Love the outdoors? Learn to give back

Carol EvansOur Town Outdoors

I know I’m partial, but I really can’t imagine anywhere better than East Tennessee for outdoor variety that benefits everyone.

Last weekend was a great example. About 30 women gathered to work on the adaptive trail at Sharp’s Ridge to make it accessible to all. Randy Conner of Contour Trail Design Co. offered his expertise. Thanks to all who turned out!

The next 10 days hold several opportunities to fine-tune your skills in the outdoors, whether you’re looking to serve others or just improve your abilities.

This weekend, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is offering the Wilderness Emergency Medical Refresher Course. If you’re due for renewal, this will satisfy the requirements, but you’ll have to act fast to get registered. The three-day course starts at 11 a.m. today.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the GSMI at Tremont is holding a program to identify plants and shrubs in the wintertime. Yes, I know, that’s early. But if you want to find out what GSMIT is all about, head over to REI Knoxville at noon for a Meet and Greet with Tremont. You can learn about Tremont’s education programs that celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster stewardship and nurture appreciation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, like the Southern Appalachian Naturalist certification program.

Another way to learn more about opportunities in the Smokies this time of year is the Smoky Mountain Winter Experience, Monday-Wednesday, Jan. 27-29, at the Ramsey Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge. The free event features educational sessions covering everything from fauna to heritage to photography. Winter hikes and field trips will also be offered. Sounds cool!

The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club’s monthly meeting is this Monday (1/27) at South Coast Pizza. If you want to plug in to mountain biking and learn how you can help build and maintain trails in the area, this is the place to be.

If you’ve ever been curious about hiking the Appalachian Trail, you will want to go hear David Brill speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at the UT Arboretum Auditorium, on “A 2,100-Mile Walk and a Season of Awakening.” Brill was one of the first of a new generation to complete the Georgia-Maine hike, and his book, “As Far as the Eye Can See,” is a real eye-opener (so to speak).

Another event that’s sure to inspire is a screening of the documentary “I’ll Push You” and Q&A at 6:30 next Friday, Jan. 31, at Onsight Rock Gym. See what happened when a man agreed to push his lifelong best friend – in a wheelchair – across the historic 500-mile pilgrimage of northern Spain.

Be sure to check out the Outdoor Knoxville calendar for details on these and many other opportunities.

Carol Evans is executive director of Legacy Parks Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to ensuring that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come.

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