Though they had stable, successful careers, Erik and Vesna Plakanis found themselves increasingly dissatisfied with their lives. Naturalists at heart, the nearby Smoky Mountains became an ever more powerful draw, enticing the couple to spend more and more time in the quiet, misty woods they loved. Things came to a head in 1998, after Erik ventured into the woods alone seeking answers. He came out convinced that his purpose was to share the wonders of the forest with others, so he and Vesna gave up their jobs and founded A Walk in the Woods to lead tours and raise environmental awareness.
Adding to their decades-long knowledge of the park's trails, the two are experts on edible plants, animal tracking, wilderness survival, and traditional storytelling, filling treks with interesting tidbits and engrossing yarns. A gaggle of fellow guides, handpicked for their love of nature and knowledge of the Great Smoky Mountains, helps lead the list of hikes and trips, which range from two hours to a full day to give patrons the chance to feel at one with nature without chaining themselves to the back of a deer. Since 1998, A Walk in the Woods has safely taken over 70,000 into the Smokies.