Preparing for an SMHC Outing
If you are considering hiking with the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (SMHC), and have not hiked with us before, we encourage you to read over, understand, and follow the following recommendations for all hike participants. If you have hiked with us before, or are currently a member, you will want to review them periodically. These are guidelines that the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club has developed over the years that help make for a better outing experience for all concerned. Some of these things may sound obvious, but all can easily be forgotten or overlooked.
We do expect all our outing participants to come prepared and equipped. Doing so will make your outing experience much safer and enjoyable for you, as well as your fellow hikers. We do not provide any equipment, or services other than leading the outing. If you have any questions about what to bring, please contact your outing leaders.
It's necessary that each person participating in an outing understands and accepts the fact that there are risks associated with hiking, as well as traveling to and from the outing. There is always the possibility of personal injury on any hike. This is especially true of the harder off-trails and backpacks, but an injury can occur even on a short hike on a Park trail. Please be aware, upfront, that you are fully assuming these risks if you choose to participate in a Club outing. The SMHC, the SMHC Board of Directors, its outing leaders, and your fellow participants on the outing cannot and will not be liable for any injuries you incur while on a Club outing. You will be asked to sign a signup sheet prior to the outing that releases the Club and the outing leaders from liability in the event of your injury or death while traveling to or from the outing, or on the outing itself.
1) Review the outing information available in our newsletter and website. Check the hike rating and the type of hike, to get an idea whether you are capable of doing the outing, and if you really want to do the outing. We have hike rating information on our website. Also, read up on the hike in hiking guides.. be knowledgeable!
2) Using the contact information in the newsletter and the website, contact your outing leaders well in advance of the day of the hike. They will be glad to discuss the specifics of the outing and route, weather contingencies, and how easy or difficult the hike will be for you. If you are new to hiking, they can help you plan. Even if you are a Club member, and/or an old hand at hiking, it's good for the leaders to have a chance to talk over the outing with you in advance. If you email them, do so at least a week in advance of the outing, to give them time to see the email and respond. If you call, please don't wait until the night before, or the morning of, the outing! Make it at least two or three days in advance of the outing.
3) Determine what clothing, food, water, and gear will be needed for the outing. Contact an outing leader if uncertain. Get your gear, clothing, and food together the night before an outing so that you'll be ready to load up and go in the morning, and you'll be less likely to forget something you'll need. Make sure you have some trash and grocery bags along to use to contain wetness and dirt from clothing and boots so your car, or the car of the person you're riding with, will stay cleaner.
4) Be aware that the Club, or the outing leader, reserves the right to cancel or reschedule an outing due to inclement weather, or other extenuating conditions. Since we schedule outings as long as sixteen months in advance, it is always a possibility that conditions on a particular outing route, or on the roads leading to the trailhead(s) will not permit an outing to be safely conducted. We strongly suggest that you maintain contact with your outing leaders before the outing date. If thunderstorms or winter storms are predicted before, or occurring the early morning of, an outing date, please contact your outing leaders via phone to confirm the outing is still going.
5) Get to the designated meeting place promptly, ideally fifteen minutes or so before the meeting time. This will give you an opportunity to talk with the leaders and your fellow participants, sign the participant form, and help organize the carpools.
6) On the outing itself, relax, enjoy the outdoors, and take the opportunity to ask questions of your leaders and fellow participants. If you experience any difficulties on the outing, please let one of the leaders know what is happening so they can help. All SMHC outings will have a front and a rear leader. Hikers should choose a pace that is comfortable and safe even if the rest of the group hikes faster. For your safety during hikes, always stay between the two leaders, and always stay within sight of another hiker if the group gets spread out.
7) At the end of the outing, use the trash and grocery bags to keep the car cleaner! If you ride in a carpool with other hike participants, double-check to make sure that you get all your belongings out of the car, and that you don't inadvertently pick up someone else's gear or clothing.
8) Make sure that everybody in the group can start their cars before leaving the trailhead or meeting area! It's not uncommon for a car not to start, and then that person or those people are stuck if everyone else has left!
9) The Club strongly encourages carpooling. Outings should take the least number of vehicles required to carry the participants to the trailhead(s) and to conduct key swaps and shuttles. If you ride with someone else to and from the outing, it our Club's policy that you reimburse the driver for gas, at the rate of eight cents a mile as a minimum. (Feel free to give more, though.) Check the hike listings for round-trip mileages, so you'll know how much money to bring with you. It's not good form to expect your driver to make change, so bring along the amount that you want to give them. The total will be generally be from $7.30 (90 miles) to $9.60 (120 miles.) It WILL be appreciated! When in doubt, bring along $10. (Note: Due to $3/gallon and up gas prices, the mileage rate was increased from five cents to eight cents a mile in 2008.)
Originally written in 2005 on behalf of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club by Michael Vaughn, SMHC member, and Director, 2003-2005. Last revised August 2008.