Prepare for the unexpected and the expected. Rain is possible just about any day, any time in the Smokies. Good rain gear – coat and maybe pants – are essential to keep you and your pack dry. An extra pair of socks and water shoes on trails without bridged crossings are good ideas. Dry off with a microfiber towel that folds compactly, or dip it in a stream to cool off. Sunscreen, a hat, and insect repellent are handy too.
Visual aids bring life in the woods up close and personal. With a good pair of binoculars, wildlife can be observed without disruption. The smaller-scaled wonders are best appreciated with a 10x hand lens that slips easily into a pocket or onto a lanyard.
One of the great benefits of a hike in the Smokies is the solitude. There are a few really popular spots typically jammed with people during the summer. Just go past Laurel Falls or Rainbow Falls or Grotto Falls or Abrams Falls to leave the crowd behind. Then relax and revel in the quiet. Pull out a notebook and pen to record observations, impressions, or reflections. Sketch a lovely scene, an unknown flower, or an unusual insect. What do you see or hear? How do you feel? These close observations bring the trail to life, and the notes will refresh memories and may prove even more revealing in retrospect.