The Writer's Travelogue: Smokies 2 - Character Development

Yesterday, we looked at the world-building elements I discovered on my Smokies hikes. Today, I want to share what I learned on the character side of the game – everything from specific feelings and experiences, to travel logistics. Enjoy!

How Does it Feel?

To hike up a mountain ridge:
Compared to the gently rolling forests and hills I’m used to in the Midwest, the mountain setting was almost too thick to go “off trail.” I don’t think that’s going to be very useful for my book, so I’m sticking with open hardwood forests that occasionally have thicker areas.

To stand in an ice-cold creek: It feels absolutely wonderful after a hot day (Even when your feet cramp from the cold)! There are even a few deep pools that make great swimming holes.

The icy water can easily and quickly become a problem on cold days. Rocks on the river bottoms are slippery and uneven – people and horses would definitely risk breaking an ankle or leg during crossings.

95% of the time you can stand in these types of creeks, so there’s no life-threatening concern of being swept downstream. Exceptions: Fast-rising floodwaters and young children.

To stand under a waterfall: A waterfall is not a gentle spray if you’re standing beneath it—it’s a strong, consistent flow of water and it’s cold! Also, waterfalls vary immensely depending on the amount of rain and water flowing into them at any given moment. I saw one that was just a baby trickle. Unfortunately, most don’t naturally occur in a way that allows people to stand under them like a shower—it’s much more common to be able to climb above or below the falls.

Character-Building and Logistics
Travel Mileage: If you’re traveling just to travel, not doing anything else, you can crank out upwards of 15 miles a day. For character travel, on foot, and assuming various plot twists and events along the way, I’d set the daily travel limit to about 5-10 miles.

This will also depend on how much gear your character is carrying. My pack was about 35 pounds for a planned 6-day hike. If your characters are simply jumping from town to town, they can probably make it farther, knowing they’ll have a good meal and a bed at the end of the day without needing supplies. If they’re in the wilderness and have to carry their own items, it’ll take them longer.

Thank goodness for horses and magic; otherwise travel would take forever!

Group dynamics: Water (to drink or to play in) and rest bring people back together, and by the end of a week, you’re going to be arguing over little things. But there’s definitely a “we’re in this together” vibe.

Local delicacies: I struck out on this one. The roadside stands for Boiled Peanuts didn’t sound too appetizing, and the wild strawberries I tried were too little to be sweet.

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