Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Colors Near Peak at Lower Elevations in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report fall colors are reaching their peak at the lower elevation. Here's the latest:
Over the past week the colors in lower elevations have really come alive. There is now a mixed bag of bright yellows and reds with still some green. High elevations along with some middle elevation areas have completed their cycle and lost their leaves. Lower elevation areas like Oconuftee, Cataloochee, Greenbrier, Cosby, Elkmont, and Deep Creek are alive with color. Little River Road will probably offer the best driving experience over the next seven to ten days.

Depending on the weather, these areas should continue to have vibrant colors for the next week to two weeks. Some recommended low elevation hikes include Deep Creek to Indian Creek Loop Trail, Gabes Mountain Trail, and the Old Surgarlands Trail.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall Colors at Peak in the Smokies

According to recent postings and photos published on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Facebook page, fall colors have reached their peak at the middle and lower elevation of the park. Since rain is expected to move into the area on Sunday and Monday, now is the time to get out and enjoy the autumn colors while you can. In fact, the forecast for tomorrow is absolutely perfect for a hike in the park.

If you need any help on where to hike tomorrow or Saturday, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And, if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, October 23, 2015

Smokies Asks Visitors to View Bears Responsibly

Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists remind the public to allow bears to forage undisturbed on natural foods during this critical feeding period before winter hibernation. Bears depend on fall foods such as acorns and grapes to store fat reserves that enable them to survive winter. This year, these foods in the park are extremely rare leading bears to move long distances in search of food.

Many bears have been reported well outside the park boundary including several sightings in busy, downtown communities and neighborhoods. Recently, a mother bear with a GPS-monitoring collar and three cubs traveled over 20 miles from the Elkmont area of the park to downtown Sevierville, TN. Local residents are reminded to keep residential garbage secured and to remove any other attractants such as bird feeders and pet foods.

In addition to greater movement in search of food, bears are also foraging on less-desirable mast such as hickories and walnuts. Park staff have reported as many as eight different bears visiting a single hickory tree to feed on nuts. Park officials are temporarily closing areas around these scarce food sources to allow bears access to forage. Visitors are reminded to respect these closed areas to give bears an opportunity to eat undisturbed and build up fat reserves for the winter. Photographers are reminded to use telephoto lenses to capture photographs and to remain at least 50 yards from bears at all times.

“There were no cherries this year and the hard mast is marginal at best,” said Smokies Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “Because food is scare, bears are trying to access individual trees in areas they normally would not during good food years.”

Feeding bears is illegal and all food waste should be properly disposed of to discourage bears from approaching people. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park. If approached by a bear, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Fall Colors in Smokies Nears Peak at Middle Elevations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report:
Middle elevation areas throughout that park are nearing peak this week. Lower elevation areas still have a lot of green, but recent cold nights and sunny days have jump started color development in the foothills.

High elevation areas are now past peak and most trees have already lost their leaves. However, views from Newfound Gap Road and other high elevation roads such Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain will be beautiful as you look down into colorful middle and lower elevation areas. Foothills Parkway and roads in the communities surrounding the park should also provide good viewing opportunities over the next week or so.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Smokies Records Highest September Visitation in History

Visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is up 5.5 percent through September 2015. Over 8 million visitors have come to the park so far this year. The increase has led to record months of visitation in both May and September with visitation surpassing 1 million visitors during each month. In September, the park welcomed 1,081,773 visitors, the most ever since the park began recording monthly visitation in 1979.

With over a million visitors during each of these shoulder-season months, the park is well above the ten-year average of 750,000 visitors during May and 900,000 visitors during September. The increased visitation has also led to increased use of the park's two main visitor centers, campgrounds, and backcountry campsites. Overall, overnight camping in the frontcountry is up 8.7 percent in 2015, while backcountry camping is up 11.4 percent.

"The Smokies continue to be one of the premier destinations in the southeastern United States," said Superintendent Cassius Cash. "This record setting visitation on our shoulder seasons reminds us that no matter when you come to the Smokies the opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and discovery are endless whether you're on one of our busy scenic roadways or less traveled areas."

This year's record setting visitation follows the park's busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors came to the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Smokies Hosts Birds of Prey at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to a special birds of prey program presented by Doris Mager on Sunday, October 25 at 10:00 a.m. The program will be on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Known as "The Eagle Lady", Ms. Mager has been working with raptors for over 35 years. She has cared for over 80 injured eagles and hundreds of other raptors, housing up to 36 birds at one time. In 1983, she established an educational and research group called Save Our American Raptors (SOAR). Part of her research work included conducting aerial surveys of bald eagle nesting sites for scientists studying the population and habits of birds in the wild.

Ms. Mager continues to travel throughout the U.S. doing educational programs with a 34-year-old great horned owl known as E.T., screech owl, and American kestrel. Mager's program provides a unique opportunity for visitors to see raptors up close as they learn about features and habits of these fascinating birds. After eight years of providing programs at in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this will likely be Ms. Mager's last appearance as she will be moving away from the area.

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road approximately 2 miles north of Cherokee, N.C. For more information about the program, please call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828) 497-1904.

For more information on birds in the park, please see http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/birds.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smokies Plans Prescribed Burns in Cades Cove and Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced a series of controlled burns within the Cades Cove and Cataloochee areas of the park. Both operations could begin as early as Monday, October 26th.

Park fire management officials are planning a series of controlled burns within the Cades Cove area of the park, weather permitting, which could begin as early as Monday, October 26, and may continue intermittently through mid-November. Fire managers have identified multiple fields totaling approximately 300 acres for fire treatment. These controlled burns will reduce woody encroachment into the fields, help perpetuate native herbaceous species, reduce exotic plant species, and maintain the historic landscape of the cove.

During prescribed fire operations, visitors may experience brief delays due to activities adjacent to the loop road or smoke. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones. If smoke is present, keep windows up and headlights on, and do not stop on roadways. Staff members will be present at overlooks to answer questions during operations.

The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use but brief delays or temporary closures of adjacent roads and trails may occur to ensure public safety during operations. Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burns.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials are also planning a 600-acre prescribed burn in the Canadian Top project area adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, October 26, and may continue intermittently through early November. The burn unit is located on Bald Top and Jesse Ridge adjacent to the Little Cataloochee Trail between Davidson Branch and Mossy Branch.

Fire managers plan to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the oak woodlands on the area's upper slopes and ridges. This will be the second time fire has been used on this site as part of that restoration effort. Fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region. The controlled burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

"One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat," stated Great Smoky Wildland Fire Module Leader and Burn Boss, Shane Paxton. Over time, the increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows. Roads and trails will remain open to the public though temporary closures to the Little Cataloochee Trail may occur if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is the Smokey Bear Ad Campaign Effective?

So I was listening to late night radio the other night when I heard the latest Smokey Bear PSA for the umpteenth time. For some reason the tagline phrase at the end of the commercial, “9 out of 10 wildfires are started by humans”, stood out for me this time. We’ve all heard that statistic a million times, but have you ever considered that this is basically the same stat that’s been cited since the launch of the Smokey Bear campaign?

In 1944 the Smokey Bear campaign was launched with the mission of creating and maintaining public awareness of wild fires. The campaign's original catch phrase, "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires", was proclaimed on the very first campaign poster (seen on the right). According to the Smokey Bear website, “Fire prevention was a real concern since 9 out of 10 wildfires were human caused during the period 1946 to 1950.”

However, that same statistic continues to be cited today in current Smokey Bear commercials, as well as on the NPS Fire and Aviation Management website, the Insurance Information Institute website, and various national forest websites. According to a graph published by EcoWest, using data from the National Interagency Fire Center, the percent of human-caused wildfires has remained fairly constant between the years 2001 and 2012 (red line):

So the question that came to mind while lying in bed that night was how is it, or why haven’t we seen a significant decrease in the number of human-caused wildfires since the Smokey Bear campaign was launched more than 70 years ago? No doubt the campaign has been highly successful in raising awareness of the issue over the years. According to the Ad Council (which runs the Smokey Bear campaign), “96 percent of U.S. adults recognize him, and 70 percent are able to recall his message without prompting.” That's an incredible statistic – one that every marketer in the world wishes they could claim! But why haven’t we seen an improvement in the number of human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years?

In defense of the Ad Council, they also state on their website that “Most importantly, the average number of acres lost annually to wildfire has decreased from 22 million in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million today.“ A quick glance at annual wildfire data published by the National Interagency Fire Center would seem to confirm this claim. However, at the bottom of that report, it notes that annual wildland fire statistics
“is provided through Situation Reports, which have been in use for several decades. Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures above prior to 1983 shouldn’t be compared to later data.”
Interestingly, the number of fires reported before 1983 is far greater than the years that follow, though the number of acres burned is comparatively constant (the data only goes back to 1960). From my point of view, the claim from the Ad Council appears to be an “apples to oranges” comparison, and therefore isn’t valid. Moreover, it appears the Ad Council is comparing one year – 1944 – to the most recent 12-year average, which isn’t a statistically valid way of comparing the two time periods. As you can see in the chart below (published by the Insurance Information Institute), the total number of acres burned each year fluctuates widely (graph shows number of acres in millions from 1980 to 2014):

It’s very possible that 1944 was an outlier year. An average from that time period, with valid data using the same collection methods and from same sources as used today would be the only correct way to measure this claim. Which brings me back to my original question: why haven’t we seen an improvement in the number of human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years?

Is it possible that our collective conservationist ethic hasn’t improved, or is less now than in years past? It would seem unlikely, but I don’t have any data to support or refute this assertion.

Is it a generational phenomenon? In other words, is it a lesson, or an awareness issue, that each generation has to learn as they come of age? A review of the statistics on the ages of all the human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years would prove (or disprove) that theory. Unfortunately I don’t have access to those statistics, but they would be interesting to see, and would be the only logical reason why we haven’t seen an improvement in this problem over the last several decades. Indeed, it does appear that the Ad Council tries to target younger people, especially when you consider the campaign tactics that have been used over the years. However, can you really say that the campaign has been successful when the needle hasn’t moved in 70 years?

What are your thoughts? Is there another reason for the problem that I'm overlooking? Is there a more effective way of dealing with the issue? Is the Ad Council wasting our federal tax dollars on a problem it hasn’t fixed?



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, October 16, 2015

Smokies Fall Color Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report:
High elevation areas are past peak as of this week with most trees having already lost their leaves. Anywhere above 4,500 feet fall colors are nearly all the way through their cycle and any leaves left will drop soon. However, views from Newfound Gap and other high elevation overlooks will be beautiful as the middle and lower elevations begin to pop with color over the next few weeks and into November.

Weather forecasts for significantly lower overnight temperatures through the weekend will accelerate the middle and lower elevations transition. There are several locations along Newfound Gap Road, Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads, and the Foothills Parkway where visitors will begin seeing this progression over the next 10-14 days. There is still plenty of green in the middle elevations, which may cause a patch fall color presentation.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your Ultimate Guide to Horseback Riding in the Smoky Mountains

Below is a guest blog by Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States with over 9 million guests per year, and this year you should be one of them! With breathtaking views, fascinating wildlife, and a variety of activities to choose from, the park has something for everyone to enjoy. Horseback riding in the Smokys is an exciting way for guests to take in the incredible sights and is a beloved activity by locals and visitors alike.

Experience Horseback Riding in Gatlinburg Tennessee

During your stay at the many cozy and relaxing Gatlinburg cabins available, you can explore the beautiful scenery and learn about the history of the area, all while sitting atop a gentle and majestic creature. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or have never even been in the saddle, this will be an experience in the mountains that you won’t soon forget. When you go horseback riding in Gatlinburg, be sure to check out some of our favorite trails.

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

For a peaceful walking tour with stunning mountain scenery, try horseback riding with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables. Perfect for riders of all skill levels, their well-trained horses will lead you through trails inside the park where you’ll be surrounded by lush woods and flowing mountain streams. You might even come face-to-face with native wildlife including wild turkeys, deer, or black bear! You can also receive 45 minutes of free horseback riding with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables when you stay with Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg for four days. It’s a great deal and a great way to experience the Smokys like never before.

Cades Cove Riding Stables

Experience over 6,000 acres of exceptional woodland when you take a horseback tour with Cades Cove Riding Stables. Located in the East Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove has rich natural and cultural history that will be explained by your knowledgeable guide. You’ll venture trails that transverse 5,500-foot mountain peaks, and will have plenty of chances for awesome photos. Plus, their horses have been handpicked for calm temperament, athletic ability, and willingness to please, so you’re guaranteed to have the best riding experience possible.

Smokemont Riding Stables

You and your family will love choosing from one of three amazing rides when you visit Smokemont Riding Stables. Travel through forests and across the Oconaluftee River during their hourly ride, or take their waterfall ride where you’ll climb a steep mountain trail for magnificent views of the scenery and a waterfall. On the four-hour ride, you and your horse will follow a wooded trail along the river and can stop to admire two cascading waterfalls. It’s the perfect way to spend the day exploring the natural beauty of Gatlinburg.

Start Your Smoky Mountain Adventure

Now that you know some of the best places to horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains, it’s time to start planning your trip! With over 550 miles of trails open to horses, riding through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect way to spend the day in Gatlinburg.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, October 9, 2015

Caught on Video: 4 Hikers Survive Suspension Bridge Failure

Sorry, but it's been quite a few years since I've brushed up on my high school French, but you really don't need to know the language to know how frightening this had to have been for these four hikers in New Zealand. The video was published a few days ago by Adrien Whistle, presumably from France. Based on the Google translation, the video essentially states that one of the main cables of the suspension bridge broke as the four hikers were crossing it, at which point they fell 8 meters (26 feet) into the river. Fortunately there were no serious injuries. It's pretty crazy that the whole episode was caught on film:





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Smokies Fall Color Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report yesterday afternoon. According to the latest report:
Fall color continues to progress in the high elevations of the park. Many high elevation areas (above 4,500') are near, to slightly past, peak this week. Areas around Newfound Gap are colorful now. There is still a significant amount of green at the higher elevations though, which means color will continue to develop over the next few days. Views along the first half of Clingmans Dome Road and in the higher reaches of Newfound Gap Road should be good though early next week.

Middle and low elevations are still predominantly green with a scattering of fall color here and there. But signs of change are becoming more noticeable. Some vibrant reds have developed on dogwoods, sourwoods, and a few maples. We're also starting to see a bit of yellow developing. The vivid red leaves of Virginia creeper vine are very noticeable climbing tree trunks now. Overall however, there's not a great deal of fall color in the lower elevations yet -- the season here is still two or three weeks away.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com