Six Things New Hikers Should Know

Six Things New Hikers Should KnowAfter hiking one of the most popular trails yesterday, I thought of a few important things new hikers need to know:

  1. Hiking etiquette-when hiking on any trail stay to your right when you are passing oncoming hikers. This may mean you have to walk single file if you are with a group. Be courteous to those hiking on the cliff side. If other hikers are coming up behind you, be mindful and let them pass on the left by going single file or by stopping to the side.
  2. Trail Markers-some trails, especially in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park(GSMNP), have trail markers. At the beginning of a trail, there will be what’s called a trailhead sign. This will tell you the ONE-WAY mileage of the trail.  Some trails have brochures you can pick up, some for a donation and some free. These brochures highlight certain aspects along the trail and are denoted by numbered markers on the trail. Some people confuse these with mile markers. They are not the same thing! Usually, if a trail has mile markers, it will say M or Miles on the marker. (I will update after I snap a picture from our next hike) Below is an example of different signage you might see. The first is a trailhead sign you will usually see near the parking area at the start of the trail. This is in one-way mileage. The second picture is of handy markers that were along the trail at Bud Ogle's place. It helps guide you on the trail as it goes rocks and can be hard to tell which way the actual trail goes. The third picture below shows the same concept but in a different way. This particular trail system marks theirs by color. As you can see in the fourth picture, the Sycamore Falls Trailhead marker has a blue flashing on it. Along the trail itself, it will have flashing tacked to trees to indicate the actual trail.

    Forney Ridge Trailhead Sign

    Trail Guide Marker

    Trail Guide Marker

    Sycamore Falls Trailhead Sign

  3. Pack in-Pack out-There is nothing worse than sitting down on a rock for lunch and learning that it was someone’s potty before you got there because their soggy tissue is still on the ground! Yesterday, on the hike there was an older gentlemen actually cleaning these and other trash off the trail. It’s simple, if you are taking tissues, take a bag to discard them in and carry it out to the trash. The park is not a trash can. For a helpful list of what to pack click here.
  4. Bear proof cars- don’t leave any food in your cars if you are hiking in areas where there are bear which is all of the GSMNP area. Don’t leave your food wrappers either! Bear have a great sense of smell and will break into your vehicle. It’s not worth it. Hike with your snacks or leave them in the room. If you hike with snacks, see #3!
  5. Water-always carry water with you! If you happen to fall and break your leg, you may be waiting for help for a while. It’s better to be prepared! On most hikes, we usually carry a bottle for the way in and one for the way out. Longer hikes or hikes that we pack a full picnic for, we take more.
  6. Pets-pets are not allowed on any trail in the GSMNP. The only trail that allows them that I know of at this point is the Gatlinburg Trail. Check all trail allowances before heading out! Most visitor centers can tell you the rules long before you bring your fur-baby to the woods.

We meet new hikers all the time that aren't prepared, that don't understand the trail systems, wearing the wrong shoes and all kinds of other hiking faux pas. We were there once, too.  That's why we are sharing what we know. We are not experts by any means but we want to share what we have learned over the years. Comment below with your hiking questions!

six things new hikers should know




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Best Smelling Restroom, Evah!

If you're new to following us, I'll tell you that we love Tennessee! We come as often as we can and have bobbed and weaved chasing waterfalls along the way. This trip we spent two nights getting to Gatlinburg so we could see some beauties in the Monteagle area and the Fall Creek Falls State Park.
As I am writing this, we are back on I-40 heading to lunch at Full Service Barbecue in Maryville, TN.  We woke up to snow in Fall Creek Falls and hiked to the main fall which was stunning! The hike was a little steeper than I recall but short and easy. It's rocky with plenty to see.

Trail to Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls

 The water was flowing with all the rain they've had and the snow was starting to accumulate. We opted to drive to Cane's Creek Falls (<-video of falls) and park at the Nature Center so we could just hop in the car after and head out. We probably would have hiked it if we were staying another night and had more time. Either way you come out at the gorgeous Falls that cascade two levels. From the main overlook there was another fall back to the right that was tall! The lady at the Nature Center told me it was called Rockhouse Falls.

Rockhouse Creek Falls

Suspension Bridge over Cane's Creek

View from the Suspension Bridge

Darren picked up a new book at the Nature Center as well. Waterfall Walks and Drives of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee will be the source for many new hikes, I am sure!
They park staff was great sweeping the snow from the suspension bridge and the stairs. It was all so nice! It was 27 degrees out but didn't feel cold at all. Not until we got in the truck sweaty and then got out for gas a ways down the road...33 then felt like 12!  Heated seats never felt so good!
The snow stopped as we got onto I-40, when I was writing earlier. We had a clear drive into Maryville for lunch. It was about 35 degrees out so we grabbed our ribs and ate in the truck. Full Service is an old gas station and only has outdoor seating at this location. They have the best smelling bathrooms evah! I know, that's weird. The bathrooms backup to the smokehouse so it smells like smoked ribs!!! It is rather strange walking into a restroom and enjoying the smell! Leave it to us to find such a gem...

Full Service BBQ

The ribs are so good they fall off the bone. Darren said the flavor was so good they must have been smoking these since we were here in August. I have to agree! I didn't even like ribs before I tried these. (I know I shouldn't admit that since I am from Texas...I don't like chicken fried steak either now that I am confessing.) This is a must stop for all carnivores. Dry ribs rock!
As we continued on, we went through Townsend, Wears Valley, Piegon Forge and then onto the Parkway to our resort. If you have followed us on Facebook, you know that our resort caught fire in December. Thankfully, some of the cabins were spared and here we are!  We could see some of the destruction driving in but when we turned onto our property, tears filled my eyes. It was overwhelming to look up the side of the mountain and not see it how we left it last summer. I couldn't even look at the parking attendant. I was afraid I'd look like a crazy woman.
We will post some pictures tomorrow for those curious. After hiking today, the only thing I wanted to do when we got here was unpack and shower. Darren took a few pictures and we will take plenty more I am sure. Be sure to follow us on Facebook if you don't already! I posted some live videos today and will do the same as the week continues!
We'd also love to hear from you in the comments. Let us know if there is anything here you'd like to know about or see? If you have any questions about any of the hikes, we'd love to help!






How To See Six Waterfalls In One Day!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost Yesterday, we headed out for our first parents only trip in six years. It was hard to leave our sixteen year-old, but she will have a blast with her 29 year-old sister; especially, riding around in sister's new Jeep with the top off! They've got manicures and pedicures on the schedule, as well. Sounds like great sister bonding time!

As usual, Darren planned a wonderful trip. We got out of town yesterday around 3:30pm. We wanted to make it to Memphis to maximize our day today. We did make it to the East side of Memphis which we've found is a nice area right off I-40 to stay with plenty of eating options.

We arrived late so the snacks in the car were our dinner. Which brings me to a few travel tips, pack: •    snacks within reach in the car •    drinks, think about what you'd want to drink with your snacks, water for taking medications and for staying hydrated, and whatever you'd drink for breakfast if you don't drink coffee or juice. (Are we the only rare people that don't drink either?) •    hiking boots in a plastic tote and take a pair of flip flops/crocs/slides for swapping out after a hike. The tote will keep the dirt/mud contained and makes for easy clean up. We leave the tote with the dirty boots in the car and change into and out of our boots at the car. Keeps the hotel/cabin cleaner too! •    a gallon size ziplock bag to collect all your hotel soaps. (We are collecting this time for my daughter's mission trip to Brazil this summer.) •    an old towel and some wipes to clean any mud off your legs (I usually kick myself and get mud right above my boot. Maybe I just need to learn how to walk.)

We didn't have a room reserved for the night so I drove while Darren did his magic on TripAdvisor. We stayed at a nice Hyatt Place Hotel. It had one of the best hotel free breakfasts we've ever had. Well, besides the one in San Antonio that had a breakfast taco bar. All South Texans would agree, breakfast tacos rock!

After breakfast we snagged a couple apples for our hike and loaded up for our next stop...Greeter Falls in Monteagle, Tennessee. Last summer we did this hike. Little did we know there had been a drought and it was a trickle!

When we first left Memphis headed east, the speed limit was only 65mph on the interstate. It was a nice speed trap with cops everywhere. I don't recall it being like this before but just beware if you are doing that way. Even after the speed limit changed to 70mph, the cops were still out until at least Jackson. Maybe that's why I -40 in Tennessee is better than in Arkansas? They can afford to fix the roads! Haha!

Stopped for lunch at one of our favorites, Whitts Barbecue. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the food is always great.

Free Maps!

We always like to stop at the ranger station or park headquarters before we set out on hikes. They can tell you water levels, and if there are any hazards to look out for on the trails. They usually have great maps and even a visual small scale mountain map…I am sure that has a fancy name but it escapes me at this moment. It’s 10:35pm, I hiked to six waterfalls at this point and I am beyond pooped so help me out…

When we stopped for the info, we were reminded of all the many falls that were in this area. We intended on only hiking to two that were pretty short. We decided to take on the Grundy Forest Day Loop with the extra 1.2 miles for Sycamore Falls. The water was high and the falls were full. In fact, we entered the loop to the right and passed several mini falls and cascades along the way. The trail is nice, ups, downs and flats. Don’t be fooled by the sign like the couple was that passed us on the trail. They thought the Sycamore Falls sign said 6 miles when it said .6 miles. You cross over a nice bridge to get to that trail and it is a stunning hike. A few narrow points but other than that it was great. We finished out the loop in a hurry as we wanted to make it to Greeter Falls before dark.

Again, the ranger gave us great directions along with addresses that we could put in our GPS so getting from one fall to another was a piece of cake. Greeter is in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. The trail was muddy so we knew it would have water in the fall. It didn’t disappoint! It was worth the trek down the spiral staircase and other stairs.

Greeter Falls

After, we climbed out with shaky legs, we decided to go ahead to Boardtree Falls. That short little hike revealed my favorite of the day. The last time we were here it was completely dry. Not even a trickle. Today was amazing! Such a beautiful cascading fall.

See Darren at the bottom of Boardtree Falls!

We ended our day arriving at Fall Creek Falls State Park. We’ve been here before too. Enjoyed a nice dinner in their lodge. I had the salmon and Darren had the buffet. We are settled in for the night and will hike the falls in this park in the morning before heading on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.



Kayaking in Florida State Park

Crystal Beach, Destin, Florida If you’ve connected with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you know that we've spent a week in Destin, Florida. It’s not our typical hiking vacation but it was a great experience.  Looking for adventure we headed to Rocky Bayou State Park for some kayaking. I had a wonderful time. Darren said he didn't care much for the type of kayak we had. He said it was too constraining. He felt like he was going to tip it over. I am so thankful he didn't since we shared one!

We paddled out to where we had seen dolphins from the shore but by the time we got there they were long gone. A storm was brewing so we headed back. My youngest daughter and her friend had fun splashing in the water as we loaded up the kayaks.

Kayaking in Rocky Bayou

For those interested in Rocky Bayou kayaking:

  • If you are in Destin, you will have to cross the toll road. $4 each way.
  • There is a small fee to enter the park.
  • You rent the kayaks at the park office. The same place you pay upon entry.
  • The fee to rent the kayaks is based single, double or canoe.
  • They provide life jackets, paddles and seats for the kayaks.
  • The kayaks are down by the water locked up. They will give you a key.
  • The life jackets, paddles and seats you will have to cart yourself. (good thing we had the truck)
  • There is a restroom close to where you get the kayaks to change.

After turning in the kayaking equipment and key, we headed to one of their trails. It was so nice to be in the woods! Although we didn't have proper footwear, we enjoyed the sights. Hope you do, too! Happy exploring! Do you prefer the water, or the woods?

Found a trail!

Bridge at trailhead.

View from Bridge

Deer Moss

Deer Moss on stick





13 Things You Should Have in Your Backpack

Darren is the backpack carrier. He has lugged too many water bottles to count up the side of the mountain for us. We usually take two or three per person depending on the length of the hike. One for the way up, one for the picnic and one for the way down. While we are cautious of bear, we don't use a bear proof specific back pack but we do take precautions.

  1. Put all food in ziplock bags, then in a larger ziplock, and then into your pack. Bears have a strong sense of smell.
  2. Do the same with your trash sealing it back in the ziplocks. Pack it in, pack it out! Bears are killed when they get comfortable around people and cause problems. It all starts with us and how we pack.
  3. Don't leave your pack unattended.

Here is a list of what we usually pack:

  1. Water
  2. Snacks and/or picnic
  3. Whistle-scares bear and helps people find you if you get lost.
  4. Flashlight- it can get dark fast in the mountain. We have this one because it is also a taser!
  5. Rain poncho- storms can come on quickly.
  6. First Aid Kit
  7. Small towel
  8. Pocket knife
  9. Compass
  10. Bug spray
  11. Toilet Paper
  12. I also take chapstick because I don't leave home without it. Don't judge me.
  13. Darren also takes gum but don't spit it on the trail it's bad for wildlife.

If you want a bear proof bag, here is a suggestion. The backpack linked in the post is the closest I could find to ours. Ours is ten years old! The best thing is to get one that has the water bottle holders on the side and that is water resistant.

Happy trails!


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