Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area to stop picking up trash to save money

The trash cans are going away. At many of the boat ramps, picnic areas, and parking lots in Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), the brown receptacles have already been picked up by maintenance workers and packed off to a storage facility. Of 17 locations along the park's 48-mile stretch of river, only four will keep their cans: Abbotts Bridge, Powers Island, Paces Mill, and the fitness loop trail at Cochran Shoals (between Columns Drive and Interstate North.) Visitors should still bring their own bags and plan to pack out their trash, regardless of which unit they are visiting.

"We will continue collecting trash at receptacles at our busiest locations," said CRNRA Superintendent Patty Wissinger. "But there are a lot of trash cans in the park that are time-consuming to empty because they are far apart and not as frequently used. By eliminating these, we save significant labor costs." Park officials calculate that they will save $76,000 between April 1 and October 1 by removing 134 cans from 13 sites.

Due to sequestration, the park will be hiring fewer seasonal maintenance workers this summer. After an extensive review of the various tasks done by these workers, including emptying trash cans, mowing grass, and cleaning restrooms, the last task was deemed the most important.

"We had to make a reduction, so we chose trash removal and mowing," said Wissinger. "Clean restrooms are too important for visitor health and the overall experience of the park, so that's where we're going to keep our maintenance folks working."

Reduced mowing will become apparent when the weather warms up and grass starts growing. "Some parts of the park will start having a more natural look," said Wissinger. "This will be a summer to enjoy the wildflowers instead of the lawn."


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, March 29, 2013

Governor Proclaims April 7-13 Tennessee State Natural Areas Week

Earlier in the week Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced that April 7–13 will commemorate Tennessee State Natural Areas Week. The annual celebration will officially kick off on Saturday, April 6, with activities planned throughout the week such as wildflower hikes, canoe trips, guided tours and volunteer efforts.

The Tennessee Natural Areas Preservation Act was passed 42 years ago by the General Assembly and signed by former Gov. Winfield Dunn. Today, that legacy encompasses more than 120,000 acres of land, endangered or unique plants and a variety of animals – all protected for future generations.

“Tennessee State Natural Areas Week is a great time to revisit some of these special places that make our state so unique,” said Martineau. “Ongoing support of these beautiful areas is vital to the state’s conservation efforts and we encourage all Tennesseans to join us in celebration of what these rich and diverse areas have to offer.”

The State Natural Areas Program provides long-term protection for rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal life. The program also protects ecologically sensitive areas, areas of geological interest and areas of great scenic beauty. First established in 1971 by the Tennessee Natural Areas Preservation Act, there are now 82 state natural areas.

The week includes a full schedule of events in many of these 82 natural areas, with approximately 40 programs planned across the state. A wide variety of interesting activities – including a bat program, several guided wildflower hikes, canoe trips and a geology talk – are planned to engage Tennesseans in appreciating and enjoying these public areas.

For a complete schedule of events and trip details, please visit the Division of Natural Areas’ website, or call the main office at 615-532-0431. Some activities require reservations, so please call to ensure an opportunity to participate.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Trails Added to HikingintheSmokys.com

A couple weeks ago my wife and I spent a few days hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. As a result, we have added four new trails to our website, HikingintheSmokys.com.

On a couple of hikes, such as the Sugarland Mountain Trail, and the Meigs Creek Trail, we were able to find almost total solitude in the heart of the Smokies.

The Grapeyard Ridge Trail also offered quite a bit of solitude as well. This trail, however, also offers hikers one of the more interesting historical artifacts you'll find in the Smokies - the remains of an old steam engine that rolled into Injun Creek:


We also hiked the Middle Prong Trail for the first time ever, and absolutely loved it. In fact, I would say it just might be the best waterfall hike in the Smokies. In addition to several smaller falls and cascades, the trail passes three major waterfalls, including Lower Lynn Camp Falls:


If you ever get a chance, take the time to hike the section of the Sugarland Mountain Trail that starts from Fighting Creek Gap. Along the way you'll have one of the best views of Mt. LeConte - in terms of seeing it's massive size from top to bottom:


To see all of the trails on our website, please visit HikingintheSmokys.com


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Go west, young man

Take my advice, "go west, young man".

That famous quote is attributed to Horace Greeley, the influential 19th century author. Greeley, who was also the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, saw westward expansion as the ideal place for hard working people to find opportunities to succeed.

Today, the west symbolizes the place for adventurers and enthusiasts to enjoy and play in the great outdoors. One of the most iconic destinations in the west is Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Coincidentally, less than 50 miles away from the park is the small town of Greeley, which happens to be named after ole Horace.

So what does all this have to do with anything? Actually, it brings me to our newest hiking website, which we just launched this past November. Just like HikingintheSmokys.com, RockyMountainHikingTrails.com offers details on many of the trails throughout the park. In fact, you'll find quite a lot of information to help plan much of your trip.

First of all, trying to figure out where to hike can be challenging, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area. The park offers more than 350 miles of trails that lead to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. As a starting point you can check out our list of the Top 10 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as our list of the Best Easy Hikes in the park.

Our website also offers many lodging options on our Accommodations page. Here you'll find a wide variety of overnight accommodations that offer a wide variety of amenities in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

If you're looking for additional activities during your stay, besides hiking, take a moment to check out our Things To Do page. Then, take a day to go horseback riding, rafting, birding, photography touring, or maybe even take a hot air balloon tour of the Rockies!

If you're currently planning, or just considering a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, now's the time to begin making reservations before accommodations begin filling-up during the peak travel season.

Please know that by supporting one of our advertisers you help to support RockyMountainHikingTrails.com.

Finally, if you know anyone else that's planning a trip to RMNP this year, we would really appreciate if you could forward this link onto them as well.

Thank you very much!


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Opposition to Smokies Backcountry Fees Gaining Momentum

Knox County Commissioners voted yesterday to express support for a recent Blount County Commission resolution that opposes the backcountry camping fee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Knox resolution also demands for the immediate repeal of the backcountry camping fee, and opposes the imposition of any fee for the use of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is not directly associated with the use of amenities or a commercial purpose.

On February 13th Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials implemented a $4 per night, per person fee for anyone wishing to camp in the park's backcountry. Almost immediately after the plan was announced in July of 2011, the backcountry fee system has generated strong opposition.

Citizens groups, such as the Southern Forest Watch, oppose the fee on grounds that "backcountry camping is differentiated from front country camping in that no amenities are provided to campers other than the metal cables that are constructed to raise campers' gear and food above the level at which bears can access said gear and food".

Earlier this month the Southern Forest Watch filed a lawsuit against the fee.

The resolution passed by the Knox County Commissioners also asks that all of the counties in the State of Tennessee to join in passing the resolution, and to forward to their state delegations to ask their delegates to investigate the matter and to join in formally opposing the same fees.

So far this strategy, originally initiated by the Blount County Commission, seems to be gaining momentum. Since the February 21st vote by Blount County, similar resolutions have been passed by Knox County, Monroe County and Bradley County in Tennessee, as well as Swain County in North Carolina.


Jeff
Hiking Trails in the Smokies

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Allegheny 100 Backpacking Challenge

Alright, this is your official forewarning. You better start training right now! This June the North Country Trail Association will be holding its 4th annual Allegheny 100 Backpacking Challenge: to hike 100 miles in 50 hours!

The NCTA makes clear that the "A-100" is not a race; but an individual challenge of one’s stamina, determination and resilience.

The adventure takes place on a 100-mile stretch of the North Country National Scenic Trail that meanders through the rolling hills of the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania.

The ultimate goal of the Allegheny 100 is to promote awareness of The North Country Trail.

Most people would probably assume that the either the Appalachian, Continental Divide, or the Pacific Crest Trail, would be the longest National Scenic Trail in the United States. That assumption would be incorrect. Stretching more than 4600 miles through seven states, from New York to North Dakota, the North Country Trail actually makes the claim to being the longest National Scenic Trail in the country.
 
The backpacking challenge isn't necessarily difficult in terms of climbing and descending, but 100 miles is still 100 miles.

This year's event will be held from Friday, June 7th at 6pm, through Sunday, June 9th at 8pm. The course for the challenge will extend from just south of Marienville, at Vowinckel, Pennsylvania, to a point just before reaching the New York border at Willow Bay. Outside support is not permitted - so you're on your own once you're on the trail. There are no first aid stations or watering stations along the way either (there are plenty of streams and springs). If 100 miles is bit more than you can chew off, 75, 50 and 25-mile options will also be offered.

For more information on the event, please click here.



Jeff
Hiking Trails in the Smokies

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tennessee State Parks Announce New Campground Reservation System

Tennessee State Parks has unveiled a new customer-friendly campground reservation system, which will offer visitors the ability to reserve campsites at 35 state parks up to one year in advance of their planned stay. Reservations can be made online, by visiting the park's office, or by calling an individual park during regular business hours.

“Traditionally, campers have had to rely on obtaining their favorite camping spot on a first come, first served basis,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “With the new reservation service, visitors will be offered more ease and convenience when it comes to their park stay.”

To check availability and reserve campsites online or via phone, visit tnstateparks.com/reservations for a complete list of available campgrounds and phone numbers or visit the online site directly at tnstateparks.itinio.com/. Campers can select the state park they wish to visit, arrival/departure dates, and their preferred campsite. Visitors may reserve up to five sites per reservation. The online system features a campground map, offering photos and prices for each individual campsite. Tennessee State Parks’ campsites are very popular, so campers are encouraged to check availability through the new online system or by calling the park before departing on a trip.

Tennessee State Parks implemented the program using a phased approached, beginning in late 2012 to ensure the appropriate training could take place and any issues or concerns could be addressed before formally launching the new reservation system. Over the course of the last several months, state parks have been gradually added to the roster. The new campground reservation system joins several new initiatives launched by TDEC over the last two years for park visitors on the go, including the Tennessee State Parks 75th Anniversary microsite, a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based recreation “finder,” and the new Tennessee State Parks Pocket Ranger® mobile phone application.

Hill added that online reservations for inns and some cabins have been available for visitors for several years, but adding the campground system was one that required a bit more effort in terms of program design and operations. After a competitive bidding process, Arizona-based Rev’d Up, Inc. was selected to build and host the new campground reservation system and will continue overseeing the project as part of a five-year contract. A minimal $3 reservation fee (per campsite reserved) was added as part of the overall implementation and will help offset costs of the new system.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Did You Know…National Park Week is April 20-28

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation invite everyone to get to know their national parks during National Park Week. This year’s dates are April 20 – 28, with free admission to all national parks April 22 – 26.

“This year’s theme, ‘Did you know…’ provides a fun way to discover the wonders of America’s national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “For example, did you know that there are national parks in 49 of 50 states? Did you know that national parks include seashores, battlefields, and historic homes? Did you know that the country’s highest peak, lowest point, tallest tree, deepest lake and longest cave are in national parks? Did you know that you probably live within an hour or two of a national park? National Park Week is a great time for all Americans to visit a nearby national park to camp and hike, watch wildlife, stroll a Civil War battlefield, and connect with our heritage and each other.”

National Park Week is also a good time to explore local parks, trails, and architectural gems sustained through National Park Service programs such as the Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance program and the National Register of Historic Places.

The annual celebration includes special events such as Junior Ranger Day on April 20 and Earth Day on April 22. Find a list of ranger-led programs and plan your adventures at nationalparkweek.org. You can also use the website to share your park experiences and photos and help support parks.

“National Park Week is a perfect time to celebrate America’s best idea – our national parks,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “We are proud to stand with our partners at the National Park Service in presenting this annual event and hope everyone takes advantage of this opportunity to enjoy and support these outstanding places.”

We think some of the best parks to visit - anytime of year - are Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But hey, that's just our opinion!


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Roads in Nantahala National Forest could be closed for up to 2 years

The U.S. Forest Service today announced temporary road closures for segments of Forest Service Road (FSR) 423 (Tatham Gap), FSR 440 (Tuni Gap), FSR 340 (Fires Creek) and FSR 81C (Whigg Branch) because of damage caused by a storm that occurred earlier this winter. These temporary closures extend emergency closures put in place after approximately 11 inches of rain fell during the week of Jan. 14, 2013.

A reopening date for the roads, located in the Tusquitee Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest, has yet to be determined. Early estimates are that it could be two years before repairs are completed. Repair costs are likely to exceed $5 million. The Forest Service is applying for funding to pay for the projects. Forest Service engineers are working to address damage to these and other roads in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests that were damaged by heavy winter rains.

"Parts of the roads are too dangerous for motor vehicle travel right now, and our first priority is to protect public safety," said District Ranger Lauren Stull. "We've installed temporary gates where feasible to keep as much of these roads open to the public as possible. We're working quickly to obtain funding to repair these sections and get folks safely back out on these roads, but sometimes Mother Nature deals you a tough hand."

Details on the road closures follow:

FSR423 (Tatham Gap) - Approximately 3.3 miles will be closed to all forms of traffic beginning approximately 0.6 miles beyond the intersection between FSR 423 and State Route (SR) 1391 extending to a temporary gate installed at the intersection of FSR 423 and FSR 423B just below the south side of Tatham Gap. Due to existing and imminent road failures, this segment is closed to all forms of use including foot, horse, motorized and non-motorized traffic until it is determined that the roadbed has stabilized sufficiently to allow safe use by the public.

FSR 440 (Tuni Creek) - Approximately 4.7 miles will be closed to motorized use beginning at the intersection of SR 1307 (Stephens Branch Road) and FSR 440 extending to the intersection between SR 1311 and FSR 440.

FSR 340 (Fires Creek) - Approximately 6 miles will be closed to motorized use beginning at a temporary gate that has been installed at the intersection of FSR 340 and FSR 340B (Little Fires Creek Road).

FSR 81-C (Whigg Branch) - Approximately 1.6 miles will be closed to motorized use beginning at the intersection of FSR 81 and FSR 81-C.

The segment of Tatham Gap Road is closed to all forms of use including foot, horse, motorized and non-motorized traffic. However, forest users may still access other road areas through non-motorized means, such as hiking, but should use great caution when approaching road slides.

For more information, contact Bill Champion at the Tusquitee Ranger Station at 828-837-5152.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

April Classic Hikes of the Smokies: Hyatt Ridge Discovery

On the third Tuesday of each month this year, Friends of the Smokies will be offering guided hikes as part of their Classic Hikes of the Smokies series. To celebrate the Friends’ 20th anniversary this year, each hike will honor an achievement or cause that the Friends organization has supported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park since its establishment in 1993.

The hike for next month, called Hyatt Ridge Discovery, will honor Discover Life in America:

April 16: Hyatt Ridge Discovery
Distance: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
Trails – Hyatt Ridge and Beech Gap

To help support the Smokies Trails Forever program, a donation of $10 for members and $35 for non-members is requested. Non-members receive a complimentary membership to Friends of the Smokies. Members who bring a friend hike for free. You can pre-register for this through Friends of the Smokies at outreach.nc@friendsofthesmokies.org or 828-452-0720.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis To Retire

NPS Digest announced today that Phil Francis, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is retiring.

Since joining the National Park Service in 1972 at Kings Mountain National Military Park, Phil has tirelessly served in a variety of parks that have taken him from coast to coast, including such special places as Shenandoah National Park, Yosemite National Park, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Parks and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In 1994, Phil transferred to the Smokies after serving for three years as the associate regional director for administration in Southwest Regional Office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After 11 years as deputy/acting superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Phil was asked to become the sixth superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where he has served since 2005.

Phil’s assignments have provided him with the opportunity to work with numerous partner organizations and communities. He provided leadership in the creation of a number of new non-profit partners, including Blue Ridge Parkway 75, Inc., the Institute at Tremont, Experience Your Smokies, and Discover Life in America.

Phil has also been instrumental in the completion of several high-profile planning efforts, including the North Shore Road EIS at the Smokies and completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s first ever general management plan. During his career, Phil has had a hand in duties ranging from reenactments to law enforcement to budget formulation to directing a Youth Conservation Corps – and everything in between.

Phil is a 2003 graduate of the Department of Interior’s Senior Executive Service candidate development placement program. In 2005 Phil was awarded the Department of Interior’s Superior Service Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the National Park Service as assistant superintendent at the Smokies and acting superintendent of the Outer Banks Group and Blue Ridge Parkway as well as numerous other performance awards during his career.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander honored Phil in the Congressional Record in 2006 for his service at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Discover Life in America, which is conducting the first all species inventory of a national park, named a new species to science after Phil in appreciation for his support of the project.

Phil was born in Shelby, North Carolina, and raised in nearby Grover. He attended Kings Mountain High School and later graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor of science degree in administrative management. Phil is married to Dr. Becky Nichols, a scientist employed by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and he plans to spend his retirement enjoying the special places and people of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

There will be a celebration of Phil’s career on April 6th in Asheville, North Carolina.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Veterans Offered Full Scholarship and Support to Hike the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in partnership with Warrior Hike, Operation Military Embrace, the Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, has launched a new initiative called the “Walk Off the War” program. This program will provide 13 military veterans the opportunity to reconnect with the United States in a uniquely physical and psychological way – a fully funded scholarship to hike the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

The objective of this program is to provide these veterans a self-directed, self-paced journey along the A.T. Hiking the Trail provides the opportunity to eliminate the negative effects of the war, through walking in nature, engaging with other hikers and experiencing the hospitality of the Trail towns along the A.T. In the end, the goal is to return these soldiers back into civilian society with the greatest opportunity for success in their personal and professional lives.

All participating veterans are not required to hike the entire A.T., but rather experience the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of the Trail.

“Similar to Earl Shaffer, the first A.T. thru-hiker, these veterans will have the opportunity to journey along the Appalachian Trail and experience first hand the benefits of retreating back into nature,” stated Rich Daileader, former thru-hiker and board member of the ATC. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to partner up with Warrior Hike and several other Military and Veteran organizations to offer this incredible experience to our military veterans.”

The program will provide full scholarships to equip and support 13 military veterans. The first group of veterans will begin their journey on March 17th in Springer Mountain, Georgia. The rest of the veterans will begin their hike by April 15th.

The ATC, trail maintaining clubs along the A.T. and veterans groups in various “trail towns” will provide the veterans, who may travel alone or in small groups, with ancillary support services. This may include hosting a hiker or arranging transportation.

Two of the driving forces behind this initiative are Captains Sean Gobin and Mark Silvers, two Marines that upon returning from Afghanistan in 2012, hiked the A.T. to help purchase adapted vehicles for seriously wounded veterans. They are also the co-founders of Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization geared to raise funds for wounded veterans.

This year’s group of veterans includes Adam Bautz, Rob Carmel, Steve Clendenning, Stephanie Cutts, Dick Erwin, Gary Ewin, Chris Galemore, Thomas Gathman, William Guill, Jeff Harper, Kevin Reed, Sharon Smith, and Cody Umphress.

This event is sponsored by 2Toms, Adventure Medical Kits, Ahnu, Antigravity Gear, Backcountry Edge, The Earl Shaffer Foundation, Easton Mountain Products, Good Sports, Granite Gear, Katadyn, Kelty, Leki, L.L.Bean, McKee Foods, Off Grid Expeditions, Railriders, Sawyer, The A.T. Guide, and Wise Company. For more information about this program visit www.appalachiantrail.org/events or www.walkoffthewar.com.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seriously Injured Hiker Rescued on Alum Cave Trail

NPS Digest is reporting that a seriously injured hiker was rescued in the Great Smoky Mountains over the weekend.

On the afternoon of Saturday, March 9th, park dispatch received a call from Jackson County 911 reporting an injured hiker on the Alum Cave Trail approximately a mile above Alum Cave Bluffs. A 55-year-old man had fallen about ten vertical feet and then taken a tumbling fall of another 60 feet while moving over for hikers passing him on the trail. He suffered a three inch laceration to his neck, a five inch laceration to his leg, and a deep tear in his hand. He was able to make it back up to the trail, where he was assisted by visitors, although they were unable to control the bleeding from his neck.

Rangers made a very quick response up the trail, while park dispatch pulled together a litter crew of park staff and two AD hires. Trail conditions were treacherous due to recent snow, and traction aid devices were required. The man’s bleeding had been controlled prior to the arrival of the rescuers, though he had already suffered a significant blood loss and a drop in his body temperature. He was packaged and removed by a combination of wheeled litter and sliding the plastic litter along the snow covered trail. A lowering system for the litter was used at Arch Rock. The litter team arrived at the trailhead at 2 a.m., where the patient was transported by ambulance to an LZ by Gatlinburg EMS. He was then flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center by Lifestar.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Visitor Dies Following Canoeing Accident Near The Sinks

NPS Digest is reporting that a 65-year-old man from Ontario, Canada was seriously injured in a canoe accident above The Sinks early on Monday afternoon. He was visiting the area to attend the Ain’t Louie Fest, which includes a series of river trips loosely organized by a group of whitewater enthusiasts, and became trapped after his canoe capsized and he was swept downstream. Many of the participants are well trained in swiftwater rescue and immediately began rescue operations. They’d pulled him from the water and had begun CPR by the time emergency responders arrived on the scene. Although he’d been underwater for about a half hour and was unresponsive when rescued, he resumed breathing and his heart again began to beat, but later expired at a local hospital.

The Townsend Volunteer Fire Department, Townsend Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Department, and Blount County Fire also responded to the incident. Little River Road was closed for over an hour to allow for emergency traffic.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Smokies Alters Spring Opening Schedule

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has altered the facility opening dates for many park facilities for the 2013 season. The delayed openings are a direct result of staffing and hiring limitations which impacted the Park's ability to conduct preseason preparation work on its facilities. Because of the five percent budget reduction that is in place, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closing three campgrounds, two picnic areas, one horse camp, and associated access roads, for the 2013 season.

Facilities to remain closed in 2013 include: the Look Rock Campground and Picnic Area and the Abrams Creek Campground in Tennessee; the Balsam Mountain Campground and Picnic Area (including the associated Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads) and the Tow String Horse Camp in North Carolina. "We regret this will cause inconvenience to park visitors," stated Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, "especially those who have enjoyed these more remote areas of the Smokies year after year. We have focused our workforce to maximize the utilization of facilities throughout the remainder of the park in order to serve and provide recreational opportunities for our millions of park visitors."

The schedule follows:

Roads - Secondary Roads are scheduled as follows: Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open April 1; Parsons Branch and Rich Mountain Road will both open on April 5; Roaring Fork Nature Trail and Little Greenbrier are set to open April 1. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads will be closed for the season.

Clingmans Dome Road has been open dependent on weather conditions since February 15, but will be officially open for the summer season on March 29.

Operating Hours for Visitor Centers - The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March are as follows: Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, hours will be 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Operating Hours for Backcountry Office - The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open every day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can be obtained online at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov or by calling 865-436-1297.

Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, all across the U.S. The park's developed campgrounds of Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system for at least a portion of their seasons. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. To make reservations at the five campgrounds, and all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters, visitors can go to www.Recreation.gov or, alternatively, book reservations by calling 877-444-6777.

Campgrounds will open on a staggered schedule starting April 12 (See the following schedule for exact dates.) For the five campgrounds on Recreation.gov, reservations are required at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15-October 31 (for other dates the three campgrounds are first come, first serve); Cataloochee Campground--all sites must be reserved throughout its season; and Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-served campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites during its season. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site/night.

Campers have an opportunity to camp in "generator free" campsites at three campgrounds: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. The generator-free loop sections of these campgrounds are reservable through Recreation.gov.

Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds (see schedule for opening dates) and reservations must be made through Recreation.gov. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $26 to $65 per site/night.

Horse Camps at Anthony Creek, Cataloochee, and Round Bottom will open April 1 and at Big Creek on April 12. Tow Sting will be closed for the season. Reservations are only available through Recreation.gov. The horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.

Picnic Areas - There are 8 first-come, first-serve picnic areas open during 2013. Open all year are Cades Cove, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms. Chimneys picnic area will open on March 15 and Collins Creek will open on March 29. Big Creek and Cosby picnic areas will open shortly after on April 12. Heintooga and Look Rock will be closed for the season.

The Park's largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservations are required through Recreation.gov only. Twin Creeks fees range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on Recreation.gov. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10.

Horseback Riding - The opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are: Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 8; Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 8; and Cades Cove is scheduled on March 9. In addition to horseback rides which cost $30 per horse per rider for one-hour rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides, and wheelchair accessible carriage and hay rides. The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina will open March 23 and, in addition to guided horseback rides, will provide visitors with a chance to experience a horse-drawn wagon ride along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike.

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 25. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/774-0045 or email: reservations@lecontelodge.com. One night at the lodge costs $126 per adult and $85 for children 10 and under (tax not included). The price includes two meals--dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag or dining room lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge. Reservations are required for the dining room lunch.

Campground Concessions - The Cades Cove Campground Store has been open since March 2. The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals. The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort or mountain bikes available for rent, in addition to single speed cruisers. The Elkmont Campground concession opened on March 8. The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.

CAMPGROUND SCHEDULE

Campgrounds | Fee | Open | Group Sites

North Carolina:
Balsam Mountain N/A Closed for the Season
Big Creek $14 April 12 April 12
Cataloochee $20 March 15 March 15
Deep Creek $17 April 12 April 12
Smokemont $17, $20 Year-round May 15

Tennessee:
Abrams Creek N/A Closed for the Season
Cades Cove $17, $20 Year-round March 8
Cosby $14 April 12 April 12
Elkmont $17, $20 March 8 April 21


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Missing Hiker Found By Searchers

NPS Digest is reporting that a man was rescued last week in the Great Smoky Mountains after reporting himself as being lost.

During the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 6th, a 37-year-old North Carolina hiker made several 911 calls reporting that he was lost, cold, and out of food and water. He was not equipped for winter weather, and had only a light jacket with him. The three calls he made were pinged and the last was found to be from Purchase Knob within the park, a site the man frequently visited.

A hasty search of that area was conducted by rangers and volunteers. They found several items thought to belong to the man along with fresh tracks in the snow. The nighttime temperature in the area was in the teens and the wind chill was near zero. While this hasty search was underway, Haywood County deputies conducted searches of the other two GPS points determined from the 911 calls, but he was not found in either area. The search around Purchase Knob continued until 10 p.m. on Wednesday and resumed at first light the next morning. The man was found in good health early that afternoon, walking down a road close to the park’s boundary.

Also assisting in the search were Haywood County Search and Rescue and the North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Yahoo Falls Wildflower Hike Set For Saturday, March 30th

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and Daniel Boone National Forest are pleased to announce a cooperative wildflower hike at Yahoo Falls on Saturday, March 30, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and ending at approximately 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Yahoo Falls area provides a stunning variety of spring flowers on a short, moderate hiking trail. In addition to wildflowers, spectacular scenery is provided by 113 foot tall Yahoo Falls, towering sandstone cliffs, a huge rock shelter, and an outstanding overlook of the Big South Fork River. The hike will be led by National Park Service and U. S. Forest Service Rangers and local volunteers. The Yahoo Falls picnic area is accessed from Highway 700, west of Whitley City, Kentucky.

The Yahoo Falls site was originally developed by the U.S. Forest Service in the mid-1960s when the area was known as the Cumberland National Forest. The forest was renamed the Daniel Boone National Forest in 1968. The land was transferred to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Big South Fork NRRA in 1987. The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service share a long history of cooperation in providing opportunities for the citizens of our nation to learn about and enjoy the resources held in trust for the American people by the two agencies.

For further information, contact Big South Fork's Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, March 11, 2013

Get on the Trail with Friends & Missy

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

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 are new to hiking, as well as people who just want to know more about the Park.

The dates for this year's spring series are: April 3, 10, 17, 24, 2013:

APRIL 3th
Baskins Creek Trail to Baskins Creek Falls
Easy to moderate, 4-5 miles

APRIL 10th
Abrams Falls
Easy to moderate, 5 miles

APRIL 17th
Porters Creek to Campsite 31
Moderate, 7 miles

APRIL 24th
Gabes Mountain Trail to Campsite #34
Moderate to Difficult, 10 miles

The cost is $20.00 per hike, and maps/goodies will be provided by Friends & Missy. You must register by calling 865-541-4500 (Covenant Call Center) as space is limited.

Now celebrating it's 15th year, Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy has raised more than $127,000, which has gone towards the support for the preservation and protection of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Space is limited and you must pre-register by calling 1-865-541-4500! Cost for each hike is $20.00

For more information, contact Sarah Weeks at Friends of the Smokies, 1-865-932-4794 or sarah@friendsofthesmokies.org.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Visiting the Big Tulip in Cataloochee

In this video Aaron Morrell from Grae Skye Studio in Waynesville visits the "Big Tulip" in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains. According to the video, the "Big Tulip", or "Big Poplar" on the Caldwell Fork Trail, is at least 25 feet in circumference!


Visiting the BIG TULIP, Cataloochee GSMNP from Aaron Morrell on Vimeo.



Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, March 8, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains Plans Prescribed Burns This Spring

Fire management officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced plans to conduct several prescribed burns across the park this spring including areas near Wears Valley, Lynn Hollow, and Cades Cove. The burns will occur between the months of March through May as weather conditions permit.

The prescribed burn near Wears Valley will occur over a 200-acre area just inside the Park south of Wears Valley in Sevier County, TN. A local wind event canceled the burn originally scheduled for November 2012. Closures for firefighter and public safety during burn operations include Wear Cove Gap Road from the Metcalf Bottoms bridge to the Park boundary at Wear Cove Gap along with Roundtop Trail. Prescribed burn operations are expected to take 2 days.

The Lynn Hollow prescribed burn will occur on park lands near Lake in the Sky and the Top of the World community in Blount County. The burn is planned for late March and will occur over a two day period as weather conditions permit. It is anticipated that residual smoke and mop-up activities could last for several days following burn operations. Temporary closures to Goldmine Trail and Cooper Road will be necessary during fire operations.

According to Fire Management Officer, Dave Loveland, "The Park conducts prescribed burns each year for a number of different objectives including hazard fuel reduction in the wildland urban interface and protection of natural resources. The use of prescribed fire helps decrease risks to life, property, and perpetuates the natural resource values for which the park was founded." The purpose of both these controlled burns is to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations in the vicinity of residential communities and to restore the diverse, yellow pine/hardwood forests.

Fire Management personnel also plan to continue controlled burning in Cades Cove early this spring as conditions permit. Since November, approximately 600 acres have been burned in the cove with another 200 acres planned.

According to Loveland, "The fields burned earlier this season look great and we have achieved all of our hazardous fuels and resource management objectives. We hope to continue and build on our earlier accomplishments."

Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open but visitors may experience brief delays due to smoke or other safety concerns as fire fighters work adjacent to roadways.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation allocates over $740,000 to the BRP for 2013 projects and programs

The Board of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has unanimously approved over $740,000 in funding to the Blue Ridge Parkway for 2013 projects and programs. These projects and programs cover a range of initiatives, including children’s education, projects to enrich the visitors’ experience, and preservation of historic, cultural and natural resources along the length of the Parkway. Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis says "The Parkway and Foundation staffs have worked closely together to create a good list of projects that are badly needed by the Parkway during this difficult budget time. We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful supporters of the Parkway who come here year after year with their families and friends. We hope they know that we are very grateful to them for their support, and hope they will come see us again this year!"

Over $600,000 of the funding is for projects that are critical or are already in process, and these funds have been committed to the Parkway for 2013. The remaining projects will only be undertaken if external funding from grant sources, companies or private donations can be found to help offset the costs.

Committed projects for 2013 include:

• Continued funding of the Parks as Classrooms initiative for the 2013-2014 school year. arks as Classrooms is the Blue Ridge Parkway’s outreach program to children, instilling values of Parkway protection to students in all 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties that border the Parkway. Last year over 27,000 students were reached through this program.

• Graveyard Fields Enhancement project. The Graveyard Fields project is a collaborative effort with the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to improve visitor use and stewardship of this highly trafficked area, and will expand the parking, construct a convenience station and improve the trails and interpretive signs. The Scenic Byways grant to fund this project has been approved, and the Foundation will be providing the matching funds required to complete the project.

• Completion of the Abbott Lake Trail Accessibility project. Funding will allow completion of an existing project to address accessibility through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and trail improvements. The trail around Abbott Lake was upgraded to be fully accessible last year, and this year, a fishing and viewing platform will be built across the lake from the Peaks of Otter Lodge.

• Restoration of the Heart Pond at Bass Lake. This heart-shaped pond connects to Bass Lake on the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. The wall will be rebuilt to historical details, and the pond will be drained, dredged, repointed and restocked with trout as was historically done. The project was begun last year and will be completed this spring.

• Music Programming at the Blue Ridge Music Center. This year, the Foundation will be scheduling, financing and administering the music program at the Blue Ridge Music Center. This includes Mid-day Mountain Music which is performed every day during the season, and the weekend concert series.

Projects which will require additional funding to make them a reality include:

• Repairing the Waterwheel at Mabry Mill. The wheel will be disassembled and repaired at the Parkway’s historic preservation workshop and reinstalled.

• Construction of Stone Water Fountain Replacements. In 2012, the Foundation funded a project to design easily maintainable replacements for the historic stone water fountains found along the Parkway. This year, two of the new fountains will be constructed and installed.

• Replacing damaged and worn Interpretive Wayside panels. Many of the interpretive panels along the Parkway are missing or damaged. Sixteen of these will be replaced this year at locations all along the Parkway.

• Rehab at the Mount Pisgah Campground. Parkway staff will oversee volunteers conducting repair work on campsites designed to stop erosion and flooding by improving the drainage systems.

• Price Lake Trail Accessibility. Nearly one mile of the existing accessible trail around Price Lake will be restored to meet accessibility standards. Volunteers will assist in building a boardwalk across Laurel Creek, replacing existing planks and a substandard bridge.

To see the full list and find out more information, please click here. To make a donation, please click here.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, March 7, 2013

First Classic Hike of 2013: a Deep Creek Circular

Great things come in threes. On March 19th, the third Tuesday of the third month of the year, Friends of the Smokies will embark on the first guided hike of the 2013 monthly Classic Hikes of the Smokies at Deep Creek, near Bryson City. To celebrate Friends’ 20th anniversary each hike this year honors an achievement or cause that Friends of the Smokies has supported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) since Friends establishment in 1993. The Deep Creek Circular hike features the Parks as Classrooms program and is sponsored by HomeTrust Bank.

Friend of the Smokies hiking enthusiast and author of two regional hiking guides Danny Bernstein will be returning as our guide. She will lead Deep Creek hikers along 9 miles of trail with 1,600 ft. of elevation. Continuing with the theme of great things in threes, hikers will visit three waterfalls and three cemeteries. Hikers should also look out for a headstone that has an inscription meant to be read with a mirror.

Beginning on the Deep Creek Trail, participants will visit Juney Whank Falls and pick up the loop trail to Indian Creek Falls, hiking up a ways, and returning to the Deep Creek Trail back to the parking lot.

This hike celebrates the Parks as Classrooms program which utilizes Deep Creek as an outdoor classroom. Hikers will see sites students use in these programs and may feel like a kid again should they be lucky enough to see frogs or wildflowers as the season shifts to spring.

Friends of the Smokies, through the help of individuals, foundations, and businesses like HomeTrust Bank, helps support the approximately 18,000 students every year in Tennessee and North Carolina that receive curriculum-based education opportunities through the Parks as Classrooms program. These hands-on, ranger-led lessons utilizing GSMNP as an enormous outdoor classroom help foster a love for nature and inform the next generation of park supporters.

Participants will depart from Asheville at 8:30 a.m., Waynesville at 9:15 a.m. or Bryson City at 10 a.m. In support of the Smokies Trails Forever program, a donation of $10 for members and $35 for non-members is requested. Non-members receive a complimentary membership to Friends of the Smokies. Members who bring a friend hike for free.

You can pre-register for this, or any Classic Hike through Friends of the Smokies at outreach.nc@friendsofthesmokies.org or 828-452-0720.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Revised and updated edition of popular Smokies hiking guide is now available

The newly revised and updated edition of Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now available on Amazon. Although the official release date is March 19th, the popular hiking guide is already being sold online.

The guide features 82 hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains, and includes up-to-date trail information, traffic ratings for each hike, photos, trail maps, quick reference trail highlights and elevation profiles. The book also contains zero-impact camping tips, vacation planning and a hiker's checklist.

The book is written by Kevin Adams, an accomplished photography instructor who teaches numerous workshops and seminars, and lives in Waynesville, North Carolina. Adams is also the author of North Carolina Waterfalls, Backroads of North Carolina, and Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia.

For more information on the new book, please click here.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Smokies Officials Announce New Way to Explore Your Park in NC

Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in conjunction with the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association are announcing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the national park. The program, Experience Your Smokies, is a unique opportunity to get to know the park and its employees in a whole new way.

"If you have ever wanted to be a park ranger or get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this is your opportunity," said park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. Experience Your Smokies is a program designed for local residents, business, community and educational leaders to get a behind the scenes look into the national park, while networking with others from western North Carolina. "Our surrounding communities and their leaders are very important to us, and this program gives us a chance to make more meaningful connections with our neighbors and for them to do the same with us."

Participants will attend five full day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, accompanying park employees in activities that may include radio-tracking elk, participating in a fish survey, and assisting with trail restoration. This is a perfect way to get an insider's look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob.

One of last year's participants, Theresa Broderick of the Fontana Village Resort and City Councilwoman for Fontana Dam, NC said of her experience, "I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the entire staff for their respective roles. The knowledge each has is so amazing. This has been one of the coolest experiences of my life."

Experience Your Smokies is seeking diverse applicants from the surrounding communities for a program this spring. Program dates are as follows: Wednesday March 27th, and the following Tuesdays - April 16th, April 30th, May 7th and Saturday May 18th. Class size is limited to 25 participants. Those attending will be asked to commit to attending all class days. Applications will be accepted between now and March 26th. The program costs $50.00 with funds going towards program administration and materials. Please visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org/events.html or call 828-452-0720 for an application.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Scholarships Available for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshops

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is making scholarship money available to women who want to attend a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop in North Carolina. More than $2,000 is available in scholarships. The scholarship money will be distributed to eligible applicants in amounts of up to 80 percent of registration fees, which range from $10 to $225, depending on the duration and nature of BOW workshops.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is an international program for women, 18 and older, to learn outdoor skills through hands-on experiences, such as archery, fishing, paddling, wildlife photography, outdoor cooking, target shooting and motorboat safety. Upcoming BOW workshops for which scholarship money is available include:

* Fly-Fishing weekend at the Wildlife Education Center in Brevard and Davidson River Campground in Transylvania County (April 5-7), $125 registration;

* Archery/Bowhunting at the Wildlife Education Center on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh (April 20), $10 registration;

* Outdoor Skills workshop at Lake Townsend near Greensboro (May 18), $25 registration; and,

* BOW weekend workshop at YMCA Camp Harrison in Wilkes County (May 31-June 2), $225 registration.

The Wildlife Commission provides funding assistance to BOW participants through the Mel Porter Scholarship Fund, supported by contributions from previous BOW participants. The deadline for scholarship applications is two weeks prior to respective workshop dates.

“Scholarships have helped single mothers and other deserving women take part in a rewarding, confidence-building experience they otherwise couldn’t afford,” said BB Gillen, outdoor skills coordinator with the Wildlife Commission and state coordinator for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. “These are partial scholarships only, based on need. Recipients are asked to pay the remainder of the registration fee.”

Preference is given to first-time workshop participants who are full-time students, single parents of young children, and members of low-income households. Eligibility is determined by scholarship application and workshop registration.

More information is available by clicking here, or contacting BOW Coordinator BB Gillen at 919-218-3638 or bb.gillen@ncwildlife.org.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Which park units generate the most spending and jobs?

Earlier this week I mentioned that the National Park Service had published a report that measures the economic impact that national parks have on local communities. Today I wanted to dig a little deeper into the data to see which parks generate the most spending and the most jobs for their respective communities.

Which parks generate the most spending by visitors?

The chart below shows the top 10 park units in terms of overall spending generated by visitors in 2011. I was a little surprised by these results. Generally speaking, I figured that the park units with the most visitors would also have the highest amount of total spending by its visitors. Not so. For example: although the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ranks 32nd in the total number of visitors for 2011, it ranked 9th in the total amount of spending generated by visitors. Moreover, only five parks that ranked in the top 10 for visitors in 2011, also ranked in the top 10 for visitor spending:



Which park units supported the most jobs?

This analysis was more in line with what I expected. Generally speaking, the park units with the most visitors tended to support the most jobs for the surrounding local communities:

Great Smoky Mountains NP  11,418
Grand Canyon NP  7,361
Grand Teton NP  6,352
Yellowstone NP  5,041
Yosemite NP  5,003
Blue Ridge PKWY  4,379
Acadia NP  2,970
Glen Canyon NRA  2,755
Rocky Mountain NP  2,742
Denali NP & Preserve  2,669


Which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis?

Finally, I wanted to see which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis. These results were quite interesting. Each of the park units making the top 10 in this category were in Alaska. At first glance you might think that this must seem like some statistical anomaly. However, given how remote each of these parks are from civilization, the cost of services is likely far greater than in the lower 48. I would also guess that transportation costs are likely the biggest drivers in spending. My guess is that many of these parks have local airports and local air services that benefit from park visitors.

Yukon-Charley Rivers NPRES  $1,144
Denali NP & PRES  $394
Aniakchak NM & PRES  $368
Bering Land Bridge NPRES  $345
Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES  $345
Cape Krusenstern NM  $345
Kobuk Valley NP  $344
Noatak NPRES  $344
Lake Clark NP & PRES  $344
Katmai NP & PRES  $257

Not on the list above, but ranked 11th, is Grand Teton National Park, which makes it the highest ranked park outside of Alaska in terms of spending on a per visitor basis ($169).

The George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington DC has the distinction of having the lowest amount of spending on a per visitor basis - only $4.63.

The lowest ranked national park is Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska. On average, visitors only spend $10.63. Well, you might be asking yourself why this park isn't ranked much higher - given that it's in Alaska. According to the park website; "Most visitors to Glacier Bay see the park from large cruise ships with thousands of passengers. These visitors do not go ashore in the park; instead National Park Service naturalists board the ship to share their knowledge about the park and its wildlife during a day-long cruise in the bay."

I would interpret this to mean that the NPS doesn't count these dollars as being spent in a local community.

To view the entire NPS report, please click here.



Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Prescribed Fire Season Begins in Nantahala National Forest

This week the U.S. Forest Service announced that the prescribed burning season for the Tusquitee and Cheoah Ranger Districts in the Nantahala National Forest, will take place between early March and late April. The agency plans to conduct prescribed burning, during the dormant season, on approximately 1,353 acres on the district to help prevent wildfires and promote a healthy forest.

The Cheoah Ranger District plans to burn 1,400 to 2,500 acres each year. The prescribed burn areas in Graham County are located in the following areas:

* 822 acres at the Shell Stand area
* 352 acres near Cheoah Bald
* 80 acres at West Buffalo
* 88 acres at the Big Fat area
* 11 acres at the Cheoah Ranger District Helispot near the Cheoah District Office

The Tusquitee Ranger District plans to burn 3,500 to 5,000 acres each year, but due to the wet winter and other factors only 1,600 acres will be planned for burning this year. The prescribed burn areas in Cherokee County are located in the following areas:

* 450 acres at Ramsey Bluff
* 40 acres in the Beech Creek area
* In Clay County, the agency plans to conduct a 1,000-acre prescribed burn in the Leatherwood drainage located in the Fires Creek Recreation Area. 

Native plants and animals in the national forest depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources. Prescribed burns promote the growth of herbaceous plants that provide food, such as fruit, for wildlife including important game animals such as deer and turkey. Prescribed burns also benefit wildlife by increasing the abundance of many trees that produce nuts, particularly oaks, which do not germinate or grow well in dense, shady conditions.

Prescribed burning is also one of the most effective land management tools used in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires. Burning the same tract of land on a rotation of every three to seven years reduces the buildup of vegetation (fuel), decreasing the chance of severe wildfire.

For more information, contact Tim Solesbee at 828-479-6431. Individuals sensitive to smoke can call the Cheoah Ranger District at 828-479-6431 to be placed on the prescribed burn notification list.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cherokee National Forest Seeks Campground Hosts

The Cherokee National Forest is currently seeking Campground Hosts for several locations, including Jacob's Creek and Little Oak Campgrounds on S. Holston Lake; Backbone Rock near Damascus, VA; Cardens Bluff on Watauga Lake; Indian Boundary Campgrounds and the North River Checking Station near Tellico; and the Horse Creek Campground in the Bald Mountains.

The host season starts between mid-March and mid-April, and ends mid-October, depending on the site.

“Campground hosts add so much to a visitor’s experience because they share an interest in the outdoors, have extensive knowledge of the area and love being around people,” said Acting District Ranger Michelle Burnett. “Good hosts are the backbone of our recreation volunteer program. The Watauga Ranger District is lucky to have a number of long-term hosts volunteering year after year. We’re hoping to find some other great folks willing to help us out.”

Campground hosts often develop a real love of the area and are able to learn the ins and outs of their campground from staying in one place for a while. For those new to the region, being a host is a great way to experience northeast Tennessee while working side-by-side with Forest Service employees.

The agency provides:
* Training
* A campsite with full hook-up for their camper
* Supervision and support

General duties include:
* Firsthand visitor contact in a developed campground setting
* Serve as a U.S. Forest Service presence, overseeing and monitoring camper/campground conditions
* Clean and service restrooms and assist with campground clean-up
* Provide information regarding recreation opportunities throughout the area’s national forests.
* They also find plenty of time to fish, bird watch, read books and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding lakes, streams and forests.

For more information, please click here.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies