How to not die in the Smokies

When you think about the Great Smoky Mountains, you might conjure grand vistas, verdant forests or majestic elk. Your thoughts might not immediately jump to death and destruction.

But that is exactly what adventure travel writer David Brill of Morgan County, Tenn., dives into with his new book, Into the Mist: Tales of Death and Disaster, Mishaps and Misdeeds, Misfortune and Mayhem in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The book, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, explores all the fatalities that have occurred in the 83-year history of the park. Far from being simply a morbid litany, however, the book also magnifies the bravery and heroism of park rangers and visitors in times of stress and trauma.

Into the Mist looks at factors that can turn the land from relaxing to relentless — factors such as trees falling, horses bucking and lightning striking.

“The last thing I wanted to do is make people fear this amazing natural resource, but I do want them to respect what can happen in the park if you’re not prepared or don’t take it seriously,” Brill says. “People are so afraid of bears and snakes in the park, but the real danger is auto accidents.”

In fact, Brill says the top two causes of death in the park are automobile accidents and airplane crashes. Other top causes include heart attacks, falls, drowning, lightning strikes, hypothermia and suicide. There has only been one fatal bear attack in the park’s history and no recordings of fatal snakebites, but there have been 14 reported murders.

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