Monday, October 14, 2019

Roadside parking - be a hero not a hazard

Fall weekends are especially busy on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Beautiful views are unlimited but parking is not. Once a trailhead parking lot is full, many drivers park on roadsides. While parking is permitted on the shoulder of some roads, vehicles must not obstruct traffic. Blocked roadways can lead to accidents and delay emergency responders.

Follow these tips to be a hero and not a hazard:

* Know before you go as cell service is limited.
* Watch for pedestrians as you approach areas with parked cars.
* Check for signs that restrict roadside parking.
* Choose a spot that will not be damaged by tires on soft ground.
* Do not park on a narrow shoulder with a steep drop off.
* Park vehicles with all wheels off the road.
* Check for oncoming traffic before exiting your vehicle.

Some areas are so popular that it can be difficult to find legal parking. This is especially true during peak leaf season. High volume times are typically on the weekends during midday but well-known sites are busy from dawn to dusk. Plan several alternate locations and arrive in the early morning or late afternoon or visit on weekdays.

Popular locations with limited parking include:

* Black Balsam
* Dry Falls
* Graveyard Fields
* Max Patch
* Roan Highlands/Carvers Gap
* Any place you've seen on social media!

Explore our website to find new places to visit:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wildfire Risk Continues in Cherokee National Forest (and region)

Although light rain fell in some areas of the Cherokee National Forest, USDA Forest Service officials say much more moisture is needed in the days to come to significantly slow or put an end to the fall fire season.

Extended periods of hot weather and little to no rain has increased the risk of wildfires throughout the Cherokee National Forest. Wildfires are not only a threat to wildlife and the natural resources, but also to life and property.

"Without a doubt we were pleased to see the rain and cooler temperatures. It helped slow things down in some areas. We aren't letting our guard down. It doesn't take long for things to dry out and the fire hazard to rise," said Cherokee National Forest Fire Management Officer Trent Girard. "A few days of dry and windy conditions that are typical this time of year can have the woods dry and susceptible to fire in a hurry. We don't want folks to be fooled by the recent moisture we received. We still need to be very careful with fire and be aware of how quickly conditions can change."

The U.S. Forest Service reminds campers to be cautious when burning campfires. Use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 15 feet. Dig a pit in the soil to about a foot deep. Circle fire pit with rocks. Build a campfire away from overhanging branches, logs/stumps, steep slopes, dry grass and leaves/pine needles. Never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

The following guidelines are for safely extinguishing campfires and helping to prevent wildfires:

 Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
 Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
 Pour water until the hissing sound stops.
 Stir campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
 Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
 Stir and make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Living Step By Step on The Colorado Trail

Have you ever wondered what it's like to hike the entire Colorado Trail - from Denver to Durango? This video from Keith ("Spreadsheet") and Gina ("Mulch") do an excellent job of showing what to expect, what you'll see, and what it takes to tackle the 485-mile Colorado Trail. This, their second attempt. was completed in 33 days. On their first try, in 2015, they ran out of time just 75 miles short of the finish. Hope you enjoy:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Senate bill increases funding for the National Park Service by $133 million

Last week the United States Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. If enacted, it would increase National Park Service funding by $133 million and improve funding for other federal agencies that support our parks’ wildlife, clean air and water. The increased funding commitment will better protect park resources, support jobs, address overdue park maintenance needs and enhance the experience for 330 million annual park visitors.

Statement by John Garder, Senior Director for Budget and Appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association:
“Our national parks continue to face significant funding challenges for everyday operations and maintenance needs that help keep our most treasured places up and running safely for all to enjoy. This bi-partisan bill, through the leadership of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and support of the committee, provides additional resources for rangers whose numbers have been on the decline for years, and helps fix crumbling park roads and aging facilities. The bill also shows strong oversight of the administration’s damaging effort to reorganize the Department of the Interior, in part by defunding it.”
Key provisions that benefit our parks include:

• Provides a $62 million, 2% increase for the operation of national parks, supporting park stewardship, overdue park repairs, visitor programs and park rangers.

• Restricts new funding for the reorganization of the Department of the Interior, which threatens the management of our parks, their resources, the employees of the National Park Service, and its partner land management agencies.

• Increases funding for Park Service federal land acquisition, better protecting Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Cumberland Island National Seashore and many other parks.

• Provides needed support for National Heritage Areas, supporting historic preservation and interpretation at communities throughout the country.

• Provides increases to address the Park Service’s nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, helping to fix our park roadways and aging infrastructure.

• Urges protections for Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas development on adjacent federal public lands.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, September 30, 2019

New agreement between federal, state agencies highlights cooperative approach to land management

The United States Department of Agriculture's Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment signed a Shared Stewardship agreement between USDA's Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the North Carolina Forest Service, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in a ceremony here yesterday.

USDA Under Secretary Jim Hubbard signed the agreement with Steve Troxler, Commissioner of NCDA&CS; Scott Bissette, Assistant Commissioner of NCFS; and Gordan Myers, Executive Director of NCWRC.

"Shared Stewardship offers a great opportunity to coordinate and prioritize land management activities in tandem," said Hubbard. "The USDA and its agencies have a long and strong history of collaboration with the State of North Carolina. This agreement will make that working relationship even stronger."

The Shared Stewardship Agreement establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to collaborate better, focus on accomplishing mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing ecological challenges and natural resource concerns in North Carolina.

"Partnerships remain essential to everything we do as an agency and allows for greater success in reaching our conservation goals and in protecting our natural resources," Troxler said. "The Shared Stewardship agreement strengthens our commitment to partnership in these areas of mutual benefit."

In addition to providing a framework for how the federal and state agencies will work together, the Shared Stewardship agreement also outlines the importance of ensuring meaningful participation from state and local partners such as North Carolina's State Parks, Natural Heritage Program, Department of Transportation, Conservation Districts, and non-governmental conservation organizations.

"We are excited to continue our cooperative approach to management and access on national forests, including linear wildlife openings, food plots and road maintenance upgrades for North Carolina's hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts," said Myers.

The agreement can be found at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, September 27, 2019

Smokies Restricts Campfires in the Backcountry

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary ban on backcountry campfires effective immediately. Due to abnormally dry weather conditions, the potential for wildfires to occur in the backcountry has dramatically increased. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice.

“The park is experiencing abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions throughout the park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With little rain and hot, dry conditions predicted over the next week, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”

The fire restriction only applies to campers utilizing the park’s 100 backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the park’s 9 frontcountry (developed) campgrounds or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves that utilize pre-packaged compressed gas canisters is still permitted at backcountry campsites.

Backpackers should be aware that drought conditions also affect the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle. Many of the springs in the higher elevations are running significantly slower than normal at this time and the following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 16, 26, and Mollies Ridge Shelter. This list is expected to grow as the drought conditions continue. Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.

For more information about regional drought conditions, please visit For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Seeks Trail Work Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is excited to announce a number of trail maintenance volunteer workdays in North Carolina and Tennessee that showcase a number of meaningful partnerships with organizations who actively support our mission. All necessary paperwork to register as a “Volunteer in Park" (VIP) can be done on site. Prior notice of attendance is necessary. Please email or call 828-497-1949 to sign up for a workday.

Opportunities include:

Saturday, September 28th – National Public Lands Day
Volunteers are invited to take part in a trail rehabilitation project on the Kanati Fork Trail from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. The trail is located just off of Newfound Gap Road (441) in North Carolina. Volunteers will perform trail maintenance including installation of drainage features, rehabilitation of trail surfaces, and removal of brush. The workday will offer a great opportunity to learn about sustainable trail design and gain a behind the scenes look at what it takes to maintain the vast trail network of Great Smoky Mountains National park.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands across America. This year’s celebration is expected to draw more than 200,000 volunteers at more than 2,600 sites. For more information about National Public Lands visit

Thursday, October 17 – Brushy Mountain Trail 
Join corps members from the Southeast Conservation Corps out of Chattanooga, TN and staff from REI Knoxville from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm to accomplish much needed trail maintenance along the Brushy Mountain Trail in the Greenbrier area of the park. In addition to completing self-sufficient projects in the backcountry, the corps members are encouraged to engage with the local volunteer community to extend their reach and production. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to host this hardworking crew for extended workweeks, made possible with funding from the National Park Foundation and REI.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking