Trial by Trail
Backpacking in the Smoky Mountains
Nine million visitors come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year, but few, unfortunately, have time to enjoy fully the challenges and pleasures, the opportunities for reflection and inner growth, that the park’s wild and beautiful backcountry offers. Trial by Trail chronicles the odyssey of one man who, over time, discovered the deeper riches to be found within the park’s boundaries.
In fourteen lively personal essays, Johnny Molloy describes the adventures by which he came of age as a backpacker. Born a “flatlander” in Memphis, he first visited the Smokies while attending the University of Tennesse–Knoxville in the 1980s. Initially, he treated the park as a personal playground—a place to cut loose, break rules, and act irresponsibly. After many hiking excursions, however, he gained a more profound appreciation of the mountains, becoming an avid park volunteer intent on the protection and improvement of the area. He grew, as he puts it, both as an outdoor adventurer and as a human being.
Interwoven throughout these pieces is a wealth of Smoky Mountains lore and history along with dozens of tips for novice backpackers. Molloy’s stories encompass backpacking during all four seasons as well as accounts of solo hiking, off-trail hiking, and whitewater canoeing. Whether describing the hazards of crossing a stream in winter or what to do—and not do—when one encounters a bear or a rattlesnake, Molloy writes with an infectuous enthusiasm that will delight any lover of the outdoors.
The Author: A resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Johnny Molloy is the author of Great Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.