I had the amazing opportunity this past weekend to participate in the BOWX ("Becoming an Outdoors Woman Extreme") event that took place in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) at The Charit Creek Lodge. This amazing place is steeped in history and provides a delightfully sensory experience. There's so much to tell, it's hard to figure out where to start! I guess from the beginning (history)?!
|Charit Creek Lodge|
The Charit Creek Lodge is peacefully nestled in a very appealing valley bordered by the Hatfield Ridge and the confluence of both Charit and Station Camp Creeks. The lodge is ripe with history that you can't help but want to know more about even before you get there. For example, the creek that the lodge is named for (Charit Creek) is named for a young girl named Charity who drowned in the creek during a flash flood. On the road in (which is only used by horses and by the lodge manager or park staff for specific purposes) you pass an old chimney, now the last visible remnants of a homestead from an age past. I asked one of the staff I was riding with about the chimney and she provided an abbreviated history... while I trusted her story, it was so fantastic that I had to verify the event and her details were very close to accurate! So, apparently the Tacketts lived (and died) here. During the civil war, when both sides were looking for "new recruits" that were close enough to whatever age was deemed worthy to fight, the Tackett brothers - who were being cared for by an elderly relative - were told to hide under a feather mattress during a rushed decision when soldiers were seen headed their direction. The elderly woman then laid upon the bed and feigned a horrible illness that wouldn't allow her to get up. When the soldiers were gone, convinced it was just her and not wanting to catch whatever ailment had her bedridden, she rose, lifted back the mattress, and found that both boys had been smothered by the mattress. Their graves - headstones hand carved - are still in the park today, located near the Cherit Creek Lodge.
The lodge itself is nestled in the valley mentioned above which was used as a shelter to travelers even in the Native American days. By 1850 there were just over 125 residents in the valley, but by 1930 it was down to just a few remaining homesteaders. Currently Charit Creek Lodge is the only remaining building from the community. The oldest part of the lodge was built in 1816 (the one-room portion with a chimney which makes up the western side of the lodge). Other additions were added later by pulling in rough-hewn logs from other local cabins. It's rumored that the lodge (or another area slightly further) were the homesite of Jonathan Blevins, one of the earliest settlers in the region. While the barn, corn crib, and a few other structures around the lodge were built in the 1920-1930's, they were all done in a similar style which was no longer used in other areas of the country because they had been replaced by more "current" styles. The lodge and some of the outbuildings - including the bathhouse which was a smokehouse before being converted to its current use - are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1960's a man named Joe Simpson purchased the property from the last homesteading owners (Phillipses) and used the lodge as a hunting lodge for imported Russian Wild Boar (which - along with feral hogs - are still an invasive nuisance species within the park). During that period the lodge was known as the Parch Corn Hunting Lodge (or "Hog Farm") until the park renamed it the Charit Creek Lodge when it purchase the property in 1982. From that time on it has been a sometimes operational, sometimes not respite for hikers, backpackers, horse riders, and people just looking for a way to escape from the world and embed themselves in nature.
|Southeast Pack Trips|
The only thing I don't like about the Charit Creek Lodge is the fact that I didn't know about it before!
The Park Service doesn't do nearly enough to publicize the place... a place which inherently appeals to so many different personalities (history buffs, civil war buffs, nature buffs, equestrian buffs... should I keep going?!). I hadn't heard of the lodge before now though I had heard of a few others "in the same region" (which I add quotes to because they really aren't - one is in the Smoky's while the other is down in northern Georgia). This place could really be a success with just the smallest push as long as the service that I experienced remained a solid component. I'll gladly sacrifice a "in my own bed type of comfort" sleep to experience what I enjoyed during this trip and plan on returning soon and sharing the experience with friends and family.