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11 Clear Facts About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

America's most visited national park features about 520,000 acres that stretch across five counties in Tennessee and North Carolina. Great Smoky Mountains National Park's free admission, impressive variety of flora and fauna, and easy accessibility to one-third of the U.S. population—reachable by a little more than a day’s drive in most cases—make it a must-see destination for more than 9 million people each year. Here are 10 facts to know before you head for the Smokies.

1. THE MOUNTAINS’ SIGNATURE SMOKY HAZE IS CREATED BY EVAPORATION AND HIGH ELEVATION.

Over 80 inches of annual rainfall combined with the evaporation from the trees create the characteristic wispy clouds that weave through the mountains. That dreamy mist is the inspiration behind the smoky nickname that has lasted for centuries; the Cherokee called the region Shaconage, which translates to “mountains of the blue smoke.”

2. THE PARK'S CREATION WAS SPARKED, IN PART, BY A TRAVEL WRITER'S NEW LEASE ON LIFE ...

After he lost his job and his wife left with their six children, librarian and writer Horace Kephart opted for a clean start in the Smokies. Mountain life inspired him to write Camping and Woodcraft: A Guidebook for Those Who Travel in the Wilderness, still considered a must-read for serious outdoorsmen.

Eventually, concern over logging companies' decades-old practice of stripping the forests motivated him to protect his beloved Appalachian home. Along with likeminded people, including motorists involved with the American Automobile Association, Kephart worked to get the area designated as a park. Unfortunately, Kephart was killed in a 1931 car crash before he got a chance to see the results of his efforts. To recognize his contributions to the national treasure, a 6217-foot peak in the park was named Mount Kephart.

3. ... AND HELP FROM A JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHER.

George Masa, born Masahara Iizuka, immigrated from Osaka, Japan to the U.S. to study mining. After working at an upscale hotel near the Smokies, he eventually opened his own photography studio. Masa photographed the Great Smoky Mountains, and his images (usually accompanied by text from his friend Kephart) were used in articles and other promotional materials to support the creation of the national park.

4. THE LAND WAS PURCHASED IN AN UNCONVENTIONAL WAY.

To create the national park, Congress required that only money from the states or private donations be used to buy the land. Residents of Tennessee and North Carolina pledged $5 million for the project; still, that was only half of the amount they needed. Fortunately, John D. Rockefeller donated the additional $5 million after seeing Kephart and Masa’s work, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt allocated the last $1.5 million needed to complete the project. This was the first time federal funds were used to buy land for a national park.

5. AN AMPLE AMOUNT OF AMPHIBIANS LIVE THERE.

Visitors make the trek to spot black bears, elk, and white-tailed deer, but the Smokies are also home to over 30 species of salamanders. In fact, the park is known as the Salamander Capital of the World. Although they are amphibians and not reptiles, the salamanders are sometimes referred to locally as “spring lizards.”

6. CATALOGING THE BIODIVERSITY IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT.

Discover Life in America’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory catalogs the staggering variety of wildlife in the park and estimates that there are over 100,000 different organisms in the Great Smokies. Citizen scientists help with other projects, such as replanting ginseng and collecting dragonflies for mercury testing.

7. IT HAS BEEN INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FOR ITS PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE.


Because of its vast array of plant and animal life, the park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Over 100 types of native trees and shrubs have been identified in the park—more variety than all of northern Europe.

8. IT HAS BEEN USED AS A TV SET.

In the 1950s, Disney produced a television-series-turned-live-action film called Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Some scenes for the show about America’s favorite frontiersman were filmed at the park, specifically around the Mountain Farm Museum area.

9. DOLLY PARTON HAS SERVED AS AN OFFICIAL PARK AMBASSADOR.

U.S. senators and representatives, state governors, and the Secretary of the Interior all attended the re-dedication of the park on its 75th anniversary in 2009, but they might have been overshadowed by the presence of Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton, who performed at the event as an official park ambassador.

10. HISTORIC BUILDINGS ARE FEATURED THROUGHOUT THE PARK.

The legacy of 18th- and 19th-century Appalachian settlers lives in the more than 90 historic structures on park grounds, nine of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Cades Cove Loop Road showcases some of the best examples of early Appalachian architecture, including the John Oliver Cabin (built in 1822 and the oldest structure in the park), Primitive Baptist Church (pictured above), and Methodist Church.

11. THE PARK'S ONLY HOTEL OFFERS A NO-FRILLS PLACE TO STAY.

The LeConte Lodge is the only indoor lodging available on park grounds but visitors shouldn’t expect a luxurious stay. Opened in 1926 and accessible only by hiking, there is no running water, electricity, or telephone at this location atop Mount Le Conte. The trek to LeConte is so steep that trained llamas are used to carry supplies to the lodge three days a week.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
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A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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How to Escape from Quicksand
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Despite what every corny '70s adventure flick may have led you to believe, you’re unlikely to run into quicksand in your day-to-day life. However, quicksand is still somewhat common near rivers, estuaries, and marshes, so it’s worth knowing how to get out. If you’re hiking alone and get that sinking feeling, don’t panic. Unless the tide rolls in while you’re stuck, you should be able to escape to safety.

1) Calm Down!

Forget what you’ve seen in movies - you’re not going to be sucked into a bottomless pit. Even in the deepest quicksand, you won’t sink far past your midsection. The human body is just too buoyant. So take deep breaths. The more air you have in your lungs, the better you’ll float like a human cork.

2) Toss Your Gear

All that extra weight will make you sink faster. Ditch your backpack and try wriggling out of your shoes. They will make escaping more difficult (boots in particular become stubborn suction cups when in mud).

3) Don’t Move

Resist the urge to wiggle your legs. Quicksand is what’s known as a non-Newtonian fluid, so it liquefies whenever there’s movement. As you sink, your weight pushes water from the sand. With the water gone, the sand thickens, creating a vacuum that tugs you down.

4) Okay, Now Move

You’re sinking because the sand around your legs has lost water. But if that water can return, the sand’s grip should loosen. That’s your route to escape—and the only way to do that is to move.

5) Put Your Back Into It

Time to redistribute your weight. If you’re ankle or knee deep, slowly sit down. If you’re waist deep, lean on your back. Don’t panic about sinking—a pit of quicksand is like a swimming pool. You’ll sink if you stand, but you’ll float if you spread out on your back.

6) Time to Shake a Leg

With your upper body now serving as a counterweight, you can start pulling your legs out. Wiggle one leg in small circles and pull. Water will slowly flood the sand around you, weakening the quicksand.

7) Perfect Your Forward Crawl

Removing your leg in one fell swoop would require as much force as it does to lift a mid-sized car, so take your time. It may take a while to remove your leg, but you’ll get it out eventually. Once both limbs are free, gently flip onto your belly and crawl to solid safety.

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