America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains, stretches to 522,419 acres (over 2,114 km2), spanning the southern Appalachians along with Tennessee and North Carolina border.
By the time the park was officially established in 1934, about 80 percent of the forest area had been decimated by logging; much of the land area was owned by 1,200 small property owners, too.
As the native tree and shrub species regrew, the haze that gives the Smokies its moniker fills the valleys in the early morning.
The Smokies is well known for its biodiversity and, unfortunately, also as a dizzying wilderness where some cases of missing persons have never been resolved.
The first recorded case of a missing person in the Smokies is Dennis Martin, a 6-year-old boy from Knoxville, Tennessee. On June 14, 1969, he went missing during a family camping trip.
Dennis was last seen by his father, William Martin, around 4:30 pm at Spencer Field. His disappearance launched an extensive search involving about 1,400 people.
Search effort continued until September 11, when park officials declared a stop. His whereabouts remain unknown.
10 /10 Father’s Day Camping Trip
Approaching Father’s Day of 1969, Dennis and his family went for a multi-day hike to the Appalachian Trail. Dennis was with William (father), Clyde (grandfather), and Doug (brother).
After spending Friday resting at a shelter at the Russell Field, the family continued hiking on Saturday to the grassy area of Spence Field along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
At Spence Field, they bumped into an unrelated Martin family with two young boys.
The adults took their time to rest and watched their kids play together. At around 4:30 pm, William noticed that Dennis was nowhere.
9 /10 Playful Prank
Douglas said all four boys decided to sneak up and scare the adults. The plan planned to split up into two groups behind the woods and surprise their parents from two opposing sides.
For some reason, the groups were not evenly split. Douglas and the other two Martin boys went south and then west, whereas Dennis took the northwest direction.
They would have come upon the adults from the south and north sides had it all went well. When the time came for Dennis to appear from behind the bushes suddenly, he never did.