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Savoring the Journey with Frank and Peggy

 
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We all want to invest our lives in the things we love. For Frank and Peggy, their great love in life, in addition to each other, is exploring the outdoors together.

Native Pennsylvanians, Frank and Peggy moved to Western Tennessee early in their marriage where they raised four sons. The couple instilled in their children a deep love for the outdoors by taking them on frequent hiking and camping trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. [Their sons have become avid outdoorsmen, and everyone gathers each fall for the annual family trip at Mount LeConte.] Upon retirement, the couple moved to Eastern Tennessee, so they could have easier access to the mountains they’ve always held so dear.

“After decades in Huntingdon, Tennessee, our friends were surprised that we chose to move east, but there’s nowhere else we’d rather live than minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains,” shared Frank. In addition to excursions in the mountains, the couple began volunteering at the Sugarland Visitors Center, helping at the information desk and leading interpretive walks for the past 11 years.

Jaskolka-Glacier.jpgThe impressive list of national parks Frank and Peggy have explored reads like lines from Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere.” To name a few, they’ve clocked countless miles in Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoyah, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and even made a six-week journey in their motor home through the Canadian Rockies. In 2010, the pair crossed the North American/Canadian border in Glacier National Park through the Canadian Rockies, and over to Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Revelstoke.

"The Smokies are my home – they’re friendly, embracing, and comforting... I feel like I’ve arrived home when I’m hiking a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains."

While many folks lounge at the lake or head to the beach for their summer vacation, 2007 and 2008 found the couple in Wyoming, having secured summer jobs at Yellowstone National Park. Alongside mostly college-age international co-workers, Frank worked as a campground attendee, while Nancy worked in camper services from May through October.

“The work was labor intensive, but satisfying. All of our time off was spent exploring the park. It was a treat to have to drive through the Grand Tetons to get to the grocery store!” raved Frank about their summers out west. In addition to working full time at Yellowstone, the couple received their 150 mile pin in 2007 (recognizing the number of miles they completed in the park.)

Jaskolka-mast.jpgThe couple first visited the Knoxville Mast Store in 2008, looking to purchase hiking boots before their summer in Yellowstone. Jim (Knoxville’s general manager) struck up a friendship with the couple and asked them to consider working as outdoor associates in the store upon their return from Wyoming. And they did just that. If you’re ever in the Knoxville Store on a Wednesday, don’t miss the opportunity to ask Frank and Peggy about their adventures.

Reflecting on their expeditions, Peggy shares, “Of all the parks we’ve explored, I prefer the Tetons and Yellowstone. But the Smokies are my home – they’re friendly, embracing, and comforting. And it may sound corny, but I feel like I’ve arrived home when I’m hiking a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.”

With their love for these southern ranges, it’s fitting that this adventurous couple will celebrate their 51st year of marriage by hiking their 900th mile in the Smoky Mountain National Park in 2013. Completing this lengthy task is quite an accomplishment. There isn’t a direct route to all of the trails in the Park, and Frank estimates that he and Peggy will have hiked well over 2,000 miles to join the Great Smoky Mountains 900 Miler Club.

Peggy adds, “We hike because we like to enjoy the trails. Each one has its own personality to be enjoyed. You can’t enjoy it if you’re only out there to clock miles. It’s not about the destination – it’s about what’s in between.”

That’s not only sage advice for the trail, but for life.

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