Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NC National Forests Propose Required Bear Canisters for Overnight Campers on Appalachian Trail and in Panthertown

Visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have experienced an increasing number of encounters with black bears exhibiting bold behavior over food in the past few years.

Most encounters are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest rather than at campgrounds that are equipped with bear-proof trash cans. Incidents include bears taking food and backpacks, damaging tents, and staying near inhabited campsites for hours.

“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source and they have not been discouraged by humans banging pots, blowing air horns, and yelling,” said Nantahala District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills. “Using bear-resistant food containers is the surest way to deny bears access to human food.”

The Forest Service has increased public awareness efforts by posting material at trail heads, on websites, and on social media in an effort to educate visitors on the importance of eliminating human behaviors that lead bears to see people as a source of food. However, potentially serious encounters by bears have continued to increase. Close interactions with bears must be reduced for the sake of the bears and for the safety of visitors.

The US Forest Service is seeking input on a proposal to require bear resistant food containers for all overnight campers on the Appalachian Trail located on the National Forests in North Carolina and in Panthertown on the Nantahala Ranger District. The Appalachian Trail passes through the Appalachian, Nantahala, Cheoah, and Tusquitee Ranger Districts.

Written comments should be submitted by September 19, 2018. Comments can be emailed to comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us or mailed to Johnny Wills, Nantahala RD Wildlife Biologist, Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734.

The Forest Service also asks that you be mindful of your sanitation and hygiene in the back country. Bears locate food sources by smell as well as sight. You can protect yourself and protect bears by storing trash and food in safe locations during your visit. Keep scented items in bear-proof canisters, inside trailers, and in the trunk of a vehicle. Do not leave food or coolers unattended. Never store scented items in your tent, including toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks. Pick up all garbage around your site, including inside fire rings, grills, and tables and properly store with your food or dispose in a bear-proof trash receptacle.

If a bear is observed nearby, pack up food and trash immediately and vacate the area. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts or making noise. If a bear approaches, do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building. In the event of a bear attack, do not play dead. Try to fight back and act aggressively. Carrying EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks.

Report bear encounters to your local ranger district office. For more information, see our website at www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc.



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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Man formally indicted with Second Degree Murder on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Shawn Pendergraft, age 20, with second degree murder. Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Charlotte Division, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, and US Park Rangers of Blue Ridge Parkway on the investigation.

According to allegations contained in the indictment and criminal complaint filed in federal court, on the evening of July 24, 2018, Pendergraft reported that a co-worker was missing. Both Pendergraft and the person he reported missing were employees of the Pisgah Inn, a concessionaire within the park. The complaint alleges that, when initially interviewed by investigators, Pendergraft stated that he and the other employee both got off work shortly after 4:00 pm and decided to go for a hike on an unnamed trail near the employee housing area of the Pisgah Inn. Shortly after starting their hike it began to rain and the other employee decided to return to the housing area while Pendergraft hiked on. On his way back, upon reaching the point where the two separated, Pendergraft saw the other employee’s umbrella and hat lying on the ground. Pendergraft told investigators that he immediately began to search for the other employee and informed the management staff at the Pisgah Inn that she was missing. US Park Rangers and first responders searched the area and located the missing employee’s body lying off an embankment near a park trail.

Investigators interviewed Pendergraft and took him into custody in connection with the murder. The criminal bill of indictment was returned on August 9 by a federal grand jury sitting in Asheville, NC. The charge of second degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. An indictment is an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Smokies' Natural Resource Condition Assessment has been Published

The following was posted on the park Facebook page earlier today:
This park is chock full of natural resources. But how can you find quick information about them? Well, Resource Management staff along with partners from Western Carolina University have collaborated to write the park’s Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA). It documents current conditions and trends of the park’s natural resources, lists information gaps and identifies factors that are influencing the condition of our natural resources. The report assesses 52 natural resources using the most recent data and best available science.

You can access the report here: https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2253044




Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Chimney Rock Park Closed For At least 10 days For Road Repairs

The Chimney Rock section of Chimney Rock State Park closed to the public yesterday, August 6, when the N.C. Department of Transportation began work to restore a one-lane washout on the main entrance road in the park.

The park was closed in late May when heavy rains from subtropical storm Alberto caused a portion of the road leading into the park and a retaining wall on the upper parking lot to collapse. The park was closed for nearly two weeks at that time while state park rangers, Chimney Rock Management associates and contractors worked to clean up fallen trees, power lines and mudslides along the road and trails. The park reopened to guests Saturday, June 9. Since that time, staff have had to direct visitors through the one-lane area where the road collapsed.

N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance crews from Rutherford County will perform an emergency slide repair in the state park. Officials expect crews will need at least 10 days beginning Monday to rebuild the road. This project will restore both lanes of Chimney Rock Park Road when completed.

“This project is typical of repair work that we perform regularly,” Rutherford County Maintenance Engineer Matt Taylor said. “We’re essentially rebuilding a portion of the roadway slope that failed during recent storms.”

Work to fix the retaining wall on the upper parking lot is still in the planning phase. No timeline for this project has been announced. For the latest updates and news about the park reopening, visit ChimneyRockPark.com or call 828-625-9611.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Everything you need to know about online visa services

The following is a guest blog from iVisa.com:

You probably must have heard that more and more countries around the world adopt the electronic visa system. What does that mean? It means that instead of going to an embassy to apply for a visa, you can get one online. Generally, the process is entirely online, and it can save you a lot of time and effort. However, many of you have no idea where to get started. Do you do a simple Google search to find the best service? Or do you do some research on the matter and find the best online visa service? The choice is yours, but the best course of action is to always do your homework.

One of the best things about online visa services is that the requirements are easy to meet. You do not need a lot of documents. Most countries require only a valid passport. Of course, visa policies differ from state to state, but any online visa service will let you know precisely what you need. Even so, an embassy will always ask more, which is why most people who travel choose to apply for an electronic visa as opposed to going to an embassy. It is pretty clear why.

Another reason why people choose an online visa service is the lack of effort it implies. Getting a visa is effortless. Once you see that all the requirements are met, you can just fill in an application form online and be done with it. Usually, such an application form can take up to 20 minutes to complete, but that is only if the form is accompanied by a personal questionnaire. If not, you can break that time in half. Plus, the application is unambiguous, there is minimal information necessary, and in case you need assistance, most online visa services provide 24/7 support.

What about the processing time and cost?
Everything that happens online is fast. That is the basic rule of the thumb. It is the whole beauty of the internet. Electronic visas are no different. There are services out there that give you multiple choices when it comes to waiting time, and sometimes, your visa can be available in less than 24 hours, which is something unheard of if you apply through an embassy. Of course, it depends on the country issuing the visa, but even so, getting a visa in only a few days is something to be desired, don’t you think.

As for the cost, you would expect electronic visas to be expensive. After all, you basically hire someone else to apply for a visa in your stead. You just provide the necessary information and documents, and a third party submits your application to the issuing authority. As you can imagine, the cost is higher when you apply online than when you go to an embassy, but not by much. Plus, some people need to weigh in their time and effort in the equation. If you do that as well, you will see that you actually lose less and win more. After all, how much money you lose if you need to go to a consulate on a work day and need to take a trip there? Surely you can see the point. As for a precise cost, that depends on the country you request the visa for. Not all services come with the same fee.

You would think that there is much more to tell about electronic visas, right? But there is not. That is pretty much it. It is a growing system with more and more countries joining every year. We would like to believe that in a few years all states will include the e-visa in their visa policy. That way embassies will become obsolete as far as visas are concerned. Wouldn’t that be a treat?



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Monday, August 6, 2018

Inaugural Smokies Stomp Raises Over $60,000 to Support National Park

Community members from across Western North Carolina gathered for the inaugural Smokies Stomp Barn Party in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) on Saturday, July 21st. The event raised more than $60,000 to fund park projects and featured a ‘fund-a-cause’ for Parks As Classrooms, which provides hands-on curriculum-based environmental education programming for thousands of WNC schoolchildren.

“At Friends of the Smokies, we want every child to have the opportunity to experience the wonder and joy found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said board director Laura Webb. “The Smokies Stomp was an astounding testament to our community’s commitment to that goal and we are grateful for the generosity of all who attended.”

Representative John Ager (NC-115) and his wife Annie, owners of Hickory Nut Gap Farm, called the square dance with live music provided by both NewTown and the Bonafide Band during the evening. GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash, Representative Chuck McGrady (NC-117) and former Congressman and Friends of the Smokies board director Heath Shuler also attended the event.

The Smokies Stomp Barn Party is held in Fairview, NC at Hickory Nut Gap Farm and is presented by Wandering Rose Travels and Webb Investment Services with support from Blue Ghost Brewing, Merrill Lynch, Beverly-Hanks, Biltmore Wines, Blue Ridge Printing, Wilcox Travel and Tours, Insurance Service of Asheville, Navitat Canopy Adventures, Roberts and Stevens Attorneys at Law, White Labs, Wildland Trekking, Dan and Deener Matthews, Chase and Clary Pickering, Rob and Meridith Powell, and Jim and Jan Hart.

Photos from the event and more information can be found at SmokiesStomp.org



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Explore the Stars at Shenandoah National Park’s Annual Night Sky Festival

Shenandoah National Park will celebrate our connection to the universe during the third annual Night Sky Festival August 10-12, 2018. Park rangers, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Solar System Ambassadors, amateur astronomers and a veteran NASA astronaut will be on hand to encourage visitors to value dark skies through a variety of special programs and activities. Programs will take place at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 42.5 on Skyline Drive), Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51), Skyland Amphitheater (mile 42.5), Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51) and Loft Mountain Amphitheater (mile 79.5).

Ranger-led programs will focus on night-active animals, recent discoveries in space, and constellations. There will be opportunities for stargazing, constellation tours, safe solar viewing through a telescope, a planet walk, Junior Ranger activities, and more.

Delaware North, the park concessioner, will sponsor presentations by two guest speakers on Saturday, August 11, in Byrd Visitor Center auditorium. Veteran astronaut and space scientist Tom Jones will present “Beyond Earth: Humanity’s Future in Space” at 4:30 p.m. and ”Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Journey” at 7:00 p.m. NASA Solar System Ambassador Greg Redfern will present a program, “Shenandoah Skies and the Perseids” at 8:00 p.m. and again at 9:00 p.m., before heading out into the Big Meadow to view the night skies and watch for meteors (weather permitting).

NASA Solar System Ambassador and Park Ranger Kristin Hendershot will present “How’s the Weather in Space?” at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 11, at Byrd Visitor Center, and also “Meteor Showers: Hot and Cold” at Big Meadows Amphitheater at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, August 12.

Amateur astronomers invite visitors to view the heavens through their telescopes at the “Night Skies” program starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 10 in the Big Meadow (mile 51). Visitors may join them again starting at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday to stargaze and view the Perseid Meteor Shower. Outdoor night sky viewing events depend on clear skies.

The complete schedule for the Night Sky Festival can be found on the park’s website at: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/night-sky-festival.htm



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

L.L.Bean Employees Document Scenic Views Of The Appalachian Trail

L.L.Bean employees have taken on an extraordinary goal to document every scenic view as they hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.).

Traveling in relay teams as they tackle the length of the Trail, L.L. Bean employees are photographing and evaluating scenic views. The criteria are part of the National Park Service (NPS) “Enjoy the View” a visual resource initiative which was introduced in 2014.

"L.L.Bean is proud to partner with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service to document the exceptional and beautiful locations that caused Congress 50 years ago to create the Appalachian National Scenic Trail,” said Janet Wyper, manager of community relations for L.L.Bean. "L.L.Bean's mission is to encourage the shared joy of the outdoors for both current and future generations. Our employees’ experience and participation in documenting views along the A.T. shines a light on this important trail which begins in Maine, where L.L.Bean is headquartered, and ends in Georgia."

Working closely with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and NPS, L.L.Bean challenged employees to collectively hike the A.T. to build esprit de corps to showcase the physical wellness benefits of spending time outside and to encourage hikers of all abilities to visit the A.T. this summer. More than three million people visit the A.T. each year.

As of the end of June, L.L.Bean employees had collected over 87 panoramic photos for further documentation and analysis. The ATC intends to use the photos and accompanying data to highlight the A.T. as one of the most important landscapes in the eastern United States.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy commends L.L.Bean for supporting this new meaningful program,” said ATC President & CEO Suzanne Dixon. “We expect that this program — and how volunteers are engaged — will benefit the A.T. and serve as a model for other similar efforts across the country. L.L. Bean demonstrates sincere, boots-on-the-ground commitment to making certain America’s special places are protected now and for future generations.”

"This volunteer effort by L.L. Bean employees will help trail managers in locating candidate sites for more detailed assessment and will provide important observations about the Trail’s scenic resources from a motivated and trusted Trail partner," said Wendy Janssen, NPS Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The goals of “Enjoy the View” tie closely with those of the A.T. Landscape Partnership, a coalition of organizations led by the ATC and NPS to protect the unique natural, scenic, recreational and cultural resources of the A.T. For more information on the landscape partnership initiative, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/landscape-partnership.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Receives National Park Foundation Grant Supporting America’s National Trails and Wild Scenic Rivers

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails and National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems in 2018, the National Park Foundation today announced a grant to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) in support of its Improving Overnight Site Infrastructure Experience initiative on the New England portion of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

The New England section of the 2,190-mile A.T. spans five states and 734 miles with 133 designated overnight sites. The A.T. is currently experiencing rising annual visitation rates, with the number of visitors doubling in the past four years. This has placed additional strain on these popular overnight sites, many located in environmentally fragile areas. The Improving Overnight Site Infrastructure Experience initiative will help reduce this strain by upgrading outhouse facilities to moldering toilets, mitigating hazard trees and improving tenting opportunities.

“This generous grant from the National Park Foundation will help protect one of the most important landscapes in the eastern United States, the Appalachian Trail,” said ATC President and CEO Suzanne Dixon. “These funds will help protect the A.T.’s natural resources and provide a safer, healthier and more enjoyable overnight experience for Trail visitors.”

This project is one of 20 across the country being funded by the National Park Foundation as part of this effort. All project descriptions can be viewed on the Rivers and Trails 50th Anniversary Grants Map.

“Trails and rivers bring people together for shared experiences that last a lifetime,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “The National Park Foundation’s grants help maintain these treasured resources and enable more people to connect with them and each other.”

These grants demonstrate the impact of the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks. To date, this comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of America’s treasured national parks has raised more than $500 million in private donations from individuals, foundations, and companies.

National Park Foundation Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque partners, The Coca-Cola Company and Nature Valley, are proud to support this effort. Additional support comes from partners Niantic and Bandit Wines.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Friday, July 13, 2018

August 3 Deadline Approaching for Fourth Annual Big South Fork Photo Contest

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area would like to remind everyone that the deadline for submitting entries for the 2018 Big South Fork photography contest is August 3.

Images may show wildlife, plant life, natural landscapes, historic areas, weather, or people interacting with nature within the boundaries of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. All photographs, except those submitted in the artistic category, should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared.

Photographs may be submitted into one of seven categories:

• Action/Adventure -- Photographs of people participating in recreational activities

• Artistic -- Artistic compositions in nature, both natural and manipulated in post processing

• Cultural -- Photographs that illustrate historic or culturally significant structures

• Flora and Fauna -- Animals in their natural habitat, including close-ups of invertebrates, or plants in their natural habitat, including close-ups of flowers, fungi, lichen, and algae

• Youth -- Entries in any category by photographers under 18 years of age

• Kentucky Landscapes -- Expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Kentucky park boundaries

• Tennessee Landscapes -- Expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Tennessee park boundaries.

Entries will be judged on technical excellence, originality, creativity, visual impact, and artistic merit. Judges’ decisions are final. Selected images will be printed for an exhibition at Bandy Creek Visitor Center that will open on Saturday, September 1, 2018. Selected images may also be displayed on the internet and other venues.

The contest is open to all photographers, except NPS employees and their immediate families and household members. Each person may only submit two photos into the competition. All photos must be in a digital format. Entries must be received no later than the close of business Friday, August 3, 2018. Each entry must be accompanied by a completed entry form with all information clearly filled out. Entry forms may be downloaded from https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/biso-photo-contest.htm.

Entries may be emailed to biso_information@nps.gov or hand-delivered or mailed to park headquarters at:

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida, Tennessee 37841
Attn: Photo Exhibit.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Friday, July 6, 2018

Clingmans Dome Tower Rehabilitation Work to Resume July 10

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will be closed Tuesday, July 10 through Friday, July 27 to complete a rehabilitation project that began last year. The remaining final surface overlay work was scheduled to be completed earlier this summer; however, numerous rain events resulted in the delay of the project.

While visitors will not be able to climb the tower, the Clingmans Dome parking overlook area will remain open and offers outstanding mountain top views. The visitor contact station and store, the trail up to the tower, and all access to the trailheads in the vicinity will remain open. Visitors will also have the option of hiking out to Andrews Bald for outstanding views as well. Visitors should expect some construction traffic in the vicinity of the contact station and along the trail.

Last year, contractors repaired deteriorated areas on the concrete columns and walls, stabilized support walls at the base of the ramp, and repaired stone masonry. This work has been made possible through funding received from a Partners in Preservation (PIP) grant. The $250,000 grant was awarded in 2016 to the Friends of the Smokies on behalf of the park after being one of the top nine, most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks Campaign.

Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park. The observation tower is a precedent-setting design of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which transformed park planning, management, and architecture and fundamentally altered the visitor experience in national parks. Since 1959, millions of visitors have climbed the tower, where they can see distances of up to 100 miles over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some minimal preservation work today on the tower will ensure that visitors continue to experience this unique structure spiraling up from the highest point in the park.

For more information about the Clingmans Dome Tower, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Monday, June 25, 2018

RockyMountainHikingTrails.com Adds Eight New Hikes

Hey all - I just returned from a late spring hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and as a result, have added eight new hikes to our website. Here's a quick rundown of the hikes we were able to do during our trip:

West Creek Falls - On our first day we decided to take a fairly easy hike and give ourselves a chance to acclimate to the altitude. West Creek Falls just north of Estes Park was the perfect choice. Though there is a short climb at the beginning of the hike, the trail was very pleasant, much of it passing through a montane forest of ponderosa pine with lots of wildflowers. The falls were very scenic as well.

Lake Verna - On our second day we drove over to Grand Lake to do our longest hike of the trip. Our ultimate destination, 6.9 miles from the trailhead, was Lake Verna. If the thought of trekking that far seems too daunting you could shorten the hike by ending it at Lone Pine Lake, or taking a really short hike and stopping at a low bluff that overlooks East Meadow where you'll have a great opportunity to spot moose and elk. No matter your choice, each destination passes Adams Falls near the trailhead.

Battle Mountain - Battle Mountain was supposed to be the highlight of our trip. Unfortunately haze from wildfires in the region swept through the park that day and blotted out the normally beautiful and expansive views. This "flattop" mountain is located just north of Granite Pass near Longs Peak, the tallest mountain in the park. Normally you can expect spectacular 360-degree views from this lofty perch.

Chasm Falls - If you're looking for an easy hike on your next visit I would definitely recommend Chasm Falls, arguably the most impressive waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park. The waterfall is located just off the historic Old Fall River Road in the Horseshoe Park area.

Lawn Lake - I've been waiting to do this hike for a long time. The trail was closed for awhile after the September 2013 flood, which washed out a few sections of the trail. Fortunately park crews have repaired those sections over the last two seasons. This hike did not disappoint, and was probably the best day we had in the mountains. It was a quintessential Colorado day, with mild temperatures and bluebird skies. The lake and the surrounding 13K-foot peaks were absolutely spectacular.

Aspenglen Loop - Despite this being a horse trail, meaning lots of horse manure along the path, the Aspenglen Loop near the Fall River Entrance Station is a hidden gem. This short loop offers spectacular views of the Mummy Mountains, a wide variety of wildflowers, and a great opportunity to spot a wide variety of wildlife.



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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce the “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs to be held every Friday starting June 22 through August 17 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater.

“We appreciate this opportunity to work so closely with the Cocke County Partnership and the Cosby community in offering such a great lineup of programs this summer,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.

“Celebrating Cosby” will honor the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area. Join park staff and community members in celebrating Cosby through the programs and in discovering new opportunities to enjoy this section of the park. Programs topics will vary each week, including mountain music, moonshiners, storying telling, sunset and lantern hikes, farming and orchards, clogging, cooking, and more.

“We are so happy that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bringing this program to our Cosby Campground,” said Cocke Country Partnership Tourist Director, Linda Lewanski. “We all know how talented our Cocke County folks are and we are delighted to be able to showcase them.”

The first program on June 22 will feature local banjo player, David McClary, who will play claw-hammered style banjo music. On June 29, Mark Ramsey, Digger Manes and Friends will share stories about the moonshining. The July and August schedules will be available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.



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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge Invites Public Comments on Appalachian Trail Reroute

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) is pleased to announce the release of the Environmental Assessment for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (the Trail) Reroute through the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge). The Service plans to move a portion of the Trail from where it crosses the Wallkill River via Oil City Road in Orange County, New York, and relocate the Trail within the Refuge in Sussex County, New Jersey. The National Park Service is participating as a cooperating agency for this project. The agencies are soliciting comments beginning June 20 through July 20, 2018.

The purpose of the project is to provide Trail and Refuge visitors a safe and more aesthetically pleasing alternative for crossing the Wallkill River that is in keeping with the desired experience for those hiking the Trail. The length of the Trail proposed for realignment is approximately 1.3 miles (figure 1). This segment contains one of the longest sections of the Trail that co-aligns with a public roadway, Oil City Road, a two-lane road with little to no shoulder. As development in the surrounding area continues to increase, the number of cars on Oil City Road is likely to increase, causing additional safety concerns to hikers. Oil City Road and the Trail also currently experience floods and overland flow, which affects the safety and accessibility for trail and refuge visitors. Further, this road walk does not provide maximum outdoor recreation potential, one of the objectives for National Scenic Trails, as stated in the National Trails System Act (16 USC 1241-51).

Public participation is an important element of the planning process and we welcome your comments and ideas on the environmental assessment. The document can be viewed beginning June 20, 2018 by visiting the refuge website:

Please share your written comments no later than July 20, 2018 via one of the following methods:

Email comments to: chelsea_utter@fws.gov

Mail or hand-deliver comments to:

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Attn: Appalachian Trail Reroute
1547 Route 565
Sussex, New Jersey 07461



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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Second man sentenced to prison for 2015 murder in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Following an interagency investigation by Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Cherokee Indian Police Department, a second man will serve time in prison for his role in a 2015 homicide within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Johnathan Hill, age 25, was recently sentenced to 48 months incarceration followed by two years of supervised release.

Court documents show that on March 29, 2015, a 911 call alerted officers to a stabbing that had taken place inside Oconaluftee (Smokemont) Baptist Church inside the park. Paramedics found the deceased victim with multiple stab wounds. Records also show that Johnathan Hill, Forrest Dakota Hill (no relation), and the victim drove to the church together, and over the course of their visit, Forrest Hill stabbed the victim with a knife during an unprovoked attack, causing the victim’s death. Investigators determined that the victim was stabbed at least 16 times in the chest, back, neck and elsewhere. Court records list the cause of death as “internal hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds.”

Following the fatal stabbing, Johnathan Hill and Forrest Hill drove away from the church. Along the way to the home of Johnathan Hill’s relatives, he threw the knife handle believed to have been used in the attack out the car window. After arriving at the relatives’ home, both men burned the clothes they wore during the stabbing.

Forrest Hill pleaded guilty to second degree murder in April 2016 and was sentenced to more than 16 years imprisonment. Johnathan Hill pleaded guilty at a separate court hearing in December 2017 to a charge of accessory after the fact to second degree murder; his sentence was handed down in June 2018. The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office and adjudicated by the US District Court, both for the Western District of North Carolina.



Jeff
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Smokies Hosts Women’s Work Event 6/16

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Women’s Work Event at the Mountain Farm Museum on Saturday, June 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This event honors the vast contributions made by the women of Southern Appalachia. Park staff and volunteers will showcase mountain lifeways and customs that women practiced to care for their families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, cornshuck crafts, and use of plants for home remedies. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house. This event provides families with a chance not only to see into the past, but also participate, through hands-on activities of traditional southern Appalachia.

In addition to the Women’s Work Festival activities, visitors will also be treated to a music jam session on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Music jam sessions are held every first and third Saturday of the month on the porch from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All activities are free to the public. The Mountain Farm Museum is located on Newfound Gap Road adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For additional information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904.



Jeff
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

#Hike4Hope to raise awareness and funds to end extreme poverty

Trey and Madison Cason, a young couple embarking on a journey to hike the Appalachian Trail, recently announced their intent to raise $219,000 for work to end extreme poverty through Global Hope Network International. Trey and Madison both gave notice to their employers, transitioning from well-paying professional positions, to become humanitarian aid workers this past month. To launch their career shift, the couple will begin hiking the trail from Maine on June 13th, which is expected to last until late fall 2018.

Madison shared, “Growing up with families who took us to different state parks to hike and camp, cultivated an appreciation for the outdoors and a love for nature. As a couple, we’ve been dreaming about hiking the Appalachian Trail for several years. We want to follow this dream while impacting the lives of those living in South Asia by offering a ‘hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out’.” When asked about personal comforts, Madison confessed, “While I officially get to put my record of not showering for six days to the test and Trey is excited to up his facial hair game from Duck Dynasty to Full Chewbacca!” This couple is serious!

Global Hope Network International (GHNI.org)

GHNI.org seeks to bring help and hope to the hidden and hurting through the empowerment of villagers seeking to end their own extreme poverty utilizing local resources and labor. With a small amount of donated funds ($12,000 to $18,000 annually), villages become self-sustaining in just five years. That’s only $60,000 to $90,000 total to bring an average of 1500 people out of extreme poverty!

Getting Involved

While Trey and Madison are excited to begin the journey, traveling with friends along the way and being encouraged along is an added benefit. Individuals can truly track progress and work to meet up with Trey and Madison along the way for short periods, hike locally near their home or even on their treadmill! Wherever you hike, get pictures and video and post them using #Hike4Hope. To join the fun financially, show your support by giving through Hike4Hope.Rocks or email daphne.keys@ghni.org to set up your own Hike4Hope donation page!

However, you participate, follow along the blog to learn how Trey and Madison process along their journey and if they run into any fun challenges! GHNI will be posting regularly at Hike4Hope.Rocks. Finally, you can check out this short message from Trey and Madison:





Jeff
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Monday, June 4, 2018

Smokies Service Days Return

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce that the popular “Smokies Service Days” volunteer program will resume this month. Park staff will lead service opportunities on Saturdays beginning June 9. 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 campgrounds, native plant gardens, and other natural and cultural resources within the park boundaries.

This volunteer program helps complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements, including high school and college 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 are required to wear closed-toe shoes and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as directed. 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 prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

June 9: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont
June 16: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont
June 30: Gardening at Oconaluftee
July 7: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek
July 21: Campground Clean-Up at Cosby



Jeff
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Secretary Zinke Announces 19 New National Recreation Trails in 17 States

Continuing his work to expand recreational opportunities on public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today designated 19 national recreation trails in 17 states, adding more than 370 miles to the national recreation trails system of more than 1,000 trails in all 50 states.

"By designating these new national trails, we acknowledge the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone," said Secretary Zinke. "Our network of national trails provides easily accessible places to exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities across the country."

On Saturday, June 2, hundreds of organized activities are planned as part of National Trails Day, including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications. Trails of the National Recreation Trails system range from less than a mile to 485 miles in length and have been designated on federal, state, municipal and privately owned lands.

"The network of national recreation trails offers expansive opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors," said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System, I hope everyone will take advantage of a nearby national trail to hike or bike."

While national scenic trails and national historic trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, national recreation trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization.

The National Recreation Trails Program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of Federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.

For more information on the newly designated trails, please click here.



Jeff
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Clingmans Dome Tower Temporarily Closed June 4 through June 15

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will be closed Monday, June 4 through Friday, June 15 to complete a rehabilitation project that began last year. Workers need to apply a final surface overlay along the tower ramp.

While visitors will not be able to climb the tower, the Clingmans Dome parking overlook area will remain open and offers outstanding mountain top views. The visitor contact station and store, the trail up to the tower, and all access to the trailheads in the vicinity will remain open. Visitors should expect some construction traffic in the vicinity of the contact station and along the trail.

Last year, contractors repaired deteriorated areas on the concrete columns and walls, stabilized support walls at the base of the ramp, and repaired stone masonry. This work has been made possible through funding received from a Partners in Preservation (PIP) grant. The $250,000 grant was awarded in 2016 to the Friends of the Smokies on behalf of the park after being one of the top nine, most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks Campaign.

Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park. The observation tower is a precedent-setting design of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which transformed park planning, management, and architecture and fundamentally altered the visitor experience in national parks. Since 1959, millions of visitors have climbed the tower, where they can see distances of up to 100 miles over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some minimal preservation work today on the tower will ensure that visitors continue to experience this unique structure spiraling up from the highest point in the park.

For more information about the Clingmans Dome Tower, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm.

About Partners in Preservation: Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards preservation grants to historic places across the country. Since 2006, Partners in Preservation, a community-based partnership, has committed $16 million in preservation funding to nearly 200 diverse sites in eight different cities across the country.

Through this partnership, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve America’s historic and cultural places. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic places at the heart of their communities.



Jeff
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Parkway Extends Linn Cove Viaduct Closure

Blue Ridge Parkway officials announced today the continued closure of the Linn Cove Viaduct, at Milepost 304, due to continued and heavy rainfall in the area. The final steps in completing an ongoing project at that location require a minimum of 48 hours of dry weather. Project managers will resume and complete the project as soon as conditions improve.

Heavy rainfall in the area has also closed the original detour route on a section of US 221 around the Viaduct due to a road washout. Variable message boards located on the Parkway at both the north and south approach of the Viaduct provide alternate route information using NC 105.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the Parkway’s website for real time road information and a map of the suggested route around the Viaduct.

Access to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Price Park Campground, and the popular Beacon Heights, Rough Ridge and Boone Fork trail heads remains open. A section of the Tanawha Trail below the Viaduct remains closed.

The Linn Cove Viaduct closed in March of 2018 to undertake a comprehensive road maintenance project to remove and replace the asphalt pavement, waterproofing membrane and joints on the bridge and complete repairs to the supporting structure, stone curb, railing and drainage features.



Jeff
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Greenbrier Barn Party Tops $2 Million for National Park in 20th Year

Friends of the Smokies hosted more than 600 guests at the 20th annual Greenbrier Barn Party on Friday, May 11th. The event raised more than $211,000 this year in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and featured live music from The Chillbillies and a silent auction.

The Greenbrier Barn Party is co-hosted by Coach Phillip & Vicky Fulmer, Jake and Kat Ogle, along with Jim Ogle and Cheryl Houston. Special guests in attendance included University of Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, and Steve Caldwell and Dan Brooks, coaches of the 1998 national championship team.

Over its 20 year history, the Greenbrier Barn Party has raised more than $2 million, helping to fund critical projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park including treating hemlock trees, construction of the Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion and hiking trail reconstruction. Funds this year will also help Friends of the Smokies meet its $1.25 million fundraising goal to upgrade the park’s emergency radio communications system, a 25th anniversary signature project.

“For the 20th anniversary of this event to have a record-breaking year is a testament to our communities’ dedication to the national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “We are so thankful for the generous support of our members and sponsors who are helping ensure the park’s preservation.”

The Greenbrier Barn Party is held in Pittman Center, TN at the barn of Jim Ogle, a former Friends of the Smokies board member. The event is presented by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Sugarland Cellars, and is sponsored by Anakeesta, Barnes Insurance Agency, Bearskin Lodge, Blount Partnership, Charles Blalock & Sons, Citadel Construction, Citizens National Bank, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, Harper Bros. General Merchandise Store, Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Home Federal Bank, Hospitality Solutions, IHOP, The Island in Pigeon Forge, Johnson Family of Restaurants, KaTom Restaurant Supply, Parkside Cabin Rentals, Phillips and Jordan, Riverside Tower, Robert G. Campbell and Associates, Sevier County Bank, SmartBank, Stowers Machinery, and Trotter De Foe Architects.

Photos from Friday’s event and more information can be found at www.BarnParty.org.



Jeff
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Friday, May 11, 2018

Smokies Invites Public Comment on Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to comment through May 31 on a draft environmental assessment (EA) for proposed upgrades to the Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Sevier County, Tennessee. The plant serves the Elkmont Developed Area, which includes Elkmont Campground and other facilities nearby.

Treated effluent from the plant is currently discharged to the Little River downstream of the campground as authorized by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit number TN0022349 issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The purpose of the proposal is to provide a modern, efficient, and sustainable wastewater treatment system for the Elkmont Developed Area. The action is needed because the existing WWTP, which was originally built in 1959 and modified in 1969 and 2008, has exceeded its expected service life. The EA evaluates three alternatives:

Alternative A – The No Action Alternative provides a basis for comparing environmental impacts of the action alternatives.

Alternative B – Upgrade WWTP and continue discharging to the Little River.

Alternative C (Preferred Alternative) – Upgrade WWTP and install a land-based, subsurface effluent dispersal system.

Prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the EA assess the alternatives and their impacts on the environment. The EA also serves to integrate and coordinate compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. The following impact topics are analyzed in detail: surface water, floodplains, aquatic life, vegetation, wildlife, wilderness, park operations, and archeology.

The public is encouraged to participate in the planning process by reviewing and providing comments on the Draft EA. Park Staff invite the public to comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website and following the link titled “Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade” at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm or by US Mail to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ATTN: Environmental Planning and Compliance, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.



Jeff
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Friday, May 4, 2018

Smokies Visitors Spend $923 million in Gateway Communities

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 11,338,893 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent $922,947,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,942 jobs in the local area. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, with every dollar invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returning $10 to the economy.

“We are glad to work alongside our business communities in helping create lifelong memories and traditions that bring people to our area year after year,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While our gateway communities benefit from visitor spending, they also provide a critical role in shaping the overall impression of a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows a $1.2 billion cumulative economic benefit to communities within 60 miles of the Smokies. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending near the Smokies was for lodging and camping (35 percent) followed by food and beverages (24 percent), gas and oil (11 percent), local transportation (11 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent), and recreation industries (9 percent).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. 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 shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by over 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park across the nation. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; over 255,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging and camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in North Carolina or Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with North Carolina and Tennessee communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/NorthCarolina or www.nps.gov/Tennessee.



Jeff
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Smokies Celebrates 20 Years of New Species Discoveries

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating 20 years of conducting biodiversity inventories. Park managers, biologists, educators, and non-park scientists initiated an effort to discover all life in the Smokies through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) on Earth Day in 1998. The non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLIA), created in 1998, coordinates the inventory. Over the last 20 years, biologists have not only documented thousands of plants and animals, but have also identified nearly 1,000 new species previously unknown to science.

“We are grateful for the partnership between the park and DLIA, and the variety of institutions and individuals that have participated in this project,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This has been a tremendous scientific effort to help us better understand the Smokies and how we might better protect it for the next generation of owners.”

The Smokies have a long history of research, and prior to the ATBI, about 10,000 species were documented in the park. That number is now nearly doubled, and some of the more surprising new records include species of well-studied groups like mammals and vascular plants. Some of the new species to science found during the ATBI include 31 moths, 41 spiders, 78 algae, 64 beetles, 29 crustaceans, 58 fungi, 21 bees and their relatives, 18 tardigrades (known as waterbears), and 270 bacteria! With collection records from every corner of the park, managers now have a much better understanding of what species exist and what environmental conditions they require.

Through the years, the park and DLIA have hosted over 1,000 researchers from 150 different universities, museums, and institutions in the US and around the world. Numerous ATBI-related education events and workshops have been held since 1998, involving over 200,000 students and 6,500 teachers. Over 1,000 volunteers have been trained by DLIA in citizen science workshops and have contributed over 60,000 volunteer hours toward this project. In addition to the park and DLIA, the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association have significantly contributed to this ATBI through financial support.

“At the heart of this project are the scientists, park staff, and volunteers who fan out across the park on a regular basis to dig in the leaf litter, wade in the streams, and look under rocks for anything and everything alive,” said Todd Witcher, Executive Director of DLIA. “They are the true heroes of the Smokies and the remarkable number of new species discoveries is a testament to their passion and perseverance.”

The Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world. Through the eons, forces such as wind, rain, freezing, and thawing eroded the peaks. Although glaciers did not reach this far south, their influence on the climate combined with the range of elevations and the southwest to northeast orientation of these mountains accounts for the striking variety of living things found in the park. The biological diversity of the Smokies was the impetus for conducting the ATBI, and the project has now grown to be the largest sustained natural history inventory in the United States.

This scientific effort has produced a baseline for one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. Park managers now have a better understanding of the resources, and can better predict how changing conditions in the future may impact them. ATBI information also provides a foundation allowing for future park managers to make better-informed decisions. For more information about special events celebrating the 20th anniversary year of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, please visit DLIA’s website at https://dlia.org/.



Jeff
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Smokies Announces Paving Project on Newfound Gap Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a paving project will begin the week of April 30 on Newfound Gap Road. Work will take place along the road between the Newfound Gap area south to the park boundary at Cherokee, North Carolina. The project should be completed by September 20, 2018, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling on Newfound Gap Road should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays April 30 through June 16 and again from August 16 through September 20. Lane closures are permitted from 7:00 a.m. on Mondays through 12:00 p.m. on Fridays and will be allowed to hold traffic for up to 10 minutes at a time. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations and a pilot car to lead traffic through work zones. In addition, some parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no daytime lane closures will be allowed on weekends, holidays, or from June 16 through August 15.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $3 million paving contract to Estes Brothers Construction. Roadwork will include the application of a thin lift pavement overlay.

For more information about road conditions, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm



Jeff
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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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 Thursday, June 7 through Thursday, June 14. 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 27 at 12:00 noon until Monday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 9. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 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 $20.00 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 9 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 parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is 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 $20.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

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



Jeff
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Evening Under the Stars to Support Science Education in the Smokies

Smoky Mountain starry skies will be the backdrop of Friends of the Smokies’ second annual stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob. On Friday, May 18, Friends of the Smokies will partner with the Astronomy Club of Asheville to raise money for science education in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The evening will begin at sundown with live music, dessert, and drinks at Purchase Knob, a grassy bald at more than 5,000 feet in elevation. After dark, the Astronomy Club of Asheville will provide telescopes to view the night sky.

Purchase Knob is home to one of a growing network of Research Learning Centers managed by the National Park Service, and hosts schoolchildren from across Western North Carolina and scientists from around the country. The event supports the Kathryn McNeil Endowment, which provides funding for a full time teacher-ranger at the Learning Center.

“When young people experience the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park they forever have a connection to this spectacular place. Parks as Classrooms program ensures that over 15,000 have this opportunity to learn in nature each year. I’m proud that Friends of the Smokies continues to grow the Kathyrn McNeil Endowment, which provides support for this critical program in perpetuity,” says Chase Pickering, Friends of the Smokies Board Member.

For more information and tickets ($75), visit FriendsOfTheSmokies.org/donate or call (828)-452-0720.



Jeff
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Smokies Hosting Birds of Prey Program

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is again teaming up with the Balsam Mountain Trust for a special program on Birds of Prey at the Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Friday, April 20.

Michael Skinner, Executive Director of the Balsam Mountain Trust, will conduct an hour-long Birds of Prey program beginning at 11:00 am. This program will provide visitors with an up-close glimpse of some of the planets most recognized and revered wild animals such as the tiny eastern screech owl and northern bald eagle.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership with Balsam Mountain Trust,” said Lynda Doucette, Supervisory Park Ranger. “This program provides an opportunity for park visitors to see and learn about these beautiful birds first hand.”

Balsam Mountain Trust is a local non-profit whose mission is the stewardship of the natural and cultural resources on Balsam Mountain Preserve and the Blue Ridge Mountain region, through effective land management practices, scientific research, and environmental education. The Trust has earned special distinction as a place where non-releasable birds of prey are taken in, cared for, and then utilized as educational ambassadors.

The Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room is adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For more information on the upcoming Birds of Prey program, please call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828) 497-1904.



Jeff
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Monday, April 16, 2018

HikingintheSmokys.com Celebrates 10th Anniversary

It's hard to believe, but its been 10 years since we launched HikingintheSmokys.com. Building this website has given me an outstanding opportunity to explore dozens of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains that I likely never would've considered in the past - simply because I would've continued hiking the most popular trails. Moreover, this website has given me an opportunity to discover many things about the park that I otherwise probably wouldn't have taken the time to learn, such as its rich and extensive human history, as well as its natural history, including its wide range of flora and fauna.

When I first launched this website in 2008 I covered roughly 20 hikes. Today the site covers a total of 67 hikes, and continues to grow each year. Over the last 10 years I've committed myself to making this the best possible online hiking resource for the Smokies by providing accurate trail descriptions, providing interesting historical anecdotes pertinent to as many trails as possible, and providing photographs that accurately showcase the beauty and the highlights of each hike.

Since launching HikingintheSmokys.com in 2008 my wife and I have launched three additional sister websites for three other national parks. They include HikinginGlacier.com in 2011, RockyMountainHikingTrails.com in 2012, and TetonHikingTrails.com in 2014. If you've never had the opportunity to visit any of these parks, I highly recommend all three of them. Like the Smokies, each of these parks offer many outstanding hiking opportunities.

Thanks to all of you for your support over the years!



Jeff
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Friday, April 13, 2018

National Park Service Announces Plan to Address Infrastructure Needs & Improve Visitor Experience

As part of its ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, the National Park Service (NPS) announced today changes to the entrance fees charged at national parks. The changes, which come in response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, will modestly increase entrance fees to raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments.

Most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 and will be implemented in many parks beginning June 1, 2018. Yosemite National Park for example will increase the price of a seven-day vehicle pass to the park from $30 to $35. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter. A complete list of park entrance fees may be found here.

All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain in the National Park Service with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the experience for visitors who continue to visit parks at unprecedented levels. Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, means aging park facilities incurring further wear and tear.

“An investment in our parks is an investment in America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly-visited national parks. The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure. This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensure that national parks remain world class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

“Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans,” Secretary Zinke said. “Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. In order for families with young kids, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers.”

Fees to enter national parks predate the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. For example, Mount Rainier National Park began charging an entrance fee in 1908. Factoring in inflation, the $5 entrance fee the park charged in 1914 would be the equivalent of a $123 entrance fee today—more than four times the price of the new seven-day $30 vehicle pass.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

In addition to implementing modest fee increases and enhancing public-private partnerships aimed at rebuilding national parks, Secretary Zinke is working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The billfollows the blueprint outlined in Secretary Zinke and President Trump's budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Some parks not yet aligned with the other parks in their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Operation in Little Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 120-acre prescribed burn in Little Cataloochee on Thursday, April 12, weather permitting. Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use on Thursday, April 12 through Friday, April 13. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.

The burn unit is located along Little Cataloochee Trail between the trailhead on Old Highway 284 and the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church. The area is bounded by Little Cataloochee Creek and Coggins Branch. This prescribed burn is one in a series of low-intensity controlled burns used over a number of years to restore oak woodland communities that provide habitat for wildlife including elk. The prescribed burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.



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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cades Cove Loop Road to Close Early on Thursday, April 12

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary closure of the Cades Cove Loop Road beginning Thursday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. for pavement repairs near the Loop Road entrance. This early closure will not affect hours for the Cades Cove Campground, Cades Cove Store, Cades Cove Visitor Center, or Cades Cove Riding Stables. The road will re-open to traffic on Friday morning, April 13. This work is part of the $2.5 million paving contract occurring along Laurel Creek Road, Townsend Entrance Road, and Tremont Road.

The entire project should be completed by June 15, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather. Visitors traveling to Cades Cove should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays throughout the project. Single-lane closures will be allowed for up to two miles at a time on Laurel Creek Road and half a mile on Townsend Entrance Road and Tremont Road. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations and a pilot car to lead traffic through work zones. In addition, some parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently. Contractors may elect to work during the evening and nighttime hours as needed. To better accommodate traffic during periods of heavy visitation, there will no lane closures on weekends, or holidays.

For more information about road conditions, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm



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