Mapping out a university hiking group’s three-day trip through the Smoky Mountains, sources report that veteran Tennessee park ranger Matthew Tilman assured the hikers that they would arrive at their campsite shortly after passing a notched tree, despite being fully aware that the campsite was another two miles past the landmark.
“Yup,” confirmed Tilman, pointing to a milestone on the map, “Once you spot the tree with a little tent symbol carved into it, your campground will be right around the corner.” In fact, the first-time hiking group would have another hour and a half of steep uphill trail before actually arriving.
According to backpacking group leader Stephen Berger, the group was excited to learn their hike would be more manageable than previously believed. “We had a 12-mile hike planned for the second day that we were all nervous about, but Ranger Tilman assured us that the trail was ‘mostly flat’ the whole way,” said Berger, unaware that Tilman meant that the trail in fact consisted of steep uphill and downhill portions, and was merely flat in comparison to his annual trek through the Andes.
Sources report that the group was further reassured when Tilman explained that the trail to their campsite was ranked a mere 3 out of 9 in difficulty, not realizing that his scale reserved a 9 only for Mt. Everest and four other trails deemed too dangerous for non-experts.
“This path here shouldn’t be too bad,” commented Tilman, oblivious to the fact that his years of experience as a park ranger might have tainted his view of its difficulty. Added Tilman to the first-time hikers, “There’s a couple of tricky parts, but you folks look like you could handle it.”
At press time, the group was recovering from what Tilman called a “leisurely” rafting trip through class VI rapids.