As the end of 2016 looms right around the corner in just four more days, it is both exciting and somewhat frightening not knowing what 2017 will bring us.
What we do know, however, it that the past year has been full of amazing adventures and unforgettable memories1 that we have been excited to share with you through our Appalachian Wanderers articles. So many of our readers have emailed us and commented on places we have visited with you, and have shared ideas for exciting new destinations for our future articles in the coming year!
We know many of you use the new year as a chance to start anew, to throw bad habits to the curb while picking up some good ones. Whether it’s a promise to exercise more, donate more to charity, or just to spend more time with our family and friends, there are always a plethora of things clamoring to be our new year’s resolution. We would like to encourage you make a somewhat different commitment this year and try something fun.
Make a point to get outdoors more and enjoy the incredible scenery Tennessee and our neighboring states have to offer. Set a hiking goal to try to hit by the end of the year. It could be a target of ten or one-hundred miles. You could decide to take more road trips and discover new scenic drives, visit more parks, or volunteer more hours cleaning trails. Whatever you pick it doesn’t matter, just as long as you have fun in the great outdoors.
Recent studies by the USDA Forest Service show that visiting natural areas and forests can have great benefits on our overall physical and mental health. Not only does it boost your immune system, but it also has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve your mood, increase energy levels, and improve sleep. Some of the rewards sound almost unreal, such as speeding up the body’s natural recovery process from surgery or illness.
2016 has been good to the majority of us, but it also has left its toll on just as many. We’ve lost friends, family, and national icons to the ravages of time and disease. A vicious election cycle has eroded friendships and increased our stress tenfold. Escalating international politics have also increased tension in our everyday lives. We’ve endured national disasters, some far away, while recent ones have taken lives in our own communities. Yes, the past twelve months have brought more stress into our lives than many of us would care for, so why not take advantage of the outdoor playland just outside our doorstep?
Our own Tennessee state park system is a great place to start. We’ve featured several local parks in the past, but with fifty-six parks stretched across the state all the way to the Mississippi River, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Historical parks such as Fort Loudon recreate the past for the benefit of the future, while resort parks such as Fall Creek Falls on the Cumberland Plateau allow us to plan an entire vacation getaway around some of our state’s most scenic wonders. There are parks that preserve waterfalls, parks that protect unique plant communities, and others that sustain unique ecosystems found only in our state. We’re going to do our best to feature as many of these state treasures as we can in the coming months!
If you have a favorite place to hike or explore that you think others should know about, please let us know! We’d love to feature it in a future article and possibly even meet some of our readers. Once again, it’s been an insane amount of fun traveling across the Appalachians and showcasing some of our favorite destinations with each and every one of you. From the rocky crags atop the highest Smoky Mountains to the grassy fields of the lowest valleys, we wish to thank you for your messages, kind words, and thoughts. We look forward to wandering with all of you to all new places throughout 2017.