Once Upon a Time Breakaway




Quartz Arrowhead

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." ~ Cherokee Proverb
Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee is a wilderness retreat called...
Once Upon ~ a ~ Time Wilderness Adventures - HOMEBreakaway
A magical place where Cherokee
Once made their home
Where eagles nest
And bear still roam


Once Upon a Time Breakaway Once Upon a Time Breakaway Once Upon a Time Breakaway Once Upon a Time Breakaway
Respect….take only what you need….the earth is Our Mother….the Fish Game….we do not have a word in our language for goodbye. These are some of the many things you will learn from the Cherokee people.

Smoky Mountains - click to enlarge
The Great Smoky Mountains
Hard work….get dirt on your hands….challenge yourself to do things you've never done before….rescue trees….clean up creeks….repair a trail….plant trees….build something….make and can blackberry jam….split firewood….plant a garden. These are some of the many things you will experience volunteering at Once Upon A Time, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, and Sequoyah Museum.



Play….make new friends….learn about different cultures….plunge into a cold mountain creek….swap tall tales around the bonfire….learn to "give and take" with your group members….walk through the woods at night….sing the Native American Morning Song each morning to greet the new day. These are some of the things you will do with your fellow Breakaway adventurers.

Once Upon A Time is an approved host site for Breakaway, a national nonprofit organization linking college students with communities to perform service projects addressing a variety of social, cultural, and environmental needs. We were named 2007 Host Site of the Year and were one of five finalists for 2010 Host Site of the Year.
Rafting the Ocoee River - click to enlarge
We have been working with Breakaway groups since 1996. For more information about Breakaway, visit their website at www.alternativebreaks.org.

Our mission focuses on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, the environment, and rural Appalachia. We cooperate with several area agencies and communities: the Snowbird Cherokee community in Robbinsville, NC, Cherokee National Forest, Sequoyah Museum, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A unique aspect of our program is that we offer a variety of service projects during the week. A typical week involves one day in the Snowbird Cherokee community, one day in either Cherokee National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and one day homesteading at Once Upon A Time or volunteering at Sequoyah Museum.

Rafting the Ocoee River - click to enlarge
We are located on 40 acres in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, about 30 minutes southeast of Maryville, Tennessee. There are no streetlights or traffic lights here. Maybe your cell phone will work and maybe it won't. But we do have spectacular mountain vistas, abundant wildlife, and good old Appalachian mountain hospitality.

2019 News and Notes
The new policy of students preparing their own meals in their cabin has worked very well. The new policy of hosting only one school at a time has also had its advantages—we get to know all the students and have more time to interact with them. Sequoyah Excellence Award

2019 has been the year for awards and accolades from our service agencies. In August Rocky Branch Community Club presented a plaque to Once Upon A Time to recognize the 2,000+ students who have experienced homespun Appalachian music and hospitality on Friday nights. In October, the Sequoyah Museum Board of Directors surprised us at a luncheon with one of our Breakaway groups, and gave us a beautiful granite award in appreciation for the thousands of hours donated by our college and high school groups to build the Lakeshore Educational Trail on museum grounds, which involved clearing millions of invasive plants (PRIVET), and building bridges and a boardwalk. In November, Cherokee National Forest presented us with a Certificate of Appreciation and personalized jackets at a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at the Ranger Station. Every spring we are invited to a Volunteer in Parks Appreciation Dinner in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our agencies ask us every year “Are you going to host groups next year?” and we enthusiastically reply, “YES!”

The Saga of the Flying Squirrels came to an end in late March. Ed finally found the places where the flying squirrels were getting into the Backpack Inn cabin and boarded up the holes with 2x4’s. No more visitors at 2:00 am ☺ We inherited a new kitten “Squeakers” in late March. Rocky Branch AwardShe showed up at the cabin while University of Delaware was here, they socialized and fed her, and when they headed back to school, she adopted us as caregivers. Little Blue is enjoying having a cat around again.


Video: Ohio State students build hiking trail in Snowbird Cherokee community.

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