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Hey y’all! We are Big Orange Smoke, a group of University of Tennessee students working to raise money and awareness for the Friends of the Smokies “Trails Forever” project in the Smoky Mountains. This blog will walk you through all of our goals for the fundraising campaign and the progress we’ve made thus far. Don’t worry though, this won’t just be a progress report! We’ll have periodic inserts with fun stories about the Smokies and what makes our local national park so great! Check back in to read more about some of the great benefits of hiking the Smokies, where you can go to donate, and why everyone should check out the Friends of the Smokies site! 

Friends of the Smokies

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In conclusion…

Hey y’all!

Unfortunately our campaign for the Smoky Mountains has come to an end. It has been a pleasure keeping you all informed throughout the process and being able to share some interesting tidbits with everyone.

Though we did not reach our ultimate goal in fundraising, we did  manage to raise $215 dollars to go directly to the Friends of the Smokies organization. I would like to thank all eleven of the people who donated and helped our cause. In addition to the donations, we also got over 1,600 views to our campaign website!!! So even though our donations didn’t quite reach what we were hoping or expecting, we did effectively spread the word to people about the organization who may otherwise never have heard about it.

I’m very happy to say our Vols for the Smokies group has created a positive impact for the beautiful national park in our backyard. If any of you decide you want to be a contributor to our cause but missed the donation window, please go and donate to our partnering organization, Friends of the Smokies

Almost Over!

My limited time as a writer of blog posts is nearing its terminus! With only one day left to raise money for the Friends of the Smokies, our partnering nonprofit organization, I figured I would share this blog about all the other bloggers out there who intrigue all us readers with such fascinating stories.

Writing a blog is an easy task, the hard part is getting people to read it and maintain an interest across a variety of topics and times! I’ve seen this as a struggle by trying to keep this blog centered around our main goal, raising money for the Smoky Mountains, while also trying to put together something that would be intriguing to a passerby of this site. I now see a new appreciation for those of you are able to create passionate articles that peak interest every single day!

Anyway, I am looking for some stories now to cap off my time in working with the Smoky mountains. To anyone who has read this blog our any of my previous posts, comment what your favorite Smokies memory is. It can be as simple as a favorite trail you hiked when you were five years old. Whatever it may be, leave a comment and help us spread our memories to anyone who hasn’t yet been able to experience the magic that is Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

My favorite memory comes from a time nearly ten years ago, my first time ever being in the Smoky Mountains. I came with my family and the families of my three best friends. After we had our picnic in one of the great recreational areas of the park, we all went and started walking along the rock in one of the streams. At first it seemed like such a small detail to an otherwise very grand vacation, but as the years have passed and memories have faded, one of the most vivid scenes I carry with me are those four hours we all spent playing around in a creek after a picnic. Please share your memories, we’re very interested in seeing what stands out most to people!

As always, please check out our campaign site and donate to Vols for the Smokies!!

Making the most of the Smokies

Hello all! We are in the final week of the time to donate to our campaign to benefit the Friends of the Smokies! As we reach the finish line to our project we hope to finish strong and make this our most productive week yet. This last week will be filled with awesome tidbits about the Smoky Mountains National Park and of course a final update on how much you all have helped us raise for this great cause!

Today I am going to discuss how to make the most out of a day trip up to the Smokies. The most important step in taking advantage of this beautiful area is to make a plan before you go. It’s important to do your research before heading into the park to maximize all e available hiking and exploring time on the trails! Create an itinerary with help from this site, and don’t forget to plan for lunch!

Another important step in maximizing your Smokies experience is to dress for all elements. This may go without saying, but as the elevation increases, the weather becomes much less predictable! The best way to combat all the crazy elements is to be prepared for even the worst of elements. I always come ready with different layers of clothing in my car as well as some waterproof attire just in case the rain pops out of nowhere.

The final step to making the most out of a Smokies adventure is to bring your favorite people! No hike is the same without your best pals or the fun relatives to hang out with. Everyone knows the best part about reaching that summit or waterfall at the end of the trail is taking the ultimate selfie to capture the moment forever! I hope you have enjoyed this blog edition take some time to make the most out of your next trip to the Smokies.

As always, please check out our campaign to help make the Smokies the best they can be!

Vols for the Smokies

Progress Report

Hey everyone! Thanks for keeping tabs with some of our blog posts and all the help towards achieving our goal of raising $1,000 for the Trails Forever Restoration project. This post is to keep you all up to date on what we have been doing to reach new donors and make a difference for the Smokies!

As I’m sure most of you know, we have been reaching out to people a lot over our social media pages as well as through flyers and other handouts around campus. We are so grateful for all of the views our Generosity page has received and really appreciate all our followers for clicking through on our links! We’ve also received donations from seven very generous people for $125!

We do need your help now to make sure we reach our goals and raise as much money as we can for our nonprofit! So, whenever you see posts about Vols for the Smokies our our Trails Forever Blog, make sure to like and share the post as well as tell all your friends and family! Together we can help make the trails of the Smokies the best they can be, check out our Generosity page!

Vols for the Smokies

Smoky Facts

Today’s Trails Forever Blog post will be featuring some of the coolest facts and stories about the Smoky Mountains! There’s some awesome details about the park that I wasn’t even aware of before starting this project and I feel are worth sharing.

The Smoky Mountain National Park is the largest park east of the Rockies, and the most visited park anywhere with between nine and ten million visitors annually! A lot of the incredible draw to the park comes from all the awesome wildlife found within the more than 800 square miles of protected wilderness. The largest and most prevailing area of the park is the Cades Cove scenic valley area; a 4,000 acre loop that is home to a variety of wildlife including black bears, deer, and wild turkeys. Not surprisingly, the best time to catch a glimpse of these awesome animals is near sunrise or sunset.

Hiking in the Smokies also boasts some very prestigious distinctions. At 6,643 feet of elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smokies and the third highest peak east of the Mississippi. That said, Clingmans Dome marks the highest point along the world renowned Appalachian Trail. If you do decide to hike to the highest point in the Smokies make sure to bring a jacket! No temperature above eighty degrees has ever been recorded atop Clingmans Dome!

Wildlife and hiking aren’t the only attractions this park has to offer! With a total of seventy-eight historic sites scattered throughout the area, those interested in learning about the rich cultural significance of the Smokies are sure to be entertained. At one time, the park was inhabited by the Cherokee Indian Tribe, from which they gave it the affectionate name “Land of Blue Mist”. In addition to the remnants of Native American culture in the park, many structures built during the great depression still stand today!

Hope you enjoyed some of the fascinating details about the Smokies! Please help our charity by checking out the link to our Generosity page below!

Vols for the Smokies

Health Benefits of Hiking the Smokies

Hiking the trails of the Smoky Mountains is about more than just enjoying the beautiful scenery and immaculate views of the mountain ranges. It is also about having a relaxing activity to allow you to unwind from all the stresses of daily life, and become a healthier person because of it.

The obvious benefit of hiking some of the more strenuous trails in any mountain range comes from all the increased muscular workout. Some of these benefits include building muscle mass, lowering your risk for heart disease, improving blood pressure, and boosting balance to name a few. However, there are some other very important health aspects hiking.

Taking even the most mild of walks through a natural area can lead to measurable changes in a person’s brain. From fighting depression to suppressing anxiety, published studies have found a positive connection from hiking to mental health improvements (LA Times). If you’re looking for an easy way to get a good psychological or physical pick-me-up in the middle of the day, consider taking a stroll through the Smokies or any local nature park!

Popular Trails in the Smoky Mountains

Trails Forever is an annual campaign, put on by the non-profit organization Friends of the Smokies, aimed at reconstructing and rehabilitating impacted trails in the Smoky Mountains. Now a $5 million endowment, Trails Forever funds the rehabilitation of  numerous trails. Because of this campaign, Friends of the Smokies has made it possible to hike all the popular trails that have been around for decades, allowing different generations to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. On that note, here are some popular trails in the Smoky Mountains that I have personally hiked:

Rainbow Falls

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Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smoky Mountains. The best time to make the trek to the falls is after long periods of rain. However, be cautious of the rocks near the waterfall because they are quite slippery from the mist and algae.

Andrews Bald

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Kevin and Sam enjoying the breath-taking view of Andrews Bald.

 

Distance: 3.5 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Andrews Bald is marked as the highest bald in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a relatively shorter hike with spectacular panoramic views overlooking Fontana Lake and the southern Smokies. Andrews Bald is an easy hike for all friends and family members.

Chimney Tops

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My brothers and our friends reaching the top of Chimney Tops.

 

Distance: 3.8 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

 

Chimney Tops definitely isn’t the easiest hike, yet it’s one of the most rewarding hikes. I took my brothers and our 2 friends on this trail for their first ever hiking experience, and for a majority of the way up there was a lot of complaining. However, once we reached the top, they were all amazed at the view and were glad they stuck it out.

Alum Cave Trail

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Clay and Hamilton relaxing inside Alum Cave.

 

Distance: 4.4 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

I hiked this trail a few years ago in the middle of March. This was perfecting timing because the temperature was warm enough for shorts and a light jacket, yet the snow hadn’t entirely melted. This was only a problem once we reached Alum Cave because icicles were melting and falling from the edge of the cave. Fortunately there weren’t any injuries, but Alum cave is a must hike.

Abrams Falls

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People enjoying Abrams Falls.

 

Distance: 5.2 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Moderate

 

Although somewhat lengthy, the hike itself to Abrams Falls is rather easy. In my opinion, the trail itself is one of the most scenic trails in all of the Smokies. I would even say that the trail is just as stunning as the waterfall. Even though Abrams Falls is only 20 feet in height, the large volume of water rushing over the cliff makes up for it.

 

 

Other popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains that I look forward to do in the near future include Porters Creek Trail, Charlies Bunion, Rocky Top/Thunderhead, and Spruce Flat Falls.