What is a family hike? A mile, two?
How much are elementary school children expected to walk for fun?
I’d like to suggest that a family hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park could be seven miles and be interesting.
Here are the details.
Our last day in the Smokies, Lenny, Hannah and I walked to Greenbriar School. We had parked at Metcalf Bottom and saw a large family group flailing around, so I suggested that they walk to see the school. We arrived at about 9:30 am and found Ms. Robin, the school teacher. Robin is a VIP, a volunteer in the park, who plays the teacher at Greenbriar School.
Robin made a fuss over Hannah and gave her a commemorative coin that Hannah treasures. When we were ready to move on, we saw that the large family group had arrived.
I told them about the Walker Sisters Home, another 1.3 miles but they politely told me “They’d think about it.”
We walked to the Walker Sisters Home, the home of five sisters who lived in the park until the last one died in 1964. See the details above.
We explored the house and went up the ladder to the second floor. The sisters were masters at PR and convinced the Park to let them sell their crafts as souvenirs to visitors. We walked back – four miles all together.
We had lunch at the picnic area at Metcalf Bottom. Hannah played in the water with a bunch of kids. Good thing that she had her water shoes in the car.
Then we walked up to Laurel Falls, another three miles. By then, it was early afternoon and the scene at the falls was the proverbial zoo.
Adults had climbed to the top of the falls, despite all the warnings. Children were slipping and sliding in the water and two kids were swinging on a branch in the middle of the falls.Where were their parents?
For some, this was the most difficult hike they had done and they got to the falls exhausted. Hannah played in the water but it was obvious that the scene was an accident waiting to happen and we left after about 15 minutes.
A volunteer was looking on helplessly. I told him that we appreciated all he did. He said that ” I can’t stop them. All I can do is use the radio if someone gets hurt.”
So our family hiking day was a total of seven (7) miles – an easy seven miles but seven, just the same.
Any healthy person over the age of 7 can do this. And for that large family group who walked to Greenbrier School – we never saw them again.