Thursday, March 26, 2015

Clingmans Dome Road to Open Early

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced plans to open Clingmans Dome Road this weekend beginning Friday, March 27th as weather permits. Due to mild temperatures this week, park crews have been able to prepare the road and facilities for the seasonal spring opening ahead of schedule allowing additional opportunities for visitors to reach the popular destination. Accessible by vehicle, the 7-mile road leading to Clingmans Dome is typically closed December 1 through March 31 of each year due to winter weather.

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Park visitors can enjoy views from the parking area or climb the steep, half-mile walk to the observation tower to the summit of Clingmans Dome which offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies. The road also provides access to the popular hike out to Andrews Bald, Silers Bald, and the upper Sugarland Mountain Trail.

Visitors may receive information and trip planning advice at the Clingmans Dome Information Center which includes a bookstore managed by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

The road will continue to be monitored for hazardous conditions and could be closed due to inclement weather. For the most current road closure information, please call 865-436-1200 x 631.


Throwback Thursday

Did you know that Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park was once the site of a backcountry lodge? Over the course of the first half of the 20th century, hikers had the option of overnighting in style alongside this beautiful subalpine lake. During the summer of 1958 the lodge was managed by future folksinger Judy Collins and her husband. Several years later Collins would hit the big time with her hit “Both Sides, Now", which was released in 1967. Less than decade later, in 1976, the National Park Service razed the property and returned the lake to its natural state. Modern-day hikers visiting the lake would never know the lodge even existed.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Prevent Blisters

As Sheri Propster emphatically states, blisters do suck! In this short video she offers several ways to help prevent, and treat, blisters. A couple years ago I also published a blog that offers several tips for "taking care of your hiking feet", which provides an overview of taking care of your entire foot while hiking.


Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 Spring Ranger-led Program Schedule

Last week the Great Smoky Mountains National Park published their 2015 Spring Ranger-led Program Schedule. The schedule includes events and guided hikes through May 9th. Hikers may want to note that there area series of three guided hikes, as well as a hiking seminar geared towards beginner hikers. Here's a quick look at some of the programs hikers may be interested in. Each of these occurs on a weekly basis:

So You Wanna Take a Hike?
Sugarlands Visitor Center Patio (1:00 pm)
How should you prepare for day hike or overnight trip in the Smokies? Learn the do’s and don’ts in this fact-filled program for all ages and experience levels.
Duration: 45 min
Difficulty: Easy

Five Sisters Cove: The Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier (begins April 13th)
Meet at Little Greenbrier School, near Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area (11:00 a.m.)
Join a ranger for a 2.2 mile roundtrip hike to learn about the famous Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier. We’ll talk about adaptation and the flexibility required of these strong willed sisters to live in the old-fashioned way.
Duration: 2 ½ hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

In the Heart of Greenbrier
Meet at the Porters Creek Trailhead in Greenbrier (1:00 pm)
Enjoy a beautiful walk through an emerald green forest to one of the Smokies’ hidden gems. See a wonderful waterfall, a babbling brook and learn to identify some lovely wildflowers along the way.
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Hike to Andrews Bald (begins April 2nd)
Meet at Forney Ridge Trailhead near the Clingmans Dome Parking Area (11:00 am)
Join a ranger on a 3.6 mile round trip walk through the spruce-fir forest. This moderate hike will take you out to Andrews Bald, a beautiful meadow on a mountaintop. You can hike leisurely back to the parking lot on your own after reaching the bald or return with the ranger. Sturdy footwear, a lunch, and water recommended.
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

To see the full list of all spring programs, please click here.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Forest Service Closing Graveyard Fields to Overnight Camping

The U.S. Forest Service is temporarily closing the Graveyard Fields Area to overnight camping. This closure, issued in consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, has been implemented due to human safety concerns after a bear entered a tent and removed a hiker’s backpack. No injuries were reported.

The U.S. Forest Service will monitor the area over the next few weeks to determine when to reopen the area to overnight camping. The area remains open for day use.

“In springtime bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips,” said Pisgah District Ranger Derek Ibarguen. “Black bear attacks on people are rare but when we do have encounters we do our best to break the cycle of success so the bears do not become habituated to humans – protecting both our visitors and the bears.”

Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service is requiring overnight campers to use bear canisters in the adjacent areas of Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Sam’s Knob and Flat Laurel Creek Areas. Numerous reports have been received of bears acquiring food from backcountry campers in this area. Use of bear canisters will reduce the bear’s success and enhance visitor safety.

All bear canisters must be commercially made; constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.

* Do not Store Food in Tents
* Properly Store Food by Using a bear proof container
* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite
* Do not leave food unattended

For more information visitors are encouraged to call the Pisgah Ranger District at (828) 877-3265.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Appalachian Trail Hiker Killed by Falling Tree

On Sunday March 15th, Jason R. Parish, age 36, of Philadelphia, PA, was killed when he sustained a fatal head injury after being struck by a falling tree while hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Parish’s two hiking companions said they began their hike on March 13th from Harpers Ferry, WV. The accident occurred about 6.3 miles north of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on a steep and rocky section near the Ed Garvey Shelter in Maryland.

Police received a call notifying them of the incident shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday. An off-duty National Park Service ranger, who happened to be nearby at the time of the incident, performed CPR on Parish until emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene about 10 a.m. Ultimately, life-saving efforts were unsuccessful and a Maryland state medical examiner pronounced Parish dead at the scene. Emergency and safety personnel from Boonsboro, Brunswick, Jefferson, Frederick County, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources all provided assistance in the response.

"First and foremost our hearts go out to Mr. Parish's family," Appalachian National Scenic Trail Superintendent Wendy Janssen said. "We appreciate the assistance of not only the off-duty National Park Service ranger who responded immediately, but also the emergency medical personnel from our neighboring communities."


Throwback Thursday

There are times when you probably think that stupidity runs rampant among some who venture into the wilderness these days. There may be proof, however, that it just might be in our DNA. In 1888, 16 years after Yellowstone became our first national park, the first valor award was given to an army soldier for rescuing a woman who climbed to the top of Old Faithful - just so she could look inside. After a shift in the wind a cloud of steam enveloped the woman, and she became disoriented and was unable to safely descend. In those days, before the advent of park rangers, U.S. Infantry soldiers were in charge of protecting Yellowstone. Private John Coyle climbed the wet, slippery cone and brought the woman to safety. However, in the process, he suffered a serious scalding of his face, and was unable to walk for four weeks. Coyle would become the first person to be formally recognized for a rescue in a national park.