Thursday, April 24, 2014

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Launches 'Zoom in to the Appalachian Trail' Photo Contest

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is now accepting submissions for its “Zoom in to the Appalachian Trail” photo contest, a nationwide search for the best photos featuring close-up shots of the details that make up the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

The photo contest asks participants to recognize that the A.T. is not only a footpath, but is also home to a vast array of wildlife and vegetation, scenery, unique people and special Trail communities. Contestants will submit a photograph of a favorite feature along the Trail. Photos may include people, places, scenery or more.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is excited to see the outdoor community’s appreciation of the Appalachian Trail displayed artistically,” said Javier Folgar, the ATC’s director of marketing and communications. “We hope that each photo will bring to light the special connections people have with the Trail.”

The top three photographers will each win a one-year membership to the ATC and will be featured in A.T. Journeys, the official magazine of the ATC. The grand prize winner will also win a custom ATC-themed hammock, courtesy of ENO™.

Photo submissions will be accepted through Tuesday, June 3, and can be uploaded via the ATC’s Facebook page, The public will then vote for their favorite photos through Sunday, July 13. Winners will be announced the week of July 14.

For a complete list of submission guidelines, rules and regulations, or to enter, visit

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Adds New Hikes to Website

Last week I mentioned a couple of times that Kathy and I spent a few days hiking in the Smokies recently. As a result of that visit, we have just added several new hikes to the website. Almost all of which are on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. Here's what's new:

* Mingus Creek Trail: There's still more exploring to do in this area after visiting the historic Mingus Mill.

* Chasteen Creek Cascades: Nice cascading waterfall - with lots of spring wildflowers along the way.

* Balsam High Top: There were fewer level spots on this hike than people. And we didn't see anyone else....

* Goldmine Loop: My first visit to the "Road to Nowhere!" Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with an excellent stout from the Nantahala Brewing Company.

We also updated a few hiker favorites with new photos and updated descriptions. These include Andrews Bald, Chimney Top Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.

Hopefully you'll find this information useful as you explore the many trails of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Canoeist Breaks 20-Year-Old Record for Highest Waterfall Drop

Last fall, Jim Coffey from Canada paddled over the 60-foot La Cascada de Truchas on the Alseseca River in Mexico. In doing so, he broke a record for the highest waterfall drop in a canoe that had stood for almost 20 years.

The previous record was held by Steve Frazier when he went over the 55-foot Compression Falls on the Elk River in Tennessee in 1994.

Although Coffey broke the record last fall, this video showing his amazing feat was only published two weeks ago:

Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bicyclist on Blue Ridge Parkway Killed by Deer

The NPS Morning Report is reporting this morning that a cyclist was killed by a deer on the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the evening of April 2nd, a 52-year-old man was bicycling on the Parkway in the area of Milepost 64 (just northwest of Lynchburg, VA) when he was struck by a deer.

The bicycle was traveling at approximately 25 miles per hour when the deer collided with the rider’s right side, causing him to lose control of his bicycle. The cyclist, who was wearing a helmet, hit the roadway with his head, resulting in severe head and neck trauma.

EMS was provided on scene by Big Island Rescue and the cyclist was evacuated by helicopter to Lynchburg General Hospital. He remained in critical condition there until succumbing to his injuries on Sunday, April 13th. According to his obituary it was his first ride of the season.

Hiking in the Smokies

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Seeks Support for Graveyard Fields Improvements

Last week the Blue Ridge Parkway announced that work will soon begin on the final portion of the Graveyard Fields improvement project. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has been raising funds for this project for the past two years and seeks the support of local businesses and individuals to raise the remaining $50,000.

This project includes multiple enhancements to the Graveyard Fields area, some of which began this fall. In November, crews from the US Forest Service completed several areas of trail enhancements to both protect the environment and provide a safer resource for all visitors. The upcoming construction will provide additional enhancements to the area by doubling the parking capacity and constructing an ADA compliant restroom facility. This comfort station is part of the Park’s efforts to ‘green the Parkway’ and is designed to reduce waste and capture rainwater for cleaning purposes. This project will also include the installation of a new trail map at trailhead and four additional interpretive signs on the Loop Trail. All projects are intended to enhance visitor safety and protect the environment while ensuring visitors have an enjoyable experience.

“The Graveyard Fields Area is a significant recreational resource on the Parkway’s southern corridor, and we are thankful to the Foundation for securing a National Scenic Byways Grant to begin the work and for cultivating the interest of both visitors and neighbors to raise the funds to complete the project,” said Mark Woods, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Foundation, adds, “We deeply appreciate all of those in our Community of Stewards – now over 100 businesses, individuals and families – who have shown their love for Graveyard Fields by contributing to these efforts. Anyone who loves this treasure is invited to help improve it by joining our Community of Stewards today.”

To learn more about how to support this project, visit or call 866-308-2773 x177.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, April 18, 2014

Annual Music of the Mountains Festival Scheduled

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will hold its 10th annual Music of the Mountains celebration Friday, April 25 through Sunday, April 27. This event now spans an entire weekend, with performances of traditional music in neighboring communities, including an entire day of free music at the Sugarlands Visitor Center on April 26th.

The three-day event begins with a concert of Celtic music by The Good Thymes Ceilidh Band on Friday at 7:00 the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, Tennessee. General admission is $5. Music of the Mountains continues on Saturday with a series of free performances of old-time mountain music at the park's Sugarlands Visitor Center. Programs are planned from 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. The park will welcome back the world famous Roan Mountain Hilltoppers – a family that has been playing traditional music for generations. The band will play two sets at 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

New this year, in celebration of National Junior Ranger Day, Music of the Mountains will present a special Junior Ranger Program led by Boogertown Gap at 1:00 the Sugarlands Training Room. Kids will learn how to play the spoons and the washtub bass.

The Bluegrass music of Outta' the Blue can be heard on the plaza outside of the Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies on Saturday evening from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. The Sunday afternoon program at the Smoky Mountain Visitor Center in Cosby, Tennessee will feature traditional Appalachian religious music with an old fashioned community sing along from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. General admission is $4.

The schedule of events:

♦ April 25 - Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Townsend Admission: $5 7:00 p.m.– Celtic Music by The Good Thymes Ceilidh Band

♦ April 26- Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Admission is free:

• 10:00 a.m. Lost Mill String Band .
• 11:00 a.m. Boogertown Gap
• 12:00 Noon Brien Fain
• 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. Roan Mountain Hilltoppers
• 3:00 p.m.Mountain Strings

Special Program for Junior Rangers at 1:00 p.m. Join Keith Watson and Ruth Barber of the band Boogertown Gap in the Sugarlands Training Room (below the restrooms) and learn to play the spoons and the washtub bass. This hands-on program is a part of National Junior Ranger Day celebration.

♦ April 26 - Plaza at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Gatlinburg Admission is Free 7:00 p.m.- 8:30pm – Outta' the Blue

♦ April 27- Smoky Mountain Visitor Center, Cosby Admission: $4 2:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.– "Heritage, Harps and Hymns" – traditional offerings from Cocke County

If planning to attend the events in Townsend, also known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a cabin rental during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.

If planning to stay in Gatlinburg, don't forget to visit our Gatlinburg Accommodations page before making any reservations!

Hiking in the Smokies

Smokies to Host Cherokee Exhibit at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a Cherokee touring exhibit, “Understanding our Past, Shaping our Future“, on Saturday, April 26 through Tuesday, May 27th at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The exhibit focuses on Cherokee language and culture, using sound recordings as the basis for presenting a coherent story in words and text. Acting Superintendent Pedro Ramos will welcome the community to a special sneak preview of the exhibit on Friday, April 25th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

“We are honored to host this incredible exhibit that tells the story of our shared past,” said Ramos. “We cannot separate the story of the Cherokee people from the story of the park and we look forward to sharing this rich history in such a special way with our visitors.”

The content for the exhibit was developed, by design, with significant community input allowing a more personal Cherokee story to be told. Community teams held monthly discussions to develop exhibit themes and images. Rather than presenting a chronological history, teams developed a thematic approach to sharpen the Cherokee perspective focusing on Cherokee homeland, heritage sites, tourism, family, and community celebrations.

Much of the exhibit text was excerpted from conversations originally recorded in Cherokee instead of translating from English into Cherokee. A Cherokee speakers group, organized in cooperation with the Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University, met weekly at the Kituwah Academy where members were shown historic photographs and asked to comment on them. These conversations were transcribed, translated, and included on the fifteen panels that make up the exhibit. Re-recorded by language instructor Tom Belt, these conversations are archived in Hunter Library’s online digital collections at Western Carolina University.

The exhibit panels use smart phone technology and QR codes to link to conversations in the archived collections. By hitting the on-screen play button, an exhibit visitor can listen to the Cherokee syllabary as it is spoken. Members of the speakers’ group include: Myrtle Johnson, Edwin George, Eli George, Marie Junaluska, Sallie Smoker, Nannie Taylor, and J.C. Wachacha. Others who worked on the exhibit include: Roseanna Belt, Western Carolina University (WCU) Cherokee Center; Tom Belt, WCU Cherokee Language Program; Evelyn Conley, Indigenous Education Institute; Jeff Marley, Nantahala School for the Arts; Yona Wade, Cherokee Central School; Andrew Denson, Jane Eastman, and Hartwell Francis, WCU professors; Corrine Glesne, Asheville evaluator; and Anna Fariello, project director.

The touring exhibit is sponsored by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in partnership with Cherokee Central Schools, Southwestern Community College, and Western Carolina University. Funding was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Slated to travel to ten sites in the region, the exhibit places cultural interpretation in locations frequented by the public. “Understanding our Past, Shaping our Future” will later be on view at the Swain County Center for the Arts in Bryson City, Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville, Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Cashiers Symposium and Historical Society in Cashiers.

If planning to visit the exhibit you may want to note that the North Carolina side of the Smokies has a lot to offer. In addition to lots of outdoor adventures and fun, both Cherokee and Bryson City have some excellent restaurants. If planning an overnight stay during your visit, be sure to visit our Accommodations page to find the perfect cabin or resort on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

Hiking in the Smokies