Hiking Through History on the Appalachian Trail
If you’re an avid hiker, then you’ll want to make plans to stop at the Walasi-yi Interpretive Center. This stone structure was built at Neel Gap on the Appalachian Trail by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937, which was the same year the AT was completed. In fact, it is the only place where the 2,175-mile-long AT passes through a man-made structure. The historic building served as a restaurant and inn until 1965. Later, it was home to an artist group. When it was slated for demolition in the mid-1970s, a local conservation group lobbied for its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1983, the building become a hiking supply store known as Mountain Crossings. Though it has been managed by several folks over the years, it’s become a popular destination for thru-hikers on the AT, as well as local hikers and tourists.
The Walasi-Yi interpretive Center is an important part of local and AT history. The Cherokee Indians were the first to settle this area in southern Union County, where they established a small village called Walasi-Yi, meaning home of the great frog. In 1838, the Cherokees were forcibly removed during the Trail of Tears; nothing remains of the village other than the name Frogtown Gap.
From Blairsville, take Hwy. 19/129 south 16 miles. If you’re hiking the AT, Mountain Crossings is 30.7 miles north of Springer Mountain.