The following is a guest post by Laura Chapman, who is a freelance writer. You can email Laura your thoughts and comments at email@example.com.
Nothing beats a rugged Smoky Mountain trail for throwing the scent of fresh mountain laurel in your face when your heart is pumping and you are clinging to a rock face overhanging one of the most spectacular vistas in the country, or when you are plunging your crampons into an ice-cloaked trail on some of the best climbs in the east coast. From a casual clamber to cliff-scaling glory, the Great Smoky Mountains have everything that an adrenaline junkie could hunger for.
The Best Playground is Nature’s Playground
With thousands upon thousands of acres of a wilderness which is home to some of the most magnificent rock formations, a vast network of valleys, rivers, and an endless forest, the Smoky Mountains have long been the stuff of legends in Native American lore and have captured the imaginations of many explorers since, like the visionary founder of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, George Masa. Masa believed in the potential of the surrounding mountainscape as a place which not only needed to be preserved and protected, but could offer an experience for its visitors which would be treasured for a lifetime. Part of this meant capitalizing on the sublime beauty of the park, and part of it meant turning the Smokies into one eco-friendly playground.
Scaling Heights, Reaching Greatness
There isn’t a more adventurous way to scale a big natural playground than by a set of sturdy hiking boots, a durable, light-weight jacket, and a small pack. The Smokies offer thousands of acres of opportunities to venture into for a taste of hiking and teeth-gnashing rock-climbing in all seasons. Containing some of the oldest rocks in the history of the earth, the backbone of the Smoky Mountains has been carved into a massive artwork of geological wonder, pocked-marked, chafed, and irresistible to feet and fingers looking for a rough surface to cling to. Nantahala features some of the most challenging and awe-inspiring climbs that have built the stuff of legends and provided endless imaginative scope for photographers and nature enthusiasts like Masa; rigorous climbs that test the endurance of body and soul but are rewarded at the end by the taste of victory and incredible panoramic views. Styles like bouldering, sport climbing, top-rope climbing and traditional climbing are easily practiced with outdoor groups offering both equipment and guides.
Prepping for Summits of Success
With another deliciously picturesque summer on the way full of scents, sounds, and scenes, hikers and climbers from across the globe will be hitting the trails of that lead to the Chimney Tops and surrounding vistas. Checking weather conditions, updating maps, charging batteries and topping up on the basics are just a small part of the crucial preparation process for taking on the legendary giants. A good part of the preparation for serious hiking in the Smokies means taking time to kit out in the right gear and ensuring a fit which is both resistant yet comfortable. Sometimes this means breaking in a boot on an initial hike, as discussed in Outside’s helpful how-to on Essential Mountain Climbing Gear. While Gary of Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado acknowledges that most boots are ready to ride the trails almost right away, there is always a beneficial aspect to making sure that your sole is a good match.
But summer isn’t the only season to enjoy an escape off the beaten track. Snow-capped peaks and ice-shrouded cliff faces present a more challenging course for the avid climber, and the stark and breathtaking face of the landscape during its winter transformation is new and revealing. Here, it is even more essential to choose the right gear like a pair of hardy crampons, a light-weight ice pick, and durable pack and jacket. Gary is quick to point out that for the majority of climbing people tend to over-accessorize, and that for fairly straightforward day-hiking traveling light is the way to go. Right now is a good time to start seeking out some good deals on outfitting for all seasons, although summer stock and post-spring sales will be dominating the aisles.
Winding Down, Big Sports Style
So remember, the key to a successful hike lies in the equipment, and good quality gear will do some of the hard work for you, empowering you to focus on new challenges and absorb the breathtaking landscape surrounding you. It’s hard to be brave with blisters, after all. But at the end of the day when victory is achieved, it’s nice to know where you can hang up the ol’ pair of boots and relax by a warm fire or cool down to a cocktail.
Thankfully adventurers can visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for a good winding down and savor some of the best cuisine in the region by visiting the bars and restaurants in town. Puckers Sports Bar and Grill is one of the favorites, but the beautiful selection of BBQ’s and pancakes and brick ovens across the area offer plenty to please the palate, so the hardened nature warrior can reward their long day’s work.