In reading the previous post, one might assume that I simply sucked up my fears and plunged ahead. Not so. There is a secret weapon that helped seal the deal for me. Day Hiker’s Guide to All the Trails in the Smoky Mountains by Elizabeth L. Etnier (Singing River Publications, Inc.) is a godsend of a guide that I stumbled across online. The author has hiked all the trails in the park and thoughtfully shared her experience in the most helpful way possible – by mapping the best trail combinations throughout the park and noting the mileage, possible trail hazards such as tricky stream crossings, and special accommodations like car shuttles.
This book breaks down a massive, amorphous idea into comprehensible, concrete steps. The park is divided into nine geographical sections, each with several hikes following one or more trails or trail segments necessary to complete that section. The guiding principle is to arrange trails that can be hiked within a single day, eliminating the need to backpack and camp. It was the precision of her approach so carefully delineated and easily followed that convinced me to get going. A clear blueprint lay before me.
I don’t anticipate rigidly following the book. Some of her trail combinations exceed 20 miles, a distance I’ve yet to try. The pace needed to finish during daylight hours might compromise my own cherished goal of really seeing and experiencing the park. No doubt there will be many modifications to accommodate my own needs and preferences, but I have a template to examine, to tweak as necessary, and, most importantly, invaluable advice, caveats, and directions to insure this journey is memorable for all the right reasons.