Holston hikers mark 200th anniversary of Francis Asbury's journey through Smokies

Holston hikers mark 200th anniversary of Francis Asbury's journey through Smokies

“What an awful day!”

Francis Asbury used those words to describe his trip through the Great Smoky Mountains in 1810. A group of Holston hikers made the trek on the bicentennial anniversary of Asbury’s journey on Nov. 30 -- two hundred years to the day. On the original November day in 1810, Bishops Francis Asbury and William McKendree along with the Rev. John McGee and the Rev. Henry Boehm traveled from Cosby, Tenn., to Clyde, N.C., along the old Cataloochee Trail. To commemorate this passage through the mountains, 13 hikers walked 3.5 miles on the Asbury Trail with Smokies authors David Morris and Charles Maynard as well as the Rev. Randy Pasqua, Holston director of Camp and Retreat Ministries.

The group drove some of the Asbury Route and walked part of it, lunching at the Asbury Crossing of the Cataloochee Creek. At Palmer Chapel in Cataloochee Valley, the hikers received communion using the ritual that Asbury used in 1810. The rain held off until the participants reached the church building. Elk wandered in the surrounding fields as Asbury’s spiritual descendants worshiped and learned more of his 1810 trip.

The next day Dec. 1, a second group of pilgrims drove the Asbury route from Cosby to Lake Junaluska. Bishop James Swanson and Charles Maynard led this smaller group on a cold, snowy day. The final worship service took place in the chapel at Lake Junaluska.

Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries sponsored this outing in connection with the Wesley Leadership Institute for CEUs in the midst of God’s creation. The experience was an introduction to United Methodist history and to the natural history of God’s beautiful creation. The Rev. Ty Harrison, senior pastor at First Hillsville UMC, said, “Asbury may have written, 'What an awful day,' but I say, 'What an awesome day.'"

The Rev. Maynard is development officer for Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries.

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