Thursday, April 28, 2016

Arches National Park Seeks Graffiti Vandals

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? Arches National Park recently discovered another act of graffiti vandalism, and posted this message on their Facebook page yesterday:
We need your help. Staff recently discovered new graffiti at Frame Arch, just off the trail to Delicate Arch. If you saw anyone carving or writing on the rock on the Delicate Arch trail, please contact the park via email or phone listed here:

Graffiti—marking, scratching, chalking, and carving on rocks—is unsightly and illegal. It damages the rocks and ruins other people's experience in this natural place. Rangers and volunteer groups spend hundreds of hours every year removing graffiti from the park. Help us protect your national park: if you discover graffiti in the park, please let us know.
No doubt, the two losers who did this, "Staten" and "Andersen", likely took congratulatory selfies after leaving their mark. By the way, this isn't an isolated case. This type of "tagging" seems to be a growing trend in parks around the country. Here's the photo Arches published on their FB page which shows the damage done:


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Total Eclipse Of The Sun Will Pass Through The Great Smoky Mountains

There's no time like the present to begin planning for the future. Yesterday I just happened to come across a website that mentioned there will be a total eclipse of the Sun next year. This is significant because it will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States since 1979, and will be the first total eclipse visible from the southeastern United States since March 7, 1970.

In case you fell asleep during your high school astronomy class, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thus totally (or partially) obscuring the Sun. If you're located within the narrow path of a total solar eclipse, the Moon will appear to be larger than the Sun, thus blocking all direct sunlight and briefly turning the day into night.

Next year's lunar/solar event will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017. The path of the total eclipse will pass over the western half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the center passing near Tellico Plains.

The longest duration of totality will take place within the Shawnee National Forest, located just south of Carbondale, Illinois, and will last for 2 minutes and 41.6 seconds. The greatest extent will occur between Hopkinsville and Princeton, Kentucky. Viewers must be within the central path to see the total phase of the eclipse, though you'll still be able to see a partial eclipse hundreds of miles away (as seen in the nearby NASA GIF map).

For much more information, please visit the NASA website which has an interactive map, as well as tables listing times for important stages of the eclipse.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tips for Hiking with Kids

So you want to go on a hiking trip this summer, but you’re thinking that it might not be a good idea due to the young kids in the back seat. It’s likely you’re concerned that your children will be bored by the idea of traipsing through the woods. Although I hear this concern quite a bit, you really don’t have to hang up your boots until the kids go off to college.

Fortunately there are several things parents can do to make hiking enjoyable for their kids. The key is to keep them interested, motivated and, most importantly, make sure they have fun. Although that might sound easier than it really is, there are several things you can do to accomplish these objectives.

For very young kids you’ll have to keep the hike very short. As they get older and begin to build confidence and endurance you’ll be able to gradually increase the distance. Although we as adults enjoy expansive views, this really isn’t important to kids. Children much prefer things that are scaled down to their smaller world view. As a parent you should try to appeal to their sense of discovery and adventure, such as visiting a waterfall, a cave, large boulders, a hollowed-out tree, a gurgling stream, or a lake to possibly where they can skip rocks. In fact, water is usually a great motivator.

As you venture further down the trail during your hike try to point things out along the way. Perhaps playing a game similar to that of a scavenger hunt where your children try to find a variety of items such as certain trees, pine cones, wildflowers, boulders, insects, birds’ nests and various wildlife. National parks like Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains are all perfect for finding any of these items.

A few other important tips to keep children motivated are to let them set the pace, bring lots of snacks, take frequent breaks, be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, and maybe even consider allowing them to bring a friend along.

Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains all offer many outstanding easy hikes that will appeal to both children and adults alike.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

2015 Tourism to Big South Fork NRRA Created $19.2 Million in Economic Benefits

A National Park Service report shows that approximately 600,000 visitors to Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in 2015, spent $19.2 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 263 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy.

"Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world," said Superintendent Niki Nicholas. "We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. Visiting one of the 13 units of the National Park System in Tennessee is a great way to introduce visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National Park Service tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it's a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities."

The annual peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz. Visitor spending in 2015 supported 295,000 jobs, provided $11.1 billion in labor income, $18.4 billion in value added, and $32.0 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy. The lodging sector provided the highest direct contributions with $5.2 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 52,000 jobs. The restaurants and bars sector provided the next greatest direct contributions with $3.4 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 65,000 jobs.

According to the 2015 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.1 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.2 percent), gas and oil (11.8 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.8 percent).

To download the report, click here.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Temporary Road Closure on Blue Ridge Parkway

A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 90.0 to Milepost 105.8 will close Monday, April 25, 2016, for approximately five weeks in order to make necessary paving repairs to the road and overlooks in the area. Access to Peaks of Otter from the south will be available via VA-43. Detour signs will be in place to direct travelers around this area.

During the first month of the project, both lanes in this section will be closed to all activity (cars, bicycles, and hikers) to ensure the safety of Parkway visitors and staff. After May 25, and as the project continues, the full closure will end and Parkway travelers can expect one lane closures through mid-September.

The Blue Ridge Parkway portfolio of paved roads includes bridges, tunnels, parking areas, spur roads, service roads, campground and picnic area roads, and the 469-mile Parkway motor route itself. Across the Parkway, many of these areas exceed recommended life cycles for pavement and are in need of repairs estimated to total over $300 million. Funding for road maintenance on the Parkway comes in large part from the Highway Trust Fund, which is derived from a federal fuel tax. The Blue Ridge Parkway annually identifies projects and competes for these funds to repair and maintain park roads.

For more information about road closures, please visit the Parkway's Real-Time Road map.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Several Wildfires Reported in the Southern Appalachians

Multiple large wildfires are currently burning along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line, and are impacting communities in Western North Carolina.

The Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina Forest Service, and Tennessee Division of Forestry, along with multiple cooperating agencies, are working to control the State Line Fire burning near Hot Springs, NC. The fire is located in Cocke County, TN and Madison County, NC, approximately 5 miles west of Hot Springs and 15 miles east of Newport, TN. Highway 25/70 was closed temporarily but has now reopened.

The Cherokee National Forest and Tennessee Division of Forestry are also working to control the Railroad Grade Fire in the Roan Mountain Area. The fire is located in Carter County, TN at White Rocks Mountain approximately 6 miles southeast of Hampton, TN, and 3 miles northwest of Roan Mountain. To protect public safety, a 7.2 mile portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) has been temporarily detoured to Forest Road 293 at Bitter End off Buck Mountain Road. This fire has already burned 1450 acres, and is 60% contained.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs – Eastern Cherokee Agency is also responding to multiple fires near Cherokee, NC.

The U.S. Forest Service is also working to contain a wildfire burning in the Buck Knob area of the Nantahala National Forest, southeast of Franklin, NC.

The Buck Knob Fire was reported yesterday afternoon. It is currently estimated at 100 acres. Dry conditions and high winds are impacting firefighting efforts. The fire is burning in Macon County off Old NC 64. A portion of the Appalachian Trail has been closed from Wallace Gap to Winding Stair Gap to protect public safety. Old NC 64 is also closed from Wallace Gap to Poplar Cove Road.

Additionally, the Rocky Mount Fire 2016 in Shenandoah National Park has now burned more than 7900 acres, and has also shut-down a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Smoke impacts from wildfires have been reported in cities across Western North Carolina. The public can expect to continue to see smoke in the region through the weekend.

Fire danger remains high across Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. The public is discouraged from outdoor burning until conditions moderate.


Video Hike to Ramsey Cascades

Awhile back the Great Smoky Mountains Association published a video of the hike to Ramsey Cascades. Dropping roughly 100 feet over the course of multiple tiers, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the Smokies. The popular trail takes hikers though the largest old-growth forest remaining in the Great Smoky Mountains, and passes the 6th tallest tree in the park. For more information on this beautiful hike, please click here.

© GSMA 2010. All rights reserved.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to Ramsey Cascades, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.