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Hikers Set Off on 900-Mile Journey to Raise Funds For Search & Rescue

Nancy “Seal Mom” East and Chris “Pacer” Ford began hiking 900 miles of trails at midnight Friday, September 4, to raise $60,000 for Friends of the Smokies to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) program.

The pair will be featuring their “Tour De Smokies” journey on East’s blog, Hope and Feather Travels, which can be found at Along the way, they will be showing hikers first-hand what it takes to properly prepare and train for this 900-mile adventure in the Smokies.

Chris Ford and Nancy East

East and Ford are experienced Smokies hikers. East has completed two 900-miler maps, and Ford has completed three 900-miler maps. Hikers use the GSMNP map of trails to mark off trails as they complete them. Completing a map means they have completed the 900 miles of trails. Combined, they have hiked all GSMNP trails a total of five times.

“The funds they are raising will be a huge help,” says Ranger Liz Hall, GSMNP’s first emergency manager who started her new role in June 2020. “Those funds will go directly to fund two seasonal rangers.”

Those rangers will have duties both to assist with Search and Rescue (SAR) and to be part of GMSNP’s increased efforts in Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR). Hall says that the rangers will oversee a cadre of volunteers who will be in hiking locations in the park to “help visitors make good choices about their hiking.”

Donations to support East and Ford’s fundraiser can be made at, by calling 800-845-5665 or by check mailed to Friends of the Smokies, PO Box 1660, Kodak, TN 37764.

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