Park Rangers, Storytellers, Artists, Photographers, Authors and Naturalists Offer Inspired Hikes, Workshops and Fireside Chats

Waynesville, NC (January 2020) – The Swag, which re-opens for its 39th season April 17, is pleased to announce  their 2020 Roster of Special Event Leaders. Skilled in areas ranging from bears to botany, 15 selected guides will lead daily hikes and offer presentations on the area’s natural environment. The Swag is situated on 250 private acres and shares a one-mile border with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Located 15 minutes from Waynesville, NC and 45 minutes from Asheville, NC, The Swag was named “No. 1 Resort in the South” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2019 along with and one of the South’s top three resorts by the readers of Travel + Leisure. In 2018, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report named The Swag “most Romantic” in their Grand Awards issue.

“The Swag has long celebrated its natural environment through the voices of area experts who know this part of the world intimately and love to share their knowledge with our guests,” said Annie Colquitt, co-owner with her husband David Colquitt. “Our guests, who choose to go on the hikes, attend presentations or workshops, appreciate the extra dimension these experts bring to their stay.  They leave feeling so much more connected to the Great Smoky Mountains,” added David Colquitt.

This year, The Swag is pleased to welcome Lynda Doucette and Nancy East to their roster of special event leaders. Lynda has been a park ranger for decades and spent the past ten years as the Supervisory Park Ranger at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains Visitor Center.  She looks forward to sharing stories on the area’s natural wonders during day and night hikes.  Lynda will be at The Swag from June 24-28; July 28 – August 5; November 3-9.  Nancy East is an avid hiker and Smokies 900-miler (part of a small group who have hiked all 900 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains).  She is a trained naturalist and a member of the Great Smoky Mountains Search and Rescue team.  She pens a popular outdoor education blog called Hope and Feathers Travel. Nancy will be at The Swag from July 25-27; August 30 – September 2; September 27-30; November 14-17.

Here is The Swag’s 2020 Schedule of Hiking and Special Event Leaders:

Songs from the Hearth

Doug and Kathy Peters: April 17-24; June 18-24; September 20-27November 17-22
Singer, songwriter and Southern Appalachian Naturalist Doug Peters and his hiking partner and wife, Kathy, will delight guests with songs about life, love, and adventure. Doug’s unique lyrics capture the history, beauty, and the special character of The Swag and the Smoky Mountains.

Black Bears & “Unhuggables”

Michael Pelton & Tamra Willis: July 19-25; November 22-28
Dr. Pelton is the foremost authority on the North American black bear and  Dr. Willis has a Ph.D. in science and environmental education, along with having a special love for the “unhuggables” (snakes, bats, and insects).  This team offers nightly presentations on Southern Appalachian mammals and the area’s natural history and ecology.

The Swag’s Cooking School

The Swag Executive Chef Jake Schmidt: June 1 & 2; August 3 & 4; September 28 & 29
Discover the beauty of seasonal cooking with Executive Chef Jake Schmidt and The Swag culinary team. Classes will be informal and hands-on with plenty of opportunity to interact with Chef. All equipment will be provided, including a complimentary Swag Chef Apron to take home. There is no additional charge for Lodging Guests. Outside guests can reserve a spot for $125 per person.

Walk and Talk

Donald Davis: May 17-25; October 5-12

Renowned storyteller Donald Davis hails from Western North Carolina. Featured at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world, Donald is also known as a prolific author, producer of books and CDs, and as a guest host for NPR’s Good Evening. He will guide hikes and tell stories about the uniqueness of the place and the people who have lived in these mountains.

Smoky Mountain Nature

Charles Maynard: May 5-10; September 29-October 1

Outdoorsman, author, and storyteller Charles Maynard returns to The Swag with his special brand of storytelling. Charles will lead hikes during the day and tell stories each night. His book Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic is a must for mountain lovers who seek to expand their knowledge of the Smokies.

Walks in the Woods

Esther Blakely: July 12-17

Esther Blakely, a master naturalist, will guide guests on daily hikes pointing out the unique birds, wildlife and wildflowers found throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  She is an elk expert, certified interpretative presenter for the National Park and owner of the eco-tour company, Cataloochee Valley Tours.

Explore and Enjoy

Joel and Kathy Zachry: April 26-May 1; June 7-12; September 6-11; October 18-23

Kathy and Joel Zachry have been leading small groups into the Smokies black bear habitat for 40 seasons as instructors and former directors of the University of Tennessee and National Park Service award-winning Smoky Mountain Field School.  Together they have hiked the 2,175 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail.  Join the authors of Bears We’ve Met – Short Stories of Close Encounters on daily hikes and for evening presentations on the culture, history, and the area’s flora and fauna.

Walks – Painting – Printmaking

Gay Bryant and Rita Rothmeier: June 28 – July 5; August 23-30; October 12-18

Artist and hikers, Gay Bryant and Rita Rothmeier, will lead Swag guests for morning hikes on various trails, sharing their knowledge of wildflowers, plants, and Smoky Mountain lore.  In the afternoon, they will teach beginning-level lessons in watercolor painting and relief printmaking.   Gay has been a studio painter, printmaker, and art instructor for 30 years and her work is represented in regional galleries and international collections. She has hiked all 900 miles of the official trails.   Rita Rothmeier, is a naturalist, painter, printmaker, spinner, fiber artist, nurse, and outdoors enthusiast. Children must be at least 12 years old and under the supervision of an adult to participate in the art class.

Hikes & Photography Lessons

Steve Yocom: May 10-17; July 22-25; September 11-18; October 23-29; November 9-14

Outdoor adventure photographer, Steve Yocom, will lead Swag guests on guided hikes and share photography skills.  Whether a guest brings a camera or is using their iPhone camera, Steve will share tips that will make anyone a better photographer and enable them to capture some of The Swag’s great moments.  Steve’s work has been featured in a number of publications and websites including the cover of BACKPACKER Magazine, Visit North Carolina, and Blue Ridge Outdoors.

Hikes, History & Local Lore

Steven Reinhold: May 1-5; October 29 – November 3

Growing up in the shadow of the Swag had a profound impact on Steven’s life. The view from his childhood home was dominated by the Cataloochee Divide – home of the Swag. Steven has hiked, climbed and snowboarded on many mountains and has served as a wilderness mentor, volunteered abroad, climbed to raise money for charities, hiked around the globe, and opened his own guiding service – Appalachian Outdoor Company.  Hiking with Steven is an inspiring exploration the area’s hill, and geography with a bit of local lore sprinkled in.

Hikes & History

Lynda Doucette: June 24-28; July 28 – August 5; November 3-9

Lynda has spent the last decade-plus as the Supervisory Park Ranger at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Her career with the National Park Service has taken her far and wide, including time spent at Cape Cod National Seashore, Yosemite National Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore. As an interpretive ranger, Lynda will share her deep knowledge of these mountains, its creatures, and its history.

Naturalist & Smokies 900-Miler

Nancy East: July 25-27; August 30 – September 2; September 27-30; November 14-17

An avid hiker, Nancy is also a certified naturalist through University of Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. She officially became a “Smokies 900-Miler” on Labor Day weekend 2019. She also writes frequently on her blog, Hope and Feather Travels, about outdoor education, naturalist topics, as well as her hikes both near and far.

Rates start at $520 per night per room, with a two-night minimum.    All prices include a hearty breakfast, picnic lunch, evening social hour on the front porch with hors d’oeuvres, four-course dinner, welcome gift and hikes and programs led by Special Event Leaders.  Suite and Cabin accommodations are also available.  Single rate is less $50 per night.   For reservations or more information, visit or call 800-789-7672.

The Swag is open for the season through November 28.

About The Swag
The Swag offers 14 luxurious accommodations, most with wood burning stone fireplaces, allowing guests a peaceful environment where they can rest, relax and rejuvenate. Located on a secluded mountaintop just outside Waynesville, North Carolina, the inn is an ideal destination for romantic getaways, weddings, corporate retreats and much more. The 2.5-mile private drive leading to the inn climbs more than 1,000 feet. For more information, visit The Swag online.


MEDIA CONTACT:  Rebecca Werner, Tel:  917-370-5005 Email:


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