Some people hike for exercise; others are looking for views or waterfalls. Jeff Wadley hikes for plane crashes. The East Tennessee minister was a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol for 30 years, leading search and rescue missions for downed planes throughout the mountains. Retired from the patrol, Wadley now hikes the Southern Appalachians looking for sites of planes that have crashed throughout aviation history.\r\n\r\nHow did you get into hunting for plane crashes?\r\nWreck chasing is sort of like geo-caching. For me, I started searching for planes as a volunteer cadet with the Civil Air Patrol when I was a teenager. The Civil Air Patrol started back in the 1940s. It\u2019s all volunteers, made up mostly of pilots, who form ground search crews when a plane crashes.\r\n\r\nAre there a lot of crash sites in the Appalachians? \r\nSince the advent of the airplane, there have been 54 crashes inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone. I\u2019ve uncovered 20 more stories about crashes in the mountains just outside the park. There are little pieces of airplanes all over the Southern Appalachians. And there are about five or six aircraft out there that have never been located at all, still waiting for hikers to stumble across them.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s shocking considering our high population. \r\nPlanes can be very difficult to find. One of the FBI agents searching for Eric Rudolph in the 1990s was turning 40 during the search. His dad decided to fly down from Ohio with a birthday cake and presents. He crashed on the border of Joyce Kilmer in 1998. We looked for the crash every day for four weeks. I personally flew over the area a dozen times. We didn\u2019t find it, and after a month, we had to suspend the search. I looked for the site for six years on my own time, and still never found it. Finally, a bear hunter stumbled upon it in a rhododendron thicket.\r\n\r\nIs there something about the Appalachians that accounts for the high number of plane crashes? \r\nA lot of the crashes are private pilots coming from flatlands. The number one problem in private plane crashes is spatial disorientation. They\u2019re flying along and all of a sudden it gets misty, then they\u2019re in the clouds and you don\u2019t know which way is up or down, and they hit a tree or a mountain. But we haven\u2019t had a crash in the Smokies for five years now. I think crashes in general are becoming less frequent. Pilots are safer, and the technology inside private planes is better.\r\n\r\nHave any planes proved especially hard to find? \r\nAbsolutely. There was a World War II bomber that crashed near Whig Meadow back in the 1940s. I spent two years looking for it, using old photos to line up the mountains to determine where it might have gone down. Last January, I finally found little pieces of the plane.Even though the planes have been down for decades, you can still find evidence of the crashes? \r\nUsually. Sometimes the crash debris is removed by the managing agency, and unfortunately, some hikers take them as souvenirs. Planes in the Smokies have literally disappeared over the years. If you find a crash site, leave what you find there and write down the \u201cN\u201d number from the side of the aircraft and report it to the land management agency or local law enforcement.\r\n\r\nWhat are you looking for now? \r\nI\u2019m looking for a 1940s plane crash in the Slickrock Wilderness. Supposedly, some people survived the crash and walked out, but I haven\u2019t been able to find the site yet. I\u2019ll start looking after the first frost, after the yellow jackets are gone.\r\n\r\nHow do you know where to look? \r\nI trace the plane\u2019s flight plan. I also try to find weather and cloud cover data from that day. I can eliminate certain areas based on the flight plan. If the plane is flying north, there\u2019s no reason to search the north side of the mountain, because it would have hit the south side.\r\n\r\nWhat else have you seen while hiking off-trail? \r\nBear dens, marijuana patches, moonshine stills, people living in the backcountry\u2026and a lot of plastic balloons. Those things are everywhere.\u00a0 BRO\r\n\r\nCHASE THESE WRECKS\r\nHere are two relatively easy wrecks you can find in your Blue Ridge backyard. But remember to be respectful. \u201cTo the families of the pilots, these crash sites are sacred ground,\u201d Wadley says. \u201cTreat them like a cemetery.\u201d\r\n\r\nSnake Den Ridge Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn.\r\nThe Snake Den Ridge connects Cosby Campground with the Appalachian Trail, climbing 5.3 miles to the Smokies\u2019 high elevation peaks. Just before the connection with the A.T., at mile 5, the trail passes the site where an F-4 Phantom collided with the mountain in 1984. Wreckage was scattered over 20 acres, and you can still find pieces of debris near the trail.\r\n\r\nAppalachian Trail, Humpback Mountain, Va.\r\nIn 1964, a T-28B Marine trainer crashed into the side of Humpback Mountain close to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County and Augusta County, Va. Bushwhack the slope of the mountain beneath the A.T. between the Humpback Picnic Area and the side trail to the summit. The debris from the military crash sits about 200 yards from the A.T., and large sections of the plane can still be found, including the tail.