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Chasing 948 Miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
February 12, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
Nancy East & Chris Ford present Chasing 948 Miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
In 2020, Nancy East and Chris Ford, two everyday athletes, earned a fastest known time (FKT) of the Smokies 900 Challenge. The duo will share the highs and lows of hiking 948 miles in 29 days with over 165,000 feet of elevation gain! As with any arduous adventure, there were plenty of challenges along the way, including a connection to one of the most rare human-bear tragedies in the park’s history. Despite their difficulties, laughter and maintaining a positive mental attitude was their super power through it all.
The FKT effort was inspired by the death of Susan Clements, an Ohio resident who died in the park after becoming lost on one of the most popular trails, less than a mile from the trailhead. Nancy’s search and rescue team took part in this search and it had a profound impact on her. Nancy and Chris raised over $30,000 for preventative search and rescue efforts in the park. They will also share a few tips and tricks about how to stay “safe and found” on your own adventures.
Nancy East, an avid hiker and backpacker, is a firm believer that you’re never too old to be what you might have been. After a 23-year career as a small animal veterinarian, she retired to pursue her passion as a writer, hiking guide, and speaker.
She is a member of a North Carolina Search and Rescue Team, a founding board member of the WNC Wilderness Safety Fund, a Gossamer Gear Ambassador, and a Southern Appalachian Naturalist. Nothing brings her more joy professionally than educating her fellow hikers about how to stay “safe and found.”
In 2019, she and her good friend, Chris Ford, set the fastest known time (FKT) for a mixed-gender team on the Tour de LeConte Challenge. In 2020, they set the overall FKT for the Smokies 900 Challenge. Nancy has hiked all the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park four times, and she continues going back for more.
In fall 2021, Nancy published “Chasing the Smokies Moon: An audacious 948-mile hike, fueled by love, loss, laughter and lunacy,” a hiking memoir about her record setting hike and the events that led her to pursue it.
Chris brings a unique passion for distance hiking and backpacking, having hiked over 12,000 miles since 2015. After retiring from the US Air Force and spending several years in the defense industry, he took a sabbatical to thru hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. The experience changed his life in several ways. As they say, the rest is history. He turned down his career and turned up his trail miles…a lot, typically hiking 2,000+ miles a year. When he’s not on a long trail, he’s usually hiking in his backyard, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where he’s hiked 5,500+ miles. His 2022 project is to thru hike the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail.