Friday, February 24, 2017

Elkmont Historic District Work Will Temporarily Close Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that work is underway in the Elkmont Historic District to preserve four structures and to remove 29 others as specified in the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) among the National Park Service, Tennessee State Historic Office, and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In 2017, park crews will preserve the Levi Trentham Cabin, Mayo Cabin, Mayo Servants’ Quarters, and Creekmore Cabin in the Daisy Town area. The 29 structures slated for demolition are along Little River Trail and Jakes Creek Trail.

“Elkmont has long been recognized as a special place that tells the story of early logging and tourism, while at the same time harboring a rare alluvial forest that supports unique species like the synchronous fireflies,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “I’m pleased that we have the opportunity to move forward in helping both preserve pieces of the rich cultural history and restore natural habitats.”

Park staff plan to complete the stabilization work of the four Daisy Town structures by November 2017. Workers will repoint masonry features, replace rotted wood, paint, and make needed repairs to windows, doors, and roofs. The Daisy Town area, Elkmont Cemetery, Spence Cabin, Appalachian Clubhouse, and Elkmont Campground will remain open throughout the work project. Campers should expect noise throughout the day, but all quiet hours will be observed.

Weather permitting, demolition work will be completed by May 26 for the 29 structures located along Jakes Creek Trail and Little River Trail. Both trails, which are also used as administrative roads, will be closed during the demolition work to accommodate heavy equipment. Access to the river near the near the structures will also be restricted during demolition. Little River Trail will be closed, Monday through Friday, from March 6 through March 24 to remove six structures in the area known as Millionaire’s Row. Jakes Creek Trail will be closed, Monday through Friday, from March 27 through May 26 to remove 23 structures in the area known as Society Hill. Crews have already salvaged useable items from the structures for use in preserving historic structures in the park.

From 1992 through 2008, the park entered into a series of public planning efforts including an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that led to the 2009 MOU and an amendment to the park’s General Management Plan defining the disposition of the 74 remaining structures in the Elkmont Historic District. The EIS defined a full range of possible actions in seven alternatives for management of the historic district with the expected impacts and projected costs of each alternative. These alternatives ranged from full removal of all buildings as described in the park’s 1982 General Management Plan to incrementally greater preservation and reuse of the buildings for a variety of purposes with costs estimated between $1.4 million to over $30 million. As specified in the decision documents, 19 structures were designated to be preserved for public visitation, while 55 structures were identified for demolition. To date, two structures have been fully restored and four have been removed. Park officials continue to seek funding to complete the needed work.

For more information about the Elkmont Historic District Environmental Impact Statement, please visit the park website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm.



Jeff
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Chimney Tops could be closed for years following fire"

Smoky Mountain News is reporting that the Chimney Tops Trail could be closed for years as a result of the November wildfires.

Last week Holly Kays from Smoky Mountain News took part in a guided hike, led by Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokesperson, Dana Soehn, in which members of the local media climbed to the summit of Chimney Tops to witness firsthand the devastation brought on by the fire. Soehn told the media representatives that "it could be years before the full trail is open again". Moreover, it could take 80 years before the burned area returns to its pre-fire condition.

Additionally, "the Bull Head Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail and Rough Creek Trail are all expected to see long-term closures as park staff watch how the slopes and soils stabilize over time."

You can read the full story by clicking here.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Encompassing more than 265,000 acres, and with more than sixty peaks topping out above 12,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, these majestic mountains provide habitat to more than 60 species of mammals, while more than 280 species of birds visit or reside within the park. With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, Rocky Mountain is also widely recognized as a hiker’s paradise. Here’s why you should plan to visit Rocky sometime this year:

The Continental Divide
One of the best things about Rocky Mountain National Park is its accessibility to the high country. No other park in the country allows visitors to gain lofty elevations so easily. Roughly one-third of the park is above tree-line, and more than 60 peaks top out above 12,000 feet, including 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park. In addition to trails like the Flattop Mountain Trail or the route to Mt. Ida, visitors can also drive over the Continental Divide along the highest continuous paved road in North America. With a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, and more than eight miles traveling above 11,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road connects Estes Park with Grand Lake. The road also provides access to outstanding tundra hikes such as the Ute Trail, the Tundra Communities Trail and the Alpine Ridge Trail.


Wildflowers
Wet springs can bring exceptional wildflower blooming seasons in Rocky Mountain National Park. Even during normal years the park explodes with a variety of wildflowers. Some of the varieties visitors might enjoy include Alpine Clover, Rock Primrose, Western Wallflower, Sky Pilot and Alpine Sunflowers in the tundra areas of the park, as well as Mountain Iris, Lupine, Mariposa-lily and Colorado Columbines in the lower elevations. Some of best wildflower hikes include Big Meadows, Cascade Falls, Emerald Lake and the Lumpy Ridge Loop, among many others.


Longs Peak
At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. The iconic sentinel is seen from almost anywhere in the park, as well as from many locations around northern Colorado. It’s also one of most popular “fourteeners” for hikers and climbers to tackle in a state that boasts a total of 53 peaks above 14,000 feet. Although considered a mountaineering route, thousands of hikers attempt to summit the peak each summer using the famous Keyhole Route. Personally, I don’t want anything to do with the narrow ledges and steep cliffs along the upper portions of the route. I much prefer safer climbs such as Hallett Peak and the Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon Mountains route to cure my big mountain summit fever.


Elk Rut
The annual elk rut is one of the premier attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park. Each fall elk descend from the high country to the lower elevation meadows during the annual breeding season. During the rut, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with herds of females. Mature bulls compete for cows by bugling, posturing, displaying their antlers and herding, while occasionally fighting off young challengers. The peak season for the rut generally lasts from mid-September to mid-October in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Fall Aspens
Just as the elk rut is kicking into high gear, another annual event that draws tourists to the park during the autumn are the brilliant fall colors of aspens. Each September the leaves of quacking aspens turn from green to orange and golden yellow throughout the park. Some of best hikes for viewing fall aspens include Bierstadt Lake, Alberta Falls, Cub Lake, Finch Lake, Adams Falls and Chasm Lake, among many others.


In addition to the hikes discussed above, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Cold Mountain Fire Closes Trails in Pisgah Ranger District

The Cold Mountain Fire is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, approximately 20 miles south of Waynesville, North Carolina, in the headwaters of Crawford Creek. It was reported on Friday afternoon, February 17, 2017. The human-caused fire is under investigation.

An emergency closure order is in effect on national forest system lands in the following area: The Art Loeb Trail (#146) north of Shining Rock Gap and the Cold Mountain Trail (#141).

The fire is currently 134 acres in size, with 0% containment. Approximately 49 firefighters and support staff, including two crews, two helicopters and various overhead, are currently assigned to the incident. Additional personnel and resources will be requested as needed.



Jeff
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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Controlled Burns Across all Four NC National Forests in Coming Months

Over the next several months as weather allows, the U.S. Forest Service is conducting several controlled burns across the four National Forests in North Carolina -- Croatan, Uwharrie, Nantahala, and Pisgah.

The agency will notify the public when the decision is made to conduct controlled burns in their area. Burning days are changeable because the proper weather conditions are needed. Controlled burning will only occur when environmental conditions permit; wind and relative humidity are key factors in fire behavior, safety, and smoke control. A scheduled burn may be cancelled that morning if conditions are not within the expected values.

Trails and roads may be closed the day before the controlled burn for firefighter and public safety. The public is asked to heed signs posted at trailheads and roads and to stay away from burn areas and closed roads and trails.

The Forest Service is required to meet state air quality requirements and will conduct smoke modeling to reduce the possible effects of smoke emissions. The proper personnel and equipment will be on site during the controlled burn.

Controlled burning is an important and versatile forest management tool that can mimic natural fire disturbances and safely reduce hazardous fuels buildup. Reducing fuels is key to limiting wildfire growth. During the historic fire season of last fall, some fires were quickly extinguished because of previous controlled burning that had occurred in those areas.

Habitat for a variety of wildlife can be improved through carefully executed controlled burns. Regular controlled burns promote the growth of herbaceous plants that provide food, such as fruit, for wildlife including important game animals such as deer and turkey.

Controlled burning is an essential ecological tool for restoration and maintenance of longleaf pine ecosystems in eastern North Carolina. In the Southern Appalachians, the Forest Service uses controlled burning to promote fire-tolerant native plants and restore threatened plants and communities, such as table mountain pine and mountain golden heather. The low- to medium-intensity burns create healthier, more diverse and more resilient forests.

All controlled burns are thoroughly planned and analyzed by a team of specialists to ensure that wildlife, fisheries, rare plants, and historic sites are not harmed. Burned areas can be unsightly at first; however, the forests will green up in a matter of months.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Smokies Plans Prescribed Burn in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Piedmont Zone fire management staff plan to burn approximately 800 acres of fields near Hyatt Lane and the western end of Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur Thursday, February 16th through Sunday, February 19th.

Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted these burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters to safely restore meadow habitats. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including woody fuel and soil moisture, wind, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

“The selected fields will be burned to restore meadow species, prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest, and to reduce hazard fuels,” said National Park Service Burn Boss Chris Corrigan.

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Hyatt Lane and the western end of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.

Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during controlled burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, but refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.



Jeff
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Fire: A Useful Land Management Tool on the Cherokee National Forest

USDA Forest Service officials say prescribed (controlled) fire is a useful tool for managing national forest land. Approximately 20,000 acres are scheduled for burning throughout the 650,000 acre Cherokee National Forest during 2017. A significant portion of the prescribed burning is planned for early spring.

To many people the word fire creates visions of great devastation and waste. While this concept can be true of wildfires, it is the opposite with prescribed fires. The term prescribed fire means exactly what it implies. It is a recommended treatment for a specific area. Before prescribed burns are conducted on national forest land, a well thought out and documented “prescription” is written by Forest Service resource specialists. A prescription identifies objectives of the proposed burn, examines possible environmental impacts, addresses smoke dispersal, describes how and when the burn will be conducted and under what weather conditions. After a prescription has been approved, fire management personnel go about the task of planning and conducting the burn.

Mike Bot, Acting Fire Management Officer for the Cherokee National Forest said, “At any point during a prescribed burn a decision can be made to stop burning if conditions are not right. We conduct prescribed burns when conditions will minimize the amount of smoke produced and its effect on people. Safety is top priority of every prescribed burn. Before we begin any burn, managers consider the safety of people, property and the natural resources. Prescribed fire helps to reduce the chance of wildfires that could pose a threat to communities.”

Prescribed fire is used in the Cherokee National Forest for several reasons including:

1) Hazardous Fuel Reduction: Fuels (vegetation) such as grass, leaves, brush, downed trees, and pine needles accumulate and create a fire hazard. By burning an area under favorable conditions these fuels are removed, decreasing the amount of vegetation that is available to burn during a wildfire. Reducing heavy vegetation build up helps protect communities from the threat of wildfire, as well as being beneficial to the forest.

2) Site Preparation: Certain trees cannot tolerate shady conditions created by other species. In areas being managed for pines, prescribed fire reduces certain types of vegetation that compete for light, moisture, and nutrients. Prescribed fire also reduces the leaf litter on the forest floor which often prevents seed germination for natural reproduction of desirable vegetation, including native grasses.

3) Wildlife Habitat: Prescribed fire promotes new sprout and herbaceous growth that serves as beneficial food and cover for many animals.

Although other methods of treatment have been used, none have been found that can produce the same benefits as prescribed fire for the same cost. Other methods may cost many times as much and have less benefit to the larger forest ecosystem.

Wildfires usually burn with great intensity and cause damage to the forest environment and can be a threat to life and property. On the other hand, low intensity prescribed fires are beneficial and very important to the management of national forest land.

Bot explained that, “Growing conditions in east Tennessee allow burned areas to quickly green up within a relatively short period of time. In most cases, shortly after a burn is conducted, a casual observer would scarcely notice that this beneficial tool has been used.

“We are about to begin a very busy prescribed burning effort in the near future. We want to ensure that people are aware of what we are doing. Because of changing weather conditions it is difficult to say exactly what days we will be burning. In many cases we really won’t know exactly when we are going to burn until the day before. However, the next several weeks should provide us with some days of ideal burning conditions.”

If you have questions concerning the Cherokee National Forest prescribed fire program in your area contact one of the following Ranger District Offices: Ocoee/Hiwassee (Benton, TN) – 423-338-3300; Tellico (Tellico Palins, TN) – 423-253-8400; Unaka (Greeneville, TN) – 423-638-4109; Watauga (Unicoi, TN) – 423-735-1500.



Jeff
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