Hiking club continues legacy of conservation, enjoying the outdoors

More than 600 UT students belong to a club that began with a hike between two YMCA leaders over 80 years ago. In October of 1924, Marshall Wilson and George Barber, YMCA leaders of a boys’ camp in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, decided to go on a hike. While hiking, the pair came to an agreement that they should start a club and begin leading trips to the Smokies for whoever was interested.

Today, the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (SMHC) exists in Knoxville as an organization where outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers get the chance to hike and camp in the Smokies. The club has a longstanding tradition of hiking, volunteerism, fellowship and conservation. The members go on hiking trips every week, primarily in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, although sometimes they venture into surrounding areas.

“We hike all over, though mostly on the Tennessee side,” Cindy Spangler, board member for the SMHC, said. “We also hike in Frozen Head, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, the Benton MacKaye Trail, Big Ridge State Park, the Cumberland Trail, Big South Fork and the Norris watershed.”

The club also leads kayaking and canoeing trips, backpacking outings and city walks within Knoxville. The SMHC hosts picnics, a Christmas banquet and an annual nature photography contest as well.

One of the main activities the SMHC participates in is the maintenance of the Appalachian Trail. Club members volunteer and spend time cleaning up the trail to make sure it stays easily accessible to visitors.

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