Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy (belated) Birthday to the Grand Canyon

Yesterday the Grand Canyon National Park turned 90 years old. On February 26, 1919, the Grand Canyon became the 15th national park added to the system. To help celebrate, check out this awesome aerial view video I found on the Backpacker Mag blog site:




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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Video: Paddling Through Tibet

Pretty cool video of kayakers paddling through the incredible scenery of Eastern Tibet:


Tibet Kayak Mission from Kayak TV on Vimeo.








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

Join GSMA for an "Armchair" Tour of Cades Cove

With the Cades Cove Loop Road being closed for repaving through May 21, visitors can still enjoy an "armchair" tour through this historic section of the park - and not have to deal with the usual bumper to bumper traffic or bear jams!

Join Allen Coggins at 1:00, Saturday, March 27 in the Sugarlands Training Room for a powerpoint presentation on the history of the Cades Cove and the people who made it their home. Allen will take you on a "drive" through the Cove without ever having to leave your seat... it's like having your own personal guide!

Seating is limited and a $5 per person registration fee is required. Call the Great Smoky Mountains Association at 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.

*** Need a cabin or chalet for your next visit to the Smokies? Be sure to check out our cabin listings first by clicking 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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Contruction season in the Smokies to begin Monday

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Federal Lands Highway Program, several park improvement projects will be conducted in the Great Smoky Mountains this year.

Beginning this Monday, and lasting throughout the spring and summer, over $93,300,000 worth of improvements will be made to park roads and facilities.

The park has recently published a summary of the projects, which includes project details, as well as road and trail closures.

Beginning on Monday, March 1, the first major project to kick-off the season will be the repavement of the Cades Cove Loop Road. Here's the complete list of projects and expected closures:

• Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to all public use from March 1 thru May 21 for repaving. This will impact the Forge Creek Road, Parson Branch Road and Rich Mountain Road, as well as the Abrams Falls Trail, Cooper Road Trail, Gregory Bald Trail, Gregory Ridge Trail, Hannah Mountain Trail, Indian Grave Gap Trail and Rabbit Creek Trail.

• Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to all public use through May 28 for repaving. This will impact the Fork Ridge Trail, Forney Creek Trail, Forney Ridge Trail (Andrews Bald), Noland Divide Trail, Road Prong Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail.

• Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will be closed to all public use through May 28 for repaving. This will impact the Baskins Creek Trail, Grapeyard Ridge Trail, Trillium Gap Trail.

• Cherokee Orchard Road past the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin will be closed to all public use through March 19. This will impact the Bullhead Trail, Old Sugarlands Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Trillium Gap Trail.

• The Sinks parking area on Little River Road closed through May 25 for repaving. This will impact the Meigs Creek Trail.

• Smokemont Campground will be closed March 10 - May 27, 2010. This will impact the Bradley Fork Trail and the Smokemont Loop Trail.

• Heintooga Ridge Road and Balsam Mountain Campground will be closed until May 27, 2010. This will impact the Flat Creek Trail, Rough Fork Trail, Hemphill Bald Trail.

• Little River and Jakes Creek Trailhead. Portions of the area will be closed to public use from July 6-August 31, 2010, impacting the Little River Trail and Jakes Creek Trail.

• Other projects include the Foothills Parkway East and West, the Gatlinburg By-Pass Road, and Newfound Gap from Collins Creek Picnic Area to Cherokee, NC.

Here's a map of all the park improvement projects. Please click on the map for a larger view:


For more information on each of these proejcts, 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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top 10 most visited National Parks in 2009

Despite the recession, or perhaps because of it, more than 285 million visitors flocked to national parks last year, falling just short of the all-time visitation record of 287.2 million set in 1987.

The National Park Service reported that 2009 visitation represented an increase of 10 million people, or 3.6%, versus the prior year.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speculated that the increases may have be a result of families on tight budgets view parks as bargains, parks offered free visitation on three weekends, and parks attracted extra attention as a result of Ken Burns's documentary on the history of parks.

As usual, the Great Smoky Mountains ranked the highest in total visitation. Here's how the top 10 parks ranked in terms of visitation for 2009:

1) Great Smoky Mountains (9.5 million visitors)
2) Grand Canyon (4.3 million visitors)
3) Yosemite (3.7 million)
4) Yellowstone (3.3 million)
5) Olympic (3.3 million)
6) Rocky Mountain (2.8 million)
7) Zion (2.7 million)
8) Cuyahoga Valley (2.6 million)
9) Grand Tetons (2.6 million)
10) Acadia (2.2 million)

Also, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most visited unit of the system with nearly 16 million visitors in 2009.


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

Appalachian Trail Celebration & Backpacking Clinic

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA will host its Annual Appalachian Trail Celebration & Backpacking Clinic on Saturday and Sunday, March 6-7, 2010. Both experienced and novice hikers and campers attend this annual event to celebrate the great outdoors, learn about the Appalachian Trail, listen to AT hikers share their experiences, and discover what it takes to make the 5-million step journey across 14 states.

Invited AT hikers include: Gene Espy, the second man to thru-hike the AT in 1951; David Miller, author of AWOL on the Appalachian Trail; Leslie Mass, a 2001-2002 thru-hiker, Laurie Potteiger of the ATC, a 1987 thru-hiker, and Bill Walker, who completed his thru-hike in 2005.

In addition there will be presentations by several invited trail organizations including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), Georgia Appalachian Trail Conference, Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, Atlanta Hiking Club, Leave No Trace, and others.

Several equipment specialists will be on hand to display, demonstrate and answer questions about specific outdoor equipment such as shelters, cooking gear & food, backpacks, sleeping bags & pads, and clothing.

Evening activities will include informal chats, questions & answers, and book signings by speakers. Other activities will include a night hike, and a Birds of Prey program.

Activities will begin at 9 AM each day and end at about 8 PM on Saturday and 6 PM on Sunday. A detailed scheduled of events can be found on the Friends of Amicalola Falls SP website. More information can be found on the the Amicalola Falls State Park website, or by calling the park Programming Office at 706-265-1969.


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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Appalachian Trail in the news

The following are a couple of news items related to the Appalachian Trail you might be interested in knowing about.

* Last week the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and volunteers through its affiliate Georgia Appalachian Trail Club announced the establishment of a Georgia Appalachian Trail specialty license plate. The Georgia license plate will help raise awareness of the Trail, and volunteers will pursue profit-sharing legislation from the state to provide a source of ongoing funding to maintain, manage and protect the first 78 miles of the 2,179-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

* Ohio trail honors pioneering hiker: Ohio's No. 1 must-see state park, Hocking Hills (southeast of Columbus), is dedicating one of the park's most famous trails to Ohio's No. 1 long-distance hiker, the late Emma Rowena Gatewood. Grandma Gatewood, who died in 1973 at 86, gained national attention when she hiked the entire Appalachian Trail solo in 1955 - at the age of 68 - in tennis shoes!

In 1964, at the age of 77, Gatewood hiked the A.T. again, for the third time! In that same year she blazed a 40-mile loop off the Buckeye Trail from Meigs County through Gallia County to Lawrence County.

One of Gatewood's favorite hikes was in the Hocking Hills - a 6-mile hike from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave. That stretch of trail is now officially known as the Grandma Gatewood Trail. Be sure to read the full article - she sounds like a wonderful and inspirational woman.

* Blogcritics.org posted an interview with Paul V. Stutzman, the author of Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail. The book and the interview discusses how hiking the Appalachian Trail changed his life after losing his wife to breast cancer.

* Jeff Alt, author of the highly acclaimed "A Walk for Sunshine", will be at Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters in Cincinnati, Ohio to present his "Appalachian Trail Show". Alt decided to share the experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail by turning his adventure into a fundraiser for the Sunshine Home, a facility in Maumee, Ohio that cares for 850 developmentally disabled residents, including his brother, Aaron, who has cerebral palsy. He has since raised $175,000 for the home.


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

Shenandoah National Park bans outside firewood

Officials at Shenandoah National Park announced that they will be instituting a ban on outside firewood beginning on Monday, March 1.

A park news release said the ban will attempt to slow the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle.

The beetle is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest, according to park officials, and has been documented in Fairfax County, about 55 miles from the park’s northern boundary.

White ash trees, comprising approximately four percent of the park’s overall forest, are found in 16 forest communities that together cover 65 percent of the park’s acreage. Given what is known about EAB infestations, an outbreak in Shenandoah National Park could lead to the loss of white ash in the park and surrounding areas.

The wood regulation will require that visitors not bring firewood into the park. Dead and downed firewood in the park may be used and wood can be purchases at park stores.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a somewhat similar ban in place as well. Although not a complete ban, firewood from the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec can not be brought into the park.

The ban in the Smokies was put in place to prevent the spread of the Emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle into 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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy

Join Friends of the Smokies and fitness expert Missy Kane for a series of hikes this spring. Each Wednesday throughout the month of April, Missy and Friends will be hiking a different trail.

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

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

The schedule is as follows:

April 7: Spruce Flat Falls (3 miles)

April 14: Curry Mountain Trail (6-7 miles)

April 21: Porters Creek Trail (7 miles)

April 28: Big Creek / AT / Chestnut Branch Trail (6 miles)

Cost for each hike is $15, with proceeds going to the Friends of the Smokies.

Since the series started, Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy has raised more than $80,000 that has supported the preservation and protection of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Please click here or send an e-mail to Friends of the Smokies to receive more information about the upcoming series. Or, you can call 865-541-4500 to register.




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, February 21, 2010

Video: Winter hike to Alum Cave Bluffs

The Great Smoky Mountains Association has just published their latest video. This time the GSMA takes viewers to one of the most popular destinations in the park during a winter hike up to Alum Cave Bluffs.




For more information on hiking to Alum Cave Bluffs, 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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey

Below is a trailer for a yet to be released film called Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey. The film chronicles a skiing expedition to the bottom of the world. In November 2009 Chris Davenport joined Stain Hagen and Andrea Binning on a trip to discover some new lines to ski on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The film is due out this summer.

The scenery in this clip is simply amazing. Looks like the skiing wasn't too bad either!

Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey from Granite Films Jim Surette on Vimeo.





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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top 3 Reasons to Visit Louisville, Kentucky

It’s a slow day for any news concerning the Great Smoky Mountains or hiking in general, so I thought I’d take a little time to give a shout out to my adopted hometown; Louisville, Kentucky. Originally from just up the river in Cincinnati, I'll explain some of the reasons that have kept me tied to the Derby City, and at the same time, lay out my top 3 reasons why someone should spend a visit to this fair town of ours.


Kentucky Derby and the Derby Festival

If you need an excuse to party for two weeks straight, make sure to visit Louisville during the Kentucky Derby Festival. The city throws out the red carpet for the greatest race in all of sports. Two weeks prior to the Derby (the first Saturday in May), the city holds the largest annual fireworks show in the country. Over the course of the next two weeks, Louisvillians and visitors alike partake in concerts, parades, formal and informal Derby parties, the Great Balloon Glow and Race, the Great Steamboat Race, Golf Tournaments and hundreds of other events leading up to the granddaddy of all horse races.


Sports Town USA

The state of Kentucky may not have any pro sports teams to speak of (unless of course you count UK Basketball), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any great sports around to spectate or even partake in. Near the top of all spectator sporting events is the annual University of Louisville-UK basketball game - one of the most heated and most anticipated rivalry games in the country (this side of the Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and the University of Cincinnati, of course!).

If you’re into long distance running, the city sponsors the Derby Mini-Marathon during the Kentucky Derby Festival, and is one of biggest mini-marathons in the country.

In recent years, the city has played host to a number of major sporting events, including the Ryder Cup, several PGA (golf) Championships, the Iron Man Triathlon, the Senior Olympics, as well as the National Masters Road Cycling Championship.

Speaking of cycling, the city has become a bit of a Mecca for two-wheeled sports. Louisville is currently building a 100-mile bike path loop around the city. We also have one of the best bike clubs around. The Louisville Bicycle Club traces its roots back to the late 1890s and is now one of the top 10 largest clubs in the country. The LBC sponsors a ride almost every day throughout the year, and on most days you’ll find at least 2 or 3 rides starting from different locations around the city. Even during the coldest months of the year you can find 40 and 60 mile rides, as well as a few centuries on the schedule for the “Mad Dogs”.

The city is currently building a new basketball arena for the UL Cardinals, and recently opened the new Muhammad Ali Center for the hometown boxing legend. Several years ago the city also opened Slugger Field, the home of the AAA affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.

Finally, visitors should check out the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum to see how the famous baseball bats are made. You’ll also be able to take a gander at some of the bats swung by the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, or Ted Williams, among the many other collections of baseball memorabilia housed at the museum.


Foodie City

Believe it or not, but one of my favorite things about Louisville is our incredible selection of restaurants. We have the second highest number of “mom and pop” restaurants per capita in the country - just behind New York City. The city has also recently earned the designation from Bon Appetit Magazine as one of America’s top five small-town (?) food capitals. (Note to Bon Appetit: Roughly 714,000 people live within the city limits)

As a result of the culinary school here in town, many of the graduates over the years have fanned out across the area to create an awesome selection of restaurants. You can find cuisine from many corners of the world right here in the Derby City.

Some of the best places to go include Lynn’s Paradise Café (Lynn beat the Food Network’s Bobby Flay in a “Throwdown”), the Irish Rover for authentic Irish food and atmosphere, and Ermin’s Bakery and Café (a great place for lunch).

My personal favorites are Baxter Station (check out the Moroccan Soup), Havana Rumba (their Masas de Puerco is excellent – don’t forget to try the fried plantains!) and the Gesthaus where we regularly dine on the awesome authentic German food.

> Although Louisville doesn’t have any real hiking to brag about, there are a lot of great things about this city; whether you live here, are looking for a place to re-locate, or looking for a new place to visit on your next road trip.

For more information about Louisville, please click onto the Louisville Visitors Guide.


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, February 17, 2010

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage hiking schedule

As mentioned last week, the 60th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take place from April 21 thru April 25 this year - provided that the snow and cold weather decides to move out of here sometime before then.

As mentioned in that post, program details weren't yet released by the Great Smoky Mountains Association at that point. However, just yesterday, the GSMA updated their website with the complete program schedule.

Included in this year's Pilgrimage are several wildflower walks and hikes. Some are easy, and some are all-day stenuous hikes. Below is a list of most (but not all) of the hikes included on this year's schedule. Many of these are scheduled on multiple days.

* Albright Grove
* Appalachian Trail (2 miles)
* Appalachian, Fork Ridge and Deep Creek Trails
* Ash Hopper Branch
* Baskins Creek Trail
* Chestnut Top Trail
* Cove Hardwood Nature Trail
* Cucumber Gap Trail
* Gabes Mountain Trail
* Grapeyard Ridge Trail
* Grassy Balds - Russell and Spence Fields
* Injun Creek Trail
* Kanati Fork Trail
* Little River Trail
* Long Bunk, Mt. Sterling, and Little Cataloochee Trails
* Lynn Camp Prong
* Noah "Bud" Ogle Trail
* Oconaluftee River Trail
* Old Settlers Trail
* Old Sugarlands
* Porters Creek Trail
* Ramsey Cascades Trail
* Road Prong Trail
* Snake Den Ridge - Appalachian trail Low Gap Trail
* Sweat Heifer Trail to Kephart Prong
* Tremont to Elkmont
* Thomas Divide to Kanati Fork
* West Prong Trail
* White Oak Sinks

To see the complete Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage schedule, please click here.

On-line registration will begin March 9 and end April 17.


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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Most roads closed in Great Smoky Mountains

Due to more snow and ice overnight, most of the roads in the Smokies are closed again. Here's the full list:

• Newfound Gap Road (US-441)
• Little River Road
• Laurel Creek Road
• Cades Cove Loop Road
• Foothills Parkway West
• Foothills Parkway East
• Cataloochee Entrance Road
• Old NC-284 between Big Creek and Cataloochee
• Cherokee Orchard Road at Twin Creeks Science Center
• Greenbrier Entrance Road at the ranger station
• Cosby Entrance Road
• Upper Tremont Road
• Lakeview Drive
• Wear Cove Road
• Gatlinburg Bypass
• The southbound portion of the Spur (US-441) between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is closed due to a rock slide. Traffic is being rerouted into the northbound lane.

Please click here for the most up-to-date road information, or you can call 865-436-1200.

For the latest weather updates and forecasts for the Smokies, please click here.

> Meanwhile, Doug McFalls, the caretaker at the Mt. LeConte Lodge, is reporting that 2 inches of new snow fell over night atop the mountain. There are now 35 inches of snow on the ground.

Doug also reports that with all the deep snow at the higher elevations, hiking, as you might expect, is difficult today.


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, February 14, 2010

Bringing back the wolf

A couple of weeks ago Trailspace.com posted an article that discussed a recently published paper in which researchers concluded and proposed the reintroduction of wolves back into our national parks.

Here's a synopsis from the paper:

The absence of top-level predators in many natural areas in North America has resulted in overabundant ungulate populations, cascading negative impacts on plant communities, and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Meanwhile, distinct population segments of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) have been removed from the list of endangered and threatened species, implying an end to wolf recovery and reintroductions.

We propose another paradigm for wolf conservation, one that emphasizes ecosystem recovery instead of wolf recovery. Improvements in technology, an enhanced understanding of the ecological role of wolves, lessons from other countries, and changing public attitudes provide a new context and opportunity for wolf conservation and ecosystem restoration. Under this new paradigm, small populations of wolves, even single packs, could be restored to relatively small natural areas for purposes of ecosystem restoration and stewardship. We acknowledge the complications and challenges involved in such an effort, but assert that the benefits could be substantial.


You can read the full article, as well as find links to the research paper by clicking here.

Meanwhile, over at the National Parks Traveler today, Kurt Repanshek has posted an excellent article discussing Yellowstone National Park's Wolf Recovery Program, which began 15 years ago.

Doug Smith, project leader of Yellowstone's Wolf Project, says overall wolf numbers in the park, estimated currently at 96-98 animals, are down from highs that approached nearly 200 back in 2007, but he doesn't believe the decline will continue. The article delves into the reasons for the declines in more detail.

You can read the article by clicking here, or you can listen to a recorded interview between Kurt and Doug by clicking here.

One final thought. A couple of weeks ago I found an article on The Smoky Mountain News that stated that between 100 and 120 red wolves — the only population of wild red wolves in the world — call North Carolina home. I thought this was an amazing statistic because I was not aware of any wolves living in the wild in the east.




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 2010 announced

The American Hiking Society has recently announced the date for National Trails Day 2010.

On June 5th, 2010, the American Hiking Society and outdoor enthusiasts across the country will celebrate the 18th annual National Trails Day, a celebration of America's magnificent trail system and its countless supporters and volunteers. More than 1500 events will take place around the country including trail maintenance, hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, bird watching, running and trail celebrations.

The theme for this years' National Trails Day, Find Your Happy Place, encourages all Americans to get outside, connect with local hiking clubs, outdoor retailers, local parks and recreation departments or federal land managing agencies to experience, appreciate and celebrate the outdoor places that make us happy.

National Trails Day is a celebration of trails that evolved from the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, sponsored by President Ronald Reagan. The 1987 report recommended that all Americans be able to go out their front doors and within fifteen minutes, be on trails that wind through their cities or towns and bring them back without retracing steps. The recommendation, dubbed Trails for All Americans, became the impetus behind several public and private parties joining American Hiking Society in launching National Trails Day in 1993.

For more information and to host an event, 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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Video: Seven Days on the John Muir Trail

"The mountains are calling and I must go"

- John Muir

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

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

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

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


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



(if you have trouble with the streaming of the video, turning off the HD seems to help)


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, February 12, 2010

Chimney Rock State Park BOGO Valentine’s Special

Chimney Rock State Park is offering a sweet deal for Valentine’s Day. Now through Feb. 17, visitors can buy one regularly-priced adult ticket and receive another one for free.

“It’s a fun way for our guests to celebrate Valentine’s Day with that special someone. They can take a romantic walk in the woods, enjoy lunch at the Old Rock and really reconnect with each other,” said Meghan Rogers, public relations and events manager.

Guests must download and present the special coupon at the time of purchase.

Chimney Rock State Park is roughly 25 miles southeast of Asheville, NC, and is nestled in Hickory Nut Gorge adjacent to the towns of Lake Lure and Bat Cave.

Privately owned by the Morse family for more than 100 years, Chimney Rock was acquired by the state of North Carolina in 2007 to become part of a larger state park dubbed Chimney Rock State Park.

Some of the more popular trails in the park include the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, which takes you out to a 404-foot waterfall, one of the highest falls east of the Mississippi River.

There's also Skyline Trail, which visits the highest point in the park, Exclamation Point, at 2480 feet. The vantage point offers dramatic views of Hickory Nut Gorge, which also served as the backdrop for several scenes in the 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans.


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

Guns in National Parks becomes Law on Feb. 22

In less than two weeks a new federal law concerning firearms in national parks will go into effect. The new law, signed by President Obama last year which will go into effect on February 22, will allow park visitors to possess firearms in national parks consistent with the laws of the state in which the area is located.

As a result of straddling two states, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will pose a unique problem for visitors wishing to possess firearms within the park. According to a press release from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees:

In North Carolina, there are few gun restrictions and visitors could be seen openly carrying guns. However, if you happen to be a gun-carrying visitor, you will need a “carry permit” when you cross into the part of the park located in Tennessee.

For more information, the park website has recently posted basic information regarding the laws and policies concerning firearms possesion within the Smokies. There are several links on this page that provide more in depth information as well.




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, February 10, 2010

AT license plates fund mini trail grants

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will once again be awarding mini-grants for projects in the region that will benefit the long-distance hiking trail.

This year the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will give out $25,000 in grants, not to exceed $5,000 per grant. The grants are funded through proceeds from the specialty AT license plates, which raised $116,000 last year for the AT Conservancy.

Grants can include trail work, conservation projects and trail promotion and education. Past projects have included:

• Smoky Mountains Hiking Club’s purchase materials to build mouldering privy at Cable Gap Shelter.

• Smoky Mountains Hiking Club’s purchase materials to build mouldering privy at Sassafras Gap Shelter.

• Efforts by the Nantahala Hiking Club to help the town of Franklin become an official “Trail Town.”

• Eforts to keep the bald on Roan Mountain from growing up, including a roving goat herd.

• Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club’s provision of food to volunteers participating in two-day volunteer Hard Core crew, working in N.C. to rehabilitate and relocate the Trail.

• Bear cables at backcountry trail shelters.

• Controlling invasive, exotic plant species.

For more information on the grants, 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.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Video: 3 Legged Bear Walking Upright

Check out this amazing video making the rounds on the internet. This is a video of a three-legged mama bear walking upright with her cub.

No one seems to know how the bear lost her right paw and foreleg (my guess is it's likely the bear was caught in a trap at some point), or where the video was taken.

I've been wrong before, but the video looks to be legitimate:




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

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dates set for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage

The 60th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take place from April 21 thru April 25 this year and will be headquartered at the Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg. 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.

With over 150 programs available, both outdoor and indoor, there will be topics and hikes to please everyone.

Also included in this year's Pilgrimage will be a "Greener Living Expo", highlighting ways to be more earth-friendly. Indoor programs will feature composting and organic gardening, water pollution and its effect on aquatic life, becoming your own "green grocer", attracting insect-eating birds through gardening, and much more.

To learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains Association's Pilgrimage, please click here (website should be updated shortly). On-line registration will begin March 9 and end April 17. Registration fees are: $40 for one day, $75 for 2 or more days, $10 for students, and children under 12 are free.

For further information about the Pilgrimage or about exhibit space call the GSMA at 865-436-7318, extension 222 or 254.

The Great Smoky Mountains are home to more than 1600 species of flowering plants. If you're more interested in striking out on your own to see some of these, please check out my list of the best trails to hike, when to hike them, and which flowers you can expect to see.

If you can't make it to the Smokies this spring, you can still view a gallery of wildflowers I've put together by clicking here.


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.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Specials on Cabins & Chalets in the Smokies

As a way of thanking our advertisers on HikingintheSmokys.com, I wanted to let readers of this blog know about the specials they’re offering on overnight lodging this winter season. You can find a variety of cabins and chalets in Townsend, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge as well as the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you or anyone you know is planning on visiting the Smokies through the remainder of the month, please take a moment to check out these outstanding offers:

Auntie Belham's is offering HikingintheSmokys.com bloggers more savings on their lodging than anyone else. We have added an additional discount to our standard winter specials. Visit us online at our website to see specials and photos of all our beautiful Cabins, Chalets and Cottages. For all HikingintheSmokys.com bloggers we are offering additional savings - Special 1: Stay 2 nights, get your 3rd night free and your 4th night HALF-PRICE. Special 2: All 7 night stays will receive the 5th night HALF-PRICE along with the 6th & 7th nights free. Call our office at 800.436.6618 to make your reservation today. Mention BLOGGER'S ONLY to receive one of the above specials. Hiking, hot tubing and having fun, what else could you need to chase away the winter blues.

Boyd Mountain Log Cabins offers 7 hand hewn antique log cabins, restored on a 130 acre family farm. The cabins have 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedrooms with modern conveniences including full kitchens and wi-fi. We offer Kids Stay and Ski Free program with Cataloochee Ski Area. Offer valid Sun-Thur., Non-Holidays. For info 828-926-1575 or www.boydmountain.com.

Cherokee Realty is offering a 25% discount on any of their rentals booked between now and April.

Hidden Creek Cabins: All remaining weeknights, when you stay at least 2 nights, are just $59.00 per night for a family of 2-4 on select cabins between now and February 28th. Also, for anyone that signs up for our newsletter or starts following us on twitter, we will automatically enter them into our drawing for a free weekend stay in February. Call Kevin or visit our site for details: 828-507-5627, www.hiddencreekcabins.com

Moose Creek Crossing Cabin Rentals: GET ONE NIGHT FREE: Stay 3 nights and get the 4th night free from 10/24/09 thru 3/14/10. Offer cannot be combined with any other specials. Not valid on holidays. 15% OFF: Stay 2 nights or more from 10/24/09 thru 3/14/10 and get 15% off the nightly rate. Must call office at 1-888-972-2246 to receive discount. Year-round specials are also available, please call for more information.


**When making a reservation, please be sure to mention that you saw these specials on HikingintheSmokys.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.

Friday, February 5, 2010

American Trails announces winners of Photo Contest

American Trails recently announced the winners of their 2009 National Recreation Trails Photo Contest. They've posted all 240 entries into the contest, including the winners which have been categorized according to hiking, equestrian, water, bicycling and accessible trails under the broad category of trail use.

You can also find photos based on trail feature, such as arts and interpretation, rail and canal trails, innovative facilities, artitistic merit and historic features.

They also posted photos under the category of trail management, which includes trail sharing, trail work, health and fitness, and volunteers.

There are many outstanding photos in this collection.

American Trails is the only national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interest.

Please click here to see all of the photos.


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

Free Mammoth Cave Passage tours on Feb. 14

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Patrick Reed announced on Wednesday that the park will be offering several fee-free days again this year, beginning with Sunday, February 14. “Please come out and join us for a Mammoth Passage tour on February 14, free of charge,” said Reed.

“We had such a great response from the public last year, we are continuing the free tours days again this year. Just stop by the visitor center to pick up your free ticket.” Visitors must pick up their free tickets at the visitor center ticket office prior to tour times. On February 14, the free guided Mammoth Passage tours will depart from the visitor center at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:30.

The ¾-mile, 1¼ hours Mammoth Passage tour enters the cave at the Historic Entrance and follows a route along Houchins Narrows, the Rotunda, the nitre mining artifacts, Audubon Avenue, and Rafinesque Hall. These are some of the mammoth passages for which the cave was named.

“No matter what the weather is doing on the surface, we like to say it’s always a good day to go in the cave,” added Reed. “In winter, the cave is a balmy 54 degrees; in summer it’s a cool and pleasant 54 degrees.”

Camping fees and fees for other tours of Mammoth Cave will not be waived on this day.

The park has scheduled the next fee-free day on Saturday, April 24, during National Park 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.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Obama's national parks funding campaign promise

Did Barack Obama renege on a campaign promise?

Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), thinks so.

Here's the statement from a press release published earlier in the week:

(the) NPCA is calling on President Obama to keep his campaign promise to continue the federal commitment toward restoring our national parks in time for the 2016 centennial and beyond. Further, compared to the overall federal budget, the Park Service is very small—only one tenth of 1 percent. “Providing parks the funds needed to serve visitors and protect resources is a tiny investment in our national heritage, and will provide economic benefits and jobs in struggling communities nationwide,” said Kiernan.

The release also stated:

... the Administration’s budget request for the national parks will barely cover costs to pay the bills, let alone restore the operational needs to serve park visitors and protect America’s wildlife and heritage for their second century.

The President’s 2011 budget request for the National Park Service is approximately $2.7 billion—a decrease of $21.6 million (8%) over the current fiscal year 2010 budget. Within the total budget, nearly $100 million in park programs are reduced or eliminated—including Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grants—and parks are left without funding to pay for cost of living adjustments for staff. The operations budget proposal does not come close to meeting the $100 million request by the National Park Second Century Commission, and is insufficient to maintain current park operations and visitor services. The budget also includes a $44 million decrease for construction and maintenance needs. Budget reductions mean that the proposed $35 million increase for park operations fails to fund basic Park Service needs.

In an interview conducted by the NPCA in 2008, Obama stated:

"I am committed to addressing the funding shortfall that the National Parks Service has experienced, and ensuring that by 2016, the National Parks Service centennial, the national park system has the resources it needs to meet its unmet maintenance and operational needs."

Every dollar invested in parks generates 4 dollars?

The same press release also mentions a study commissioned by the NPCA that found that every dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public, based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Digging into the study (An Economic Asset at Risk) a little closer, I determined that this conclusion is misleading. What the study defines as "economic value" is really perceived value. In other words, the authors of the study have assigned a dollar value to hiking a trail, or bird watching, or sight-seeing within the parks. There is no real money involved in this calculation.

The problem with this, as I see it, is that the study implies that every dollar invested going forward will produce four real dollars to the public, thus implying additional investments in parks to be a no brainer. If this were true most Americans would be all for this and the politicians would be following suit.

In my view, one threat to our national parks that isn't being considered is the national debt bomb that's going to explode sooner or later. If we don't reign in our elected officials and get our finances in order soon, our parks, as we currently know them, could be in jeopardy.

Not only is outrageous deficit spending burying our country in debt on the national level, but most of our states are experiencing severe financial problems as well.

It's not too hard to imagine that someday federal and state governments could be forced into making radical changes to our parks. Is it possible that "unproductive" parks could be sold to private organizations in order to help pay down the debt? Maybe the National Park Service or state parks could end up selling or leasing park lands for the building of lodges, condos or golf courses. What about corporate sponsorship of parks: "The Cades Cove Loop brought to you by McDonald's"!

Don't think this could happen? Last year the city of Louisville, Kentucky closed Otter Creek Park due to budget cuts. This was a major city park that had cabins, a conference center, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, fishing, etc. The orginal plan was to close the park permanently, however, after a massive public outcry, the city put out a request for propsal to see what other options were available. At this time the city is in discussions with the YMCA of Greater Louisville about it taking over operations of the park.

If the national debt wasn't such a huge problem, deficit spending on parks probably wouldn't be an issue for most people. Given the circumstances, the National Park Service needs to find new ways to increase revenues. It's time for our leaders to begin thinking outside of the box. Could new attractions, services or amenities be added that would increase visitation? Could the national parks do fund raisers? How about asking for donations in addition to entrance fees at the time visitors arrive at a park? What about selling merchandise and collectibles more aggressively - similar to that of a real business?


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

The Red Wolf Survives

This Saturday, Feb. 6, Friends of the Western North Carolina Nature Center will unveil its New Winter Speaker Series on native animals at the Folk Art Center at 10:30 a.m.

Asheville native Warren Parker, retired chief Endangered Species Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Service’s first national director of the Red Wolf Species Survival program, will talk about the nuts and bolts of this reintroductory program.

Did you know that between 100 and 120 red wolves — the only population of wild red wolves in the world — call North Carolina home?

The program, “The Red Wolf Survives” is free to members of Friends of the WNC Nature Center. A $5 contribution to Friends is suggested at the door for non-members.

The Folk Art Center is located at mile marker 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in east Asheville.

Please RSVP to Friends executive director Sarah Oram by February 5 at 828-298-5600 ext. 308, or at friends@wildwnc.org with your name and the number in your party.


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, February 3, 2010

Shenandoah records 3 significant winter rescues in 2 months

The National Park Service is reporting that Shenandoah National Park staff have been involved in three winter-related search and rescue operations over the past two months:

* On December 18th, the park was forecast to receive substantial snow. In preparation for the storm, the park’s interior was evacuated and roads were closed. On the following morning, the park received a call for assistance from two hikers who had parked at the closed barricades and hiked seven miles into a backcountry cabin after the storm had begun. The hikers explained that they thought they were prepared for snow but that they had found they weren’t ready for the nearly four feet of snow that was on the ground. Rescue efforts involved bringing in the park plows to access the party and extract them. The plows encountered drifts up to seven feet high along Skyline Drive and took several hours to reach the stranded hikers. The hikers were cold and exhausted when the rescue personnel reached them later that evening.

* On January 15th, a man and woman were eating lunch below an ice covered cliff about ten feet off the Whiteoak Trail when a large chunk of ice broke free and fell about 25 feet, hitting the woman on the back. She sustained multiple bone fractures and other injuries, including a punctured lung. The roads and grounds crew plowed open a snow and ice covered fire road to expedite the evacuation, averting a lengthy carryout over icy terrain. The woman was then flown to the University of Virginia Trauma Center and was reported in stable condition the following day.

* On the evening of January 28th, the park received a report of an overdue day hiker on Old Rag Mountain. The man was reported to have significant medical issues and was not prepared for the extreme cold weather conditions that existed at the time. In addition, a winter storm was forecast for the following afternoon. Hasty searchers that night were unable to locate the man. Containment was set up overnight, with full search efforts beginning the following morning, including the utilization of USPP’s Eagle 1 helicopter for aerial search and hoist operations. Eagle 1 inserted a searcher on the summit using the hoist while four other ground teams searched the trail corridors leading to the summit. After several hours, the man was located near the summit by the searcher who was inserted. He was extracted by Eagle 1 in a Billy Pugh basket, transported to waiting a ground ambulance, then taken to the local hospital. A total of 14 NPS and 26 volunteer searchers ultimately were assigned to the search. Eagle 1 was piloted by Jeff Hertel and crewed by rescue technician/paramedic Timothy Ryan.

The success of all three of these rescues was dependent on the continuously displayed teamwork and effectiveness of all of the park’s divisions and on outside resources coming together with them and accomplishing difficult tasks.




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

Winter Heritage Festival this weekend in Townsend

The 4th annual Winter Heritage Festival is this weekend in Townsend near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The festival will include hikes, exhibits, lectures and craft showcases Thursday through Sunday.

There will be naturalist-led hikes to Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and Walker Sisters Homestead with Butch McDade; to Elkmont with Herb Handly, as well as other historic and scenic places.

Among the many programs, there will be:

* A discussion about Discover Life in America's biodiversity project in the Smokies, with Director Todd Witcher.

* A presentation about the Park's natural history collections, by Curator Adriean Mayor.

* Programs about key people in the formation of the Park: Horace Kephart, by Butch McDade and Ann Davis, by Robin Goddard.

The Winter Heritage Festival has received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, and has been designated a "Top Twenty Event" by the Southeast Tourism Society.

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

Need a rental cabin in the Townsend area? 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.

Win a Trip to One of America's Most Popular National Parks

In celebration of Ken Burns’s landmark documentary, “America’s Best Idea: The National Parks,” airing on PBS throughout February, the National Park Foundation and ARAMARK Parks and Destinations are giving you a chance to explore your land – with a free trip to one of America’s most popular national parks.

Participating is easy – just share with the world one, or all, of your favorite spots in America’s national parks. Anytime during the month of February, visit the NPF website to explore America’s national parks online, and then mark your spot by sharing your favorite moments, stories and experiences. Individuals that add their spot to at least one park will be entered to win a three night trip for two, including lodging and airfare, to their choice of the following destinations located in, or within close proximity, to some of America’s most beloved parks:

* Shenandoah National Park
* Mesa Verde National Park
* Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
* Denali National Park
* Glacier Bay National Park
* Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park
* Olympic National Park

The grand prize winner will also receive a $300 resort credit to use towards meals and/or activities (cannot be used towards lodging, retail, fuel, or any non-ARAMARK managed operations), and an official “America’s Best Idea” book signed by filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. In addition, twenty runner-up winners will receive an “America’s Best Idea” poster signed by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, and a limited edition National Park Foundation “America’s Best Idea” t-shirt.

Individuals can add one new spot to the NPF website each day to increase their chances of winning. The National Park Foundation and ARAMARK Parks and Destinations will announce the winners in March. For more information and complete contest rules, 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 Wide selection of hiking, travel and history books related to the Great Smoky Mountains and the surrounding region. We also carry top quality gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Backpacker Mag 2010 Reader Photo Contest

Backpacker Magazine recently released their results from the 2010 Reader Photo Contest. There are some truly outstanding photos in this collection. Be sure to check out the shot of the mountain goat and the precarious spot on a cliff that he's standing on!

There are several other galleries in various categories that you can browse as well. Please click here to see the photos.


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