June 10, 2006 -  Jenkins Ridge (Final Trail)


Ridge upon ridge of endless forest straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States.  Within the boundaries of the GSMNP, there are about 900 miles of maintained hiking trails.

On June 10, 2006, Johnny Grant (Ooltewah - Sales) completed his feat of hiking all the maintained trails and more.  Jenkins Ridge trail was Johnny's last hiking trail to complete.  Joining him on this last trail were Wayne Rogers, Susan Dameron and Matthew Fink of the Hilltop Hikers club.  For this achievement, Johnny will be joining 190 other members of the 900-Miler Club, which was founded in 1995 by Lou Murray.

What is the 900-Miler Club?  It's a prestigious group of hikers (like Johnny)  who have hiked all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some trails are embedded so deep in the Smokies wilderness that multi-day trips are the only way to reach them. While most have gradually chipped away at the trail system during years of hiking excursions, the controversy relates to the hypothetical hiker who starts from scratch and systematically hikes all 900 miles of trail with the least amount of backtracking. Thereís an ongoing argument in the club as to how many miles you actually have to walk to do the 900 miles.  Some hikers say that you probably have to walk in the vicinity of 1,200 miles to do the 900 miles.  Some claim itís more, some claim itís less.

What will Johnny receive from the 900-Miler Club?  He qualifies for a special award certificate, 900-Miler Club patch, t-shirt transfer, together with membership in the elite 900-Miler Association.

When did Johnny begin hiking?  Johnny's interest in hiking started in 1990 when he purchased a 25 cent list of the 20 popular hiking trails in the Smokies.  He had only planned to complete those trails but somewhere along the way, he decide to do more.  Johnny said most of the first trails he completed were done alone in/out because he doesn't own a sleeping bag or a tent. Also, he didn't have a shuttle driver until 1995 when he began dating his present wife.  During their courtship, he learned that she enjoyed hiking as much as he did.  Johnny said one of their favorite trails is Boogerman because on this trail is where he proposed to her and she accepted.  They were married in 2000.  She continued hiking with him on several more trails until she started having severe problems with fibromyalgia. Even though her health kept her from hiking with Johnny, she unselfishly made the trips to the mountains with him on the weekends and would shuttle him back and forth to different trail sites.  While he was hiking, she would spend her leisure time reading.  Then in the summer of 2001, Johnny and several of his co-workers and friends formed the Hilltop Hikers Club at work.  The interest in hiking was ignited even more by the groups enthusiasm and it was at this time that Johnny really became serious about completing all the trails in the Smokies. The Hilltop Hikers group were an important role in encouraging Johnny in his feat and he gives thanks to all for believing in his intentions.  He especially gives thanks to the following supporters of the group though ... Matthew Fink who planned most of Johnny's hikes since 2000; Dennis Vanhorn for offering his boat to shuttle the group numerous times across Fontana Lake to help them complete Lakeshore and the trails in that area; Susan and Don Dameron who faithfully hiked and shuttled the group to different trail sites; and to Jon Freeland who maintained the Hilltop Hikers website! 

Would you like to become a 900-Miler too?  If so, just talk to Johnny.  Also, Johnny will tell you that age is not a factor.  Anyone that enjoys hiking and has the determination to complete all the trails may achieve this goal too.  Johnny is 66 years old and a Type2 Diabetic.  It didn't stop him and as a fact, he credits his hiking exercise as being beneficial to his good health. Johnny rose to this challenge and now he's going to receive the patch to prove it!  You can too!

Congratulations again Johnny!