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Twelve Streams: The project and the book September 22, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, fiction, hiking, history, Smoky Mountains.
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Mossy cascade on Shutts Prong.

Mossy cascade on Shutts Prong.

Followers of this blog know that with last month’s climb up Shutts Prong, I completed a project to reach the top of Mt. LeConte via all the streams that drain its slopes. I climbed my first LeConte stream, Trout Branch, back in 1983 with Paul Threlkeld, Bill Neal, Rob Hawk, and Chris Hebb. Three of those people are no longer with us. Paul, a former president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, passed away in July. Bill Neal, also a former SMHC president, died in 1994. Chris Hebb, my former husband, died of a brain tumor in 2004.

It was in the 80s that I decided that I would like to go up all the streams of LeConte. But I moved away from the Smokies in 1989 and didn’t return for twenty years. The idea still drifted around in my thoughts, but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to define the project more precisely and finish it up. At the same time, I started writing a novel titled The Twelve Streams of LeConte.

I defined the twelve streams as:

Alum Cave Creek

Styx Branch

Trout Branch

Bear Pen Hollow

Cole Creek

LeConte Creek

Roaring Fork

Surry Fork

Cannon Creek

Lowes Creek

Boulevard Prong

Shutts Prong

I had climbed all but three of them already, leaving LeConte Creek, Surry Fork, and Shutts Prong to do this year.

It would be easy to quibble with my list of streams, but after all it was my project and I could do it however I wanted. When I thought about it this year, at first I came up with eleven before I decided that I wanted the number to be twelve, studied the map, and added the obscure Surry Fork, which no one seems to climb. As I see it, the major quibble is that I should have added Trillium Branch as well. But that would have made it thirteen, and I didn’t want thirteen—so you see how arbitrary my list is.

Trillium Branch is a named tributary of Cannon Creek, and I had included another named tributary on my list, Styx Branch, which flows into Alum Cave Creek. So my list isn’t entirely consistent. On the other hand, it could easily be argued that Shutts is too far away from LeConte to be included—or that if I did, I should also throw in Walker Camp Prong.

I included Shutts because I think of it as one of the four great Greenbrier streams of the LeConte area. It merges with Boulevard Prong at the bottom. Shutts may have been the greatest adventure of them all—that’s a tough call. Cannon would certainly rank near the top.

It could also be said I should have gone up every fork of every stream, or that I should have started each creek at its mouth. That would have meant going up Roaring Fork from downtown Gatlinburg. No, I wasn’t going to do that, and I freely used trails that bypassed or paralleled the lower sections of the streams. As far as the forks are concerned, I’ve done more than one fork of Trout Branch and Styx Branch, but not of the others.

One big motivation for finishing was the book. The main character of the novel climbs the twelve streams, so I felt the author should have accomplished that for the sake of authenticity.

I’m now making final revisions to Twelve Streams. It is not a guide to hiking the streams; neither is it a murder mystery like Murder at the Jumpoff, which was published last year.

I can’t judge the literary quality of my own work, but the one thing I can definitely say about it is that it is original. No one in the world besides myself could have written anything like it. It has several narratives weaving in and out of each other, echoing certain themes. The narratives concern:

  • The journeys of the twelve streams.
  • The book—not the movie—of The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, published 1915.
  • The life of a serious reader who comes from a family of generations of readers; the teeming universe of books.
  • The challenges faced by an adventurous single woman. She has much in common with me—but beware of thinking the book is autobiographical.

Followers of this blog will not be surprised that the Boer War makes a minor appearance, as do landscape design and World War I.

I will be trying to find a literary agent to advise and assist on getting it published. The publisher of Murder at the Jumpoff , Canterbury House, is an excellent but very small publishing house specializing in genre works such as mysteries with a regional emphasis. Twelve Streams doesn’t come close to fitting its profile. I hope, of course, for a larger publishing house with national resources, but we’ll have to see what happens. I appreciate any advice, suggestions, or connections that anyone can come up with.

You will notice blog posts on subjects other than hiking appearing once again—but have no fear, I will continue to do lots of blogs about hiking. This fall I plan to do a series about the Siege of Mafeking (in the Boer War). The cast of characters fascinates me, including Colonel Baden Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), Lady Sarah Wilson (Winston Churchill’s aunt), and Sol Plaatje (one of the founders of the African National Congress). But for those blog followers not interested, the delete button is readily available.

Sol Plaatje, c. 1900.

Sol Plaatje, c. 1900.



1. T E Stazyk - September 22, 2013

Fantastic project, Jenny, and I wish you the best of luck. I look forward to reading the book! Not sure about any good advice I can give you, as you know I gave up on agents and publishers and went with Createspace. That’s always an option and I had good luck with them.

Jenny - September 22, 2013

Thanks for the support! You know, giving up on agents and publishers sounds very appealing sometimes… moving away from the whole publishing establishment…

T E Stazyk - September 22, 2013

Yes, that’s the question! Not sure how much help Canterbury House gave you with marketing, but that’s the biggest issue that I see. If you do indie publishing it’s a huge battle to get any kind of publicity, but not sure that you get all that much from a lot of publishers.

2. gary howell - September 23, 2013

Congrats on being near the end of another book .. heard some good comments on Murder at the Jumpoff pretty recently.

3. Chris Sass - September 24, 2013

I’m looking forward to reading the new book! Good luck navigating through the landscape of agents and publishers.

By the way, I predict that the list of the twelve streams in this post will become a checklist for certain Smokies hikers who enjoy the fringe activity of off-trail exploration . . .

4. Tom - September 29, 2013


A new book by the poet of the Smokies is welcome news, indeed!


5. Al - October 31, 2013

I too am looking forward to your new book. The 12 streams brought a thought to mind. I wonder if anyone has ever visited all the Park streams not served by road or trail to their source ? Some would be, in no particular order,….Buck Fork, Left prong of Deep Creek, Ramsey, above the cascades, Raven Fork up stream from Enlow Creek area to Tri Corner Knob. There are scores more probably, even Indian Creek to Thomas/Sunkota ridge junctions. Just a thought.

Jenny - October 31, 2013

Now, that’s an evil thought, Al! That quest could keep people occupied for years. When you say “streams not served by road or trail,” I take it you mean “streams that don’t have roads or trails going along beside them.” There would be different ways of qualifying it. For instance, Raven Fork does have the Enloe Creek trail going across it, but Buck Fork, Chapman Prong, Lost Prong, and Eagle Rocks Prong don’t have trails touching them at any point (now that the old fishermen’s paths are gone).

6. Al - February 4, 2014

Jenny, hows the 12 Streams book doing ?

Jenny - February 4, 2014

Thanks for asking, Al. For the past couple of months I’ve been working on trying to get it published by a major publisher. It’s the most grueling process you can imagine. These days none of the big publishing houses will accept unsolicited manuscripts—you have to go through a literary agent. But getting an agent to represent you is just as hard. There are maybe 500 reputable agents out there, most of them in New York. And every single one of those receives dozens, if not hundreds, of queries every day from prospective authors. It is unbelievable. I have sent out many, many queries. Just the other day I had a request from a really good agent to see more of my manuscript. I HOPE that works out!

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