GSMNP (WATE)- Day hikes, overnight camping stays, and weekly visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are not out of the ordinary, in fact, during warmer months it is expected.
What might not be is hiking every open trail in 76 days which totals around 900 miles of trail within the park. Benny Braden didn’t set out to break records — but when he realized it was within his reach, he started hiking 7 days a week.
Those who hike all maintained trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park qualify as members of the “900 Miler Club.” The previous record for fasted hike of all 900 miles was set Sharon Specizia.
Specizia hiked 900 miles in four months. She has hiked all 900 miles a total of six times.
“I wanted to bring honor to what Sharon had done. She has raised the bar really high. I wanted to help raise that bar even higher,” said Braden.
Braden’s drive to break the record started in January 2017 and ended March 18, 2017. On his final trail, Braden says he was greeted at the end by friends, family and strangers.
“Everyday that you can look down on the ground and just see flowers coming up. Even by the parts ravished by the fires, you can see flowers coming up today,” said Braden.
Braden’s final total: 943.5 miles. He says the added mileage account for his time spent backpacking in parts of the park, retracing his steps to get back out when he was finished.
“There’s always a next. I think if there’s not a next then you really don’t understand the whole purpose of living life. I want to go to as many high mountains as I can get to, even if I don’t know the names or the elevation. If I can get above something else. I’m a little bit higher off the ground: that’s cool,” said Braden.
Braden plans to submit his trail mileage to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 900 Miler Club.