Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hiking in the Twitterverse

At the trailhead of Jakes Creek
As I wait for a second pot of coffee to brew to warm my hands on this snow day from school, I reflect on what a positive impact Twitter has had on my hiking adventures, especially of late. I had maintained a Twitter account as a teacher for my Microbiology students to tweet in for several years, but had only used it for that purpose. So I joined Twitter personally three years ago, not having any idea how to really use it, but intrigued by the possibilities of what might be. I began by searching for hashtags that had to do with my newly-developing passion, hiking. Following the tweets of folks who were, in my eyes, professional hikers or companies who shared tremendous knowledge about the sport I was beginning to love, led to me learning important things like how to stay safe in emergencies, simple tricks that made hiking easier, the ever-expanding list of gear I could put on my wish list, and how to pack a backpack the right way. This, however, was only the beginning.

Over the last three years, Twitter has introduced me to wonderful people in my area that share my passion for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spending time hiking or taking great photographs in it. Online friendships seemed a little odd to me at first and on at least one occasion I made mistakes and accidentally made presumptions I shouldn't have, creating tension in what had been a jovial alliance, but after so many years, you do begin to feel like you've really known these fellow trekkers for a long time. I cannot tell you how many times I've laughed at the silly banter that takes place among hiking friends even if they've never seen one another. Sharing our love of the Park and its secret places...places that the tourists never see, creates a bond of camaraderie of collective passion. I've learned so much about this beautiful park we are so lucky to have in our backyards!

At the Avent Cabin

Over the last few weeks, I've been blessed to meet and hike with two of our little group, loving called #ETHikerTrash, and am so thankful that I've come to know them. The New Years' Day hike I took with @ginastafford is already recorded here. On Martin Luther King Day, we were joined by @shuckydern, wise and experienced hiker whom I am pleased to now call friend! Gina and Shucky led us to the Avent Cabin, one of those treasures of our Park that is, as another virtual friend,
Steve Oliphant says, "hidden in plain sight," and what a day we had! Temps were no more than 17-20 degrees all day and the wind chill was supposed to be about 10 degrees. We were cold, yes, in fact it took me the rest of the day and two hot baths to finally thaw out. But what a delight it was to hike with Shucky and Gina, along with the other members of the Three Hiketeers with whom I normally hike. We laughed, sniffled from the intense cold, warmed our hands in the sun at the Avent Cabin, ran across Huskey Creek if you take Gina's word for it, and stopped numerous times to just admire the incredible views of snow-capped mountains which surrounded us as we completed the Cucumber Gap loop. We were kindred spirits in our love for these mountains. It was special--special indeed!
Trying to thaw out in the car after the hike!

So, if you're on Twitter, I (@HikerTN) want to introduce you to some really amazing people who have a tremendous wealth of knowledge about our mountains and the sport of wandering through them. Some of these are avid hikers who can share personal experiences about the trails, some are companies that I have learned a great deal from over the years, and some are folks who have many Twitter connections and from whom I learn much from their RTs (retweets). I have even followed the Appalachian Trail Thru Hikes of some of these awe-inspiring individuals. Some of the best photographers I know are among these fine folks as well. Although none of them are technically "professional," they certainly are in my book! And two of them are my closest "real life" friends and hiking buddies with whom I pursue the quest of hiking all the trails in the  Smokies. I am pleased to help you make their acquaintance and hope they bless your life as they have mine. In no particular order (and I apologize up front for leaving anyone out--it's inevitable I would think):


If you are a Twitter hiker, who are your favorite folks to follow? I'm always looking for more sources of hiking inspiration and information.

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