The apparent goal of trails and miles checked off a list isn’t the pursuit here. The trails and miles are merely an end that provide the means to see and experience the Great Smoky Mountains intimately. As a self-proclaimed plant nerd and nature lover, the best way to truly appreciate and try to understand the effortless complexity of life in these mountains is to place myself within the heart of it at a walking pace. Even that will quite often be too fast. True understanding comes from quiet observation and reflection. To read the signs, learn the lessons, absorb the essence of this place you must be still long enough for them to penetrate the pores, make an impression, and become part of you. The three years I’ve earmarked for this adventure will hardly be adequate to accomplish these true goals.