Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NC National Forests Propose Required Bear Canisters for Overnight Campers on Appalachian Trail and in Panthertown

Visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have experienced an increasing number of encounters with black bears exhibiting bold behavior over food in the past few years.

Most encounters are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest rather than at campgrounds that are equipped with bear-proof trash cans. Incidents include bears taking food and backpacks, damaging tents, and staying near inhabited campsites for hours.

“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source and they have not been discouraged by humans banging pots, blowing air horns, and yelling,” said Nantahala District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills. “Using bear-resistant food containers is the surest way to deny bears access to human food.”

The Forest Service has increased public awareness efforts by posting material at trail heads, on websites, and on social media in an effort to educate visitors on the importance of eliminating human behaviors that lead bears to see people as a source of food. However, potentially serious encounters by bears have continued to increase. Close interactions with bears must be reduced for the sake of the bears and for the safety of visitors.

The US Forest Service is seeking input on a proposal to require bear resistant food containers for all overnight campers on the Appalachian Trail located on the National Forests in North Carolina and in Panthertown on the Nantahala Ranger District. The Appalachian Trail passes through the Appalachian, Nantahala, Cheoah, and Tusquitee Ranger Districts.

Written comments should be submitted by September 19, 2018. Comments can be emailed to comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us or mailed to Johnny Wills, Nantahala RD Wildlife Biologist, Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734.

The Forest Service also asks that you be mindful of your sanitation and hygiene in the back country. Bears locate food sources by smell as well as sight. You can protect yourself and protect bears by storing trash and food in safe locations during your visit. Keep scented items in bear-proof canisters, inside trailers, and in the trunk of a vehicle. Do not leave food or coolers unattended. Never store scented items in your tent, including toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks. Pick up all garbage around your site, including inside fire rings, grills, and tables and properly store with your food or dispose in a bear-proof trash receptacle.

If a bear is observed nearby, pack up food and trash immediately and vacate the area. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts or making noise. If a bear approaches, do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building. In the event of a bear attack, do not play dead. Try to fight back and act aggressively. Carrying EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks.

Report bear encounters to your local ranger district office. For more information, see our website at www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, August 13, 2018

Man formally indicted with Second Degree Murder on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Shawn Pendergraft, age 20, with second degree murder. Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Charlotte Division, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, and US Park Rangers of Blue Ridge Parkway on the investigation.

According to allegations contained in the indictment and criminal complaint filed in federal court, on the evening of July 24, 2018, Pendergraft reported that a co-worker was missing. Both Pendergraft and the person he reported missing were employees of the Pisgah Inn, a concessionaire within the park. The complaint alleges that, when initially interviewed by investigators, Pendergraft stated that he and the other employee both got off work shortly after 4:00 pm and decided to go for a hike on an unnamed trail near the employee housing area of the Pisgah Inn. Shortly after starting their hike it began to rain and the other employee decided to return to the housing area while Pendergraft hiked on. On his way back, upon reaching the point where the two separated, Pendergraft saw the other employee’s umbrella and hat lying on the ground. Pendergraft told investigators that he immediately began to search for the other employee and informed the management staff at the Pisgah Inn that she was missing. US Park Rangers and first responders searched the area and located the missing employee’s body lying off an embankment near a park trail.

Investigators interviewed Pendergraft and took him into custody in connection with the murder. The criminal bill of indictment was returned on August 9 by a federal grand jury sitting in Asheville, NC. The charge of second degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. An indictment is an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.



Jeff
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Smokies' Natural Resource Condition Assessment has been Published

The following was posted on the park Facebook page earlier today:
This park is chock full of natural resources. But how can you find quick information about them? Well, Resource Management staff along with partners from Western Carolina University have collaborated to write the park’s Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA). It documents current conditions and trends of the park’s natural resources, lists information gaps and identifies factors that are influencing the condition of our natural resources. The report assesses 52 natural resources using the most recent data and best available science.

You can access the report here: https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2253044




Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Chimney Rock Park Closed For At least 10 days For Road Repairs

The Chimney Rock section of Chimney Rock State Park closed to the public yesterday, August 6, when the N.C. Department of Transportation began work to restore a one-lane washout on the main entrance road in the park.

The park was closed in late May when heavy rains from subtropical storm Alberto caused a portion of the road leading into the park and a retaining wall on the upper parking lot to collapse. The park was closed for nearly two weeks at that time while state park rangers, Chimney Rock Management associates and contractors worked to clean up fallen trees, power lines and mudslides along the road and trails. The park reopened to guests Saturday, June 9. Since that time, staff have had to direct visitors through the one-lane area where the road collapsed.

N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance crews from Rutherford County will perform an emergency slide repair in the state park. Officials expect crews will need at least 10 days beginning Monday to rebuild the road. This project will restore both lanes of Chimney Rock Park Road when completed.

“This project is typical of repair work that we perform regularly,” Rutherford County Maintenance Engineer Matt Taylor said. “We’re essentially rebuilding a portion of the roadway slope that failed during recent storms.”

Work to fix the retaining wall on the upper parking lot is still in the planning phase. No timeline for this project has been announced. For the latest updates and news about the park reopening, visit ChimneyRockPark.com or call 828-625-9611.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Everything you need to know about online visa services

The following is a guest blog from iVisa.com:

You probably must have heard that more and more countries around the world adopt the electronic visa system. What does that mean? It means that instead of going to an embassy to apply for a visa, you can get one online. Generally, the process is entirely online, and it can save you a lot of time and effort. However, many of you have no idea where to get started. Do you do a simple Google search to find the best service? Or do you do some research on the matter and find the best online visa service? The choice is yours, but the best course of action is to always do your homework.

One of the best things about online visa services is that the requirements are easy to meet. You do not need a lot of documents. Most countries require only a valid passport. Of course, visa policies differ from state to state, but any online visa service will let you know precisely what you need. Even so, an embassy will always ask more, which is why most people who travel choose to apply for an electronic visa as opposed to going to an embassy. It is pretty clear why.

Another reason why people choose an online visa service is the lack of effort it implies. Getting a visa is effortless. Once you see that all the requirements are met, you can just fill in an application form online and be done with it. Usually, such an application form can take up to 20 minutes to complete, but that is only if the form is accompanied by a personal questionnaire. If not, you can break that time in half. Plus, the application is unambiguous, there is minimal information necessary, and in case you need assistance, most online visa services provide 24/7 support.

What about the processing time and cost?
Everything that happens online is fast. That is the basic rule of the thumb. It is the whole beauty of the internet. Electronic visas are no different. There are services out there that give you multiple choices when it comes to waiting time, and sometimes, your visa can be available in less than 24 hours, which is something unheard of if you apply through an embassy. Of course, it depends on the country issuing the visa, but even so, getting a visa in only a few days is something to be desired, don’t you think.

As for the cost, you would expect electronic visas to be expensive. After all, you basically hire someone else to apply for a visa in your stead. You just provide the necessary information and documents, and a third party submits your application to the issuing authority. As you can imagine, the cost is higher when you apply online than when you go to an embassy, but not by much. Plus, some people need to weigh in their time and effort in the equation. If you do that as well, you will see that you actually lose less and win more. After all, how much money you lose if you need to go to a consulate on a work day and need to take a trip there? Surely you can see the point. As for a precise cost, that depends on the country you request the visa for. Not all services come with the same fee.

You would think that there is much more to tell about electronic visas, right? But there is not. That is pretty much it. It is a growing system with more and more countries joining every year. We would like to believe that in a few years all states will include the e-visa in their visa policy. That way embassies will become obsolete as far as visas are concerned. Wouldn’t that be a treat?



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, August 6, 2018

Inaugural Smokies Stomp Raises Over $60,000 to Support National Park

Community members from across Western North Carolina gathered for the inaugural Smokies Stomp Barn Party in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) on Saturday, July 21st. The event raised more than $60,000 to fund park projects and featured a ‘fund-a-cause’ for Parks As Classrooms, which provides hands-on curriculum-based environmental education programming for thousands of WNC schoolchildren.

“At Friends of the Smokies, we want every child to have the opportunity to experience the wonder and joy found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said board director Laura Webb. “The Smokies Stomp was an astounding testament to our community’s commitment to that goal and we are grateful for the generosity of all who attended.”

Representative John Ager (NC-115) and his wife Annie, owners of Hickory Nut Gap Farm, called the square dance with live music provided by both NewTown and the Bonafide Band during the evening. GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash, Representative Chuck McGrady (NC-117) and former Congressman and Friends of the Smokies board director Heath Shuler also attended the event.

The Smokies Stomp Barn Party is held in Fairview, NC at Hickory Nut Gap Farm and is presented by Wandering Rose Travels and Webb Investment Services with support from Blue Ghost Brewing, Merrill Lynch, Beverly-Hanks, Biltmore Wines, Blue Ridge Printing, Wilcox Travel and Tours, Insurance Service of Asheville, Navitat Canopy Adventures, Roberts and Stevens Attorneys at Law, White Labs, Wildland Trekking, Dan and Deener Matthews, Chase and Clary Pickering, Rob and Meridith Powell, and Jim and Jan Hart.

Photos from the event and more information can be found at SmokiesStomp.org



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Explore the Stars at Shenandoah National Park’s Annual Night Sky Festival

Shenandoah National Park will celebrate our connection to the universe during the third annual Night Sky Festival August 10-12, 2018. Park rangers, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Solar System Ambassadors, amateur astronomers and a veteran NASA astronaut will be on hand to encourage visitors to value dark skies through a variety of special programs and activities. Programs will take place at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 42.5 on Skyline Drive), Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51), Skyland Amphitheater (mile 42.5), Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51) and Loft Mountain Amphitheater (mile 79.5).

Ranger-led programs will focus on night-active animals, recent discoveries in space, and constellations. There will be opportunities for stargazing, constellation tours, safe solar viewing through a telescope, a planet walk, Junior Ranger activities, and more.

Delaware North, the park concessioner, will sponsor presentations by two guest speakers on Saturday, August 11, in Byrd Visitor Center auditorium. Veteran astronaut and space scientist Tom Jones will present “Beyond Earth: Humanity’s Future in Space” at 4:30 p.m. and ”Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Journey” at 7:00 p.m. NASA Solar System Ambassador Greg Redfern will present a program, “Shenandoah Skies and the Perseids” at 8:00 p.m. and again at 9:00 p.m., before heading out into the Big Meadow to view the night skies and watch for meteors (weather permitting).

NASA Solar System Ambassador and Park Ranger Kristin Hendershot will present “How’s the Weather in Space?” at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 11, at Byrd Visitor Center, and also “Meteor Showers: Hot and Cold” at Big Meadows Amphitheater at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, August 12.

Amateur astronomers invite visitors to view the heavens through their telescopes at the “Night Skies” program starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 10 in the Big Meadow (mile 51). Visitors may join them again starting at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday to stargaze and view the Perseid Meteor Shower. Outdoor night sky viewing events depend on clear skies.

The complete schedule for the Night Sky Festival can be found on the park’s website at: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/night-sky-festival.htm



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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