Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cycling the Americas

For anyone interested in following along, there’s a Scottish cyclist who just embarked on a trek to ride from Alaska to the southern tip of the Andes in Argentina.

And, just for good measure, he also plans to climb 20,320-foot Denali (Mt. McKinley) and 22,834-foot Aconcagua along the way, the highest mountains in North and South America.

Mark Beaumont, who holds the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on a bike - a ride of 18,296 miles in just 195 days in 2007/2008 - will cycle across the longest mountain range on the planet, the American Cordillera which runs from the Alaskan Ranges to the Andes of South America. His journey will take him through 15 countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Peru and Argentina.

In the months ahead, Mark will be covering more than 15,000 miles along the Trans-American Highway. His entire adventure is being filmed by the BBC for an upcoming television show. He hopes to finish by February 2010.

You can follow along with his adventure by clicking here.

Speaking of Aconcagua, there’s a nice article in Men’s Journal about climbing this mountain. They describe the mountain as being one of the most accessible of the seven summits. Click here for the article.



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

Synchronous Fireflies in Smokies next week

Just a reminder, the synchronous fireflies of Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains will be at their peak next week. In fact, if you plan on veiwing the lightning bugs, you should be aware that the park closes the road to Elkmont (except to registered campers staying at the Elkmont campground). The only way to access the area is by using the trolley service provided by the park from the Sugarlands Visitor Center beginning this Saturday through the following Sunday night (June 6-14).

Additional details from Park Officials:

The Elkmont entrance road will be closed to motor vehicles and pedestrian use every night from 5:00 p.m. until midnight, June 6-14, except to registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground.

The trolleys will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 6 p.m. The trolleys will run continually until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full, or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley to return visitors from Elkmont to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is scheduled at 11 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person as in previous years.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, including a video, 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 Cabins Check out our new page for cabin and chalet listings in the Smokies!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Adventure Stimulus Package

As the folks at Blue Ridge Outdoors recently stated; just because it’s fiscally irresponsible to travel halfway across the world to climb a mountain doesn’t mean you can’t partake in big adventure.

So, with that said, the online magazine recently published a list of the top 10 adventures in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Topping the list is none other than a backpacking trip across the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.

As you go through the list you might think that some of these adventures are just a little out of your league. Fortunately the staff at Blue Ridge Outdoors had the foresight to offer what they call an “Attainable Alternative”. This so-called “Attainable Alternative” is the scaled-down version of each adventure for those of us that are just mere adventure mortals.

Here’s what made the list:

1. Hike the A.T. through the Smokies
2. Bike the Blue Ridge Parkway
3. Run Mountain Masochist
4. Climb Looking Glass Rock
5. Jump off the New River Bridge on Bridge Day
6. Kayak the Green River Narrows
7. Hang Glide Lookout Mountain
8. Run a Southeastern Marathon
9. Bike the Shenandoah Mountain 100
10. Trek the Linville Gorge

A lot of these sound very intriguing. I’ve done parts of 1 and 2, but I guess I have a few new ones to add to my to-do list.

Here’s the full article.


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.

New-born deer photos

Check out the photos of the fawn that was in my sister-in-law’s backyard – in suburban Cincinnati!

She found it this past Thursday while babysitting her niece and nephew. Actually the two youngsters discovered it while playing in the backyard. She thinks momma deer hopped the fence sometime Wednesday or Thursday and gave birth, but then couldn’t get the fawn out of the yard. My sister-in-law (dutifully) opened the gate for momma that day and both momma and baby were gone the next morning.





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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nantahala Outdoor Center plans outfitter store in Gatlinburg

Nantahala Outdoor Center, the whitewater rafting and outdoor recreation company out of Bryson City, NC, is planning a major new outfitters store in Gatlinburg.

The new 18,000-square-foot retail store, which NOC will call the Great Outpost, will be located at the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the building that most recently housed the Open Hearth Restaurant. The Outpost will become the largest retail store in Gatlinburg and will add 55 new jobs.

In addition to selling outdoor gear and apparel, the Great Outpost will serve as a launching pad for whitewater rafting, whitewater and flatwater kayaking, fly-fishing, guided hiking, mountain biking, outdoor education classes and nature tours in the Smokies. It will also feature educational exhibits on outdoor education, the environment, and connect guests with outdoor clubs and conservation groups that help protect the Smokies. And if that wasn't enough, the store will also have a 25-foot rock wall for climbing.

The new store is expected to open in the fall of this year.

The major venture into a new market during a recession landed NOC’s President and CEO Sutton Bacon a spot in the “Heroes of Small Business” Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., last week.



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

National Trails Day with the Carolina Mountain Club

The Carolina Mountain Club will be celebrating National Trails Day, Saturday, June 6, by working on a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) stretches 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks. At this point, roughly half the trail is complete, however, temporary connectors on back roads and state bike routes now allow people to hike across the state of North Carolina.

To help celebrate National Trails Day this year, the Carolina Mountain Club is inviting anyone interested in helping to extend the trail in the Soco Gap Overlook area (near Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 456).

Club members and volunteers will meet at the Moose Café in Asheville at 9:00 AM on June 6 (rain date - June 13 ) for car pooling. The second meeting place is at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Rt. 19, south of Maggie Valley. Tools will be available but if you have digging tools of your own, please bring them.

The CMC is asking that you call all of your friends and acquaintances to invite them as well. The bigger the group, the more the fun! No prior experience is required. Please contact Piet Bodenhorst for more information.

In related news, on Saturday May 2, Frank Potter and Jim Walters of Charlotte became the 14th and 15th hikers to complete the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. You can read about their adventures in their trail journal.


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, May 28, 2009

Don’t miss the Flame Azaleas on Gregory Bald

If you’re anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountains next month, whatever you do, don’t miss the flame azaleas at the summit of Gregory Bald.

Azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. During our visit last year we saw acres of fire red, wine red, orange, salmon, yellow, white, pink, and even multi-colored azaleas.

According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.


The hike to Gregory Bald isn’t exactly easy. You’ll have to hike more than 5.6 miles and climb over 3000 feet to reach the grassy bald summit. Although it takes some effort to get there, the destination is still extremely popular during the peak bloom periods. According to an article in the most recent issue of Smokies Life Magazine, careful records kept from 1935 to 1962 show that peak bloom for flame azaleas occur between June 13 and June 24.

Last year we were at the summit on June 19. Most of the azaleas were at peak bloom that day, but there were some that were a little past peak. This may have been the result of the heat wave that hit the region earlier that month.

In addition to roughly 10 acres of grassy bald meadows and flame azaleas, you’ll have stunning views of Cades Cove and the surrounding mountains, as well as plenty of space to enjoy a picnic lunch.

I would go so far as to say that the hike to Gregory Bald during peak flame azalea bloom season should be on the life list of any self-respecting hiker, gardener, or nature lover!

For more photos and information on hiking the trail to Gregory Bald, 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 Cabins Check out our new page for cabin and chalet listings in the Smokies!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video: 75th Anniversary Reflections

The Great Smoky Mountains Association recently posted a new video on Youtube showing comments and reflections of employees, volunteers and alumni of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The brief comments/reflections are interspersed with beautiful footage from around the park.





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!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mingus Creek 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 last hike in this series occurs on 6/14/2009 and will take you up to Newton Bald and back down Mingus Creek.

Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Mingus Mill Parking Area.

This hike goes up Newton Bald through wildflowers and a rhododendron tunnel to a former bald with flame azaleas at top of the ridge. It then descends on the Mingus Creek Trail. Hikers will take a side trip to a cemetery and a former house site with corner stones and a chimney pile.

This hike is 12.2 miles with 2600 feet of climbing. The club is asking that each participant carry a pack with a lunch, two quarts of water, a rain jacket and a warm fleece. In addition, you'll need hiking boots and good hiking socks. The leader for this hike will be Lenny Bernstein. For more information, please call 828-236-0192 or email at lsberns@att.net.


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, May 24, 2009

History of the Grassy Balds in Great Smoky Mountains NP

For anyone interested in learning about some of the history of the grassy balds in the Smokies, there's an excellent report (it's called a report, but reads like an article) published online by the National Park Service.

Grassy balds are the treeless, grassy meadows that occur below timberline and mostly on ridge tops in the southern Appalachian Mountains. No one knows for certain how they came into existence. Even their age is unknown. The report discusses in detail the many theories for the origins of the balds. The general consensus, however, seems to be that the early settlers of the region cleared these areas for grazing purposes so that the lower elevations could be used for growing crops during the summer months.

Some of the best examples of grassy balds in the Smokies include Gregory Bald, Russell Field, Spence Field, Silers Bald, Andrews Bald, Parsons Bald and Hemphill Bald. Andrews Bald and Gregory Bald are the only two balds maintained by the park; both are now popular hiking destinations. The others have been left to be reclaimed by forest.

The report, written by Mary Lindsay in April 1976, summarizes the historical use of the grassy balds in the Great Smoky Mountains by settlers before the establishment of the National Park. In addition to using published papers and books, unpublished material in the GSMNP library and old photographs, Ms. Lindsay relied heavily on interviews with people who knew the balds before the establishment of the Park or immediately afterwards.

The report includes the transcribed tape recordings of the in-depth interviews of people like Kermit Caughron, the last person to live in Cades Cove, and who remained there until his death in 1999; Asa Sparks, son of Tom Sparks who actually herded cattle on Spence Field; Paul Adams, a pre-park Smokies hiker and founder of the LeConte Lodge; and Arthur Stupka, the first Park Naturalist for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To see the full report, 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 Cabins Check out our new page for cabin and chalet listings in the Smokies!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mountain Laurel Heaven: Hike to Spence Field

As we approach the late spring season, I just wanted to remind hikers not to pass up the excellent opportunity to see the incredible displays of mountain laurel at Spence Field, located on the Appalachian Trail near Thunderhead Mountain.

The best time to see mountain laurel in peak bloom on Spence Field is during the early-to-mid June time period.

In addition to a couple acres of the soft white and pink blooms, you’ll have stunning views of the North Carolina side of the Park, as well as plenty of space to enjoy a picnic lunch in the many meadows in the area.

There are several trails that lead to Spence Field, but the shortest route is from the Anthony Creek trailhead in the Cades Cove picnic area.

Here are a few pictures from our hike last year:


If you still have a little gas left in the tank, I highly recommend taking the time to make the trip up to Rocky Top, only 1.2 miles beyond Spence Field. Rocky Top provides some of the best panoramic views in the park, in my opinion.

For more information on hiking the trail to Spence Field, 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 Cabins Check out our new page for cabin and chalet listings in the Smokies!

Friday, May 22, 2009

75 Hikes on the 75th: June 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 nine hikes scheduled for June:

June 6. AT from Clingmans Dome / Welch Ridge / Hazel Creek to Lakeshore

June 13. Gatlinburg Trail

June 14. Gabes Mtn / Maddron Bald & Albright Grove Loop / Snake Den Ridge

June 14. Porters Creek

June 20. Oconaluftee River

June 20. Juney Whank Falls

June 27. Gregory Ridge / Gregory Bald to Doe Knob

June 28. Flat Creek

June 28. Spruce Mountain

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.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ramsey Cascades Trail to be closed next Thursday

The upper section of the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed next Thursday, May 28, to replace a foot bridge.

Workers will be replacing a foot log over a section of the Ramsey Prong that the park considers too deep and swift to allow hikers to cross using rocks in the water.

Hikers will still be able to hike to the end of the old gravel road-bed - roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead.

Several months ago, the Trails Forever program focused their efforts on rehabilitating the surface of the Ramsey Cascades Trail. As a result of heavy traffic and erosion, trail workers removed roots and rocks, and improved drainage in order to prevent future erosion on the popular trail.

Hikers might also note that Parson Branch Road is scheduled to reopen tomorrow. The gravel road in Cades Cove has been closed as a result of damage from a storm that dumped 3.4 inches of rain in the area back on January 7.

The road opening provides easier access to the Gregory Bald and Hannah Mountain trails.


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

Bear warnings/closings on the rise in the Smokies

If you haven’t noticed, the number of bear warnings and campsite closings in the Smoky Mountains continues to increase. Since early spring, a new warning or closing has popped-up almost every week. In fact, two new warnings have been added just this week.

As of right now, backcountry campsites #10 (Russell Field Trail), #15 (Rabbit Creek Trail), #24 (Upper Little River Trail), and #93 (Twentymile Trail) are all closed.

There are also bear warnings posted at the Mt LeConte Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, on the Trillium Gap Trail around Grotto Falls, and at backcountry campsites #13 (near Gregory Bald), #29 (Maddron Bald Trail), and #38 (Baxter Creek Trail near Mt. Sterling).

According to Dr. Frank van Manen, research ecologist at the University of Tennessee, visitors should expect to see more bears than usual this year. The reason for this, he explains, is because last year’s mast (fruit, seed, and nut) crop was especially good. He points out that the amount of hickory nuts and especially wild grapes “was pretty incredible.”

Dr. van Manen has been part of the longest-running black bear research program in North America.

Plentiful bear food means that more cubs are able to survive into adulthood, and more healthy adult bears are able to successfully reproduce. “We had a high [population] level to begin with,” said van Manen. “We’re looking at quite a few yearlings that will be kicked out” by their mothers and have to establish their own home ranges, “which could mean trouble for wildlife managers in coming years.”

Generally speaking, backcountry campsites and shelters are issued warnings after rangers receive a series of consistent reports about potentially problem bears from backcountry users.

If rangers begin to receive reports of bears acting a little more aggressively they may choose to close the site. If a bear steals food, rangers will close the site immediately.

By all means, this article isn't meant to scare anyone into not venturing into the backcountry. Rather, it’s to make you more aware of your surroundings while in the backcountry, and to know how to avoid bears and what to do should you see one in the wild.

A good starting point is to read What Do I Do If I See A Bear? on the GSMNP website, as well as this article.

To put all of this in perspective; according to Appalachian Bear Rescue, over the last 100 years, only 57 people have been killed by black bears in all of North America. That’s the same number of people who die as a result of bee stings in the United States every year.


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, May 19, 2009

Video: Using beetles to control hemlock infestations

Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park are probably already aware of the presence of a tiny killer wreaking havoc on the old growth forest. The killer I’m referring to is an insect known as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that is killing eastern hemlocks at an alarming rate.

Known as the “redwood of the east,” eastern hemlocks can grow more than 170 feet tall and can have trunks measuring more than 16 feet in circumference. The tallest hemlock in the Smokies, located in the Cataloochee Valley, is listed at 173 feet in height. Hemlocks are known to live up to 800 years or more. The oldest in the Smokies is more than 500 years old.

The reddish-purple insect, a non-native species originating out of Asia, kills hemlocks by depriving them of nutrients. Hikers and travelers may have noticed a fluffy white “wool” on the needles of the forest giants. As young nymphs, adelgids wraps them selves in a protective “wool” as they attach to the base of the needles in order to suck the sap out of the tree.

The insect was first detected on the eastern seaboard in the 1950s before spreading to the Blue Ridge Mountains and then up through the northern Appalachians to Maine. In Shenandoah National Park alone, up to 90% of all hemlocks have already died due to the infestation.

Infestations in the Smokies were originally discovered in 2002 and have already spread throughout most of the park’s hemlock forest. Will Blozan, an arborist and expert on eastern hemlocks in the Smokies, was quoted in the spring 2008 issue of Smokies Life Magazine as saying that more than 95% of the hemlocks in the park already have adelgids. To give you an idea on the extent of the looming devastation, the Smokies has about 800 acres of old-growth hemlock trees and 90,000 acres of younger hemlocks. In some areas infested trees have already begun to die. It usually takes 4-10 years for the adelgids to kill a tree.

Hemlocks play an important ecological role. They help maintain moisture and moderate temperatures on the forest floor. By providing deep shade, hemlocks keep streams cool which is critical for the survival of trout, crawfish, salamanders and other cold water species. The thick boughs of the hemlock also provide shelter and nesting for birds.

Park biologists and foresters have been using four methods to save the hemlocks: soil drenching (pouring insecticide around a tree base), injection (pumping insecticide into the tree), spraying the canopy and branches, and releasing biocontrol beetles.

To date, the park has released over 350,000 biocontrol beetles to treat 100,000 trees.

The national park recently posted an excellent video on their website offering a close-up view of how adelgids attack hemlocks, the various stages in the decline of the trees, and how biologists are using beetles to control the infestation.

Please click here to see the video.


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, May 18, 2009

Ken Burns film to be previewed in Asheville

Friends of the Smokies is sponsoring another preview screening of the upcoming Ken Burns PBS documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea".

The special screening will be held 7:30-9 p.m. June 3 at the Diana Wortham Theater in Asheville.

Although the price of admission is $10, ticket sales have been strong, said Steve Volstad, director of communications for UNC-TV, which is hosting the event.

The runtime for the screening is about 40 minutes. Afterwards, series co-producer Dayton Duncan will lead a discussion.

The full 6-part series will air on PBS in September. The series focuses largely on the people who fought to create the parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information on the Asheville screening, please click here.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the film will also be previewed at the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville on June 1. For more information on this screening, 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.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Video: Tyler Bradt's record 186-foot Kayak Drop

Check-out the insane video footage of kayaker Tyler Bradt paddling over the 186-foot Palouse Falls in Washington State.

The April 21st run over Palouse Falls smashes the previous world record of 127 feet, set this past March by Brazilian Pedro Oliveira. Oliveira broke Bradt’s former record of 107-feet set at Alexandra Falls in Canada.

Afterwards, Bradt said he was a little sore, and suffered a sprained wrist. Notice the broken paddle after he resurfaces at the bottom - I imagine that wrist injury occurred about the same time that paddle broke.

In an interview with kayaksession.com, Bradt discussed some of safety precautions his team set-up prior to the run: "There was cell service at the waterfall in case of an emergency and Spokane is 60 air miles from the waterfall. We had medical equipment and ways to stabilize me in case of a back injury. We had two boats at the bottom and a person ready to repel behind the falls with a throw bag. We thought through the different scenarios and prepared for them all."

Here's the video:








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

Discovery Channel: Out of the Wild

Has anybody been watching Out of the Wild on the Discovery Channel?

Normally I don't watch so called "reality shows". In fact, I hate them. But Out of the Wild is pretty good.

The Discovery Channel show is about 9 volunteers who are dropped deep in the Alaskan interior on the brink of winter. The show is about their attempt to find civilization with nothing more than the clothes and gear on their backs over the course of a month.

Unfortunately I missed the first couple of episodes, but was able to catch up when the cable channel ran a marathon viewing of previous episodes. Right now they're about half-way through their adventure, with 4 participants already having been forced to drop out. The program runs on Tuesday nights at 10:00 EST.

Check it out if you get a chance.


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!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Grotto Falls and Brushy Mountain Hike Photos

This is the final in a series of three blog postings that highlight our recent hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. The photographs below are from our hike to Grotto Falls and Brushy Mountain.

This day promised two major highlights for the price of one hike. The first highlight of the trail is the spectacular and unusual waterfalls located about 1.3 miles from the trailhead. What makes Grotto Falls unusual is that you can walk behind the falls. In fact, to continue beyond the falls, you have to take the trail that goes between the falls and the rock overhang. As you walk behind the falls you can hear and feel the thunderous power of the water plunging into the pool in front of you.

The final destination on this hike is Brushy Mountain. This is a relatively easy hike to a mountain summit offering spectacular views.

Grotto Falls coming into view

A closer look at Grotto Falls

The spur trail to the summit of Brushy Mountain passes through a tunnel of rhododendron.

View of Mt. LeConte near the summit of Brushy Mountain.

Painted Trillium was fairly abundant along the spur trail.

Looking at the eastern crest of the Smokies. The mountain at the far left is most likely Mt. Guyot, the second highest mountain in the park. The highest mountain towards the middle of the picture is most likely Mt. Sequoyah.

Looking towards the far eastern section of the Smokies. The tallest mountain towards the right is most likely Mt. Guyot.




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

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Silers Bald Hike Photos

This is the second in a series of three blog postings that highlight our recent hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. The photographs below are from our hike to Silers Bald, which is located about 5 miles west of Clingmans Dome on the Appalachian Trail.

The forecast for this past Monday indicated that we would have some lingering rain and clouds early in the morning, but we could expect some clearing by mid-day. With that forecast, we agreed that we might have some questionable weather on the way out, but hoped that the clouds will have passed by the time we reached the bald.

Driving up Newfound Gap didn't look promising. Extremely thick fog made for a very slow drive. As you can see from the first couple of photos, the fog was fairly thick on the trail as well.


Interesting rock formations at the junction the Appalachian Trail and the spur trail from the Clingmans Dome parking lot.

You've probably heard of the movie "Gorillas in the Mist." How about "Squirrels in the Mist!"

Double Spring Gap shelter - roughly the half-way point to Silers Bald.

A little bit of clearing! That is a ridgeline coming off the northern side of Silers Bald. Unfortunately the clearing didn't last. Before we could reach the summit, Silers Bald was completely socked in again. As you might expect, we didn't see anything from the summit.

We passed several Appalachian Trail thru-hikers along the way. All of them complained that they hadn't seen anything for days. Several of the hikers were making their first trip to the Smokies (we meet hikers from CA, WA, MD, PA and MO), and were quite dissapointed that the only thing they had seen so far was fog.

On our return, roughly a mile from Clingmans Dome, the fog cleared out on the North Carolina side of the trail. For a brief window we had some dramatic views that made the whole hike worth it. Within ten minutes of shooting the pictures below, strong winds kicked-up from the north and blew fog back into the southern Smokies. Just like that we lost our views again. We saw fog the rest of the day until reaching the lower portions of Newfound Gap Road.




Tomorrow I'll be posting pictures from our hike to Grotto Falls and Brushy Mountain.





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!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sugarland Mountain Trail Photos

We just returned from a long weekend roadtrip to the Smokies last night. I wanted to share a few photos from our hikes.

The photos below are from our first hike along the upper Sugarland Mountain Trail off of Clingmans Dome Road. I must admit, I was a little disappointed in this trail. I thought that we were going to have much better views than what we actually saw. He hiked to the point where the trail runs closest to Chimney Tops. I thought for sure that we would be able to look down upon Chimney Tops from this vantage point, but foliage blocked most of our views. There were, however, a few brief vantage points along the way.

Still, it was a very nice hike. Although we hiked the trail on a Sunday afternoon, we didn't see a single soul the entire time we were on the trail. We also saw quite a few wildflowers.

A large portion of the trail on this hike passes through lush spruce-fir forest.

One of the brief views along the way (Clingmans Dome we assume).

Trout-Lily


Sweet White Trillium. In addition to these two flowers, we saw a ton of Spring Beauty and several Wake Robin's.


More views

Tomorrow I'll be posting pictures from our hike to Siler's Bald on the Appalachian Trail.





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, May 11, 2009

Special screening of Ken Burns film at Tennessee Theatre

The Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville will be holding a special early bird screening of the PBS documentary by Ken Burns "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" on June 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Dayton Duncan, writer and co-producer of the film, will be a special guest that night.

The screening is free, but you'll need to reserve a spot ahead of time. You can request complimentary tickets by e-mailing tickets@etptv.org.

The full 6-part series will air on PBS in September. The series focuses largely on the people who fought to create the parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information 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.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cook Bacon & Eggs in a paper bag!

Who says you can't cook bacon and eggs over a campfire in a paper bag?

Thanks to Backpacker Magazine, we all know how to do it now:





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, May 9, 2009

Trails Forever program already making an impact

The Trails Forever program is the signature fundraising initiative connected to Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 75th anniversary celebration. The Trails Forever endowment will fund an additional permanent trail maintenance work crew that will support trail improvement projects along the 800+ miles of hiking trails within the Park.

Completed projects by Trails Forever have already had a positive impact for hikers in the Smokies. The following are some of the improvements hikers can already enjoy and appreciate as a result of the new crew:

Jakes Creek Trail - The Jakes Creek Trail was the first trail project completed by the Trails Forever crew. The popular 2.9 mile trail located in the Elkmont area of the park had been severely eroded in places from years of hiking and horse use. The Trails Forever crew installed new water bars to improve drainage, leveled and rebuilt the trail surface in badly damaged areas, and installed turnpikes (elevated trail surfaces) in marshy or flood-prone areas.

Baskins Creek Trail - Baskins Creek is a 2.7 mile trail located along the Roaring Fork motor trail near Gatlinburg. The Baskins Creek Trail, like the Jakes Creek Trail, is easily accessible and receives a large amount of visitation, which over time results in erosion and damage. The Trails Forever crew installed water bars and rehabilitated the trail surface to prevent future erosion and damage.

Forney Ridge Trail - The Forney Ridge trail, near Clingmans Dome, is another easily accessible and heavily used trail that leads to Andrews Bald. Heavy use and heavy rainfall at high elevations has severely eroded portions of the trail. On the Bald itself there were deep gullies and patches of bare earth. Anyone who has ever hiked this trail can surely attest to how rugged and difficult this trail is to hike.

The Trails Forever crew has rehabilitated the existing stone steps and turnpikes just below the Clingmans Dome parking lot. They have also added water bars to improve drainage on the way to Andrews Bald. At the Bald, large portions of the trail have been re-routed in order to allow vegetation to return to the damaged areas. New signs have also been posted to encourage visitors to use the new trail.

Ramsey Cascades Trail – Steady use of this popular trail has resulted in heavy erosion to the trail surface. The trail is steep in places and erosion has made hiking difficult, especially in wet conditions. Trails Forever has rehabilitated the trail surface, removing roots and rocks and improving drainage to prevent future erosion.

Mingus Creek Trail - Most recently, the Trails Forever Alternative Spring Break Group from the University of Virginia worked on a section of the Mingus Creek trail on the North Carolina side of the Park. Using tools and materials paid for by the Trails Forever program, the students constructed an elevated section of trail and improved the drainage in an area where multiple small streams come together creating a marshy, wet environment. This marshy area prompted hikers to walk along the margins of the trail, gradually widening the damage from hiking and causing erosion that could potentially harm the natural resources of the area. The new elevated trail creates a hard, dry surface that will keep hikers on the trail and prevent erosion and damage to the area.

Over the next 2 years, Friends of the Smokies needs your support to match the $2 million grant from the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville in order to establish the $4 million Trails Forever endowment. As a result of this challenge grant, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville!

For more information on ways that you can help, 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.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Official clarification of bear spray in the Smokies

A few weeks ago you may recall the raging debate in several blogs and forums concerning whether or not the use of bear spray in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was legal or not.

The law, as written, makes bear spray illegal in all national parks outside of Alaska. However, as a result of a legal instrument called the 'Superintendent's Compendium', many parks out west allow the use of bear spray. Because of this legal instrument, a great deal of confusion was created with regards to the legality of bear spray in all parks.

Just yesterday, Chris Hibbard at Your Smokies, finally received official clarification of the law in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

There is no legal form of bear spray allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and like any other weapon, trap or net, it is illegal to carry, possess or use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Thanks to Chris for staying on top of this.


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, May 6, 2009

National Trails Day 2009

National Trails Day is observed in the Smokies every year with a day of planned work projects that are performed by volunteers. This year’s event will be held on June 6, 2009.

All volunteers are invited to register for this fun and important workday on the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. This event is jointly coordinated by Friends of the Smokies and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.

Yes, there is a $15 registration fee to participate, but you’ll receive coffee, juice & donuts in the morning, a picnic at the end of the day, as well as a commemorative t-shirt, and a chance to win some great door prizes.

Work on the trail is from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM; however, you will need to be there by 7:30 in order for projects to be properly organized. The picnic will begin at 5:30 PM.

National Trails Day is sponsored by the American Hiking Society.

For more information and to receive an application, please call Holly Burcham at 800-845-5665 or request via e-mail at fotshb@bellsouth.net.


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, May 5, 2009

National Parks Second Century Commission Meets in the Smokies

A commission examining our national parks will commence a three-day meeting on June 2 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The meeting is being conducted by the National Parks Second Century Commission, a group which has been formed to examine the role of national parks and will help to develop a vision for their future.

This meeting will be the final in a series of five meetings the Commission has conducted over the last year.

The Second Century Commission consists of nearly 30 national leaders and experts, including scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders, policy experts and retired National Park Service executives, and is being led by former Senators J. Bennett Johnston Jr. of Louisiana and Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee.

The group will also hear from a range of experts, park managers, and the general public. The public is welcome to attend this meeting.

The goal of the commission is to create a report that outlines how park services can be expanded to reflect cultural changes and to establish a 10-year program to repair and enhance the parks through a mix of public and private funding.

Commissioners will then put together a report, with recommendations, that will be delivered to the Department of the Interior by late 2009.

Citizens have an opportunity to make their voices heard during this process. You can offer input through the Commission's website, or, you can speak to specific issues through one of the seven working committees.

Please visit the Second Century website for more information.


Still not too late to find a great gift for your Mom!


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, May 4, 2009

Caldwell Fork Loop 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 second hike in this series occurs on 5/17/2009 and will take you on the Caldwell Fork Loop.

Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Rough Fork Trailhead located at the end of the Cataloochee Road.

This hike will take a clockwise loop into the heart of Caldwell Fork country, one of three Cataloochee communities. Hikers will go up the Big Fork Trail and see the elk pens, then cross Caldwell Fork on Caldwell Fork trail and come down Rough Fork trail to Woody's Place. This classic hike blends the old – home sites, graves, and the Steve Woody House - with the new - the return of the elk and the unfortunate assault on hemlocks by the hemlock wooly adelgid.

This hike is 9.3 miles with 1650 feet of climbing. The club is asking that each participant carry a pack with a lunch, two quarts of water, a rain jacket and a warm fleece. In addition, you'll need hiking boots and good hiking socks. The hike leader for this outing is outdoor author, Danny Bernstein.

For more information, please call 828-236-0192 or email at danny@hikertohiker.com.


Still not too late to find a great gift for your Mom!


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, May 3, 2009

The Kentucky Derby from Millionaire’s Row

For the second time in the last three years, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to the Kentucky Derby – in style! Since my wife works for one of the local media outlets she was able to score a couple of press passes for both of us, meaning we were free to go just about anywhere in Churchill Downs.

After spending a little time near the first turn, we made our way up to the 5th floor of the Skye Terrace, also known as Millionaire’s Row. Obviously we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to rub elbows with the rich and famous.

For anyone familiar with Louisville and the Kentucky Derby, the city goes all out for the biggest event of the year (and one of the biggest in the country). Each year the city kicks-off a two-week celebration with one of the largest fireworks/military aircraft shows in the country. That’s followed by parades, a steamboat race, mini-marathon, balloon race, concerts, festivals, and numerous Derby parties and balls.

The 153,563 fans that attended this year’s Derby dodged a major bullet in terms of the weather. All-day showers were expected, but fortunately the nasty weather passed just to the south of us. Although the sun wasn’t shining, at least it wasn’t raining.

Here are a few pictures of some of the sights from yesterday:

Mint Julep vendor - selling the "official" beverage of the Derby.

Race 7 of the day: coming around the first turn with the famous Twin Spires in the background.

John Calipari - recently named head basketball coach for UK.

The Infield - a lot of crazy stuff goes on here!

My wife and LeAnn Rimes, who sang the Star Spangled Banner.

View from the balcony.

Seth Myers from Saturday Night Live.

Parading the Derby horses before the big race.

Mine That Bird with a surprising victory in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby. The horse was a 50-1 longshot. A two dollar bet would have won you $103.20 - the second highest in Derby history.


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.