Boogerman Trail

July 12, 2020

In undergrad one of my favorite subjects was phonetics, the study of speech and sounds. So many of the names in the mountains are simplistic in their genesis; deep gap, because the gap is deep; blue mountains, because in low light they are blue, etc. Once in a while, you will happen on a name that doesn’t fit that mold as in the Boogerman Trail in Cataloochee.

Robert Palmer grew up and lived in Cataloochee. As a child, the teacher one day asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied, “the boogerman.” The name stuck and he was called that henceforth. The name “boogerman” or “bogeyman” is distinctive to almost every culture in the world. It’s a device or mystical creature parents use to keep their children in line.

While I have not found any conclusive proof that the Cherokee people influenced this, there is a dance called the Booger Dance. It is performed by boys. “Before the dance begins, the male Cherokee performers discreetly leave the party. Booger masks, are colorful masks that represented evil spirits. Booger masks were made from wood or hornets nests and were originally made as part of the Booger Dance, a winter celebration that ensured evil spirits could not disrupt the coming growing season. The Boogers also represent the malevolent spirits of those who oppose the Cherokee. They act in a stereotypically lewd manner by chasing the females around, grabbing them if possible, to satirize and ridicule what is seen as the non-Cherokee’s predatory lust for the Cherokee. The dance and accompanying music are traditionally believed to drive away or offer protection against the inimical spirits, and those in whom they dwell, striking fear into their hearts, while providing comedic relief for the tribal members. Eventually, these masks came to resemble the faces of the White trespassers.” J. T. Garrett (2011), The Cherokee Full Circle: A Practical Guide to Ceremonies and Traditions. p. 35 ff.

Robert Palmer loved the trees of his land so much, that he would not sell any of the lumber from the tract. What is now federal property encapsulates significantly large hemlocks and poplars. The trail itself is not that difficult and is quite pleasurable to hike. The best part of the loop is actually on Caldwell Fork. The creek crossings are quite fun and dependent on the rain fall will be mid-thigh deep.

Total mileage is 8.09 miles.


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