At the age of 13 I started to protest. I went on strike because the same thing happened every weekend again and again. On Sunday we dressed properly and drove to the Spessart, a low mountain range near my hometown, to go hiking! As soon as I’ve became a teenager this type of recreational activity was not acceptable anymore and so was the parental intervention in my weekend. There are countless amazing things we rather could have done on such a beautiful sunny day (watching TV on the couch and sharing some chips with like-minded kids, just as an example). As you might guess, my parents didn’t had the nerves to fight the juvenile me and I never went hiking with them again.
In retrospect, I have to admit that I was a stupid teenager. Actually, I really have to thank my parents for these trips through the woods. Even though it took me almost 15 years to realize , I love hiking today and I really enjoy it. It’s just great to put on a nice outdoor outfit and go off into the wilderness.
The initiation for my new-found wanderlust was our move to beautiful East Tennessee, as the surrounding area almost screams to be roamed around and to unveil exciting sightings. Our first longer tour was the Honey Creek Loop Trail, located in Big South Fork National Park. It is 5.7 miles long and crosses the Big South Fork National River. The main trails are narrow and tortuous, however well signed. In Germany you would call these kinds of trails mud path. I’m not really sure if the classic German hiker would enjoy them but I found myself to like that even more. It’s so much fun wandering zig-zag style, crossing small streams and climbing larger rock formations. There is even one short section that is so steep that you are well advised to use the conveniently installed rope ladder to pass it. Thankfully, the local rangers set up these aids for all hikers. I imagined the funny situation where a ranger would command me to get down on my butt and slide down that hill. Of course, you can do the advance version, backwards and with straight legs but I preferred, as you can see, the other one.
The total altitude of the trail is only 0.2 miles, however the path goes up and down and up and down and … Waterfalls, overhanging cliffs, bizarre rock formation and a perfect lunch spot down at the Big South Fork National River will pay you off for your struggles and the burning calves.
If you ever want to hike that trail, best time to do it is probably in fall. We have been lucky and experienced beautiful sunshine and truly colorful leaves. You can hardly get enough of it. The warm and dry weather during this time of year creates perfect conditions for longer hikes. With 6 hours plus 30 minutes rest, the trail is not the shortest one. I can recommend to start early because you do not want to be in the middle of the woods when the sun sets. Since it is still a bit cooler in the morning yet quite warm in the afternoon, I recommend to wear layered clothes (t-shirt, longsleeve, windbreaker, bandana, baseball cap, …). A must-have are solid shoes with a good profile. The way is sometimes rocky and sometimes slippery, and after 6 hours your legs might hurt when you’re just wearing “slippers” for such a hike.
Next to good shoes I can also recommend a couple of other noteworthy things to take with you, like…
- well-fitting backpack (avoid back pain)
- sunglasses (avoid eye pain)
- mosquito spray (avoid itchy bites everywhere)
- lunch package (avoid bad mood)
- at least 2 liters of water per person (essential!!!)
- camera (for all the beautiful views)
- mobile phone with GPS tracking (for not getting lost and being able to show off afterwards ;) )
Well, I say quite clearly: enjoy the nature, wherever you are and I wish you a happy: Horrido! (Greeting of the hikers in Germany – I admit I had to google that myself, so do not worry if you didn’t know that).