In the book " Our Southern Highlands" Horace Kephart shares a slice of life in the mountains in pre WW I. Horace Kepart lived among the people of the back trails of the rugged Smoky Mountains. One of his accounts takes note of the character Quick " the Snake Stick Man"a federal officer who attempts to capture the fugitive Ruff brothers, and the chase through the Smoky Mountains from Smoke Mount in Cherokee , NC, to Sugarland on the Tennessee side of the mountains where a showdown accrued. The story is played out in on primitive trails and homesteads with a cast of notable characters.
The route across the Smokys used in the story covered 31 miles leaving Smoke Mount at 1900 feet elevation and crossing the spine of the Smokys at its lowest central point, Wagon Road Gap at 5900 feet. From there the trail follows the Sugarland Mountains' ridge down to Sugarland at 1900 feet.
One of hiking trips we plan early this year will follow the route of the raid. Leave Cashiers, we will park at Smoke Mount, take the Thomas Divide Trail to Beach Flats and stop for lunch, then we travel on to the shelter at Mt. Collins at the gap in the mountains and spend the night.
The following day we will walk down to Sugarland. Our route take us be thought several different forest types: oak hickory, spruce forest, and balsam forest up top. There will be major water drainages on either side, and we will be on the lookout for signs of old homesteads. It is a trip , a great physical challenge, a nature lovers dream, and steeped in lore.