Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Armed Suspect Search Closes Portions of Pisgah Ranger District

On Saturday, July 22, 2017, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Deputies received a BOLO from Henderson County in reference to a suspect vehicle in a breaking and entering in Mills River near the Transylvania and Henderson County Line. Later this same morning, Patrol Deputies with the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office located a vehicle matching the description in Pisgah National Forest, just off U.S. Highway 276 North. When a patrol deputy attempted to initiate a vehicle stop on Avery’s Creek Road, the suspect refused to stop and a vehicle pursuit ensued.

The suspect continued on Avery’s Creek Road, and at one point quickly exited his vehicle, and stole a mountain bike, while pointing a firearm (unknown handgun) at the victim / owner. The suspect placed the stolen bike in his vehicle, and the vehicle pursuit continued. TCSO Deputies were unable to make contact at that instance due to the crowded nature of hikers and campers on the roadway. The suspect then blocked the roadway, parking his vehicle sideways, got on the stolen mountain bike, and fled into the woods.

A perimeter was established in the area, and the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team (SRT) was called out to attempt to locate the suspect. Other agencies assisting in the manhunt include the Brevard Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, the NC State Highway Patrol (including helicopter support), the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office (including a Special Response Team), the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of this press release, the suspect has not been located.

The suspect has been positively identified as Phillip Michael Stroupe II (photo and updates here), Date of Birth 7/25/1978 (38 years old), with a last known address of Weaverville, NC. He is described as a white male, approximately 5-feet 8-inches tall, with a small build; he has a shaved head and a large distinct tattoo on his neck just under his chin. HE IS CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS. The suspect has a history of violence and resisting law enforcement. He has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for kidnapping, and he also has pending charges in Yancey County.

If anyone has any information, please contact the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 884-3168.


The latest closure information:

Highway 276 on the Pisgah Ranger District and Davidson River Road (#475) have now reopened.

Attractions along Highway 276 are now open except for the Cradle of Forestry. Sliding Rock is open but restrooms are closed and no lifeguards are on duty today. Regular operations will resume tomorrow.

Remaining closed are North Mills River Campground, Wash Creek Group Horse Camp, Yellow Gap Road, and Wash Creek Road due to continued law enforcement activities in those areas.

Numerous law enforcement agencies led by Transylvania County Sheriff's Office are engaged in a search for a suspect who is known to be armed and dangerous.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Pisgah National Forest issues Warning about Black Bears in the Pink Beds Vicinity

The Pisgah National Forest is warning visitors going to the Pink Beds in the Pisgah Ranger District to be on the look-out for black bears.

The warning comes after a recent bear encounter was reported by campers in the Pink Beds. The encounter resulted in minor property damage and no injuries. The campers reported that the bear rummaged through their belongings after they heard the bear and left the site. The campers also reported that their food was stored in the trunk of their car.

This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips. While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:

* If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.

* If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.

* If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.

If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.

Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing these additional safety tips:

* Do not store food in tents

* Properly store food and scented items like toothpaste by using a bear-proof container

* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite

* Do not leave food unattended

* Never run away from a bear—back away slowly and make lots of noise

The large number of bear sightings and encounters in the past few years has led to required use of bear-proof canisters in the Shining Rock and Graveyard Fields areas. Backcountry users must use commercially-made canisters constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.



Jeff
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Join Park Rangers for Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce a new opportunity for the public to participate in service projects across the park. Park staff have coordinated ten Smokies Service Days on Saturdays beginning July 22 through October 28. Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park cemeteries, campgrounds, trails, roadsides, rivers, and native plant gardens.

This new volunteer program will help complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements including students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and working adults with busy schedules. Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants will be required to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and bring water. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or logan_boldon@partner.nps.gov at least three days prior to the scheduled event date to register.

Service opportunities include:

July 22: Litter Patrol on the Spur
August 5: Gardening at Oconaluftee
August 12: Cemetery Rehabilitation at Elkmont
August 26: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont
September 9: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont
September 30: Trail Rehabilitation for National Public Lands Day
October 7: Farm Maintenance at Oconaluftee
October 14: Vegetation Management at Twin Creeks
October 21: Historic Preservation and Campground Clean-Up at Cataloochee
October 28: Litter Patrol and Stream Restoration at Deep Creek



Jeff
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Smokies Reminds Visitors about Clingmans Dome Road Closure for the Solar Eclipse Event

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reminding visitors that Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to all access beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 through the evening of Monday, August 21 following the event. No overnight parking will be allowed at Clingmans Dome Parking Area or pull-offs, parking areas, and trailheads along the road during this time period. The road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

During the closure, all trails, campsites and shelters in the backcountry will remain open, but backpackers should carefully consider the road closure when planning their itineraries. All vehicles must be clear of Clingmans Dome Road by 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 19. An interactive map is available on the park website at http://go.nps.gov/GRSM_ECLIPSE where backcountry users can view which backcountry campsites are within the path of totality.

Clingmans Dome Road is the only park road closed for the solar eclipse event, but park visitors should be prepared for high volume traffic across all park roads on Monday, August 21. Vehicles cannot stop in the roadway and must be parked in designated parking areas. If roads become congested or cause a safety concern, rangers may temporarily close them to additional inbound traffic until after the eclipse to reduce traffic congestion and allow access for emergency response. Visitors should expect temporary road closures throughout the day.

While the western half of the park lies within the path of totality, there are limited roads and parking areas available for travel. The risk of traffic jams and road closures is likely to increase throughout the morning of August 21. Managers suggest that visitors plan ahead to find the right eclipse experience for their situation. Many communities outside of the national park are hosting special events to observe and celebrate the celestial phenomena and those locales may be a great alternative for locals or travelers not wanting to risk traffic congestion in the park. Visit the park website for more information at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/2017-solar-eclipse.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Partnership Rekindled Between Smokies and the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and U.S. Forest Service officials gathered to announce the re-establishment of an important partnership between the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (JCCCC) and the park. The two organizations signed an agreement establishing a pathway for career developmental opportunities for youth.

“We are fortunate to have the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center in our backyard,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This partnership will allow hard-working youth an opportunity to acquire important, trade skills as they work alongside park staff. These skills can help them transition into the workforce of tomorrow.”

This partnership will provide robust training opportunities for students which will enable them to support the National Parks commitment to the preservation and conservation of our public lands. Students will receive on-the-job training and hands-on experience by working jointly with national park staff in the protection of resources, prescribed fire, facility maintenance, and administration.

“We are truly elated to partner with the National Park Service,” said Oconaluftee Job Corps Center Director Jimmy Copeland. “This partnership brings education, awareness, and training opportunities to our youth thus creating pipelines for employment and resource awareness in their future. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an integral part of the success of our center and we are excited to work more closely with them in serving our communities.”

Over the past 30 years, students from the Oconaluftee JCCCC have assisted the park in the removal of exotic plant species, treatment of forest insect pests, facility construction, and wildland fire fighting. Some students have gone on to receive seasonal and permanent employment with the National Park Service. This renewed partnership will allow students to receive important certifications along with job training.

The Oconaluftee JCCCC is nestled within Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Cherokee, NC. The Job Corps program is the nation’s largest residential, educational, and career technical training program that prepares economically disadvantaged youth, ranging in age from 16 to 24, for productive employment. Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (JCCCCs) are associated with national forests or grasslands and are operated by the Forest Service under an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, which has the overall management of the Job Corps program.

USDA Forest Service operates 26 JCCCCs that span seven Forest Service regions, 23 national forests and grasslands and 17 states with a capacity to house, educate, and train over 5,000 enrollees. In addition to offering enrollees the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and enroll in college classes, JCCCCs offer vocational training in more than 30 occupations, many of which are pre-apprenticeship programs managed international trade unions.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, June 30, 2017

District Attorney Issues Statement on Chimney Tops 2 Fire: Charges Dropped

The following is a statement issued today by James B. Dunn, District Attorney, Fourth Judicial District:

For the past seven months, an investigation has been underway into the origin, cause and consequences of a fire that started on November 23, 20165, in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park referred to the Chimney Tops. The investigation is now complete the investigation was led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the National Park Service and local law enforcement, as well as various other local, state and federal agencies. The investigation involved thousands of investigative hours, over 100 witness and expert interviews across multiple states, thousands of potential witnesses, as well as thousands of pages of documents, records photographs and hours of video evidence and audio recordings.

After a comprehensive review of all of the evidence gathered and presented by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Gatlinburg Police Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the State, in consultation with other law enforcement agencies and various experts in wildfire progression, has determined that the unprecedented, unexpected and unforeseeable wind event that started in the early morning hours of November 28,2016, approximately four and a half days after the initial origin of the fire, was the primary reason of the Chimney Tops II fire traveled outside the park into Gatlinburg. But for the winds that reached speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, it is highly unlikely and improbably that the Chimney Tops II fire would have left the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and reached Gatlinburg.

Because of this intervening weather event, the State is unable to prove the criminal responsibility of two juveniles beyond a reasonable doubt for the devastation that occurred outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the wind, the State’s cause is further complicated by the fact that there were other fires in the area and other confirmed ignition points in the Gatlinburg area from multiple downed power lines that were felled by the wind. Some of these fires appear to have erupted prior to the fire from the Park breaching the Gatlinburg city limits. Once the investigation confirmed multiple fires with multiple points of origin, it became impossible to prove which fire may have caused the death of an individual or damage to a particular structure. Based upon this evidence, the State’s case was narrowed to prosecuting conduct that occurred wholly within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Once the State determined that is prosecution may be limited to conduct and actions occurring within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the District Attorney’s Office conducted additional research and investigation into jurisdictional issues regarding criminal prosecution by the State for actions or events that occur wholly within National Park land. This investigation and research revealed the existence of two documents or “Memoranda of Agreement” regarding concurrent criminal jurisdiction between the State of Tennessee and the National Park Service. One of these documents specifically lists the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as being part of a concurrent criminal jurisdiction agreement between the State of Tennessee and the National Park Service on behalf of the Federal Government. The second of these documents is an exact duplicate of the first, save one critical difference: it does not include the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the agreement. Eleven other National Park Service on behalf of the Federal Government. The second of these documents is an exact duplicate of the first, save one critical difference: it does not include the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the agreement. Eleven other National Park Service properties are listed on each document. It is unclear how both of these documents got into circulation, but it is clear that both have been used by various agencies in different contests.

After becoming aware of these competing documents, the State notified the Defense immediately and sought advice from the State Attorney General’s Office as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office as to which document was controlling and whether or not the State could prosecute criminal acts that occur within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After reviewing the documents, both the State Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office advised that it was their respective opinions that the State of Tennessee does not have jurisdiction to prosecute criminal acts that occur wholly within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Therefore, any prosecution for criminal conduct occurring entirely within the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park must be initiated by the federal government.

Based upon these findings, the State has no other option but to dismiss the charges currently pending in state court as there is no subject matter jurisdiction that would allow the state court to take any action. To retain jurisdiction, the State must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one element of a criminal offense occurred outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and within the State’s jurisdiction. The State has concluded that this burden cannot be met due to the intervening weather event that occurred before any fire reached the State’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the decision to prosecute any individuals alleged to have caused a fire within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is now within the purview of the United States Department of Justice.

The District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial District would like to thank all agencies, law enforcement and otherwise, including the TBI, the National Park Service, the Sevier county Sheriff’s Office (with special recognition for the outstanding work done by the GIS Division), the Gatlinburg Police Department, the Pigeon Forge Police Department, the Pittman Center Police Department, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry, for their incredible hard work in investigating this unprecedented event. This office would also like to thank and commend the hundreds of firefighters and police officers from the national, regional, state and local levels for their extraordinary bravery and courage in confronting these fires.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, June 23, 2017

USDA Announces $20 Million for Jobs for Young People, Veterans

USDA and partners committed $20 million in 21st Century Conservation Service Corps partnership agreements to provide 4,000 work opportunities for youth, young adults and veterans up to 35 years old, a move that will help the U.S. Forest Service accomplish mission-critical infrastructure and landscape restoration projects on the ground. The U.S. Forest Service is one of seventeen USDA Agencies.

The funding represents investments by USDA of $13 million and $7 million from partner organizations. Contributions by the Forest Service and partners are expected to reach $40 million by the end of 2017 and provide 11,000 work opportunities. Some funds are already placed with 21st Century Conservation Service Corps partnership agreements; other funds will continue to be obligated throughout the summer.

“The 21st Century Conservation Corps is not merely a summer jobs program,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This is about nurturing our public lands as well as our veterans, youth and young adults through a variety of opportunities to develop leadership potential and professional and personal connections through work across many diverse landscapes.”

The work accomplished by participants will include hundreds of miles of trail maintenance and improvements, watershed protection, removal of vegetation as part of wildfire prevention, improvements to recreation facilities, and other essential work on lands managed by the Forest Service.

Since the program started in 2014, the Forest Service generated nearly 30,000 opportunities for youth and veterans to work on projects that benefit public lands. Corps partners provide hands-on service and job training while working with the Forest Service and other land management agencies to build America’s rural and urban economies, strengthen America’s infrastructure, and modernize the way government works.

Involving veterans in these opportunities helps them learn new skills while continuing to serve their nation and local communities. In FY 2016, 910 veterans were engaged on Forest Service volunteerism and service projects, of which 170 participated in 21st Century Conservation Corps projects. In FY 2017, the agency expects to hire 186 veterans.

About 20 percent of the 4,000 opportunities funded by this year’s commitment will be for Youth Conservation Corps jobs, a summer employment program on public lands that employ high school-aged youth. About 25 percent of the dedicated resources will support high-priority trail maintenance and improvements.

Projects will be on public lands in rural communities from coast to coast and will include diverse work experiences.

Annually, the Forest Service engages about 100,000 volunteers and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps participants. As part of an emphasis on strengthening and deepening connections with the public through outdoor experiences, the agency is committed to expanding its capacity for greater volunteerism and community service. The goal is to increase engagement to 115,000 volunteers by 2020 mostly through individual and partner organizations committed to the conservation of the public lands legacy.

To participate in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps contact a member organization.

For additional information about funded projects, jobs, volunteering and other opportunities for young people, visit the Forest Service online Working with Us page.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse Will Cross Thru Cherokee National Forest

On August 21, 2017 at approximately 2:30 pm EDT a total eclipse of the sun will pass over parts of southeast Tennessee. What some are calling the "Great American Eclipse" will pass over 12 states, including Tennessee. The eclipse (partial) will be visible throughout the United Sates. A 70 mile wide path of total darkness begins in Oregon and exits the nation at South Carolina. Areas within the 70 mile wide path will experience total darkness for up to 2 mins 40 seconds. The southern portion of the Cherokee National Forest (Ocoee & Tellico Ranger Districts) is within the 70 mile wide total darkness path.

During a total solar eclipse shadow bands are often seen on the ground as totality approaches; Light filtering through leaves on trees casts crescent shadows as totality approaches; Wildlife often prepare for sleep or become confused; and temperatures can drop several degrees during totality.

Community Events: The total eclipse path will pass through the southern portion of the Cherokee National Forest in Monroe, McMinn and Polk counties. Communities throughout the area will be hosting celebrations and showcasing local and regional culture. Many of these areas offer excellent opportunities to view the eclipse while enjoying art, music, and local cuisine. These events are easily accessible and offer various amenities. There are a number of online sources to learn more about the eclipse and activities in the area. One such site is: http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/states/TN.htm

Cherokee National Forest: Some people may wish to view the eclipse in a more natural setting. Much of the Cherokee National Forest is remote and rugged, and the environment is much different than in urban areas. Planning your visit ahead of time may help make it more enjoyable and safer.

Some locations that may seem suitable for viewing the eclipse in the southern Cherokee National Forest may have environmental or road access concerns associated with them. Many locations outside of developed recreation areas have rough dirt/gravel roads leading to them with limited access, parking, crowd capacity, restricted traffic flow and no sanitation facilities or water.

National forest visitors should expect many locations to be heavily visited and congested. Forest Service management is focused on public safety and protecting the natural and cultural resources. It may be necessary to control traffic and parking and to restrict vehicular access to some locations. Management measures for a number of locations are being developed. When these are finalized, a summary for each location , and other information, will be publicized and posted to the Cherokee National Forest website: http://fs.usda.gov/cherokee



Jeff
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Shenandoah National Park Announces a Fee Free Day on June 17 in Honor of Park Neighbor Day

Shenandoah National Park will waive entrance fees for all park visitors on Saturday, June 17 in celebration of Park Neighbor Day, an annual event held on the third Saturday of June to honor our neighbors who live in the counties and gateway communities surrounding the Park.

Visitors are encouraged to stop by the Big Meadows Wayside (mile 51 on Skyline Drive) from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. to learn about the rich heritage and diverse amenities available in our gateway communities. The Park's partner organizations (Shenandoah National Park Trust, Shenandoah National Park Association, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and Delaware North Corporation) will also be present to highlight the important activities they undertake to support Shenandoah National Park. There will be music by local artists and exhibits by our local communities to showcase the variety of features they have to offer.

Superintendent Jennifer Flynn said, "Shenandoah National Park is a part of the fabric of our communities, providing nearly $96 million in economic benefit, as well as health benefits and recreational opportunities. The Park's surrounding communities enrich our lives and our visitors' experiences with their vibrant downtowns, agritourism, and historical resources, including Civil War battlefields and so much more. We hope many of our neighbors will take advantage of the fee free day to rediscover the park and enjoy the activities offered during Park Neighbor Day."

Other special events will also be taking place at Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 Skyline Drive) on Saturday, June 17. Renowned author Jeff Alt, of the book Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep It Fun will present a program at the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium from 11:00 a.m - noon. Join Jeff as he teams up with Shenandoah National Park Rangers to lead kids and accompanying adults on a short hike loaded with hands-on family hiking tips and ways to explore the outdoors. This short family stroll turns a walk in the park into a fun-filled, multi-dimensional adventure that kids of all ages and parents will enjoy. Jeff will return to the Byrd Visitor Center on Sunday, June 18 from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. to present a program featuring interactive time travel adventures based on his book The Adventures of Bubba Jones: Time Traveling through Shenandoah National Park. Jeff’s Bubba Jones stories are designed to engage kids with wild animal encounters, interesting history, science, and the environment and will have your entire family excited to take your own Shenandoah adventure. These programs are free to park visitors.

A special presentation on June 17 by Artist-in-Residence Kevin H. Adams will take place at 1:30 p.m. in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium. Come and experience his interactive demonstration showcasing his artwork that is inspired by the wonder of the national parks. This program is also free.

Shenandoah National Park's official concessionaire, Delaware North will welcome park neighbors by providing residents of the surrounding counties with discounts. They will provide a 10% discount on select items in their retail stores and a 10% discount on food and some beverage items at all their restaurants. Visitors wishing to take advantage of these discounts will be required to provide proof of residency by showing their Virginia driver's license.

For more information about our special events, please visit our website at https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/special_events.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Volunteers Needed for Rainbow Falls Trail Rehabilitation

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently recruiting for volunteers to assist the Trails Forever trail crew for a rehabilitation project on the Rainbow Falls Trail. Volunteers are needed every Wednesday from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Volunteers must register at least one week in advance by contacting Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator, Adam Monroe, by email or phone.

The Trails Forever crew will focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections. Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by reducing trail braiding and improving drainage to prevent further erosion.

“This work will be a long-term solution to the various safety and route finding issues found along this section of the Rainbow Falls Trail and will allow visitors to enjoy the trail and the scenic areas surrounding it safely for years to come,” said Tobias Miller, Trails and Roads Facility Manager. “This project would not be possible without the generous support from our park partner, Friends of the Smokies, who provide funding for the project through the trails forever endowment program.”

The Trails Forever program provides opportunities for both skilled and non-skilled volunteers to work alongside park crews to make lasting improvements to park trails. The Rainbow Falls Trail project provides a great opportunity to improve a part of the park that was damaged by the 2016 wildfires.

Trails Forever volunteers will perform a wide range of trail maintenance and trail rehabilitation work depending on volunteer experience level including installing drainage features, rehabilitating trail surfaces, constructing raised trail segments, removing brush, or planting vegetation. While these jobs may vary in complexity, all Trails Forever volunteers must be able to hike at least 4 miles and safely perform strenuous and often difficult manual labor. Volunteers should be comfortable lifting heavy objects and using hand tools such as shovels, rakes, axes, and sledgehammers. The park will provide all the safety gear, tools and equipment needed for the projects. Volunteers will need to wear boots and long pants and bring a day pack with food, water, rain gear and any other personal gear for the day.

The Trails Forever program is a partnership between the national park and Friends of the Smokies. To sign up for a work day or for more information, contact Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or Adam_Monroe@nps.gov. Prior notice of your attendance is mandatory for project planning. More information and Frequently Asked Questions can be found at https://friendsofthesmokies.org/trailsforever/volunteer/.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

After the Fire, the Smoky Mountains Surge Back

The following is a guest blog from Gatlinburg Falls Resort:

Spring 2017 brought good news for anyone worried about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park experienced headline-grabbing wildfires in December 2016, leaving many who love the park worried about its condition. We’re happy to report that both GSMNP and the city of Gatlinburg have recovered nicely.

The forest floor is recovering rapidly with new green shoots in the scattered burn areas, and Gatlinburg is in full swing as a bustling attraction filled with fun, music, people and excitement.

As spring came to the Smokies in 2017, we saw the whole area become green. Soon we learned that, of the 800 miles of hiking trails in the national park, only 4 trails would remain closed for upgrade work, while all the rest were already reopening. Park rangers worked hard through the winter to restore the greatest accessibility for the greatest number. And visits to the park, by the end of April, had actually edged up slightly over last year, which was itself a record-breaking year.

Throughout the winter it was clear also that food supplies for wildlife were unaffected, and habitat damage was minimal. The animals experienced the same terrifying kind of trauma and sometimes individual loss as the humans in the area, but for the most part they survived. And in spring we've seen great activity in the national park. 2017 is a good year to catch sight of new bear cubs with Mama Bear, deer and their fawns, coyotes and even the elusive, fast-moving bobcats.

It's a strange thing to say, after the loss and heartbreak of the winter fires, but springtime in the Smoky Mountains this year reminded us that Nature can put a forest fire to very good use for regeneration and renewal. The fires probably killed a lot of parasites and already-weakened plant systems, including the dead hemlock trees that were such a sorrowful sight. What's happening now is the intense regrowth that follows a fire.

The Understory

The fires were always about the forest floor. We lost some canopy trees, but much of the burn involved dead leaf and undergrowth. Some bark was singed but roots were largely untouched, and most trees escaped intact, leaving the national park with its numerous forests and more than 100 species of trees.

During March and April we saw an amazing bloom of wildflowers, and the forest floor - the understory - came alive with regeneration. The tireless volunteers of Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) recorded video clips and photographs of some of these quiet events happening low to the ground.

This YouTube video clip from March shows the regrowth beginning with Table Mountain Pines, a fire-adapted species whose seeds are helped to propagate through fire: Table Mountain Pine Stand.

And here in a Facebook video clip are the parasite-devastated hemlock trees that looked so bare and were such an anxiety for lovers of the forests. They were taken by fire, almost perhaps as nature's way to reduce their presence? It's an interesting thought: The Fire and the Hemlock.

Down at the soil level, fungus proliferates. Fungus seems to heal all soils, and in the burn areas fungal colonization is coming on strong. Here are some pictures of mycorrhizae, perhaps the most beneficial fungi throughout the world, the hidden helpers that coexist with plants and trees - often the first to appear after wildfires, beginning the process of renewal: These Are the Mycorrhizae.

1. Mycorrhizae - Image courtesy of GSMA

And in this latest “Smoky Mountain Minute” video from GSMA, University of Tennessee professor Karen Hughes describes a variety of fungi that are abundant this spring: Wildfire Mushrooms.

Telling the Story

It was always hard to get the word out that Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas were only sporadically hit by the fires. We're accustomed to watching wildfires on TV that cover thousands of acres in one huge swath of fire, marching on against firefighting efforts, and leaving a vast, monolithic area of devastation in its wake. But this fire was very different.

The fire started on the ironically and aptly named Chimney Tops, a high outcrop hard for firefighters to get to. Then the winds came, with storm-force velocities that picked up embers and threw them across many miles, so that new hot spots sprang up with no warning, often surrounding firefighters who were then hard-pressed to flee for their lives. And 14 people didn't make it out alive of the dizzying cauldron of fires. The speed and surprise of the countless new small fires are what made this fire event so terrifying. But also, by contrast, this sporadic and random effect left immense areas - and all the major attractions of the area - completely untouched by fire.

If the extreme winds carried the sparks very far, they also seemed to carry bad news across the country instantly, long before the more sober reality could catch up. In the first hours we heard that Ober Gatlinburg, the ski area on Mt. Harrison above Gatlinburg, was completely destroyed. But when the smoke cleared, the resort was untouched, although as with many local businesses, some employees had lost their homes in the area.

Some 2,400 structures were burned by the fires, many of them cabins in the forests, but still only a fraction of the built infrastructure of the area. And as local organizations such as Cabins of the Smoky Mountains tried to tell in releases and updates, less than 5% of the land area was touched - some 17,000 acres in the entire region, while Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone holds half a million acres. Even in the first days, it was possible to drive all around the area without running into evidence of fires. And so it is now, even more so in this green summer in the Smoky Mountains.

2. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, May 2017 - Image courtesy of Gatlinburg.com

As for the people of the area, they call themselves mountain tough, on terms with Nature and its events. On Friday, May 26, 2017, a landmark event took place, as the Gatlinburg Sky Lift reopened, in time for Memorial Day weekend. A great favorite for countless thousands of visitors over many decades, the Sky Lift offered one of the best views of Gatlinburg and the layered ridges of the Smoky Mountains all around. It was a fun way to lift up out of the bustle of the main drag and experience the true vastness of the area - a breath of air and a sense of place. The Sky Lift was one of the few attractions in Gatlinburg to be touched by the fires, and the owners decided to rebuild it completely.

And in this way, life goes on, while the soil renews and the towns are alive and eager for guests to return. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fully open for "business" (it's the only national park in the country with free admission). And it's a good year, here in 2017, to visit the Smoky Mountains, and the magical towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Nantahala and Pisgah To Hold Open Houses On Forest Plan Revisions

The U.S. Forest Service will hold open houses across the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests from late June to early August to provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest Service staff about local issues, district projects, and the Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan revision.

"Public attendance at meetings like these helps us to understand your needs, concerns, and values and helps you understand Forest Service programs and activities," explains Allen Nicholas, Forest Supervisor for National Forests in North Carolina.

The open houses allow the public to talk directly with Forest Service staff one-on-one. Each District Open House will highlight the areas within that district. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:

June 29, 6-8 p.m.: Grandfather Ranger District at Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton

July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin

July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard

July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor Road, Mars Hill

July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville

August 8, 3-6 p.m., Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have been revising their Forest Plan, a required document that provides a general framework to guide management of the Forests. As part of the process, 30 public meetings have been held in communities throughout western North Carolina.

Over the past year, the Forest Service has been releasing pre-draft plan materials on the National Forests in North Carolina website - www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. Additional materials are posted to the site’s Plan Revision Under Construction page as they become available.

"This material is not a preferred alternative or even a draft plan. It represents our latest thinking which has been shaped by public input," said Michelle Aldridge, planning team lead. "In particular, we heard a lot from the public about how places matter to them, so we created a new chapter on Geographic Areas to reflect that."

By separating the Forests into 12 distinct landscapes, Geographic Areas highlight opportunities for restoration and sustainable recreation; connections to nearby communities; and partnerships with the public, other organizations, and governments in different parts of the Forests. Each geographic area also has goals identified that will serve as emphases for management during plan implementation.

Management Area plan components outline how the general forest areas of Interface, Matrix, and Backcountry will be managed. A set of pre-draft maps shows these places on the forest landscape, and adjacent lands not managed by the U.S. Forest Service are included for context. Results from the required Wild and Scenic River Evaluation and information on possible Special Interest Areas are also currently posted on the website.

By fall 2017, the public will have had an opportunity for early review and input on nearly all aspects of the developing plan. When the Forest Plan draft is finalized, the public will again have an opportunity to review the plan during the formal comment period after the complete draft plan and alternative analysis are released in spring 2018.

While there is no formal NEPA or legal comment period at this time, the Forest Service is accepting input at NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us with the subject line "Spring 2017 material Plan Building Blocks" or by mail at this address: Attn: Plan Revision, National Forests in North Carolina, 160A Zillicoa St, Asheville, NC 28801. Comments will be most useful when received by August 31.



Jeff
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Celebrate National Trails Day at Shenandoah National Park

Celebrate American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, June 3, 2017. In partnership with Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) invites new hikers and experienced backpackers to learn new trail skills at PATC Trail Patrol’s “Beyond the Trailhead” event at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51 on Skyline Drive) from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Come join guided hikes and hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.

With over 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah is a paradise for hikers. There are trails for every goal, from a stroll on the Limberlost Trail to an excursion on the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the rewards and challenges of hiking to mountain summits and cascading waterfalls, while reconnecting with family, friends and yourself.

The National Trails Day® event is designed to give novice hikers the information they need to leave their cars behind and venture beyond the trailhead to enjoy Shenandoah National Park’s numerous hiking trails. Experienced hikers can discuss new ideas with PATC members at displays on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and wilderness first aid techniques. Everyone can participate in a hands-on demonstration of the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness, such as crosscut saws, provided by the Shenandoah National Park trail crew throughout the day.

A variety of hikes guided by experienced Trail Patrol members will be offered for people of all ages and experience levels: hikes suitable for families with children as well as easy, moderate, and advanced hikes for adults. Hikers will need to meet at the registration table at Byrd Visitor Center 15 minutes before the hike time to sign in. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season, bring food and plenty of water for all hikes and a trail lunch for the advanced hikes.

The following hikes will meet at Byrd Visitor Center. Vehicle shuttles may be involved.

Hike / Difficulty / Distance / Start Time

Story of the Forest Trail / Easy / 1.8 miles / 10:00 a.m.

Appalachian Trail Ramble / Easy / 2.0 miles / 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Dark Hollow Falls / Moderate / 1.4 miles / 9:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Rose River-Dark Hollow Falls / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 10:00 a.m.

Rapidan Camp National Historic Landmark / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 9:45 a.m.

Pre-registration is encouraged but you may also register on June 3rd at Byrd Visitor Center. To pre-register, send an email to TPNTD@patc.net by May 31st. Please include your name and which hike you wish to join.

PATC and Trail Patrol are charging no fees to attend or participate in any hike, workshop, or demonstration connected with the event; however, there is a $25-per-car entrance fee to the park (good for seven days). Byrd Visitor Center lies within the park at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. For more information about the event, visit the PATC website at www.patc.net or contact Trail Patrol at TPNTD@patc.net. For more information on the park, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/shen. To see a list of scheduled ranger programs, please visit http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/rangerprograms.htm.

“Beyond the Trailhead” celebrates the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day®, a nationally recognized trail awareness program that occurs annually on the first Saturday of June. Since 1993, National Trails Day® has inspired thousands of individuals and community groups to take part in activities that promote healthy living and mental well-being, protect green space, educate youth and adults on the importance of trails, and instill excitement for the outdoors. National Trails Day® encourages all Americans to get outside, connect with local outdoor clubs, businesses, community groups, and parks and recreation departments as well as federal land managing agencies to experience, appreciate and celebrate natural places.

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club is the volunteer trails maintenance group headquartered in Vienna, Virginia that maintains 240 miles of mid-Atlantic Appalachian Trail and 730 miles of other trails in Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and eastern West Virginia. PATC volunteers build and maintain trailside hiker shelters and rustic rental cabins, and publish detailed trails maps, hiking guidebooks, and books detailing the history of the Appalachian region. For more information about PATC and the Trail Patrol, visit the club’s website as www.patc.net.

Trail Patrol is the education and outreach arm of the PATC. Trail Patrol members hike area trails to offer information and assistance to hikers and backpackers. Trail Patrol volunteers report trail conditions to PATC trail maintainers and offer public classes in beginning backpacking, hike leadership training, Leave No Trace Trainer, first aid with CPR and wilderness first aid.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Smokies Reminds Visitors to be Bear Aware

As the busy summer season approaches, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials want to remind visitors about precautions they can take while enjoying the park to keep themselves and bears safe. Bears are particularly active this time of year in search for spring foods. Visitors should be prepared in how to safely observe bears without disturbing them during this critical season.

“Bears are very active right now, and we’re receiving reports across the park of bear sightings along trails and roadways,” said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “We ask for the public’s help by respecting bears’ space.”

Bears should be allowed to forage undisturbed on natural foods and should never be fed. Park officials remind visitors to properly store food and secure garbage. Coolers should always be properly stored in the trunk of a vehicle when not in use. All food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people.

Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country including hiking in groups of 2 or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly storing food regulations, and remaining at safe viewing distance from bears at all times. Feeding, touching, disturbing, or 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, park officials recommend slowly backing away to put distance between yourself and the animal, creating space for it to pass. If the bear continues to approach, you should not run. Hikers should make themselves look large, stand their ground as a group, and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident in the park, please call 865-436-1230.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

June Hike of the Month: Spence Field / Rocky Top

It's almost June, which means that mountain laurel will soon be blooming at the top of Spence Field.

The hike to Spence Field out of Cades Cove is probably one of the most underrated hikes in the Smokies, in my opinion. I would go so far as to say that the combination of Spence Field and Rocky Top ranks as number 3 on my list of the Top 10 Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In addition to the outstanding views from Rocky Top anytime of the year, the mountain laurel at Spence Field makes this an exceptional hike. The best time to tackle the 5.1-mile trek to Spence is usually right around mid-June when the grassy bald area is exploding with mountain laurel at or near peak bloom.

Although Spence Field provides for some outstanding views of the North Carolina side of the Smokies, you should definitely hike another 1.2 miles to Rocky Top for an even better vantage point - possibly the best in the park.

Here's a preview of some of the sights you'll see at the top:


For more information on Spence Field, please click here, and for more information on the hike to Rocky Top, please click here.

If planning to make the pilgrimage to Spence Field or Rocky Top this season, you ought to make Townsend your headquarters.  If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.



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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don’t Rush to Rescue Young Wildlife

Although this was published specifically for the state of Colorado, this information and advice applies to anywhere:

Spring has come to Colorado bringing blooms and rain showers, and of course the young wildlife of the year. As birds and mammals give birth, Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind citizens that newborn wildlife may be found in backyards , along trails, or in open spaces. The best course of action is to leave them alone.

Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives scores of calls from concerned humans about wildlife that has been "abandoned" by adult animals. Many are tempted to "help" a young animal by picking it up or trying to feed it, however it is critical that people understand there is no substitute for their natural parents.

Wildlife experts agree that it is quite normal for adult animals to leave their young in a safe place while they go forage for food. And often baby birds are learning to fly, near their nests when they are deemed "abandoned." While well-meaning people sometimes gather up this baby wildlife and bring them to wildlife rehabilitation facilities, it is often the wrong thing to do.

"Baby mammals are scentless in order to prevent predators from finding them," said Janet George, senior terrestrial biologist for CPW. "When humans touch these animals, they are imparting them with a scent their adults will not recognize or even fear. This can result in true abandonment of healthy offspring."

Because birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell, baby birds are a different story. They can be picked up and moved out of harm's way or placed back in the nest if they are songbirds. However, do not try this with raptors! Great-horned owls and other raptors are territorial and have been known to fly at humans seen as a threat to their young.

If you find young wildlife, enjoy a quick glimpse, leave the animal where it is, and keep pets out of the area. Quietly observe the animal from a distance using binoculars and don't hover so close that the wild parents are afraid to return to the area.

"If twenty four hours go by and the parent does not return, or the young animal appears sick and weak, it is possible the newborn was abandoned or the parent is dead (hit by a car, for example)," said Jenny Campbell, customer service expert with CPW. "Call our office and we will work with our volunteer transport teams to get animals to a certified wildlife rehabilitation center to get aid for the wildlife if possible. Don't move the animal yourself!"

Donna Ralph of the non-profit Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center agrees. "Many of the animals we get should have never been picked up in the first place," said Ralph. "They would have had a better chance for survival if left in the care of the parent animal."

"The sooner the animal can be released back to where it came from the better," she explained. "Make sure you provide your contact information so we can let it go in the same place you found it."

Ralph said her center has already taken in many small mammals this year including several fox kits. "Baby foxes don't look like most people would expect them to look like. They are very small, very dark (almost black) and appear to be very kitten like. People who find them think they might be baby raccoons, skunks, or something else."

Ralph's advice: Don't try to feed them. Don't put anything into their mouths. Contact the CPW, a veterinarian, or licensed wildlife rehabilitator to give these babies the care they need.

"Whatever you do, don't try to keep the animal as a pet," she said. "It is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator."

In addition to potential harm for wildlife, humans need to recognize the potential harm to them, as well. There can be risks associated with the handling of wildlife animals, including disease transmission of rabies, distemper or other illnesses. Wildlife can also carry fleas that might subsequently spread disease to humans or pets.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Festival of the Fireflies

Next month is the annual "Festival of the Fireflies" in the Great Smoky Mountains. to get you "fired" up, I thought I would share a video that was published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association last year. According to the GSMA:
In late spring/early summer fireflies begin their mating in the fields of Cades Cove over a two week period. A few days after mating, a female lays her fertilized eggs on or just below the surface of the ground. The eggs hatch three to four weeks later, and the larvae feed until the end of the summer.

Fireflies are disappearing around the planet, and a lot of it is blamed on the use of pesticides. In Cades Cove, pesticides are not used, so the fireflies thrive.




Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Community Connections Make Dollars and Sense

Just as the Blue Ridge Parkway prepares to welcome visitors for the 2017 season, a new National Park Service report shows that visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2016 spent $979,334,200 in communities near the park; and that spending supported 15,649 jobs in the region having a cumulative impact to local economies of $1,341,343,100.

As many of the Parkway’s campgrounds and visitor centers have opened for the 2017 season this past weekend, the report reinforces the connection between the Parkway and its neighboring communities. While park staff are eager to welcome visitors of all ages to enjoy the rich cultural and outdoor recreation experiences found across the 469-mile route, local communities are also preparing attractions and services for these same visitors.

From Waynesboro, Virginia to Waynesville, North Carolina, the Parkway passes through 29 counties and many villages, towns, and cities across the two states. “The Parkway is a strong economic engine for our community, and many others,” says Lynn Collins, Executive Director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. “The 2016 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report reinforces the value of having the Parkway in our county and is an important reminder that tourism to national parks makes a difference for all of us. Haywood County is proud to provide Parkway visitors with amenities that complete their Parkway visit; and based on this report, we look forward to a robust 2017 season.”

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors this year produced an online, interactive tool where users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.



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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rainbow Falls Trail Rehabilitation Project Begins May 8th

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a 2-year trail rehabilitation project will begin next week on the popular Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail will be closed May 8, 2017 through November 16, 2017 on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. Due to the construction process on the narrow trail, a full closure is necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

The parking lot at the Rainbow Falls trailhead area will be closed May 8 through June 15, Monday through Thursday, to facilitate heavy re-construction of the trailhead area where several trails intersect. After June 15, the parking lot will be open so users can access the Old Sugarlands Trail and the Trillium Gap Trail connector trail.

“This work will be a long-term solution to the various safety and route finding issues found along this section of the Rainbow Falls Trail and will allow visitors to enjoy the trail and the scenic areas surrounding it safely for years to come,” said Tobias Miller, Trails and Roads Facility Manager. “This project would not be possible without the generous support from our park partner, Friends of the Smokies, who provide funding for the project through the trails forever endowment program.”

The Trails Forever crew will focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections. Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by reducing trail braiding and improving drainage to prevent further erosion.

Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four open trails to the summit. The Mt. LeConte Lodge and Mt. Le Conte backcountry shelter will remain open and can be accessed from any of these other routes during the Rainbow Falls Trail closure. The recently restored Alum Cave Trail along with Boulevard, Brushy Mountain and Trillium Gap trails are all open and lead to Mt. Le Conte.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,000,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including the recently restored Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time to Make Plans for Gregory Bald!

Although Gregory Bald is an excellent destination anytime of the year, mid to late June is the absolute best time to make the trek to the summit. In addition to its excellent views into Cades Cove, Gregory Bald provides for one of the best flame azalea shows in the world during this time frame.

In fact, azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.

This isn't an easy hike, however, the Gregory Ridge Trail climbs over 3000 feet, and the roundtrip hike is 11.3 miles. But it's well worth it! As mentioned on this blog in the past, I would definitely rank this as the number one hike on my list of the Top 10 Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Here's a sampling of some of the sights you'll see at the top:


For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.

If planning to make the pilgrimage to Gregory Bald this season, you may want to consider making Townsend your base of operations. If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, also known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.



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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smokies Announces Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Tuesday, May 30 through Tuesday, June 6. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 28 at 12:00 noon until Monday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (225 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $2.75 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The cost will be $1.00 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash will be the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $2.75 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Missing Link Construction on Foothills Parkway to Begin

Today the National Park Service hosted a ceremony commemorating the final construction phase of the Foothills Parkway from Walland to Wear’s Valley that has been almost three decades in the making.

“I am looking forward to seeing the hard work of everyone involved in this project come to life as finishing touches are put in to place that will help showcase the beauty of our region to locals and visitors alike,” Congressman John Duncan said.

In April 2016, Congressman Duncan personally wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to express support for the NPS’ application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant that would help meet the budget requirements for this phase.

Since the $10 million dollar TIGER Grant was awarded to the Foothills Parkway last July, the $35 million dollar project can now be completed with $10 million in funds from the NPS and $15 million from the State of Tennessee. Congressman Duncan helped obtain $27 million for the parkway through various transportation and appropriations bills. To actually utilize the funds, a state government or non-federal entity must contribute 20 percent of the cost.

Since the State of Tennessee purchased the right-of way for the entire 72 mile stretch, Congressman Duncan convinced the Federal Highway Administration to consider the value of the land as the 20 percent non-federal match that would allow construction to continue with the procured federal funds.

The 72 mile long parkway project was authorized by Congress in 1944, but conceptualized in the late 1920’s. To date, 22.5 miles have been completed which include a 5.6 mile section in Cosby and 17 mile section from Walland to Chilhowee Lake.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hikers Can Now Register for Appalachian Trail Campsites to Reduce Crowding

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced today the launch of A.T.CAMP, a website that allows groups of six to ten hikers to find and register for campsites along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This system is designed to help groups plan their hikes while avoiding overcrowding and the related natural and social impacts at camping areas.

"The scenic beauty and wildland location of the Appalachian Trail makes it a popular destination for groups seeking recreation and a memorable time with their friends,” said Jason Zink, visitor use manager for the ATC. “But a single group can overcrowd the capacity of many trailside campsites, which not only negates much of the wilderness experience so many hikers seek, but also causes damage to the fragile natural resources of the Appalachian Mountains.”

The A.T.CAMP website, www.ATcamp.org, allows hikers to register a group of up to ten individuals, choose starting and ending locations for their intended hike, and select campsites along their chosen route. Groups will be able to see how many other campers have also registered for these locations and will receive an immediate notification if their group exceeds the quota for campsites they have selected.

“This system is not meant to reserve a spot for a group and does not impose restrictions for campers seeking to stay at the same location,” said Zink. “It’s a voluntary system that provides a tool for groups to plan their hikes, to minimize or eliminate damage and to maximize their enjoyment of the unique Appalachian Trail experience.”

While the current iteration of A.T.CAMP focuses solely on large camping groups, future versions will allow smaller groups and individual campers to register their A.T. camping itineraries. Presently, A.T. long-distance hikers can register their thru-hikes using the Voluntary Thru-Hiker Registration at www.appalachiantrail.org/thruhikeregistration.

For more information or to register an overnight group hike, please visit www.ATcamp.org.



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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

First Day of Summer in Grand Teton National Park

I realize that we're still a few weeks away from the first day of summer. I'm just reusing the title that Finley Holiday Films used for their outstanding short film highlighting Grand Teton National Park. This excellent short video shows what this beautiful park looks like in June as the snow melts, and the wildflowers and wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter:



With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. Fortunately the park offers a wide variety of outstanding day hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cades Cove Loop Lope Returns

At the Knoxville Marathon last Sunday, the Knoxville Track Club announced that Friends of the Smokies is set to host the Cades Cove Loop Lope on Sunday, November 5, 2017 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Billed as a “one-time-only” event in 2010, the park service approved the highly acclaimed foot race for a return to Cades Cove this fall.

“We are very excited to bring this race back to such a beautiful part of our national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “This is a unique way to experience the splendor of the Cove and raise money to protect it for future generations at the same time.” This year, Friends of the Smokies will provide $1.4 million for critical park projects including more than $90,000 in historic preservation and wildlife management programs in Cades Cove.

For GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash, the race marks an opportunity to connect with the next generation of public lands stewards who are active in our national parks. “We are pleased to work with the Friends to offer this opportunity that supports the park and encourages people to use the park for fitness,” said Superintendent Cash. “The park provides an incredible setting for people to improve mind, body, and spirit.”

November’s Cades Cove Loop Lope will offer pre-registered runners a choice of the full 11 mile loop or a 3.5 mile loop course. Registration will open on August 1st and will be hosted by Knoxville Track Club, who will also be timing the race.

More details about this November’s race including cost and online registration will be posted to CadesCoveLoopLope.com in the coming weeks.

If you're considering a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains to do the race, or for any reason at any time this year, please help support HikingintheSmokys.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations pages.
 






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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Prepares for 2017 Visitor Season

As spring begins, staff along the Blue Ridge Parkway are preparing campgrounds for visitors, planning engaging family programs, and readying other facilities for the millions of visitors that enjoy the Parkway each year. This historic, 469-mile route, and National Park Service site, is one of the largest designed landscapes in the country, providing visitors with a wide variety of opportunities to make meaningful connections to the nature, history, and culture of the southern Appalachian mountain region.

Visitors to Parkway campgrounds need to be aware of two changes for the upcoming season. Beginning May 1, 2017, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or a state department of agriculture may be brought onto the Parkway. Campers may also collect dead and down wood found in the immediate vicinity of campgrounds and picnic areas.

Additionally, the overnight camping fee on the Parkway will be $20.00. “We are committed to keeping the Parkway camping opportunities affordable and providing visitors with the best possible experience,” said Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods. “The funds generated from camping fees are used to maintain and improve existing campground infrastructure such as picnic tables, tent pads, and visitor facilities.”

The first step in bringing business back to the historic Bluffs operations at Doughton Park, near Milepost 241, will also occur with the reopening of the camp store (previously a gas station) at that site later in May.

Parkway visitors are always reminded to take time to carefully plan their visit. Considering its unique design, the Parkway drive is different than most and this can mean taking extra care to ensure a safe visit. Information is available to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/blri, the real time road map site at www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures/, in any Parkway visitor center, and by following Parkway social media sites with the handle @BlueRidgeNPS.

Schedule of opening dates and times can be found here https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/hours.htm



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