The decision to hike all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not an easy one to make. The reality that such a decision is not carved in stone and can be abandoned at any time didn’t ease the angst of deliberation. Something has been declared, a line drawn, a goal set, and failure to achieve for some reason – especially the weaselly “I changed my mind” sort – just might reveal unforgivable character flaws. Maybe time is needed to simply get used to the idea, to let thoughts run in a few circles before settling. Does it still sound fun, interesting, doable? Is it more appealing or less with the passage of time? Plus, this decision affects so much more than just me. Hiking buddies and/or car shuttle buddies will be needed. Living nearly four hours from the park necessitates travel and accommodation expenses. Several times a year, Hubby and our two Kitties will have to hold down the home front alone. The logistics will be challenging. Yet despite these issues, the decision to proceed has now been made. Onward.
There is an “adventure” quality to such an undertaking. You can dust off noble but little used words such as embark and quest. It isn’t climbing Mount Everest, swimming the English Channel, or rafting the Amazon, but it is substantial – not something many people accomplish or even want to accomplish. There is a real element of risk and danger – from literal missteps (falling and breaking a bone or worse) to unfortunate wildlife encounters (yellow jackets, timber rattlesnakes, bears); daunting perhaps (to an inexperienced city girl) but not overly so. A little preparation and common sense can easily relegate these real possibilities to a more remote standing and allow optimism and excitement to hold sway. This quest is quite doable for the average person who determines it to be a worthy endeavor.
So how long should this take? My plan is a minimum of three years. Six visits a year of approximately one week each with an average 50 miles per visit. Hiking Trails of the Smokies lists 162 trails in the park. Few are loops, so many sections have to be repeated to do them all. The total mileage needed is somewhere around 830, but actual miles hiked will be 100 to several hundred miles more depending on how the hikes are organized.
Many others have accomplished this goal, some more than once. The 900 Miler Club has a select membership of those determined souls who have succeeded. Perhaps by the end of 2012, I’ll join them.