Hardin proposes OVT be more accessible

By Rozella Hardin

   The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 had a profound effect on the nation, changing the course of our lives. For Bob Hardin, there was a real pull to learn something about his past and heritage after that day.
   Hardin, who grew up in the Siam community of Carter County and graduated from East Tennessee State University, lived and worked for several years in Charlotte, North Carolina.
   He began his search of the past at the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area. "At the park I found a brochure on the Overmountain Victory Trail. I enjoy hiking, so immediately I thought this might be something I would enjoy," Hardin said.
   Hardin thought about making the walk alone, but, after talking with Mike Dahl, who is a member of the OVT Association, he decided it would be better to go with the re-enactment group, which makes the annual trek each September. "Two years ago in September I showed up at Sycamore Shoals State Park when the re-enactors met. The following morning when they began their march across the mountains to King's Mountain, South Carolina, I was right there with them," he said. At that time, Hardin knew little about the re-enactment.
   However, it proved to be an incredible experience for Hardin, and he took the time to visit each little town along the way and ended up with some fascinating stories.
   As a result, he has written a book on the Overmountain Victory Trail, which is scheduled for release this September. The book, which is being published by Overmountain Press of Johnson City, will be a history of the trail, giving day-by-day accounts of the original march, which began on Sept. 7 in Abingdon, Va., and ended Oct. 7 at Kings Mountain, South Carolina. The heroic march in 1780 culminated in the defeat of a major British force and was considered by Thomas Jefferson to have been the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The book will also include Hardin's experiences and stories told along the way.
   "During that time I discovered I was a descendant of one of the Overmountain Men, who was in the battle at King's Mountain," Hardin said. "I was well into the research of the march before I knew I had a connection. I had also become interested in genealogy."
   Hardin traced his roots back to Teter Nave, whose daughter was married to William Hardin, the East Tennessee patriarch of his father's family.
   "When I was growing up, we never heard much about our past. Local history wasn't taught much in school. My dad was a history teacher, but family history wasn't important to him. I had picked up some bits and pieces, but not much," Hardin said.
   After graduating from East Tennessee State University, Hardin moved to Charlotte, N.C, where he worked for the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company until his retirement a few years ago. "During that time I traveled a lot. I love to travel," Hardin said, noting that he had visited 50 countries and almost all of the states. "I tell people that I fell off the back of a gypsy wagon since I enjoy traveling so much," he said.
   If Hardin's life were a book, his Overmountain Victory Trail experiences could very well be part two. The OVT book he has written is only one challenge that resulted from his trail experience. A more challenging venture is to make that portion of the trail from Sycamore Shoals to Yellow Mountain Gap accessible to the public.
   "The OVT is one of 14 national historic trails, and it meanders through some of the prettiest country in the nation. However, only about 30 miles of the trail can be walked. The remainder of the trail is on private land or is located such that it cannot be accessed by the public. Much of the actual route is traveled by automobile," Hardin said.
   He began to think as well as ask, "Why can't there be an alternate trail that the public can hike?'"
   Since then Hardin has been working with Paul Carlson, the first full-time trail manager, to build an alternate trail with interpretive centers along the route. "The interpretive centers would make the trail more interesting and, long term, could add to economic development in communities along the route. It's incredible how rich a heritage the towns and communities along the OVT have," Hardin said.
   He and Carlson propose working with local governments along the OVT route to make the trail more user friendly and accessible, listing bed and breakfasts along the way as well as attractions.
   "It not only would be good for recreation and economic development, but could be promoted for health reasons. Look at the high level of heart attacks and strokes in this area. A greenway along the trail could be promoted for walking to better health," Hardin said.
   He is especially interested in developing the trail in the Roan Mountain area as the first section of the alternate trail. "That part of the trail runs through the park and across national forest land, and it's such a beautiful place to hike. The scenery is breathtaking," Hardin said. "After that we could work on developing the trail from Sycamore Shoals," he added.
   "It will take time to develop, but it can be done," Hardin said.
   He is the son of Kathryn Hardin of the Siam Community and the late Robert Hardin. He is married to the former Yolanda Grindstaff, also a Carter County native.
   Hardin is active in the ETSU Alumni Association, and is a past president.