Since last December I have:
- spent 19 days on the trails in the Smokies
- taken 3 overnight backpacking trips in the Smokies
- completed 80.8 miles of new trails
- hiked a total of 137.6 miles of trails
For example, I'm less likely to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon slugging on the couch or mindlessly playing games on Facebook, and I'm much more likely to get my butt out of the house and out on to the trails. I'm also much more likely to go someplace new. In the past I've often gone back to the same trails over and over again because they're easy to get to, or have a neat waterfall or view. But now I'll look at my map and try to find someplace I've never been and it's made me explore parts of the park that I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise.
The downside is that I'm starting to exhaust the trails that are relatively close to my house. With the exception of a few trails in the Cades Cove area I've done most of the trails in the northwestern part of the park. This means I'm going to have to be more deliberate about planning and will have to range further from home to complete new areas.
My goal for the upcoming year is to complete at least 100 miles of trails. The biggest change I'll have to make to accomplish this is to do at least a couple of long-distance backpacking trips. The majority of my hikes over the last year have been day hikes that checked off less than 10 miles of trails. I can get a lot more bang for the buck by doing some multi-day backpacking trips that cover 20 or 30 miles of trail. This makes sense anyway because I'll be doing more trails that are farther away from my home. If I'm going to take the time to drive over to the eastern or southern part of the park I might as well stay for a couple of days and do some major mileage.
Til next time, happy hiking and happy winter solstice!