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Preparing to hike in the Smoky Mountains

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While hiking can be done almost any time year around, the warm spring weather brings out an increase in hikers, both professional and amateur, in the Smoky Mountains. The professionals know the routine, but for the less-than-regular hiking enthusiast here are a few helpful tips and links.

Checklist

Here is a checklist for gear, weather, and other things you want to consider before entering the trial head. Amazingly, we who hike infrequently tend to forget little things like water, checking the weather, and choosing the proper clothing. In the past winter several young people had to be rescued in the park because they spontaneously went on a hike with only regular street clothes. Not staying hydrated is the number one problem according to this top ten list of hiking mistakes. But if ten mistakes aren't enough, there are at least fifty-two mistakes hikers make according to backpacker.com.

Friends and Family

Planning your hike be sure to take into account who your travelling companions might be. If they are infrequent hikers you may be surprised at the short duration they have for the hike. Two personal experiences come to mind. One young lady who I was dating walked very daintily through the trails making progress very slow over a short trail. If you are taking elderly people, overweight people, or children your hike may be cut short so plan to have an exit strategy for everyone's health and safety.

Terrain and Conditioning

On another occasion, my future wife and I decided to take a five mile hike to Abram's Falls in Cade's Cove. The hike was uneventful but it was long since we didn't hike regularly. The next day I was almost unable to walk. After considering why my legs hurt so much I realized that it was walking over the roots and rocks of that trail. Not regularly walking such terrain meant my body was not prepared for it. So set your expectations accordingly.

Allergies, Stings, and Bites

Allergies have been a problem for me all my life but a few outings in the woods have emphasized how the problem can escalate quickly. Once while we were living in Mississauga, Ontario we went for a walk along a river path we had walked several times before. This happened to be the springtime with all the plants in bloom. After this brief walk I had an allergy attack to something along the way which came on quickly and was more severe than my regular allergies. Some fragrance or pollen hit me unusually hard that day. It was nothing a little Benadryl couldn't fix but it was unexpected. Similarly, consider things like bug spray and medicine if someone were to be bitten or stung by an insect.

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