Earlier this year, early Spring actually, I was working in Knoxville, TN. As is usually the case, I prefer the scenic route… On my way back home to north Georgia, I stopped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, TN to ask if Parson Branch Road was open. FYI, Parson Branch Road is a one-way 8 mile gravel road taking one out of the park from Cades Cove. It is usually not a bad road, I just didn’t want to have to backtrack an hour if they had it closed. Nonetheless, this is the sign they have up before you commit…
Anyway, while I am asking the Ranger about the road I see they are selling custom Kephart knives… what? And then I notice Camping and Woodcraft for sale with a cover I don’t recognize. So I pick it up and its not a facsimile copy, its good readable text like any other new book… SOLD! The book that is.
Honestly, I didn’t think much of it. Camping and Woodcraft has had many printings (70 actually), and now somebody went to the trouble of revising with clean text. I assumed it was available everywhere, i.e. Amazon, etc. I was wrong.
My good friend Steve Watts sent me a note the other day about this new version which is the catalyst for this post.
And new version it is, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. In addition to new typeset and a redigitize, two Kephart scholars, George Ellison and Janet McCue, wrote a fantastic 80 page introduction on Kephart’s life. Reading it will bring you back in time, yet demonstrate that even today, we are still in an industrial revolution of sorts — as I am sure many readers of Master Woodsman will identify in some way with Kephart and the struggles he had with urban life.
And thank goodness for Libby Kephart Hargrove, great-granddaughter of Horace Kephart. She provided hundreds of original line drawings which were rescanned. In addition, Ms. Kephart Hargrove recently found 40 photographs in a relative’s attic that were taken by Kephart and George Masa (photographer and fellow hiker). These were donated to the Association and added to this version.
The only place you can buy this version is at the Smokies visitor centers, local book and outdoor stores in the TN/NC area, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association website. The 888-page book is $14.95 in softcover. There is a $25 hardcover special collector’s edition too, but I haven’t seen it on the website — they maybe gone.
By the way, all proceeds from the sale of this book benefit the educational, historical, and scientific programs of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Will leave you with this excerpt from an early Kephart essay that can be found in the Introduction of the new version:
The man who can enter an unmapped forest… is no ordinary mortal. And we underestimate the finer qualities of his soul. Such work can only be done by one who is not only in touch with, but a part of, nature; by one who loves the free forest life with a passion more intense than patriotism, and stronger than ambition or the greed of wealth…
To conquer the wilderness… man must be born anew. He must relearn an art so ancient that it has long since been forgotten by urban society — the art of wildcraft.