Susan Jennifer Bennett, a native of Arlington, Virginia, moved to Knoxville and became a member of the Club in 1983. A 1983 off-trail assault on the "Tourist Bunion" with her then-husband, the late Chris Hebb, was a major turning point in Jenny's confidence and ability to conquer the off-trail heights of the Smokies. She hiked for a number of years on SMHC outings led by the off-trail legends Charlie Klabunde, Al Watson, Ray Payne, O.K. Sergeant, and Bruce and Dick Ketelle, among others.
Jenny left the area for two decades, living in Gloucester, Massachusetts.. After her longtime companion, the late Bob Parlee, split with her in March, 2009, Jenny moved to Brevard, North Carolina in October, 2009. From late 2009 through early 2015, she undertook just over five years of major off-trail hiking adventures, both alone and with a small group of compatriots. Jenny led a number of off-trail outings for the Club as well. Jenny moved from Brevard to Woodfin, north of Asheville, in March, 2010. Her final home was in Sylva, NC, to which she moved in late March, 2012.
She completed a quest to hike every major stream drainage route to the summit of Mt. LeConte. These hikes formed the inspiration for her 2014 book, "The Twelve Streams of LeConte". Jenny had previously published a mystery novel, "Murder at the Jumpoff" in 2011. Jenny also wrote an ongoing Wordpress blog called "Endless Streams and Forests" in which she documented many of her hiking outings and illustrated them with her photography.
There were few hikers tougher than Jenny Bennett. She took on any challenge in the Smoky Mountains. She had hiked many routes that most hikers don't know, and would not attempt even if they did. She developed a knee problem in 2012, in which the knee would periodically dislocate and she would force it back into place, then continue with the hike. Ultimately the knee problem became nearly unbearable, and she concluded that an operation to correct the condition would be required. Nonetheless, Jenny kept on with the big hikes as long as she could.
After Jenny's inspiration and mentor in the 1980's, Charlie Klabunde, passed away in February 2015, Jenny organized an outing on March 22, 2015, in which she, Ed Fleming, Mike Harrington, Clayton Carver, and Rick Waggener would pass the Jumpoff on the Smokies' Boulevard Trail, then descend into Lester Prong to a spot to disperse Charlie's ashes. Jenny made it from Newfound Gap to the beginning of the descent from Boulevard Trail, but her knee gave out yet again, and she could not continue. She returned to her car and back to Sylva, while the remainder of the group continued on and completed the memorial as Jenny wanted. That she could not accompany the group to do this for her beloved mentor surely tormented Jenny.
On March 31, 2015, Jenny decided to leave North Carolina and move to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, due to what she described as a "perfect storm of life events." She wanted to live nearer to her sister in Massachusetts. Those who knew her described her as being excited by the move. She had located a home to buy. She packed her belongings and scheduled the movers to come on June 1. At the same time, there was an undeniable sadness about leaving the mountains she so dearly loved. She took a couple more offtrail outings on May 24 and 27 and blogged about them with a certain wistfulness. She was having a hard time saying goodbye to the Smokies, and the many memories they held for her.
And so it was, either on May 30 or May 31, 2015, she returned to her beloved Lester Prong alone. It was on this outing that she lost her life.