Preserving a path in history: Key piece of the Trail of Tears receives new protection

photo Old roads wind through the 222-acre tract of land, seen Thursday in Coker Creek, Tenn., that has recently been conveyed to the U. S. Forest Service from The Conservation Fund. The property, which is intersected by the Unicoi Turnpike Trail, includes sections designated as parts of the original Trail of Tears route.

Read moreCherokee perspective lecture on remembrance of the Trail of Tears at UTC

COKER CREEK, Tenn. - As he walks the trail that leads across almost 400 acres of woodland south of Coker Creek, Tenn., it's not hard for Jim Sirmans to imagine the Appalachian native peoples living and thriving among the hollows and majestic peaks.

"They didn't want to leave," said Sirmans, about the Cherokee who were forced from their homes and farms in the 1830s so whites could settle there.

Nearly