Morgan Simmons of the Knoxville News Sentinel has an interesting article today on George Minnigh, who served as a ranger for Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 30 years, and what he carries with him as he dayhikes the Smokies.
The usual items are there–first aid kit, extra food, and warm clothing plus rain gear. Visitors to the Smokies often get fooled by the balmy weather in Gatlinburg and asssume that they will be as warm at 4,000 feet as they are at G-burg’s 1,586 feet. They go up, get wet, get cold, and sometimes die.
Minnigh carries two items that I would not have thought of: a signal mirror and a 10-by-20-inch foam pad. The former can be used to signal a rescue helicopter in the event you need one. Unless hikers are on a bald on a mountain peak or along a ridge, they are almost impossible to see from a moving aircraft. The pad allows a hiker to sit down on wet or cold ground–very frequent conditions in the Smokies–and still stay warm.
Simmons’ piece has some interesting stats about the back country in the Smokies: “Backcountry camping in the Smokies has been declining gradually since 1997. Park visitors spend about 30,000 backcountry nights in the backcountry each year. About 35 percent of these annual backcountry visits are spent at 12 locations along the Appalachian Trail.”
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