September 1, 2010
Nancy Gray, (865) 436-1208
The last of a three-part series of hiking safety podcasts for Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now available for viewing. Water Safety and Day Hiking is part of the recently launched program “Reward Yourself - Hike the Smokies Challenge”. The podcast, developed by Great Smoky Mountains Association, is a 4-minute video podcast that showcases the beautiful water resources in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and provides tips on safe water practices while hiking in the Park. The podcast can be viewed at http://thegreatsmokymountains.org/hike_smokies_challenge.
“We hope that this video will be another tool to help visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience in the park’s backcountry. Hiking in the Smokies is not inherently dangerous, but there are incidents that can be prevented if people understand the potential risks that may occur in certain circumstances, particularly around streams and waterfalls,” said Cathleen Cook, Chief of Resource Education. “Understanding what the risks are in advance and how to prepare to avoid them will provide visitors with the information they need to make responsible and common-sense decisions when recreating in these natural settings,” she continued.
The park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature can create unexpected situations. When hiking, most of the park’s trails involve stream crossings, many are bridged but others are not. When crossing streams, a simple matter of wearing sturdy, water proof hiking shoes and using a hiking stick can help prevent slipping on rocks. The video points out that these beautiful, inviting streams can be dangerous at times. They can become extremely hazardous after a heavy rainstorm; therefore it is not recommended to try and cross swift moving streams.
The video also highlights some of the hazards of recreating around waterfalls. The park has some of the most beautiful waterfalls, and understandably these attract visitors. But, there have been several fatalities and numerous serious injuries at these locations. Mainly these accidents are associated with people climbing on slippery moss-covered rocks or swimming in pools at the base of the falls with powerful undercurrents that will pull swimmers under.
A good way to begin your Smokies experience is to view all three podcasts. These were designed to encourage visitors to get outdoors and exercise, but also to promote safe practices. The first podcast developed for this program is Day Hiking in the Smokies: Expect the Unexpected , a 5-minute video on weather and how to prepare and respond to potential weather extremes and the mountainous terrain. The second podcast is a 6-minute video on Day Hiking and Wildlife, informing the viewer of wildlife behavior, particularly black bears, and the appropriate responses and regulations to be followed by park visitors.
The Association’s website also has an online bookstore which sells maps and trail guides and even first time starter kits, park explorer kits, and backcountry hiker kits. Or when in the park, stop at a visitor center to get the latest, most up-to-date information and pick up a Reward Yourself – Hike the Smokies Challenge pocket-sized booklet for $1.00. These booklets are available to help hikers keep a record of trail mileage. When a person has hiked 100 miles, 250 miles, and 500 miles, he/she can bring their mileage record to one of the three visitor centers to receive a mileage pin and be recorded in the “Hike the Smokies” 2010 web records. The challenge of the program is to keep track and record the mileage from each trail excursion, even if it is the same trail day after day.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, a Proud Partner of America’s National Parks, and in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.