Great Smoky Mountain Hike by Bonnie and Bill Neely

When you are in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Area be sure to take a hike into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I hiked with Erik Plakanis, who with his wife Vesna owns “A Walk In The Woods.” He is undoubtedly the best guide I have ever had for a nature experience! He is practically walking botany book!

Erik is a former big city business executive who made the brave choice to leave the mad rush and follow his passion. He has gotten to take a “Walk In the Woods” nearly every day for the past five years. He is so enthusiastic about each minute find of a leaf, a bug, or a tree, flower, or rock, his fellow hikers cannot help but get excited too.
I saw some of the most exquisite scenery and had quite a history lesson too. In the last century these difficult mountain terrains were working farms, and the trail we were on, which leads up to join the Appalachian Trail, follows a path which was first formed by animals going to water and later used by settlers with their horses and wagons. This house and barn of John Messner were built in mid 1800’s.

This time I was in these ancient Smokey Mountains, which I loved from my childhood, at the beginning of spring. Erik led us up to the heights where the unbelievable array of “snow” was created by these early spring tiny beauties. He explained that the bloom season has an orderly array of color with white being first because the white reflects enough sunlight to raise the temperature a couple of degrees so that the flower can mature before the colored ones take the stage. Nature is a wondrous thing!

Erik knew that even the rocks in this beautiful forest have stories to tell. These are some of the most ancient boulders on earth, billions of years old and show evidence of once having been beneath a sea.

If the weather is warm you can wiggle your toes in the cold stream. In colder times just enjoy taking pictures. All the streams in this area are branches of the Pigeon River. The gurgle and splashes combined with birdsongs compose a symphony you’ll hear in your dreams for years