Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bicycling the Cades Cove Loop Road

Beginning next week, the Cades Cove Loop Road in the Great Smoky Mountains will become a bicycling friendly option for cyclists again. Every year during the summer months, the National Park Service closes the 11-mile, one-way loop to motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. in order to allow cyclists the opportunity to enjoy the cove without the hassle of dodging motorists.

The Cades Cove Loop Road provides cyclists with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and touring 19th century homesteads in this historic area of the park. The terrain along the loop is mostly flat, but there are a few, short, steep hills. Although the road is paved, there are many sections of rough and pot-holed pavement. The loop is passable for road bikes, but until the loop is re-paved, mountain bikes and hybrids are probably better suited for this road. The loop is scheduled to be re-paved during the first-half of 2010.

From May 6 through September 23, 2009, the loop will be closed to motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m.

For more information on bicycling in Cades Cove, and several other locations in and around the park, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Roan Highlands better than the Smokies?

Well, according to National Geographic's Adventure Magazine, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

In the lastest issue of Adventure, National Geographic ranked the top 50 Best American Adventures. Coming in at number 23 was “Hike the Roan Highlands,” which refers to a 48-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail between the Nolichucky River and U.S. Highway 19E.

As you might expect, locals and hikers from the Roan Highlands region are pretty excited about the ranking.

The magazine "dissed" the Smokies with this brief description:

“Surprise. The finest mountain scenery to be found on the southern half of the Appalachian Trail isn’t in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s north along the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the Roan Highlands.”

I'm sure some of you might find those to be "fighting" words! Sure, the Roan Highlands has a lot of open areas providing for a lot of expansive vistas. But quite frankly, as good as they are, those views just aren't quite as good as they are along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. Think about the views of Fontana Lake from Shuckstack, or the any of the views from places like Spence Field, Rocky Top, Charlies Bunion or Mt. Cammerer.


I don't know, what do you guys think? Which section of the Appalachian Trail do you think has the better scenery?

By the way, here's the top ten adventures from the list:

1. Biking the Continental Divide Trail: Multistate
2. Kayaking Lake Yellowstone: Wyoming
3. Rowing Down the Grand Canyon: Arizona
4. Climbing Mount Rainier: Washington
5. Canoeing the Adirondacks: New York
6. Exploring ANWR: Alaska
7. Biking RAGBRAI: Iowa
8. Surfing the Lost Coast: California
9. Hiking the Sierra High Route: California
10. Wreck Diving Lake Superior: Minnesota



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Monday, April 27, 2009

State Byway status for entire length of Newfound Gap Road

Officials from Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced today on the park website that Newfound Gap Road has now been designated as a State Byway by both Tennessee and North Carolina. Newfound Gap Road (US 441), is the 34-mile link between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC.

Earlier in the month, it was announced that the North Carolina section of the road was granted the designation. Now, Tennessee has followed suit.

In the press release, Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson stated that this is an important first step in applying for National Scenic Byway designation through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Designation as a State Scenic Byway or a National Scenic Byway makes the route eligible for grants through the FHWA for such projects as: roadway enhancements, recreation facility improvements, road shoulder improvements, and vista clearing/maintenance projects. In addition, funding could be used for protection of historical, archeological and cultural resources along the road and in areas adjacent to the road. In fiscal year 2008, $40 million in grant money was available nationwide for this program. FHWA provides 80 percent funding for eligible projects and requires a minimum 20 percent match for approved projects.

Again, I have to ask, why did it take so long for both states to grant this designation? It seems this should have been done along time ago!


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew

The Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew (S.W.E.A.T.) is the primary steward for the 30 most remote miles of the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Between June 1 and August 20 of this year, volunteers can join SWEAT and work in the heart of the largest and most beautiful wilderness area in the east.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) trains professional trail crew leaders and provides the tools, food and equipment for volunteer trail crews to spend 5 days rehabilitating the AT in the Smoky Mountains.

These volunteer vacations (at no cost) are full of adventure, fun and excitement as crews go deep into the backcountry of the Smokies to dig new trail, remove blowdown, build drainage structures and cut back encroaching vegetation in order to make the Appalachian Trail safe and open for hikers.

The word “Elite” isn’t just part of the “SWEAT” acronym either. The ATC only accepts applicants with extensive backpacking/backcountry experience. Applicants must be able to meet rigorous fitness qualifications as well. Long and sometimes strenuous backpacking trips, with considerable elevation change will be required to access work sites. There may be long day hikes throughout the week as well. Additionally, you must be willing to camp in unlikely and cramped spots.

If you’re looking to give back to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on its 75th birthday, there’s no better way than to roll up your sleeves and get dirty while helping to manage and protect America’s first national scenic trail for future generations.

For more information and to find an application, please click here.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Appalachian Trail in 20 Minutes

Check out the cool video of Bo Cox's thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from last year. The video condenses his entire 2176-mile trek into just twenty minutes!

I found this video, along with a couple of feature articles, on Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine's Appalachian Trail Guide.





The Appalachian Trail 2008 Northbound from Bo Cox on Vimeo.


If you have trouble viewing the video in this window, please click here.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

75 Hikes on the 75th: May Schedule

As part of the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Jerry Span from the Fontana Hiking Club has organized a program called “75 Hikes on the 75th”. As the name would imply, there will be 75 organized hikes in the Smoky Mountains throughout 2009.

Below are the ten hikes scheduled for May:

May 2. Rabbit Creek/Cooper Road /Little Bottoms /Hatcher Mtn. / Abrams Falls

May 3. Hyatt Ridge / Enloe to Hughes Ridge / Hyatt to Campsite 44 / Beech Gap II

May 9. Lakeshore Campsite 90 to Campsite 77

May 10. Hazel Creek to Bone Valley

May 16. Ace Gap / Beard Cane /Cooper Road /Wet Bottom

May 23. Noland Creek to Campsite 66

May 23. Tunnel Bypass / Goldmine Loop / Lakeshore

May 24. Hemphill Bald / Caldwell Fork / Rough Fork

May 30. Forney Ridge / Springhouse Br. / Forney Creek to Campsite 70 / Forney Creek / Whiteoak Br. / Lakeshore

May 31. Miegs Creek / Miegs Mountain / Jakes Creek

For more information on these hikes, please email organizer Jerry Span at jerry.span@fontanavillage.com or phone: 828-498-2122.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Further clarification of bear spray laws in national parks

Yesterday I posted an article about bear spray being illegal in the Great Smoky Mountains and in other national parks. This information came to light after Chris Hibbard over at Your Smokies brought attention to the law after a discussion he had with one of the Supervisory Wildlife Biologists in GSMNP.

A great deal of confusion was generated about the law because it is a known fact, or it is accepted, that bear spray is legal in some of the western national parks. In fact, several national parks even go so far as to recommend carrying the spray when hiking. The source of the confusion came from the fact that there was no mention of inclusions or exclusions in the language of the law.

Last night, Kurt Repanshek from the National Parks Traveler blog provided some additional clarification to the law after a discussion he had with park officials from Grand Tetons National Park. Kurt quotes Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for GTNP, from his discussion:

"Superintendent's commonly further define and/or clarify park-specific rules and regulations that are applicable to their park unit through a legal instrument called the 'Superintendent's Compendium.' The Superintendent's Compendium is the legal document that Grand Teton NP uses to address and define the appropriate possession, and use, of bear pepper spray."

To see the full report on National Parks Traveler and more quotes from Ms. Skaggs on this subject, please click here.

The information that Kurt has provided indeed explains why bear spray is legal in some national parks, but not in the Great Smoky Mountains. The only question that remains is why hasn't the Superintendent for the Smoky Mountains used this compendium to override the ban in the Smokies? Given the fact that there are now more than two bears per square mile within the Park's boundaries, in addition to the rash of aggressive bear activity last year, you would think that Park officials would allow the use of bear spray so that individuals would have some form of protection, if they feel the need.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

GSMA pledges $1.9 Million to Smokies in 2009

I just received my copy of the Great Smoky Mountains Association quarterly newsletter this past weekend. In this issue, which includes the GSMA Annual Report, they outlined how their $1.9 million pledge for 2009 will aid the park this year. Here are a few ways some of those funds will be distributed which will benefit hikers in the Smokies this year:

* $154,000 will go to 40 Student Conservation Association interns to repair trails, including rehabilitation of sections of the Forney Ridge Trail.

* $50,000 will fund hemlock tree treatments that will protect thousands of the endangered trees from the hemlock wooly adelgid.

* $41,000 will go towards two additional wildlife technicians. These technicians will be responsible for repairing backcountry cable systems that allow campers to store their food out of the reach of bears.

* $30,000 will help fund the Ridge Runner program.

The $1.9 Million the GSMA has pledged for 2009 represents an $80,000 increase over last year, making this year another record year. Currently, the association has 9600 members. Its goal is to have 25,000 members by the end of 2013.

If you would like more information on this wonderful organization, please click here.


Find great deals on hiking and camping gear at Amazon:




Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Cabins Check out our new page for cabin and chalet listings in the Smokies!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is bear spray illegal in national parks?

According to Chris Hibbard over at Your Smokies, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. Chris recently learned of this law from one of the Supervisory Wildlife Biologists with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The law reads as follows:

(a)(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section and parts 7 (special regulations) and 13 (Alaska regulations), the following are prohibited:

(i) Possessing a weapon, trap or net
(ii) Carrying a weapon, trap or net
(iii) Using a weapon, trap or net

Sec. 1.4 What terms do I need to know?

Weapon means a firearm, compressed gas or spring-powered pistol or rifle, bow and arrow, crossbow, blowgun, speargun, hand-thrown spear, slingshot, irritant gas device, explosive device, or any other implement designed to discharge missiles, and includes a weapon the possession of which is prohibited under the laws of the State in which the park area or portion thereof is located.


A great deal of confusion has been generated about this recent revelation. The source of the confusion stems from the common perception that bear spray is legal in other national parks out west. In fact, several national parks even go so far as to recommend carrying the spray when hiking. As you’ll see in the comments section of Chris’s blog, I pointed out that it didn’t make sense that some parks would allow bear spray, and yet it would be illegal in the Smokies, especially since there was no mention of inclusions or exclusions in the language of the law.

A posting by Kurt Repanshek on the National Parks Traveler blog this morning brings a little more clarity to the situation. Here is the key statement:

Park Service officials in Washington tell the Traveler that the regulations do indeed seem to prohibit bear spray in many national parks. And they point out that while there is language that specifically allows the use of bear spray in Alaskan parks elsewhere in the Code of Federal Regulations, "(T)here is not a provision for it in the Lower 48 for some reason."

Number 1, Kurt’s contact in Washington D.C. seems to indicate that all national parks are covered equally by the same law. In other words, there is no distinction between the Smokies versus the national parks in the west. This confirms my interpretation of the law.

However, Kurt’s use of the word “seem” sounds to me like his contact in Washington isn’t 100% sure of the exact interpretation of this law at this point.

If you use bear spray in the Smokies, or any other national park, it would behoove you to stay tuned for clarification of this law. As soon as I have something more concrete about the exact interpretation, I’ll post it here.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Smoky Scout hikes them all

I just wanted to send out a well deserved congratulation to Smoky Scout (Sharon) for her recent completion of all 800+ miles of trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She finished her mission exactly one year to the day from her first step onto a trail, which, coincidentally, happens to be her birthday.

Smoky Scout took the final steps of her year-long odyssey last Saturday when she completed the Old Sugarlands Trail with several family and friends. When she arrived at the trailhead near the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Smoky Scout had just completed a total of 1073.8 miles in order to hike all of the trails in the Smokies.

In all, she spent 82 days hiking over the course of the last year which required her to make 27 trips to the park from her home in Charlotte, NC.

Her longest day was a whopping 20 mile hike – in one day! Back in October she did a loop hike in the Forney Creek area which required a thigh-burning 4200 feet of climbing.

Smoky Scout saw lots of wildlife along the way as well, including 10 bears, 3 boars, a fox, a coyote, and numerous elk, deer and turkeys.

She also snapped an unbelievable 2970 photographs.

Readers should note though, that hiking all the trails wasn’t simply a way for Sharon to fulfill a personal goal. In addition to several personal reasons, one of her primary reasons for embarking on this mission was to raise money to help support the Girl Scouts in North Carolina. She made the challenge to herself to help raise funds for camp scholarships, backpacking equipment, and to help organize hiking groups for inner-city girls.

Although Sharon reached her mileage goals, she still needs your help in reaching her financial goals.

At the end of the trail, a couple bottles of bubbly were opened to toast this awesome accomplishment!

Please take the time to visit her website to see firsthand all of the things she’s seen and done over the last year.

Also, for those who haven’t seen it, I did an interview with Smoky Scout last September.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Synchronous Fireflies of Elkmont

Each June in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains, a natural phenomenon occurs that continues to baffle scientists.

During a two week window in late spring, thousands of lightning bugs flash in complete unison.

The synchronous firefly show, which researchers have identified as a rare form of “simultaneous bioluminescence”, is a popular and growing attraction for the Smoky Mountains. Each evening, several hundred park visitors begin arriving in Elmont with blankets, chairs and flashlights to witness the natural phenomenon that occurs after the park becomes pitch black.

To get an idea of just what happens, check out this YouTube video. The video is a little grainy, but it still gives you a rough idea of what you can expect to see:



Although the existence of synchronous fireflies at Elkmont was known to only a few prior to the early 1990s, synchronous fireflies have been known to visitors of Southeast Asia for centuries. In fact, Sir Francis Drake recorded the phenomenon during his exploration of the East Indies in 1577.

While Elkmont has become a popular and crowded spot to see the lightning bugs, similar glow-in-the-dark shows have also been reported in Cades Cove, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area, Hot Springs, Greenbrier and the Sugarlands in recent years.

Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of 14 species of fireflies that live within the park boundaries. They’re the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.

Fireflies take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days. Their light patterns are part of the adulthood mating display. Each species of firefly has a characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash.

No one is quite sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons. The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the park normally occurs within a two-week period in mid-June.

As in recent years, in order to control the crowds, the park will close the road to Elkmont (except to registered campers staying at Elkmont), and a trolley service from the Sugarlands Visitor Center will be provided for those wishing to see the fireflies in action.

Trolleys will run between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont on June 6-14 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (but will end earlier in the evening if the parking lot fills up). The last trolley back to the Visitor Center will leave Elkmont at 11:00 p.m.

For more information call the Park at 865-436-1200.







Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, April 16, 2009

“Discovering New Life in the Smokies” Presentation

The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education will host a presentation this Saturday on the hundreds of new species being discovered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Discovering New Life in the Smokies” will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Park Ranger Susan Sachs, Education Coordinator of the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in the Park, will be showing some of the new species to the park and to science.

Since 1997, more than 1,000 scientists and students have participated in the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory in an effort to try to identify every species of life within the park boundaries. As of January 2009, the ATBI project has identified a total of 16,805 species in the Smokies, including 6,339 species new to the park and 890 that are completely new to science!

After the presentation is over, participants will have an opportunity to use some of the same techniques to search a habitat in the Pisgah National Forest. The program is free and is for ages 8 and older. Registration is required by calling 877-4423.

For directions and more information, call 877-4423 or visit www.ncwildlife.org.

For more information on the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory project in the Great Smoky Mountains, visit www.dlia.org/atbi/.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cabin / Chalet Listings Expanding

Just a quick note on our relatively new cabin and chalet page on our HikingintheSmokys.com website. We just wanted to take this time to announce that we have recently added several new listings to our site to assist you in planning your vacations and road trips to the Smoky Mountains.

To see all of the listings on our website, please visit:

www.hikinginthesmokys.com/cabins.htm

Oh yea, if you know of anyone that enjoys traveling to the Smokies, I would really appreciate if you passed this information onto them.

Thank you!


Jeff


Monday, April 13, 2009

Peak Wildflower Season in the Smokies

It's already mid-April, which means that peak wildflower season is rapidly approaching in the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you have any interest in taking part in the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage this year, you better make plans soon. The annual event will be taking place next week - from April 22 thru April 26. The pilgrimage is a five-day event consisting of a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars. For more information, visit www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org or phone 865-436-7318 (ext. 222).

If you're more interested in striking out yourself for your own wildflower viewing in the Smokies, I've recently compiled a list of the best trails to hike, when to hike them, and which flowers you can expect to see. The link below will take you to the article:

www.hikinginthesmokys.com/blog22_wildflower_hikes.htm

If by chance you can't make it to the Smokies this spring, I've put together a gallery of many of the wildflowers we saw last season:

www.hikinginthesmokys.com/wildflowers.htm

Please enjoy.


Need help identifying wildflowers?

Check out Southern Appalachian Wildflowers. This is an excellent companion to have during wildflower season to help you identify the many flowers you'll be seeing. This field guide features wildflowers from the southern tip of the Appalachians in Georgia and Alabama to the Blue Ridge Parkway and includes Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Please click here for more information.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Birds eye view of nesting raptors

Check out the Bird Cams courtesy of Xcel Energy. This is an excellent opportunity to see nesting Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, Ospreys, Kestrels and Peregrine Falcons up-close, via streaming video and photos taken every two minutes.

Since 1997, Xcel Energy has provided online Bird Cams of raptors nesting near one of their power plants in Colorado and Minnesota. The cams are provided in order to increase awareness for conservation efforts and to provide the public with opportunities to watch the birds as their families grow.

To see all the cams, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guess and win free gear!

Calling all hikers familiar with the great American southwestern deserts: Backpacker Magazine just announced a new contest to name the remote national monument in the ariel picture below for a chance to win a Casio Pathfinder altimeter watch.



Click here to find a few clues and to enter the contest.

Good Luck!

Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.




Thursday, April 9, 2009

Appalachian Trail Festival 2009

The Biennial meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will be held July 17 - 24, 2009 at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vermont. In addition to the membership meeting of the ATC, the 37th biennial gathering of the Appalachian Trail community will features over 60 guided hikes, more than 50 workshops, excursions, bike trips, and a number of family-friendly events suitable for all ages.

Among the guided hikes held throughout the week, there will be several section hikes along the 130 miles of Appalachian Trail that runs through Vermont, as well as two overnight backpacking trips.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy also recently announced that Dayton Duncan, co-producer and writer of the upcoming Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, will make a presentation at the meeting. He will be sharing stunning footage of the national parks as well as a collection of Untold Stories of those who were instrumental in the creation and protection of America’s parks.

Among the stories is that of George Masa, a Japanese immigrant who served on the ATC’s board of managers in the early 1930s. His wide format photography helped inspire the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in turn, the 72 miles of the A.T. that runs along its crest.

Finally, the ATC is still looking for volunteers to help throughout the conference if anyone is interested.

For more information and registration, please visit: http://www.vermont2009.org/


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bradley Fork Hike with Carolina Mountain Club

As part of the Smoky Mountains 75th Anniversary celebration, the Carolina Mountain Club will be holding a series of three guided hikes on the North Carolina side of the Smokies this spring. All three hikes are free to the public.

The first hike is on 4/26/2009 and will take you along the Bradley Fork Trail.

Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Bradley Fork Trailhead located at the far end of D loop in the Smokemont Campground.

This hike will follow the Bradley Fork until it meets the Smokemont Loop Trail. Hikers will then climb steadily up and then down the other side of Richland Mountain. The group will visit Bradley Cemetery before returning to the campground.

This hike is 6.2 miles with 1400 feet of climbing. The club is asking that each participant carry a pack with lunch, two quarts of water, a rain jacket and a warm fleece. In addition, you'll need hiking boots and good hiking socks. Hike leader: Ashok Kudva. For more information, please call 828-698-7119 or email at ashok.kudva@mchsi.com.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville

Mark your calendar for the weekend of May 29 to May 31 to be in Asheville NC to watch or participate in some challenging and adventurous competitions during the annual Mountain Sports Festival.

Whether you’re a hardcore athlete or a newbie trying an event for the first time, the Mountain Sports Festival offers something for just about everybody. From intense trail running to laid-back disc golf, from adventure racing to the Iron Kids events, from high speed track racing to whitewater kayak clinics, there is something here to entertain and/or challenge anybody that loves the outdoors.


Located at Carrier Park in Asheville, the Mountain Sports Festival offers an impressive race line-up to entice any pro or amateur athlete to test themselves in a variety of mountain sporting events. Races take place all weekend long in competitions such as paddling, adventure racing, cycling, running, mountain biking, climbing, disc golf, skateboarding, ultimate Frisbee and many other events.

In addition to a weekend full of events, you can watch demos of new adventure activities and equipment, enjoy free music and entertainment, replenish your energy with tasty food, sip a refreshing beverage, and browse the exhibits at the Festival Village at Carrier Park.

For a full list of events and races, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Smoky Mountains N.P. closes all caves to protect bats

Officials of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have closed all caves over concern about a disease affecting bats.

The National Park Service said the malady known as White-nose Syndrome has killed an estimated 400,000 bats in the Northeast. White-nose Syndrome is named for a white fungus that shows up on the faces of bats.

The disease causes bats to come out of hibernation severely underweight to the point that they often starve before the insects on which they feed emerge in the spring. Once a colony is infected with the fungus, it spreads rapidly and may kill up to 90% of the bats within that cave in one season.

Smokies biologist Bill Stiver said the disease hasn't been found in Tennessee or North Carolina, but closing the caves will help protect native populations of bats against it.

The disease is believed to be transmitted from bat to bat, but the fungus could be carried into a cave by a person who visits from an infected area.

The disease is taking a heavy toll on bats that hibernate in caves and mines in nine states from Virginia to New Hampshire.

On the recommendation of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the park has closed 17 caves and two mine complexes.


Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store Quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Park History: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The following article was originally published on the National Parks Traveler blog site. The article was written by Bob Janiskee, a frequent contributor to this excellent website that covers all aspects of all parks in our National Park system.

Thanks to
Kurt Repanshek, editor of the site, for allowing me to re-publish this article.


Quite large as Eastern parks go – more than 800 square miles -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park occupies a rugged, heavily forested portion of the southern Appalachian Mountains astride the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Thanks to its high accessibility, automobile-convenient character and many scenic and historic attractions, Great Smoky attracts more than 9 million visitors a year and is the most heavily visited of the 58 National Parks.

Note that it’s spelled Smoky, not “Smokey,” and don’t ask why. The name derives from the blue-gray haze and cloudiness so common to these mountains and valleys. The Cherokees referred to the mountains in this area as Shaconage (Sha-CON-uh-GEE) which means “land of blue smoke” or “blue, like smoke.” The blue tint results when short wavelengths of light -- the blue-violet end of the visible spectrum -- are scattered by volatile organic compounds exhaled by trees, shrubs, flowers, ferns, vines, and other vegetation. The tint is mostly due to the trees, especially conifers, which contribute VOCs in disproportionately large amounts. The same basic effect accounts for the blue haze in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Great Smoky lacks the eye-popping grandeur of flagship Western parks such as Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, but visitors love the forested mountainsides, winding roads, flowering shrubs, pioneer-era relics, and relatively unspoiled character of the place. Big chunks of land with these qualities are scarce in the Eastern U.S., and people are willing to go out of their way to find them.

When you get right down to it, though, Great Smoky isn’t such an out of the way place. In fact, accessibility is a major reason for its extraordinarily high visitation. As geographers are inclined to say, the place has a great relative location. It’s within a one-day drive of most big cities of the East and Midwest, within a two-day drive of two-thirds of the American population, and positioned between the Florida vacationlands and major Northern population centers. In addition, the popular Blue Ridge Parkway feeds traffic into the park, there is no admission fee, and the park is ideal for windshield touring.

Visitation is highly seasonal in Great Smoky, with most of it jammed into the summer peak and the fall color season. Fall foliage is gorgeous in the Smokies, by the way. When the color season peaks -- usually in mid- to late October – hordes of visitors converge on the park (and clog the roads) for “leaf-peeping.” It helps that the weather in September and October is usually dry and clear.

The fewest visitors come in January and February because of the cold, snow, and icy (or closed) roads and trails. Though off-season visitation offers less congestion and better visibility from the high overlooks (up to 70 miles instead of just 15), it does have its weather discomforts and risks. Some ill-prepared hikers have died of hypothermia when caught by snowstorms or chilly rains.

This is a hikers' park as well as a great scenic-driving park, and the mountains have made it so. About 800 million years ago, a shallow inland sea occupied the area now covered by the Smoky Mountains. Thanks to erosion from nearby mountains, vast amounts of sand, silt, and gravel were deposited on the sea bottom. These were compressed and cemented into sedimentary rock layers -- primarily limestone, sandstone, and shale – that reached a thickness of 20,000 feet. Over time there were some igneous intrusions and both the sedimentary and igneous rocks underwent metamorphic processes that physically and chemically altered them.

A mountain building era, the Appalachian Revolution, began more than 200 million years ago and produced mountains extending about 2,000 miles from Georgia into Canada. Immense tectonic forces caused the sedimentary rock strata to warp, fold, and break. The resulting anticlines and synclines gave the land a distinctive wrinkled or corrugated appearance, with long, narrow ridges separated by long, narrow valleys.

Heavy erosion smoothed, rounded, and greatly reduced the size of the mountains. In addition, the cracking (faulting) and tipping of the rock strata created a very complicated array of geologic structures and landforms. Along an east-west line extending about 60 miles, an overthrust fault caused older Precambrian rock strata to slide over younger Cambrian limestone and bury it. Subsequent erosion exposed the younger rock and created flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by mountains. The geologic term for a structure created in this way is fenster (from the German word for window), but in the Smokies it is known as a cove. Cades Cove, one of the park’s major attractions, is the best-known example.

Cades Cove is the place where the park’s pioneer history is on display, and a rich history it is. English and Scottish settlers began arriving in this area in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Some moved inland from Charleston, while others traveled down the piedmont from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Early settlers took the best valleys and coves, so the late arrivals had to settle for less desirable land. Much of this land consisted of coves and dead-end, flood-prone valleys that were so remote and poor in quality that they could support only a hardscrabble existence. What emerged was a distinctive Appalachian culture with tough, self-sufficient, economically deprived people who were largely isolated from the outside world and had lifestyles that were not drastically different from that of their pioneer forebears.

Mountains blanketed with great forests of chestnut, elm, oak, and other trees attracted the logging industry and railroads, which finally came to the Southern Appalachians in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While reducing the trees to stumps they reduced the region’s economic and cultural isolation. But even as late as the 1950s and 1960s, some of the more remote Appalachian coves and valleys remained inhabited by mountain people who eked out a traditionally simple living centered on farming, logging, hunting, trapping, and making moonshine.

Nearly all the families that owned land now within the borders of the park were forced to sell their land to the federal government and move elsewhere. Today, their legacy remains in the form of the preserved/restored log cabins, barns, frame churches, and other historic structures that tourists see in and near the park, and especially at Cades Cove. Another legacy is a lingering dislike for federal government interference in people’s lives. Some people even think it’s OK to hunt bears and other game in the park, since their granddaddies did “before the federal government kicked them off their land.”

Well, that’s not exactly how the government set out to create the park, but displacements did occur. The idea for a park in this area was first advanced in 1899 and again in 1923. Congress finally provided initial authorization (administration and protection authority) for a park in 1926, but provided no federal money for the project. The task of acquiring the land would be left to the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. The strong fund-raising effort in the 1920s – especially in the Knoxville and Asheville areas – is a great credit to the many people in both states who worked hard to get the park. Not enough money could be raised, however, and the campaign would have failed had it not been for a last-minute $5 million donation by park benefactor John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Congress finally authorized the full development of the park on June 15, 1934.

There was a great deal of opposition to establishing the park. Many people saw the project as a government threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles. A good many wanted a national forest created so that logging and hunting could continue. There was considerable resentment about the way the land was acquired. It was not like establishing a park in Western states, where it was possible to simply change the status of land (such as a national forest or military installation) that the federal government already owned.

Timber companies owned about 85 percent of the land in the Smokies. Although these companies had a huge investment in timber, railroads, company towns, etc., it was a fairly simple matter to buy their holdings. This was not the case for the remaining 15 percent of the land. This consisted of land owned by thousands of smallholders (predominantly farmers), most of whom did not want to leave even if they got fair market value for their land. Nearly all the approximately 5,665 people who were displaced deeply resented being forced out. Most complained that they were lied to, mistreated, and cheated. Some were allowed to stay on lifetime leases, with the land reverting to the government when they died.

For more details about the park's fascinating history, see the Smokies timeline at this site.

Most of the land that was roughed up by logging, farming, mining, and related activities has reverted to forest and meadow since the 1930s. Few park visitors are even aware that much of the landscape they admire today had a derelict and pretty well beat up appearance within living memory.

Visitors typically just drive through the park, taking in the scenery from their cars. The main windshield touring route is the east-west trending Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441), which traverses the park between the two main gateways -- Gatlinburg on the Tennessee side and Cherokee on the North Carolina side. The Cades Cove Loop Road is also very popular for windshield touring and wildlife watching. It’s badly congested during the peak seasons, though, and many savvy visitors opt to ride the shuttle buses or rent bikes. Information about the Cades Cove Loop Road is included in a Traveler's Delightful Dozen report on windshield touring in the parks.

For those who want more intimate contact with nature, Great Smoky has more than 800 miles of trails. There are many short and intermediate trails for casual hikers, such as the gorgeous Abrams Falls and Laurel Falls trails. “Quiet Walkways” are short, easy trails from tiny parking areas. The best hiking is on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail -- a 70-mile stretch of which runs through the park -- and in the rugged Cataloochee area in the eastern part of park. Park employees offer guided walks and naturalist programs.

It is the walkers and hikers that get to see, up close and personal, just what an incredible cornucopia of life inhabits this park. In fact, Great Smoky, which was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, has the greatest biological biodiversity of any area its size in the entire United States. While that comes as a shock to many visitors, scientists have long known that the Southern Appalachians in general and this park in particular are rare biological treasures.

Species counts are still in progress, but it is thought that this ecosystem harbors as many as 100,000 different species, including at least 130 native tree species, 1,500 species of flowering plants, over 200 species of birds, and many thousands of insect and plant species. About 10,000 species had been identified in the park by the early 2000s.

With the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Program now ten years along, many thousands more are still to be discovered and studied. Many of the known species are uncommon or rare, and some are already federally protected. This includes little known species such as the endangered rock gnome lichen, which exists at higher elevations in the Smokies and has been federally listed since 1995.

What accounts for the park’s extraordinarily rich biodiversity? There appear to be two main factors. One is the mountainous topography, which fosters the vertical zonation of vegetation and produces a great variety of microclimates, soils types, and other conditions. Vertical zonation occurs because temperature, cloudiness and precipitation, soils, and other influences vary with altitude, slope, and exposure to sunlight (sunny vs. shady).

The other main reason for the rich biodiversity is that the Southern Appalachian Mountains have functioned as a meeting zone of northern and southern biomes. The great glaciers did not reach this far south, but the cold climate forced the spruce tree, the ruffed grouse, and a wide assortment of other northern species to move southward into this area. Having found suitably cool conditions in the higher elevations of these southern mountains, they remain there to this day.

One of the things the Park Service has done to minimize impact on park resources is to adopt a policy of encouraging overnight visitors to stay in the park’s campgrounds or use lodging outside the park. (This policy does not apply to backpacking and primitive camping. since the facility requirements for these activities have little appreciable environmental impact.) There are no government-operated cabins, lodges, or restaurants in the park, but two hotels that were there before the park was established were "grandfathered” into the management plan. Le Conte Lodge is a high and remote structure reachable only by a 5-mile hike or horseback ride. Reservations are required (it is wise to book at least a year in advance) and it is only open from mid-April to late November. Cabins are designed to sleep four people in bunk beds. The Wonderland Hotel, no longer in operation, is being evaluated for a proposed historic preservation project.

Camping is a popular activity in Great Smoky. The park has ten campgrounds ranging in size from 9 to 220 sites. You can make online camping reservations at this site, and reservations are recommended from May 15 to October 31 for the Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. All others are available first come, first served. Facilities for horse camping are available at five sites within the park. Visitors should be aware that there are very few places to buy food in the park.

Great Smoky is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. For planning details and a schedule of events, see this site.

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Again, for anyone who enjoys any of our National Parks in anyway, I highly encourage you to bookmark the National Parks Traveler blog site for news items, issues involving our parks and feature articles like this one.

Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Junior Ranger Day in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will celebrate the third annual National Junior Ranger Day on April 25, 2009 with special activities at the Park's three visitor centers.

From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., children and their families can join in a variety of free hands-on activities, including searching for salamanders, making dinner bells at a blacksmith shop, historic toy making, weaving, wildflower searches as well as other natural and cultural opportunities will be available. Information on the specific programs will be available at the Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, and Cades Cove Visitor Centers.

National Junior Ranger Day is a special event for National Park Week. Most parks throughout the country will host ceremonies, interactive games, and special events designed to connect children with the resources found in national parks.

All events are free. For more information, please visit:

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm


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Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.

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