Did I ever show you a picture of my backyard? Well, technically is not my backyard, but we do live very close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve lived in this area almost my entire life, and I have to admit–sometimes I tend to take it for granted that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I know–it’s terrible. Which is why my husband & I have been trying over the last couple of years to take advantage of all there is to do and appreciate around here. And that’s one reason why I have turned into a hiker. (Those of you who know me well– you can stop laughing now.) I must admit I wasn’t crazy about the idea when my husband first started suggesting it. After all, I’m not really the outdoor-sy type. I’m not a fan of dirt, bugs, or wild animals in the night. My husband, on the other hand, loves the outdoors. His family camped on their own remote land in Maine all his life and he loves it. He almost had me talked into camping one time and then he mentioned something about a lawn chair-turned-portable potty and he pretty much lost me on camping forever.So, I figured after all those years of never giving in to camping, I owe him something. So, we hike. This way we get lots of family time together in nature, yet we finish up in time to stop at a nice restaurant for dinner and sleep in our nice, clean, cozy beds at home. (Don’t look at me like that. I know some of you have never camped either.)So, we have hiked several times now in the Smokies & I have to admit it’s fun. We usually hike trails that are around 2 or 3 miles, but this past weekend, my husband decided we needed a challenge, so we hiked Abrams Falls, which is 5 miles. It was beautiful. And here we are 4 days later & I’m still thinking about it. But that’s because my legs won’t let me forget. Everyone did great. Even Lola (age 4) walked almost the entire trail herself. I guess you could say I’m pretty much a pro at this hiking thing now, so, I thought if there are any of you out there who haven’t hiked before, but think you might like to try it, I’ll share a few of our tips we use for hiking.1. There are no bathrooms on the trails. This is really important to remember. Especially if you have a fear of leaving the trail to find a remote spot & a black bear following your scent & attacking you & no one being able to hear you screaming because you walked too far away from the trail to be sure that no one could see you going potty in the woods. It could happen. I’m just sayin’.2. Make sure you have the right shoes and clothes for the trail. Do not try to hike in wedge flip flops. Don’t ask me how I know this is a bad idea.3. Watch where you are walking while on the trail. Remember, sticks and stones may break your bones, but a 200-foot drop will kill you.4. You may want to wear a hiker’s bell to alert bears of your presence on the trail. I don’t know where to buy one or how much they cost. We’ve never needed one because we bring Lola with us.5. No fighting or whining on the trail. It ruins the tranquility of your surroundings. Plus, it just embarrasses the kids. 6. Watch out for mud as you’re walking and do not step on mom’s pink shoes with your dirty sneakers.7. Do not allow the kids to swing their hiking stick around on the trail, as it might accidentally hit a stranger and they might be the type to give you a dirty look for letting kids swing hiking sticks around on the trail.8. When the going gets tough, the tough keep going. Remember, there’s nothing like a group of middle-aged nuns whizzing by you on the trail to make you feel like a real wimp.{you thought I was kidding about the nuns, didn’t you?}9. Don’t forget to bring your own water. In all my years of hiking (two) I have never once come across a Sonic or a Starbucks on a trail. 10. Never eat the Junior Mints you find on the trail. Because they are, in fact, not Junior Mints.