Great Smoky Mountains Parents Fishing Retreat

add to outlook calendar add to gmail calendar September 20 - 24, 2023
Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Entry Form Open from July 21, 2023 to July 28, 2023

Health Guidelines: TAPS will make every effort to ensure safe and healthy gatherings. We will continue to monitor COVID variants and may require testing onsite and/or other protocols based on local regulations and CDC guidance. At this time, we do not require proof of full vaccination and masks are optional. Should we have to make any changes you will be notified right away.

All surviving parents, who are in a couple, grieving the loss of a loved one who served in the U.S. Armed Forces are warmly invited to join the Great Smoky Mountains Parents Fishing Retreat. We will explore the wilderness of our earth and of our grief alongside fellow surviving parents. These therapeutic, outdoor, skills-based events require no prior experience and are led by both TAPS facilitators and professional outdoor guides through some of the world's most inspiring landscapes.


smoky mountains parents retreat

smoky mountainsPhoto: Pixabay



In partnership with the National Park Trust and Trout Unlimited, TAPS has prepared for you a healing journey for the mind, body, and soul. Join with fellow surviving parent couples in this immersive experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We will form unique bonds stemming from our shared experiences of loss and grief as we connect with the land and waters, through recreational fly fishing.

Our accommodations are rustic rooms with queen beds at a lodge nestled into the mountains, so priority will be given to couples who are comfortable sharing a bed.

Qualified, volunteer guides at Trout Unlimited will provide their expertise in fishing education and support our physical safety in a variety of outdoor spaces. Visit the National Park Trust or Trout Unlimited for more information.



Day 1:  On this travel day, everyone should arrive at Smokey Shadows Lodge in Maggie Valley, North Carolina by 5 p.m. TAPS staff will be there to greet you and get you checked in. We’ll have an opportunity to get settled in, meet fellow survivors, enjoy dinner together, and relax.

Day 2:  We’ll start the day with breakfast, get an overview of what to expect, and we’ll work together to get our questions answered and build our team. We will work with volunteers from the local Trout Unlimited Chapter to learn the ins and outs of fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains, get acquainted with gear, and enjoy time together on our secluded property. We’ll wrap up with a group dinner in the evening.

Day 3 and 4: The third day & fourth day will include time fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains as well as some free time to relax and further connect with your fellow surviving parents, with a closing dinner on day four.

Day 5: We'll say our “see you laters” and travel home.



This retreat is rated as a light-to-moderate-intensity adventure. We'll be active and everyone will have an opportunity to challenge themselves. Activities will involve light physical exertion. Much of our time will be spent outdoors fly fishing, taking short day hikes and enjoying the incredible scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains. Fly-fishing will include wading in relatively shallow moving water in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.



All trip fees from Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon are covered by TAPS thanks to our generous donors. 

Trip fees not noted above are your pre/post retreat transportation costs, meals outside of events, guide gratuities and gear not provided.



Thanks to the generosity of TAPS partners and donors, lodging at Smokey Shadows Lodge is provided for all attendees from Wednesday, September 20 through Sunday, September 24, 2023. The accommodations are rustic rooms with queen beds in the main lodge of the property; priority will be given to couples who are comfortable sharing a bed.

Participants will cover the cost of transportation to and from Maggie Valley, North Carolina, as well as lodging outside of the dates which TAPS provides. The closest airport is the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Complimentary shuttle transportation to and from the airport will be provided.

If your application is approved, we will ask you to officially register for this event.  Only after you have completed your registration and receive the welcome email should you make your travel plans.  Please do not make travel arrangements until your participation is confirmed.



Entry forms will open July 21 to 28, 2023 (look for the blue button at the top of this page). You can expect a call from TAPS Outdoors staff following your application. TAPS will review applications, giving first consideration for those who have never attended this or any other TAPS retreat, in order that the greatest number of survivors can have an opportunity to attend. Thank you for your understanding. 

If you have any questions, please email or call 800-959-TAPS (8277).


Retreat Facilitator

Rachel Hunsell


Rachel Hunsell

Rachel has a background in experiential program development and facilitation, outdoor engagement, event management and public speaking. As the TAPS Outdoor Programs Manager, she develops, implements, enhances and supports programming across the TAPS network, fostering the connection of our grief journeys to the therapeutic power of nature and the wilderness. Understanding life's challenges will always arise, Rachel encourages survivors to reconnect with their inner strength by creating emotionally safe and understanding environments. As a survivor honoring the life and death of her brother, Marine Lance Corporal J. Kyle Price, she understands the valleys and mountaintops we experience along the journey after loss. The military community is both Rachel’s personal and professional home, where her efforts are directed in helping the community heal their trauma and grow through pain. Rachel obtained her Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication with an emphasis on Public Relations from Southeast Missouri State University in 2013. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Education with a degree in Recreation Therapy at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, where she also served as a Graduate Assistant at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center serving Southern Illinois veterans.