We are family!
I think about this every time I lead a hike. Leading hikes for various nonprofit organizations seems to be my day job. I plan and lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association and, this summer, Family Nature Summits.
My granddaughter and I have been going all over the country with Family Nature Summits since 2010 and this year, they’re coming to the Smokies.
Yes, I love to hike but it’s also about building and nurturing my outdoor community. Many people would never get out on the trail, unless they came with a group. It’s
* The new person in town,
* The one that can no longer drive,
* The person who fell on the trail, recovered, and came back stronger than ever and climbed that hill,
* The hiker who says I am going to take my grandchildren here,
* My visitors from the city,
* The one who has no one to hike with . Hiking alone in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is very safe but not as fun as being with others.
* Family Nature Summits may be a misnomer. Many singles spend a week with FNS because it’s an inexpensive, simple way of seeing the country.
Hikers share their knowledge of other outdoor sports like fishing or cycling. Some tell stories of their ancestors who lived in the area. I am amazed at the folks that will drive from Charlotte or North Georgia for a day in Western North Carolina.
One New Zealander joined Friends of the Smokies to come on a guided hike in Cataloochee. For $35, which is the cost of membership for a year, she got an all-day outdoor experience with a bunch of Americans and lots of stories to tell when she gets home.
Everyone should go outside and play because it keeps you young and active. You connect with nature but you also tell the world that protecting land is important. For many newcomers, walking into Cataloochee is a great adventure.
One FOTS member in my car didn’t know what to expect when he rode in my car as we drove up Cove Creek Rd. He kept asking me “if I knew where I was going.” And when we rode back down at the end of the day, he was holding on for dear life. Another man didn’t really understand that people lived on the land until we went to a cemetery.
So, you don’t need friends or a spouse to hike with. You need to join an organization which will always run the hike and not be subject to the vagaries of an individual.
Hike and save the outdoors!