the aptly named Stone House which is believed to have been built by the CCC in the 1930s. Parts of the structure are in precarious condition, with leaning and cracked walls — not to mention the doorway lintels that are about to fall (one is now supported by two metal bed rails).
While Marina & I were at the Stone House other people arrived, including my photographer friend Harold Stinnette who you can see in the iPhone photos that follow.
As the historical artifacts of the Great Smoky Mountains fade into time, including those left by my grandparents in the Greenbrier area, about all that remain are the metal and stone items — fading more slowly. In time, maybe a hundred years from now, this solid structure will probably be just a pile of stones that some other off-trail hiker will stumble upon and wonder what once stood here. For now, this piece of history is quite impressive, so enjoy it while you can.