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Hiking community helps couple come up with Smokies-inspired baby names

Have you ever loved something so much you name your kid after it? Some people feel that way about the Smokies, including one couple who turned to hikers for help.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Anyone who's ever been to the Great Smoky Mountains know how surreal they are to see for the first time.

"There's something about that area that just makes you feel close to God, where you see that much beauty every day. It's just such an amazing place. And it kind of feels like home to us," said Leigh Cook.

Cook and her husband live in Middle Tennessee, but see the Smokies as second home as avid campers, hikers and fishers.

Her favorite trail is Alum Cave to Mount LeConte, where she loves to stay at the lodge.

"We had reservations the end of June this summer. I will be 38 weeks pregnant. I don't really think I want to have that baby on the side of the mountain," said Cook.

After 16 years of marriage, the Cooks are pregnant with their first child together, a boy.

While mom doesn't want to birth the baby in the Smokies, she would like to name him after part of her favorite place.

"All the family names that we were kind of into were taken or didn't really fit right. And I thought, you know, what better people to help us name our child than the people that love what we love," she said.

Those are the people who make up the more than 51,000 member Facebook group "Hiking the Smokies."

So she went to the group and posted this question:

"Help! I’m expecting my first child. A little boy, that I want to name after something in the Smokies, and this is just the group to help me out. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And go!"

And they went.

Credit: Facebook

"All of a sudden, my phone started going crazy. And I was like, what is going on? And I looked and it was like response, response, response."

There are 742 comments on the post, all of baby name suggestions inspired by the mountains.

"I just never thought that many people would take time to kind of give us their input," said Cook.

The most popular suggestions were:

  • Cade, for Cades Cove
  • Ramsey, for Ramsey Cascades
  • Charlie, for Charlies Bunion

The Cooks really like Charlie, as well as Abram, for Abrams Falls.

People had ideas based on the geography, trail names, and names of settlers or other influential people in the history of the park.

Other suggestions included:

  • Ridge
  • Stone
  • Gatlin
  • Smokey
  • Bear
  • Forrest
  • Townsend
  • Parker
  • Sonny
  • Walker

"The very first response on there was Oconaluftee," said Cook. "I said we can't name him that he won't be able to spell it or say it, I can't do that, as much as that's a beautiful area."

She is in awe that so many people are invested in her little boy's life.

"I cannot wait till he's older and I can show him this and say, 'Look how cool this is. Look how many people cared,'" she said.

Cook is a nurse and was told years ago she wouldn't be able to have a child without medical procedures that she wasn't comfortable with.

"We just kind of moved on with our life. So when we found out that we were pregnant, we were just elated," she said. 

Now she, and her step daughter who is also a nurse, are both giving birth this summer.

"So we're gonna have our first grandbaby two weeks after we have our baby," said Cook. "We're definitely just so excited now to have this experience together. It's not strange for us. We're just we feel super blessed."

That just means two new people to introduce to their favorite place in the world.

"I just hope that we're able to instill that love that we have for that area in him," she said.

Baby Cook is due in July, and mom said she'll let the Facebook group know when they've decided on a name, because they're all part of his life now.

"It's super cool to feel like you have a lot of people in your corner."