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Smokies Centennial Hike 100 Challenge inspires & promotes service to park

March 10, 2017

by Julie Dodd

GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash and hikers

Superintendent Cash hiked with more than 250 people as he completed the Hike 100 Challenge.

More than 2,275 hikers completed the Smokies Centennial Hike 100 Challenge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

The hikers ranged in age from 4 to 86 and were from 24 states and three other countries.

GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash made the Hike 100 challenge and completed the challenge, making many of the hikes with youth, focusing on the next century of park service. More than 250 people total, including 182 youth, accompanied Superintendent Cash on his hikes in the park.

“Many of my hikes were with youth who had not had the opportunity to visit the park or even take a hike,” Superintendent Cash wrote in this congratulations letter sent to Hike 100 finishers. “My 100 miles is a tapestry of memorable moments, open conversations, and opportunities to witness joy and transformation.

GSMNP Centennial Hike 100 Challenge pin

Every hiker who completed the Hike 100 Challenge received this special pin.

“There is no question in my mind that through this challenge all of you have connected with the resources in the Smokies in a very direct, personal and new ways. Along the way, you have strengthened bonds with family and hiking partners, seen new areas of the park, and enjoyed the many benefits that hiking can bring to the body, mind and soul,” Cash wrote.

Hikers could hike any of the more than 900 miles of trails in the park, including hiking the same trails multiple times. The hikers in the FOTS Classic Hikes of the Smokies completed the challenge if they hiked all the Classic Hikes in 2016.

Those who completed the Challenge received a Hike 100 Challenge pin. The Hike 100 Challenge pin was designed with assistance from Karen Key, a graphic designer for the Great Smoky Mountains Association. Key also designed the GSMNP Centennial logo.

Hikers also could purchase a specially designed Hike 100 Challenge T-shirt. The special T-shirt was created by Robin Easter Design, the creator of the 1,800 square feet of murals at the McGhee Tyson Airport of the Smokies and other Tennessee national parks, historic trails and historic sites.

Artist Whitney Sanders, who often visited the Smokies as a child with her family, was asked to translate one of the scenes from the mural into a T-shirt design. “I wanted to have the trail winding back in the distance over the mountains to imply the 100 miles,” Sanders said. “So the view isn’t a specific vantage point but more of a illustration of the idea of hiking 100 miles through the Smokies.” The view that she used for inspiration was a NPS photo of the Appalachian Trail near Charlies Bunion.

The Smokies Centennial Hike 100 Challenge was supported by an active Trails Grant from the National Park Foundation, which supported items to facilitate the hikes with the youth and also funded the pins that all Hike 100 finishers received.

GSMNP Hike 100 Challenge T-shirt

The Hike 100 Centennial T-shirt was created by Robin Easter Design, the creator of the murals of National Parks in the McGhee Tyson Airport.

Ranger Christine Hoyer documented Superintendent Cash’s Hike 100 experience and the experiences of those hiking with him. With the help of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the video and photos she took were edited into three videos that capture the power and scope of the Hike 100 Challenge.

The videos are hosted on the Great Smoky Mountains Association YouTube channel but are not publicly searchable.  To view them, click on each link below:

Youth Hikes #1

Youth Hikes #2

Public Hikes

“The program was more successful than we ever imagined,” said Hoyer, who coordinated communication with the Hike 100 hikers, including mailing the Hike 100 Challenge pin to everyone who completed the challenge.

“Throughout the year, it became a movement – one that connected quite a network of people who love the trails in the Smokies – some who were experienced hikers, others who had never hiked, and some who explored new areas of the park they have never seen. In all cases, they shared stories from their journey of connecting with the trails, the resources and also those they hiked with. They experienced the mental, physical and even spiritual benefits of exploring this special place,” Hoyer said.

Hikers who were inspired to complete the Smokies Centennial Hike 100 Challenge can continue to hike and track their miles to achieve the Hike the Smokies mileage pins. Two programs are available – Hike the Smokies and Hike the Smokies for Families.

“The Centennial Hike 100 does appear to have reinvigorated the Hike the Smokies program,” Hoyer said.