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WCU Stories

Hunter Library reissues outdoors book about pre-park Great Smoky Mountains

Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library has published a reissue edition of a book that chronicles the personal experiences of hiking, camping and adventure in a pre-park Great Smoky Mountains.

“Mountain Days, A Journal of Camping Experiences in the Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, 1914-1938” was authored by Paul M. Fink, an outdoorsman, writer and park advocate and has long been out of print.

Paul Fink

The book is a historical look at the early trails and camps of the Smokies, along with a firsthand perspective and archival photos. The WCU edition includes a foreword by Ken Wise, director of the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“The basis of the book was a journal Fink kept,” said Liz Harper, WCU special and digital collections librarian, and the publication project leader. “It is unique and insightful, and the WCU edition is the first widely accessible version.”

Fink was a Jonesborough, Tennessee, resident who lived from 1892 to 1980 and wrote extensively about the region and history throughout his lifetime. He contributed articles on camping to outdoor magazines, including Field and Stream and Outdoor Life. He was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame this year for his pioneering work in routing the famous 2,220-mile trail through east Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

UT Knoxville holds the original manuscript for “Mountain Days,” which was originally published in an edited form by East Tennessee State University. In addition to more photos, the WCU reissue is true to the manuscript.

“It was a tremendous pleasure to reissue this book, and it was only made possible by generous collaboration between UT Knoxville, East Tennessee State University and the Fink family,” Harper said. “The book is a joy to read ― Fink and his companions often set out on trips for the sake of exploring, taking getting lost in stride, lamenting when they have to work instead of hike, and carefully inventorying each ounce of food they packed. Fink and his companions’ passion for the outdoors, for documenting and exploring the Smokies, and their dauntless spirit are evident throughout the journal.”

A grant from the Thomas W. Ross Fund to Hunter Library made the reissue project possible. WCU’s University Marketing designed the cover, while UT Knoxville provided the text of the manuscript, transcribed from the type-written original. The text and photographs were reset by the University of North Carolina Office of Scholarly Publishing Services.

Hunter Library’s first reissue was “Twenty Years of Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies,” by Samuel Hunnicutt, with few copies of the 1926 original publication remaining. One of those surviving copies is one once owned by Horace Kephart and now held in the Kephart Collection of the library.

The WCU edition is now being sold by the University of North Carolina Press and through Amazon. For more information, call 828-227-7474 or email

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