Hiking safety: Wear good shoes and 7 other tips for hitting the trails around Asheville

Cindy McJunkin, a veteran hike leader with Carolina Mountain Club and Smoky Mountain Hiking Club, said being unprepared, for mountain weather and terrain, is what she sees as the biggest source of getting into trouble on the trail.

“It’s really difficult when you’re at your home at 2,200 feet (in elevation) and it’s sunny, to visualize how much cooler and windier it is in the mountains,” said McJunkin, 58, a nurse from Candler.

She is intimately familiar with the dips, valleys, summits and drainages in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, having hiked all 900 miles of trails in the park.

“I’ve learned to always think about cooler temperatures at higher elevations. You have to think about gloves and a hat. I think that’s the thing people often forget. And the right footwear. I see people with messed up feet, with no maps. People are nonchalant and think nothing will happen.”

“You just never know what’s going to happen. I always have my ‘possibles bag,’ for anything possible that might happen,” she said.

It includes a flashlight and extra batteries for the flashlight — the dense woods of the Smokies get darker much earlier than the outside world — first aid kit, a fire starter, instant coffee, a spoon, rain jacket, at least one extra layer of clothing, a foil emergency blanket, water and a water filtration device, as well as extra food.

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