4 stars. For nine months in 1925-1926, Paul Adams was the caretaker of the camp at Mount LeConte in what would soon become Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He selected a German shepherd dog to be his companion, and his new friend proved invaluable. Smoky Jack is compiled from Adams’ journals, complete with a wealth of pictures of the author and his dog, footnotes, and standardization of place names to what park visitors today will know.
Smoky Jack was trained as a police dog and had both a keen intelligence and a special bond with Adams. He was devoted to his master, repeatedly slipping a chain and collar to join Adams when he was left behind. Smoky Jack was useful in many ways: he defended the camp on top of LeConte from a lone timber wolf, he was instrumental in the rescue of many lost hikers, and he helped save Adams after a slip in the rough terrain of the Huggins Hell. Perhaps his most noteworthy accomplishment was that he learned to go from the mountaintop to a store in Gatlinburg, returning with up to 30 pounds in supplies in leather panniers that Adams made for him.
Along with the story of Adams and Smoky Jack, we also get a wonderful historical insight into the genesis of the National Park. Adams was instrumental in developing the trail network in the LeConte area. His journals contain many interactions with the drivers of the conservationist movement that established the park, and those familiar with the Smokies will find many people whose last names became noteworthy features in the park: Ogle, Kephart, Ramsey, and more.
I was also humbled that Smoky Jack would make the trip from the summit of LeConte to Gatlinburg and back in 4 1/2 hours… a blistering pace for sure!
Smoky Jack is a treasure trove for anyone who loves dogs or Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its history.