Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Big South Fork Estimates 80% of Park Impacted by Ice Storm

A large ice storm incident on February 21, 2015, crippled a large portion of the Upper Cumberland Plateau, including the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, after a week of snow and subfreezing temperatures. Snow-covered roads became ice sheets. Trees, branches and power lines were broken by the weight of ice and wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph.

A week long assessment has determined that approximately 80 percent of Big South Fork's 125,000 acre total has been affected by the ice storm. Storm related impacts within Big South Fork are primarily located south of the Kentucky state line. Downed timber of enormous magnitude, twisted and stacked upon each other, will require removal from roads and trails in order to allow access. Over 70 miles of park roads and more than 370 miles of trails are impacted. Staff are currently working to open park roads and will have to wait for a spring melt before addressing the damaged trails.

Leatherwood Road has been cleared and is open for normal traffic through the park and the Bandy Creek Visitor Center is accessible and is open for regular hours. For more information on the park, please call (423) 569-9778.


"Get On the Trail" Hiking Series

Join Friends of the Smokies and fitness expert Missy Kane once again for another series of hikes this upcoming spring. Each Wednesday throughout the month of April, Missy and Friends will hike a different trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Ms. Kane was an Olympic runner and a Pan American Games medalist.

"Get on the Trail" is a great opportunity for people who are new to the area, or are new to hiking, as well as people who just want to know more about the Park.

The dates for this year's spring series are: April 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 30th:

Twin Creeks Trail to Bud Ogle Cabin
Easy, 4 miles

Little Brier Gap Trail to Little Greenbrier Trail
Easy, 4-5 mile loop

APRIL 15th
Porters Creek Trail
Moderate, 7 miles

APRIL 22nd
Appalachian Trail to Sweat Heifer, to Kephart Prong Trail
Moderate, 7.4 miles

APRIL 30th
Big Creek Trail to Campsite #37
Moderate to Difficult, 10.2 miles

The cost is $20.00 per hike, with maps and goodies being provided by Friends and Missy. You must register by calling 865-541-4500 (Covenant Call Center) as space is limited.

Now celebrating it's 17th year, Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy has raised more than $140,000, with proceeds going towards the support for the preservation and protection of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information, contact Sarah Weeks at Friends of the Smokies, 1-865-932-4794 or sarah@friendsofthesmokies.org.


Fontana Dam To Be Designated as Newest Appalachian Trail Community

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), along with the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (SMHC), invite the public to attend the official designation of Fontana Dam, North Carolina, as the newest Appalachian Trail Community™. The ceremony will be held on Thursday, March 26, and is free and open to the public.

The event will kick off at 11 a.m. with music from the Larry Barnett Duo, allowing attendees to meet and greet each other before the designation ceremony at noon. Following the ceremony, guests are welcome to visit the Mountview Restaurant on the property of the Fontana Village Resort for lunch. A short guided hike beginning at 2:30 p.m. will conclude the day’s festivities.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to celebrate Fontana Dam as an A.T. Community partner in North Carolina that is helping to protect and promote the Appalachian Trail,” said Julie Judkins, community program manager for the ATC. “These new partnerships increase local stewardship of public lands, support community initiatives for sustainable economic development and conservation planning and support healthy lifestyles for community citizens.”

Honored guests and speakers at this event include Wendy Janssen, superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Ron Tipton, executive director of the ATC; Mayor Houston, Fontana Dam; Supervisor Kristin Bail, National Forests of North Carolina; Chair Sara Locke, Town Council; staff from U.S. Senator Burr’s office; staff from Congressman Meadows office, 11th District; Christine Hoyer, Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Marshall McClung, local historian and author; and Regional Director Morgan Sommerville of the ATC’s Southern Office.

“The Town of Fontana Dam is delighted to enter into this partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to promote the use and appreciation of the Appalachian Trail in our area,” said Councilwoman Sara Locke.

Fontana Dam marks the point where the Appalachian Trail enters Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the south.

Event Overview:
Location: Fontana Village Events Hall, 300 Woods Road, Fontana Dam, NC
Date: Thursday, March 26
11 a.m. Meet and greet and enjoy music from the Larry Barnett Duo
Noon Designation ceremony
1:00 p.m. Music from the Larry Barnett Duo
2:30 p.m. Short guided hike

The Appalachian Trail Community™ program was created by the ATC to recognize communities that promote and care for the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Working with a growing network of trailside community partners, the program supports communities that play a role in advocating the A.T. as a significant local and national asset and as an international icon. The program assists communities by generating awareness and stimulating outdoor recreation while preserving and protecting the A.T. For more information about the A.T. Community™ program, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/atcommunity.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Have you ever looked at a map of Rocky Mountain National Park and wondered what the Alva B Adams Tunnel was all about? The tunnel appears as a dotted line, crossing through the heart of the park from Grand Lake to Estes Park. It was built in order to transport water from Grand Lake to farmers on the eastern plains of Colorado. This 13.1-mile tunnel is truly a marvel of engineering – especially when you consider there was no such thing as GPS or laser technology in 1944. Workers began drilling on both sides of the Continental Divide in 1940. The 9.75-foot diameter tunnel was completed on June 10, 1944 when workers met at the halfway point, roughly 3800 feet below the surface of the mountain peaks. Starting from both sides of the Continental Divide, the engineers were only 7/16s of an inch off alignment when they finally met in the middle!

Below is a documentary film on the construction of the Tunnel, produced in 1943 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Earthquake Recorded in Great Smoky Mountains

As if the snow and ice in recent weeks hasn't been enough, the Great Smoky Mountains is reporting on their Facebook page that an earthquake was recorded in the park this morning:

The National Earthquake Information Center has confirmed that a minor earthquake (2.1 magnitude) occurred in the park at 4:14 a.m. this morning. The epicenter was 5 miles deep on Goshen Ridge (elevation 4,700'), near Clingmans Dome. Earthquakes are more common to the west of the park in the Tennessee Valley, but since the 1970s, only three have been recorded as having epicenters within the park's boundaries.

A 2.0 - 2.9 quake is considered minor — people may be able to feel it, but it causes no damage to buildings.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Backcountry Skills: How To Cross a River

Spring hiking season is just around the corner for many areas in the lower 48. This means that snow in the higher elevations is beginning to melt, which usually results in high water in the creeks and streams along the slopes and valleys below. In many cases hikers won't have the option of crossing a stream via a footbridge, which means you'll have to get your feet wet. This can be a very dangerous situation for hikers, so you'll want to know how to do this without putting your life on the line. In this short video Backpacker Magazine offer several tips on how to cross a stream safely:


Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Classic Hikes of the Smokies Schedule

Friends of the Smokies has recently published their schedule for the 2015 Classic Hike of the Smokies. This year's installment of guided hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will feature interpretation and leadership by author and hiking expert, Danny Bernstein. Each hike highlights an achievement or cause Friends of the Smokies has supported in the Park. The following is the schedule for all hikes this year, which occur on the 2nd Tuesday of each month:

March 10: Smokemont Loop
6.2 miles, 1,400 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Historic chapel and cemetery
Highlight: Public Safety Treatment of Ash Trees

April 14: Caldwell Fork
9.4 miles, 1,650 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Union graves, Woody house and wildflowers
Highlight: Artist in Residence Program

May 12: Lake Shore Trail
9.4 miles, 1,370 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Tunnel and history
Highlight: Equestrian Leave No Trace Training Program

June 9: Hemphill Bald
8.8 miles, 1,900 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Masonic marker and flowers
Highlight: Feral Hog Control

July 20-21: Overnight at Mount Le Conte
Boulevard Trail: 8 miles, moderate
Trillium Gap Trail: 6.5 miles, moderate
Features: LeConte Lodge, waterfalls, sunrise, park program, Spruce-fir forest and Balsam wooly adelgid
Highlight: Reduce Backcountry Bear Problems

August 11: Big Creek
Moderate hike: 10 miles, 1,100 ft ascent
Easy hike: 4 miles, 600 ft ascent
Features: Swimming hole and waterfalls
Highlight: Suppress Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

September 8: Boogerman Loop
7.2 miles, 1,600 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Stone walls, creeks and elk
Highlight: Elk Bugle Corps and SCA Interns

October 13: Purchase Knob
7.5 miles, 1,500 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Science Learning Center and ridgeline views
Highlight: Parks as Classrooms

November 10: Chimney Tops and Elkmont
4 miles, 1,300 ft ascent, moderate
Features: Trails Forever project, views and history
Highlight: Trails Forever Program

December 8: Noland Creek
4 miles, 800 ft ascent, easy
Features: Historic home sites, Bryson City
Visitor Center and Museum
Highlight: Water Quality Monitoring Program

To register for any 2015 Classic Hike of the Smokies, contact AnnaLee@FriendsOfTheSmokies.org or 828-452-0720. To support the Smokies Trails Forever program, a donation of $10 for members and $35 for non-members is requested. Non-members receive a complimentary 1-year membership to Friends of the Smokies on their first hike. Members who bring a friend hike for free.