Hiker enjoys connection to the Smokies

1:03 PM, Dec 31, 2012   |    comments
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An 84-year-old man hikes in the Smokies where he has a lifelong connection.

"I've been around quite awhile," Glenn Cantrell said.

He was born about a mile from the border of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when midwifes helped with delivery.

"My dad jumped on a horse and went over to her house but before she got there I was already there. But she still charged me a dollar," he said with a laugh.

He shared his sense of humor and some of the history of the Smokies during a recent hike to Courthouse Rock.

The group led by hiking expert Missy Kane started on what was Highway 71 and continued along routes Glenn Cantrell recalls.

"You can see it all up through there. The old Indian Gap road that went from Gatlinburg that went from Gatlinburg to Cherokee," he said pointing toward the old roads.

The land prompts memories.

He says his family moved into the Greenbriar area as a baby.

"We lived there until I was about four and a half years old and then we had to move on account of the park bought the land," he said.

He's lived near the park his whole life.

His first job at the park was as a radio dispatcher at age 19. He trained to become a cabinet maker but the park kept drawing him back. He worked different fire lookout towers and other jobs.

"One of my jobs when I was young was climbing trees. I was working for the park service. Put a rope up and just swing everywhere. I wasn't a bit afraid but now I am," he said.

He eventually retired from the excavating business.

Missy Kane calls Glenn Cantrell one of the last of the mountain men.

"If you've ever read the funny papers where Snuffy Smith lived then it was like that," he said.

This World War Two veteran remembers when the forest was farmland and roadways.

"Down in the valley it was cleared and farmed where people grew their crops. Corn was a big crop back then. And they grew all kinds of vegetables. Potatoes and tomatoes. Or do you say taters and maters?" he said.

Apple orchards were common.

"You would go up there in the wintertime and rake the leaves back and fine apples. And the bears they enjoyed them too," he said.

During the hike he pointed out the remains of old homesteads. Stacked stones are all that's left of buildings from his youth.

"That's probably the flue there for the stove and the fireplace would probably be over there," he said.

He saw rusted remains of a type of safety signal.

"It had kerosene in them with a big wick. They would light them to warn you about the end of the road or roadwork or something," he explained.

He remembers transporting stuff by horse and sled and communicating across the hills by hollering. He demonstrated with a loud yell.

After several hours and many stories the hikers reached their destination.

"You're at the Courthouse Rock in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," he announced.

They enjoyed a beautiful view of the mountains.

"I've enjoyed living in the mountains and I still do. Although I live in the foot hills," he said.

He still makes time to hike on the land where he grew up.

Glenn Cantrell said he did not have much of an opportunity for education. He is proud all seven of his children earned a degree from the University of Tennessee.

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