KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) – A pair of Friends of the Smokies hikers are taking to the trails to raise funds for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s preventative search and rescue team.

Nancy “Seal Mom” East and Chris “Pacer” Ford are taking on the challenge of hiking the 900 miles of trails in the park this fall to raise $60,000. 

Nancy East and Chris Ford (Source: Friends of the Smokies)

Ranger Liz Hall, the park’s first emergency manager, said East and Ford’s fundraising effort for the team will be important for the success of the program.

“The funds they are raising will be a huge help,” Hall said, who started her new role in June 2020. “Those funds will go directly to fund two seasonal rangers.”

The new rangers will have duties both to assist with search and rescue and to be part of the park’s increased efforts in preventive search and rescue.

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

East and Ford are experienced Smokies hikers. East has completed two 900 Miler maps, and Ford has completed three 900 Miler maps. Completing a map means they have completed the 900 miles of trails.

They plan to start their Tour de Smokies on Sept. 5.

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