Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2018 Highlights of NPS Investigative Services Branch

A few weeks ago the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service published its annual report, which recaps significant cases, operations, awards and recognitions, and other noteworthy events that happened in the program throughout the year.

ISB Special Agents investigate complex, sensitive, and/or long-term cases of all types of crimes that occur across the National Park System, and work closely with US Park Rangers in the field every day. Investigations include crimes of violence, major property crimes, fraud, embezzlement, major resource violations, drug cultivation, and other incidents. Agents investigate new cases to multi-year investigations, and from isolated incidents to crimes spanning multiple agencies and nations.

The report shows that there is much more going on within our national parks than most citizens probably realize. For example, the report notes this investigation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
In August 2017, a resource management employee located a handgun in the forest where the Chimney Top fire had burned in 2016. A US Park Ranger hiked with the employee to the area where the gun was located, and found several small fragments of bone. ISB Special Agents initiated an investigation and worked with the state medical examiner's office to do a more thorough search of the area where they located more remains. Investigators worked leads to positively identify the deceased and the manner of death. An abandoned vehicle was located in the area where the remains were found in 2009. Items found inside the vehicle were still located in evidence and matched items found on the scene, including the handgun. Investigators sent remains and familial DNA to be tested for the registered owner of the vehicle and received a match. The manner of death is believed to be suicide.
The report also provides follow-ups to a few news items we've reported on in the past few years. To read the full report, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Facility Opening Dates for 2019 Season

National Park Service staff, volunteers, concession operators, and partners are working together to open facilities for the 2019 visitor season on the Blue Ridge Parkway; and the full schedule of operating dates is now available on the park website. Some park concession facilities and visitor centers are now open, with all other points of interest and recreation areas opening between now and Memorial Day weekend.

Parkway visitors and neighbors are also reminded this season of their important role in the National Park Service experience. When visiting any section or site along the historic 469-mile route, visitors can help protect wildlife, plant ecosystems, cultural sites, and historical areas by staying on trails and roads, packing out trash, and leaving park resources as you find them.

“The millions of people that visit us each year have a tremendous opportunity to help preserve and protect the Parkway and its resources for future generations,” said Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee. “The protection of the Parkway, in large part, is in the hands of our users and dependent upon visitors treating this place and its resources with respect.”

Along with the complete schedule of facility operating dates, information to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience is available on the Parkway’s website; including regularly updated information regarding ranger programs, tours, music performances, and cultural demonstrations.

In order to address ongoing maintenance needs along the motor route, visitors can also expect several road projects happening throughout the summer season. The real time road map provides information regarding road projects or potential delays.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wilderness Wildlife Week

Featuring more than 200 free sessions and activities spanning five days, Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week is set for May 7-11. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

In its 29th year, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Whether it’s a hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, learning about wildflowers, or participating in our kids’ trout fishing tournament, Wilderness Wildlife Week brings together leading experts with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experiences,” said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge executive director of tourism. “Over the course of five days, participants have an opportunity to learn about the beautiful Smoky Mountains that we call home.”

The event’s headline session features Jeff Rennicke in a program entitled Hiking Towards Hope: Empowering the New Greatest Generation in the Great Outdoors (May 7 at 7 p.m.). Forensics expert Dr. Bill Bass (May 8 at 7:45 p.m.) returns with special guest emcee Frank Murphy to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region. Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and friends host the moving program Heaven & Nature Sing (May 9 at 7:30 p.m.) with Ken providing a second evening session entitled Inside Adventure: My Unplanned and Exciting Happenings in the Smokies (May 11 at 5:30 p.m.). Additionally, Pulitzer prize finalist Ben Montgomery shares the story of his grandmother and her experience on the Appalachian Trail during The Fascinating Story of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring True Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (May 10 at 7:45 p.m.).

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from lecture topics ranging from the area’s rich heritage to conservation. Workshops focus on photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are Love, Trails and Dinosaurs: The Inspirational Story of the First Person With Autism to Complete All Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails with Theresa Moore, Cherokee Myths and Truths with Jon Elder, I Found It in the Archives: Researching History and Family at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Michael Aday, Neatless, Wheatless and Sleepless: East Tennessee’s Contributions to World War II with Kathy Gwinn, and Ephemeral by Nature with Stephen Lyn Bales where he looks into some of the unusual animals in the Smokies including Appalachian pandas.

Outdoor excursions of all levels are available throughout the week. Highlights include an 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), a six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and a nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.).

A special kids’ fishing tournament kicks off on Saturday, May 11 with registration at LeConte Center Circle Drive covered pavilion. The Wilderness Wildlife Week Youth Trout Tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12. There is no fee to participate in this tournament. Fishing supplies are not provided to participants.

Throughout the concourse more than 40 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association, East Tennessee Historical Society, and Keep Sevier Beautiful, are open daily during the event beginning at 10 a.m.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and open to the public. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit MyPigeonForge.com.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Operation in Little Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 284-acre prescribed burn in the Little Cataloochee area on Thursday, April 4. The Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use from the Long Bunk Trail intersection to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail intersection during burn operations.

In the event of a weather-related delay, the one-day burn operation will be conducted on an alternative date between April 4 and April 15. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area and park-operated vehicles along Little Cataloochee Trail during burn operations and during post-operations monitoring for several days following fire ignition. All other trails and roads in the area will remain open to the public.

The 284-acre Bald Top burn unit is part of the larger Cataloochee Area Prescribed Fire Project. Fire managers are continuing to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the composition and open structure of the oak and pine woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to wildlife and overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

“One of the goals of the prescribed burn project is to improve elk forage and habitat,” stated Burn Boss Trainee Tom Edwards.

This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing regeneration of oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.

The burn is being funded by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and led by the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Fire Management Zone along with resources from the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, the Cherokee Interagency Hotshot crew, and the North Carolina State Forest Service.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in the Smokies, visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Smokies Seeks Volunteers For Trail Work

Interested in volunteer opportunities in the park? The Great Smoky Mountains is hosting several volunteer workdays in April to get some of our most popular trails ready for the busy summer season!

Volunteers will help clear debris from the trail and work to repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on Saturday, April 6, Saturday, April 20, and Earth Day, Monday, April 22, and in Tennessee on Friday, April 5 and April 19. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year, including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Trillium Gap Trail beginning May 1 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed-toed shoes, long pants, and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, rain gear, and any other personal gear for the day. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools for the day.

For more information about the volunteering in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, March 18, 2019

“Iron Will” Hike at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - Park Volunteer David Earle to Lead the Way!

Bring your iron will and join Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Volunteer David Earle on March 23rd for a strenuous winding eight-mile hike into the forest world of the Cumberland Mountain. Long ago, life in the mountains meant you walked in and with the mountains and understood their moods and seasons. During this hike, David will share stories of long gone people who came to the rough Appalachian backcountry with the iron will required to survive here. David will also parade the little known story of Camp Harvard, a summer school for geology held in 1875 and 1876 and located at the present Fort McCook parking area. “Geology is a passion of mine and this hike is perfect for grandstanding the area’s unique and abundant resources,” says an enthusiastic Earle.

The 10:00 am hike will begin at the park’s Sugar Run picnic area accessed via County Road 988. From there, hikers will travel the Sugar Run Trail to the Ridge Trail where they will turn west towards the Pinnacle Overlook. After “summiting” at the Pinnacle, the group will descend to Fort McCook and take the Harlan Road Trail back down the mountain to return to the Sugar Run picnic area.

Hikers should bring lunch and plenty of water. Hikers can plan on returning to their vehicles by 3 p.m.

For additional information on this year’s program or a program schedule, visitors can call 606-246-1075.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Public invited to 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Events

The National Park Service invites the public to attend its upcoming Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview, an open house style event highlighting Parkway activities and upcoming projects. The Parkway is hosting two Season Preview events this year. The first Season Preview will be held at the American Legion building in Blowing Rock, North Carolina on April 3, 2019. The second event will be held on April 4, 2019 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.. The goal of these events is to promote awareness and understanding among Parkway communities, neighbors and visitors of the National Park Service’s stewardship mission.

National Park Service staff will be on hand at each event to provide a “behind the scenes” look into the Parkway. The events will highlight over 20 information stations with park staff and partners at each station to answer questions and discuss upcoming projects.

“We’re excited to host the 2019 Season Preview events, and look forward to meeting many Parkway neighbors and friends,” said J.D. Lee, Parkway Superintendent. “These events take the Parkway into local communities and create opportunities to celebrate the important relationship between the Parkway and the Blue Ridge region.”

Representatives from Parkway partner groups including the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Eastern National and other non-profits who support the Parkway will also be on hand to discuss the roles each group plays and how to get involved in this work.

NORTH CAROLINA 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Event

What: Public is invited to meet National Park Service staff and learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway.
When: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Where: American Legion Building – 333 Wallingford Road, Blowing Rock, NC
Who: Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee along with other representatives of the Parkway’s management team, staff and partners

VIRGINIA 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Event

What: Public is invited to meet National Park Service staff and learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway.
When: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Thursday, April 4, 2019
Where: Virginia Horse Center Mezzanine – 487 Maury River Road, Lexington, VA
Who: Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee along with other representatives of the Parkway’s management team, staff and partners



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking