Knoxville is near the Smoky Mountains, a fantastic area for hiking. Workshop attendees are encouraged to spend some time before or after the workshop to visit the Smokies.
There will be an unofficial excursion on Saturday Mar. 23 to go hiking in Smoky Mountain National Park. Participants who wish to go hiking are encouraged to bring adequate gear, including adequate shoes, long pants, a light jacket, rain gear, food, and water. We will hike in the event of light rain.
While the Smokies boasts the most visitors of any national park in the US, hiking trails run through the wilderness. Visitors are encouraged to consider the remote nature of the park and plan accordingly. Bathrooms with running water are only at visitor's centers and selected campgrounds. Food and beverages are only available in limited locations. There is no cell phone access in most of the park, although there may be limited reception on high ground. Far from trail heads, hiking trails are only accessible by foot, horseback, and helicopter. Safety information from the park is available here.
Visitors should not approach wildlife and bear safety in the park is of vital importance. Several black bears make their home in the park and during spring, there may be mothers with cubs. The national park's information on bear safety is here. You should not hike alone and pay close attention to signs warning that parts of the park are closed due to bear activity. For the long hike on Saturday, at least one organizer with bear spray and a first aid kit will accompany the group. While sightings are unlikely, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and black widows also make their home in the park. The greatest risk to visitors comes from motor vehicles. The second largest risk to visitors and source of fatalities is the many scenic waterfalls due to the strong currents. If you are interested in hiking or camping separately, particularly in the back country, you are very strongly encouraged to learn about back country and bear safety and to get bear spray. The organizers would be glad to provide information and direct you towards additional resources.
Some views from the Smokies are below.