Hiker set to finish all Smokies trails in record time

Maybe it’s the beard.

“I really enjoy having my beard full of ice,” Benny Braden, 44, said on coming out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after another long hike. “It was that way today – just getting covered head to toe in ice.”

Braden, from Harriman, TN has been in the park a lot since Jan. 1. He’s on his way to setting a record March 18th for hiking all of the park’s trails – more than 770 miles – in the shortest amount of time.

If all goes well, he should walk into the Sugarlands Visitor Center grounds having finished in two months and 19 days. This will beat the mark of four months and 12 days set by Sharon Spezia.

Braden got the idea for the beard and the hike last year while he was section-hiking a part of the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Damascus, Va.

“I would go out once a month and hike a few days, then I would come home. I was on a short hike in the Smokies and stayed on Mount LeConte. Believe it or not, it was when the (Chimney Tops 2) fire was going on. We were on a cliff top and watched the fire below us. I got the idea, ‘Why not hike all of the trails in the Smokies?’”

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