Smokies Hiking 101: What to Take and How to Act

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Once you have settled comfortably into your Gatlinburg rental cabin, you surely have plans to explore your surroundings. Following a trailhead in early spring offers many advantages to the warmer, people-packed, buggier summer months ahead. Here is a short summary of what you will want in your backpack, and a few tips that experienced hikers want everyone to know.

Backpack Items for the Trip:

Spontaneity is not your friend on a trail in the wilderness. As tempting as it might be to take off on a hike without planning, don’t do it. Conditions change very quickly in our area because of the terrain, and knowing what you might face before you go is essential. Plan appropriately for a hike by first checking the weather. Rain or shine, time outdoors can be lovely as long as you are prepared. A few items that can be of help are:
  • A trail map. Even if you know where you are going. In case of emergency, since others may not.
  • A first aid kit. Plan for a wide variety of ailments from cuts to bugs to blisters.
  • Water and food. Both plain water and electrolyte, and even a water filter to use local water sources to refill. Never drink untreated water! Salty food and about twice the quantity of snacks that you think you will need.
  • Light source. A flashlight, or better yet, a headlamp for hiking out after dark, so you can see where you need to step. Check that it works properly before you go.
  • A whistle and mirror. For signaling for help, if you need to contact someone and can’t move.
  • Extra clothes. A dry set of clothes (and preferably something waterproof) can prove invaluable should you happen to need it. No, I have never slipped on a river rock either.
  • Phone in a plastic or waterproof bag. Place it in airplane mode or turn it off. Though there is little cellular reception in the national park, it still may prove valuable if needed.
  • There are many more items that can be included, of course. Include what best fits your trip needs, for a short walk or a daylong hike.

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Trail Courtesy Tips:
Any activity is more fun when everyone follows the basic rules of play. Here are four tips that pro hikers practice daily:
1. Always hike with a friend. Hiking alone presents many hazards that most are ill-equipped to handle. Also make sure you have a contact check-in plan. Leave this information with someone who expects to hear from you when your hike is completed: which trail you are hiking and where you are parked, who is going, and when you plan to arrive back.
2. Don’t litter, and don’t abandon extra or broken gear. You are not doing anyone else a favor, and it is both unsightly and a hazard to local wildlife. Carry a few resealable plastic bags, and pack out all trash so that you leave nothing behind. Not even food scraps or poured out soda. Leave. Nothing. Behind.
3. Be polite to others on the trail. Know that uphill hikers have the right of way, and let them pass you if you are descending. If you want to pass a slower moving person or group, slow down, and let them know that you want to pass, saying something such as “Passing left please”. Startling someone on a mountainside can be dangerous.
4. Be quiet, and do not disturb. Respect nature and its inherent serenity. Many people explore to get away from noise, and a loud crowd can spoil the peace for some distance in both directions, not to mention ensuring you will see zero wildlife. So hold conversation to a minimum, and make children behave. Everyone will thank you for doing so.
So get outdoors, and see the beauty of the Smokies up close and in person. Everyone at Volunteer Cabin Rentals has their favorite spots in the mountains, though we don’t get to visit as often as we would like. Just ask, and we will be glad to steer you toward that perfect path. We hope to see you this spring, and hope you will return again and again to experience our area’s wilderness in several seasonshikers