Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Smokies Extends Chimney Tops Trail Closures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have extended the Chimney Tops Trail closure through December 11th to fully complete the 3-year trail rehabilitation. The trail will continue to be closed each Monday through Thursday as workers complete the full-scale rehabilitation. The trail is open Friday through Sunday each week offering hikers a unique opportunity to see improvements taking shape along the trail.

"We appreciate the patience and support of hikers during the restoration of Chimney Tops Trail," said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan. "The highly-skilled Trails Forever crew, along with volunteers, have accomplished an amazing feat by turning a heavily eroded trail into a durable trail that will better protect delicate trailside resources and serve visitors well into the future."

The combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the Chimney Tops Trail into a badly eroded obstacle course of slick, broken rock, exposed tree roots, and mud. Since April 2012, The Park’s Trails Forever Crew has been rebuilding the trail using durable stone and rot-resistant black locust timbers that will stabilize the trail for decades to come, reducing annual maintenance and greatly improving the visitor experience.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Friends of the Smokies who donated $500,000 to carry out the project on Chimney Tops Trail, and the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation.

For more information on the Trails Forever program, including how to become a volunteer, please click here.



Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Smokies Cautions Visitors on How to Safely View Elk

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind park visitors to exercise caution as they view and photograph elk so that both the animals and themselves are protected. Elk are currently entering the fall breeding season, known as the rut. During this time period, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed to all use. Even if the elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields.

During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge.

“We ask that people help protect the elk herd by honoring the field closures to ensure that elk are not disturbed during this important breeding season,” said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “Bull elk, which can weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, are wild animals with unpredictable behavior. To help ensure your own safety, make sure you have parked in a safe location and remain close to your vehicle so that you can get inside if an elk approaches.”

Park Rangers encourage visitors to use binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras with telephoto lenses to best enjoy wildlife. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, are illegal in the park. If approached by an elk, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass. If elk are near the roadways, remain in or next to your vehicle at a safe distance from the animal.

Park volunteers, through the Elk Bugle Corp, Oconaluftee Rover, and Roadside Assistance volunteer programs, provide on-site information and assist in traffic management at both Cataloochee and Oconaluftee during the rut season. Funds to support these programs are provided by Friends of the Smokies.

For more information on how to safely view elk, please click here.



Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, September 15, 2014

Winter is Coming: Seven Days on the John Muir Trail

"The mountains are calling and I must go"

- John Muir

Below is a video from Ryan Commons that documents his hike across the Sierra Mountains along the John Muir Trail.

Ryan made the trip from the Mt. Whitney Portal to Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park - 222.4 miles - in just seven days! Along the way he climbed a total of 42,000 feet, or, put another way, almost 8 miles of climbing! Obviously he put in some pretty insane milage each day to accomplish this goal.

Ryan followed the trail up to Mount Whitney, which, at 14,496 ft, is the highest peak in the lower 48. From there he passed through King's Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, and the Ansel Adams Wilderness before ending his journey in Yosemite.

At 40 minutes in length, the video is fairly long, but is very well made, and well worth the spectacular scenery alone:


WINTER IS COMING - Seven Days on the John Muir Trail from Ryan Commons on Vimeo.






Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Ode to the Blue Ridge Mountains

I think you'll like this one. The locations featured in this short film are all in Virginia, and include the Peaks of Otter, Mt Rogers, Grayson Highlands State Park, McAfee Knob, Shenandoah National Park, Poor Mountain, and Mill Mountain.





Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lost Tales of the Great Smoky Mountains Pioneers - The Cataloochee Settlement

Through rare historical and contemporary photographs, this short film depicts life in the Cataloochee settlement during the 1900's. Cataloochee was once the largest settlement in the Great Smoky Mountains. Extensive oral history accounts by Cataloochans describe early life in this pioneer settlement:





Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Best Fall Hikes in the Smokies

Fall hiking season is rapidly approaching, and soon leaf peepers will be out in full force in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The beauty of the Smokies is always spectacular, but never more so than during the autumn when the mountains are ablaze with the colors of fall.

The timing of the fall color season depends upon many variables, making it virtually impossible to predict the exact date of "peak" colors in advance.

One of the most important variables is elevation. At the higher elevations in the Smokies, fall color displays begin as early as mid-September when yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush, and pin cherry begin to show their autumn colors. If you’re looking for good fall foliage hikes during this time period, you’ll want to be at the highest elevations in the park; however, you’ll also want to avoid hiking in areas that are predominantly spruce-fir forests.

Suggested mid-late September hikes: Andrews Bald, Mt. LeConte, the Jump-off or Rocky Top.

From early to mid-October, during most years, fall colors begin to reach their peak above elevations of 4,500 feet. Trees such as the American beech and yellow birch begin to turn bright yellow, while mountain ash, pin cherry and mountain maple show-off brilliant shades of red.

In the lower elevations you may notice a few dogwoods and maples that are just beginning to turn. You may also see a few scattered sourwood and sumac turning to bright reds as well.

Suggested early-mid October hikes: You’ll still want to hike in the higher elevations. In addition to the suggestions above, check out Gregory Bald, Mt. Cammerer, Spence Field, Albright Grove or the Sugerland Mountain Trail starting from Clingmans Dome Road.

Autumn colors usually reach their peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. This is usually the best time to be in the park as you'll see the spectacular displays of color from sugar maples, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and hickories. Your hiking choices will have greatly expanded during this time period as well. You can continue to hike at elevation to take in the fall colors from above, or you can walk among the autumn colored trees.

Suggested mid-late October hikes: If you wish to hike at elevation for spectacular fall views try exploring the Rich Mountain Loop, Alum Cave, Hemphill Bald, Shuckstack, Bullhead, Charlies Bunion or Mt. Sterling trails. If you wish to hike among the trees, check out Baskins Creek Falls, Little River, Old Settlers or the Porters Creek Trail.

As the fall color season begins to wind down in early November, you’ll want to hike at the lowest elevations in the park. Check out the Meigs Mountain Trail, Schoolhouse Gap, Abrams Falls, Oconaluftee River Trail, Indian Falls, or the Deep Creek Loop.


Monitoring Fall Color Progress:

* To get a general idea of when leaves are approaching peak colors you can follow the fall foliage map on the Weather Channel site.

* To get a birds-eye view on changes in fall colors, you can periodically check out the four Smoky Mountain web cams.

* To get periodic on-the-ground reports, visit the Fall Leaf Color page on the GSMA website.





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Monday, September 1, 2014

Elkmont Then

I accidentally ran into this video a few days ago, which was put together by Mike Maples in early July. The video takes a look back in time at the Elkmont area during the logging and railroad days. There are a lot of great photos included here.... especially if you like train crashes!





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com