Friday, January 25, 2013

Iced In! When you can't hike, plan to hike!

On a day when Tennessee has declared a state of emergency as a result of the ice storm, all I can do is think about hiking instead of getting out there to do a little hiking. This storm is probably going to mean I don't get to hike tomorrow either, Saturday, as I had planned to--and that's a bummer!
A hiking addiction with a full-time job and family responsibilities means there's a great deal of time spent longing to be on the trail when you can't really get out there. But I've come to find that the planning that goes into a goal like hiking all of the trails in the Smokies is half the fun.
Every Smoky Mountain hiker should have a copy of Hiking Trails of the Smokies--probably considered by most to be the Bible of those who walk the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This book gives trail descriptions of every official trail within the park boundaries, listed alphabetically. The trail descriptions include not only interesting things to see along the path, but also historical accounts of the region and stories of those who lived here before the park was founded. There are also elevation maps which mark all significant water crossings--something quite beneficial especially if planning a winter hike when water crossings can be cold at best and dangerous at worst!
But if you are considering planning to hike all the trails of the Smokies, there's another resource you MUST have--Day Hiker's Guide to All the Trails in the Smoky Mountains by Elizabeth L. Etnier.
Liz had divided the park into regional sections and has mapped out a way to do all the trails in the park as day hikes, albeit some of them very long day hikes. This book includes directions on whether you need one vehicle or two for a hike and suggestions on where to park them. It also maps out designations of "new miles" and total mileage hiked for those of us who are tracking those statistics as a way to show progress toward the goal. However, this book would also be an excellent reference for anyone looking for day hikes that most park visitors never consider--something that is of great benefit during the highest visitation periods of the year when the most popular day hikes are often crowded, far from the secluded retreat you might be seeking. The vast majority of the trails listed in this book will not be well-traveled. In fact, on most of the hikes we do, encountering other people is a rarity.
And then there is the question of maps. I have two--The Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map on which I highlight the trails as I have completed them, a visual record of my progress and also a reminder of all that which remains to be hiked. Now that's motivation! I know hikers who have laminated this map and hung it on an office or bedroom wall, highlighting it as they go. That would be a great way to do it too, but I just keep mine folded on my desk. I highlight each new trail almost as soon as I get home and unpack my backpack.

My second map is a waterproof topographical map that makes almost every hike carefully stowed in my backpack, just in case something goes wrong. After having made a wrong turn on the AT last summer resulting in a harrowing 20-mile hike that was supposed to be a 7-miler, I have made it a point to hike with this map. I purchased it right after that hike, and it is a staple in my backpack. This map has enough detail to be of great help in case you should get confused at a trail intersection or need to know the fastest way out of the wilderness to get help.
Between all of these resources, which can be found here, I can spend hours on a cold, icy day looking forward to and mapping out the hikes I hope to do in the coming weeks and months. I can think of better ways to spend a day--hiking would be choice number one! But if it's too cold and icy to get outside, this isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon.


  1. You should get a laugh out of this...I'm in Florida, but one of the first things that got packed in my book bag was my "brown book" (aka Hiking Trails of the Smokies) and my maps. I keep two of the $1 maps going at all times. One is my master map of all the trails I've done and the other is a new one I start each year so I'll know what specific trails I did in that year. I also carry the National Geographic set in my backpack. I'll have to take a look at the map you mentioned in the post. Ugh on the timber rattler on Little Bottoms. The only trail I have left to do in that area is Cooper Road from Cane Creek trailhead out to Wet Bottoms TH. Well, I haven't done Beard Cane, but am not sure they'll ever get it reopened.

  2. Ok, so it's official! You definitely share the same addiction as our little hiking group! Starting a new map each year is a great idea. Might have to try that. I have done Cooper Road from Cane Creek to Wet Bottoms. The storm devastation in that area is absolutely staggering. However, I have heard rumors that either Hatcher Mountain or Beard Cane might be opening soon. Have you done Hatcher Mtn then? Guess you did it before the tornado two years ago. We just started this pursuit in 2012, so I've not done it. If they open Little River Road today, I believe we are going to do a short hike after all--we're just going to start later than usual so things have a chance to warm up and melt off. Hope you are enjoying the sun and surf in Florida.