Sunday, October 21, 2018

N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation Launches New Trails Website

The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation announced this past week the launch of the N.C. Trails website. The website is a hub for the N.C. Trails Program and offers quick and easy access to information on state trails and trails in state parks as well as guidance for funding, creating and maintaining a trail.

The new website is simple, user-friendly, and provides information for grant applicants, trail users, and trail developers and maintainers. The new website goes live today, and can be accessed at

"We are thrilled to make this site available to trail enthusiasts near and far," said Scott Crocker, manager of the N.C. trails program. "This dedicated site will provide guidance and technical assistance for trails program grant applicants while providing detailed information and improving our trails visibility statewide."

The new state trails website will be updated regularly with trail development news, project updates, volunteer and funding opportunities, milestones, and events. Users can plan hikes, learn how to get a trail segment designated, and explore expert tips on managing existing trail segments.

Previously, all N.C. trails program information was housed on the N.C. state parks website, The new site was developed due to increased demand for more detailed and accessible trail-specific information.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 19, 2018

Some Fees at Big South Fork NRRA are to be Waived for Veteran’s Day 2018

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will be observing Veteran’s Day on Sunday, November 11, 2018. Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas has authorized a night of free camping at the Alum Ford Campground as well as for all backcountry permits during this time.

Alum Ford Campground, located at Big South Fork, offers a serene camping experience near the edge of the Big South Fork River on the Kentucky side of the park. This campground has six sites available on a first come-first served basis. Amenities include an accessible vault toilet and recently renovated gravel tent pads, grills, picnic tables, food storage lockers, animal-proof garbage receptacles, and lantern hooks. The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail passes through this campground providing access to the magnificent backcountry areas of the park.

On Veterans Day, or any day, honor those that have served and sacrificed for our country with a visit to a National Park Service site near you. More information may be found at:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Announcing The Release of My New Book on The History of Hiking

I’m very excited to announce the release of my brand new book on the rich history of hiking! Ramble On: A History of Hiking is the first broad historical overview of hiking in one volume. Among the variety of topics discussed about the early years of hiking, the book also includes anecdotal stories of trail development in some of our oldest and most iconic national parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To give you a better idea of what the book encompasses, I've copied the introduction to the book (below), which is now available on Amazon.

Ramble On:

How did hiking evolve from the upper-class European sport of alpinism and the publication of an English travel guide into an activity that now has millions of participants all over the world? Who built the thousands of miles of trails that now crisscross America? What did early hikers wear, and what were some of the key inventions and innovations that led to our modern array of hiking gear and apparel? How was information about hiking, trails and gear disseminated in the early years? And what were some of the reasons why people hiked, and how have those changed over time?

Ramble On, a general history on the sport of hiking (also known as rambling, tramping, walking, hillwalking, backpacking or trekking), attempts to answers these questions, as well as many others. This book chronicles hiking’s roots in alpinism and mountaineering, the societal trends that fostered its growth, some of the early hikers from the nineteenth century, the first trails built specifically for recreational hiking, the formation of the first hiking clubs, as well as the evolution of hiking gear and apparel.

When I first considered writing this book two years ago I wasn’t really sure how much relevant information I would be able to find, or how compelling of a story could be written about the history of hiking. I feared that I wouldn’t have enough material to write a full book. However, after diving into the project I soon realized that hiking actually has a very rich and compelling history, and has been profoundly influenced by a series of events that had nothing to do with hiking. I was continuously amazed by how much hiking has been molded by societal trends, as well as national and international events. The story of hiking took me in many directions that I never would’ve considered, from Romanticism and Transcendentalism, to the Industrial Revolution and the labor movement, to the rise of automobiles, environmentalism, club culture, and even art, to name just a few.

However, what intrigued me the most were the anecdotal stories of trail development in some of our oldest and most iconic national parks, as well as the peculiar and quirky traditions of some of the early hiking clubs. One of the most compelling stories was the apparel women were forced to wear during the Victorian Era, and the danger those fashion standards posed to women who dared to venture into the mountains.

This book also takes a look at some of the issues that currently impact hikers and trails, such as overcrowding and social media, and takes a peek into the future on how some of these trends could unfold. I also explain some of the solutions public land managers are currently considering, and offer a few suggestions myself.

My hope is that you will you come away with a better understanding of what it took to make hiking one of the most popular activities in the world, and what we need to do to preserve our trails and the spirit of hiking for future generations to come.

To order your copy now, please click here. Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Body of Missing Hiker Found in Smokies (Updated)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced earlier that the body of the hiker, missing since last Tuesday, was found earlier today. Here is the statement from the park's Facebook page:
Search crews located the body of Susan Clements in Great Smoky Mountains National Park late this afternoon. Her body was found approximately two miles west of the Clingmans Dome parking area and ¾ miles south of the Appalachian Trail.

Our hearts are with the family and friends of Ms. Clements. The park would like to extend our appreciation to the many agencies and organizations that participated in the search effort.

Further details will be provided when they become available.
On Wednesday, October 3rd, the park published this press release with that additional information:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced last night that search crews found the body of Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, from Cleves, Ohio, after an extensive, week-long search. Clements had been missing from the Clingmans Dome area of the park since Tuesday, September 25. A large-scale search operation was launched, which included trained searchers, canine teams, helicopters, and drones with advanced technology from around 50 local, state, and federal agencies and professional search and rescue groups.

Late yesterday afternoon, Clements' body was found off-trail, in a rugged, heavily wooded area of the Huggins Creek drainage, approximately two miles from Clingmans Dome parking area and three-fourths mile south of the Appalachian Trail. The cause of death is under investigation, however foul play is not suspected at this time.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of Susan during this difficult time,” said park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are grieving with the family and hope that yesterday’s recovery helps provide some closure as they begin their own grieving process.” He added, “I am inspired by, and extremely grateful for, the tireless work of our park staff, as well as the generous assistance provided by dozens of agencies and well-trained search and rescue organizations.”

Clingmans Dome Road remains closed to allow staff time to remove the infrastructure brought in to help manage and support the search operation. The road and Clingmans Dome parking area are expected to reopen by tomorrow morning.

The family of Susan Clements provided this statement to share with the public:

“I want to specifically thank the National Park Service for their incredible efforts. The cooperation shown between more than 50 agencies was amazing, comforting, and very supportive. Every piece of the operation, including the scientific fronts, logistical parts, and the emotional support provided to us was very impressive. The children, her sisters, and I want to especially thank Jared St. Clair (Chief Ranger), Joe Pond (Incident Commander), James Latendresse (Operations Chief), and Florie Takaki (Family Liaison) for their dedication and support. We also want to thank the countless other people who helped look for Susan. This includes the ground searchers, pilots, drone operators, dog trackers, technicians, EMS providers, the many teams of tactical climbers and rescuers, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The kids, her sisters, and I greatly appreciate the intense work they performed for us, and we will be eternally grateful.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Smokies Mobilizes Additional Resources in Search for Missing Woman

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials continue to search for Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, who was last seen in the Clingmans Dome area of the park on Tuesday, September 25. Trained personnel from cooperating agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia have responded to assist park staff in a large-scale search effort for the missing woman in steep, rugged terrain.

As of Saturday, around 125 trained searchers and logistical support personnel from more than 30 state and local agencies and search and rescue organizations are participating in the search operation led by the National Park Service. Helicopters and multiple canine teams have been deployed for the search effort. Specialized search and rescue drones, operated by FAA-licensed pilots are being used in some areas to help search for Clements. Searchers have worked through rain, fog, wind and low temperatures in the 40s over the last several days in this mountainous region which straddles two states and several counties. Today’s forecast calls for clearer skies and drier air, a welcome change for search personnel.

By closing the seven-mile Clingmans Dome Road on Thursday night, the park was able to transform the Clingmans Dome parking area into a field “incident command post” from which to manage the complex search. Infrastructure such as tents and self-contained mobile command busses serve as portable offices for search personnel and provide a place for searchers to escape the elements, refuel, and receive instructions before heading back out to continue the search for Clements.

Verizon Wireless established a mobile cell booster, which is now providing the critical cell and data coverage needed to effectively manage and support the search effort in this remote location. Even the closed road itself has been used as a landing zone for aircraft that are assisting in the search as weather permits. Clingmans Dome Road remains closed for the duration of this critical search operation.

At this time additional volunteer searchers are not being sought, as search operations are limited to trained searchers to enable a systematic, thorough search of the area. “This is unforgiving terrain, and we are working long hours to find Ms. Clements,” said Acting Chief Ranger Jared St. Clair. “We are extremely grateful for the rapid response by so many well-trained personnel and the generous support resources that our cooperators have dedicated to this search.”

Cooperating organizations include: Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue, Black Diamond Search and Rescue, Blount County Rescue Squad, Blount County Special Operations Response Team, Blue and Gray Search and Rescue Dogs, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, Catons Chapel-Richardson Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Cherokee Indian Police Department, Cherokee Tribal EMS, Gatlinburg Police Department, Henderson County Rescue Squad and EMS, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Knoxville-Knox County Emergency Management Agency, Maryville Police Department, North Carolina Emergency Management Agency, Northview Kodak Fire Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, Sevierville Police Department, Southwest Virginia Mountain Rescue Group, Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, Smoky Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol, Smoky Mountain Search and Rescue Team, Swain County Emergency Management Agency, Swain County Rescue Squad, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Susan Clements was last seen on the Forney Ridge Trail approximately ¼ mile from Andrews Bald on Tuesday, September 25 at 5 pm. She is a white female with light brown hair and blue eyes, is 5’6” tall, and weighs 125 pounds. She is wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho, and white tennis shoes with purple laces.

Anyone who saw Clements on Tuesday afternoon or since then is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch through one of the following methods: 1-888-653-0009, and click “submit a tip,” email e-mail the park, or via a message on Facebook at “InvestigativeServicesNPS,” or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, September 28, 2018

Clingmans Dome Road Closed Due to Search For Missing Hiker

Due to the on-going search for a missing woman, Clingmans Dome Road is CLOSED to vehicles to better facilitate search-related traffic and to ensure the safety of search crews. The road will remain closed until further notice and we can not estimate its opening at this time. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding during this search and rescue operation. Follow us on Twitter at @SmokiesRoadsNPS for road status updates.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Smokies Hosts Stargazing Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center beginning at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. Located on Purchase Knob, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky in the park and in Haywood County, NC.

The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260-degree unobstructed view of the sky. If skies are clear, visitors can expect to see the Milky Way Galaxy high overhead that night, along with the planets Saturn and Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy, and many striking star clusters.

“National Park areas often offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Parks across the country monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we do to protect our air and water. Visitors are often amazed at the number of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The event starts with an indoor presentation, which will be held rain or shine, to discuss what can be seen in the nighttime October skies. After that, participants will head outside, weather permitting, to stargaze. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so visitors should dress in warm layers. The program is free but limited to 80 people, so reservations are required and can be made by registering through Eventbrite, at, or by calling 828.497.1946.

Purchase Knob is located off US 276 near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The use of GPS or an internet map service to find Purchase Knob is not recommended, but park staff can provide reliable directions when visitors make reservations.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Smokies Searching for Missing Hiker Near Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National park rangers are searching for a 53-year-old woman from Cleves, Ohio who was last seen in the Clingmans Dome area of the park on Tuesday, September 25. Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements was hiking with her daughter on the Forney Ridge Trail, near Andrews Bald when the two separated. She was last seen around 5:00 pm approximately ¼ mile from Andrews Bald.

Park officials were alerted that Clements was missing on Tuesday evening and began to search the immediate area with no success. On Wednesday, officials expanded the search area, and additional personnel were called in to search. Last night experienced searchers spent the night on the Appalachian Trail, attempting to locate Clements and to interview any hikers in the area. The search continues this morning with approximately 40 trained members of the park’s Search and Rescue Team.

Susan Clements is a white female with light brown hair and blue eyes. She is 5’6” tall and weighs 125 pounds. She is wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho, and white tennis shoes.

Anyone who saw Clements on Tuesday afternoon or since then is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch through one of the following methods: call or 1-888-653-0009, click “submit a tip,” email e-mail us, or via a message on Facebook at “InvestigativeServicesNPS”, or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Volunteer Opportunities Available During Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce upcoming Fall “Smokies Service Days” volunteer projects. These unique opportunities allow community members and park visitors to get involved and become stewards of Great Smoky Mountains National Park! 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, historic buildings, 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, except for the November 23 service date. 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 prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

September 29: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont

October 6: Historic Preservation & Campground Maintenance at Cataloochee

October 27: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek

November 3: Campground Clean-Up at Cosby

November 10: Litter Patrol at the Gatlinburg Park Boundary

November 17: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont

November 23: Vegetation Management at Wears Valley

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, September 24, 2018

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Reclaiming Iconic A.T. Vistas and Improving Wildlife Habitats Through Partnership with Global Heavy Equipment Company Kubota

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), an organization working to preserve and enhance the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for more than 92 years, recently announced a new partnership with Kubota, a leading global provider of lawn mowers, utility vehicles, construction equipment, agriculture tractors and hay equipment.

The partnership involves Kubota graciously providing the ATC with the usage of a compact track loader, a high-tech machine that can operate in remote Trail sections. The powerful 96 horsepower diesel engine easily removes invasive woody vegetation. The mower attachment for the Kubota tractor is generously provided by Beverage Tractor, Virginia’s largest full-line Kubota dealer located in Stuarts Draft.

“Corporate partners are critical to the ATC and our ability to fulfill our mission of protecting the Appalachian Trail, one of the most important landscapes in the eastern United States,” said Laura Belleville, vice president of conservation and trail management for the ATC. “We give big thanks to Kubota for providing us with equipment and training so that we can enhance 614 acres of habitat for important wildlife species while also improving some amazing scenic areas. Kubota joins our other vital corporate partners who provide us with vital safety, clothing and backpacking equipment that allows our field crew and educators to provide exceptional services to the public.”

In the absence of historic natural disturbances and large grazers that formerly roamed the Appalachian Mountains, the ATC selectively removes woody vegetation to maintain habitat for populations animals, such as monarch butterflies, golden-winged warblers, and rare bees, that require open, shrubby areas, or grasslands. This work is just a part of the ATC’s ongoing stewardship efforts to care for the A.T.’s various rare, threatened and endangered species.

“We’re particularly proud of any opportunity we have to offer our expertise and equipment to a worthy cause, and we’re thrilled to provide assistance to the ATC,” said Todd Stucke, senior vice president, marketing, product support & strategic projects at Kubota. “Their work helps ensure the A.T. remains a magical experience for hikers and a vital part of our shared American heritage. We build our products for maximum efficiency and durability, and are confident this compact track loader will serve the ATC well in its worthy efforts.”


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service Waives Campground Fees on National Forests

The Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service is immediately waiving fees and making all campgrounds available for individuals displaced by the recent flooding and evacuation.

Like several areas along the Gulf Coast, many National Forests were impacted by the recent storm. Some of the region’s campgrounds are closed due to the inclement weather.

Please call ahead or check websites to determine what is open and available. Also, individuals requesting campsites need to check in with campground hosts at each site.

For more information on campgrounds in the Southern Region, please visit the respective forest’s website:

National Forests and Grasslands in Texas – (936) 639-8501
Kisatchie National Forest – (318) 473-7160
National Forests in Mississippi – (601) 965-1600
National Forests in Alabama – (334) 832-4470
National Forests in Florida – (850) 523-8500
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests – (770) 297-3000
Ouachita National Forest – (501) 321-5202
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests – (479) 964-7200
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – (800) 525-7077
Daniel Boone National Forest – (859) 745-3100
Cherokee National Forest – (423) 476-9700
National Forests in North Carolina – (828) 257-4200
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests – (803) 561-4000
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests – (540) 265-5100


Smokies Hosts Volunteer Trail Opportunity for National Public Lands Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a volunteer trail maintenance workday on Saturday, September 22, 2018, in celebration of the 25th annual National Public Lands Day. Participants are invited to work on a trail rehabilitation project along the Oconaluftee River Trail in Cherokee, North Carolina from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Volunteers will assist park staff in resurfacing a large section of the Oconaluftee River Trail, a multi-use riverside path connecting the town of Cherokee to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Volunteers will perform trail maintenance by shoveling, spreading, and compacting surface material. While specific jobs throughout the day may vary in complexity, volunteers must be able to hike at least two miles and safely perform strenuous physical labor. Volunteers should be comfortable using hand tools such as shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers should wear long pants, sturdy closed-toed shoes, and appropriate layers for cool weather. The park will provide gloves, safety gear, and tools for the day. All participants should bring lunch, water, and rain gear. Interested participants should contact Trail and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or for more information and to register.

For folks that would like to help celebrate National Public Lands day, but can’t commit to a full day of trail work, anyone can stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm on September 22 to sign up as a park volunteer and get free litter pick-up supplies and safety gear. After a quick orientation, participants can take the supplies with them and pick up litter as they have time while they explore the park.

Lastly, the National Park Service is partnering with Keep Sevier Beautiful to host a “Roads and Rivers Day” on the same day. Volunteers can join from 9 am to 12 pm to pick up litter in one of nine locations throughout Sevier County. A park ranger will meet participants at the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, 1820 Sports World Blvd, in Gatlinburg. Additional locations for the community event are listed at Safety vests and trash bags will be provided at registration.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands across America. This year’s celebration is expected to draw more than 200,000 volunteers at more than 2,600 sites. For more information about National Public Lands Day, visit


Monday, September 17, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Reopens!

Great Smoky Mountains NP posted this announcement on their Facebook page at 8:45 this morning:
Roads and facilities are opening quickly this morning! Our maintenance crews and other folks have been out since 6 am, sweeping light debris and removing a few large trees from the roadways. All primary roads are now OPEN. Campgrounds and other facilities are starting to open up now as employees make their way into work.

Crews report dense fog in some areas of the park, so please use caution if you are headed into the park today!
For up-to-date information about roads and trail closures, visit the park’s website at, follow the park on Facebook at, or follow “SmokiesRoadsNPS” on Twitter.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Announces Closures in Preparation of Hurricane Florence

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials continue preparations for Hurricane Florence and have announced road and facility closures beginning Saturday, September 15. Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate Florence will be a tropical depression rated-storm when she reaches the Smokies beginning as early as Saturday evening. Officials anticipate sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts Saturday afternoon and into Monday, with the most severe weather predicted for Sunday. Rainfall amounts of 4-8 inches Saturday afternoon through Monday evening are estimated, with higher rainfall amounts possible for the North Carolina side of the park. Due to the potential for hazardous conditions due to downed trees, flooding, and landslides the following closures will be put into effect out of concern for public safety.

Closing Friday, September 14, 2018

Picnic Areas

• Heintooga/Balsam Mountain

Front Country Campgrounds

• Balsam Mountain

Horse Campgrounds

• Round Bottom

Roads - North Carolina

• Balsam Mountain Road
• Heintooga Ridge Road/Round Bottom Road/ Straight Fork Road

Closing Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm (unless noted)

Picnic Areas

• Big Creek, Cosby, and Greenbrier

Front Country Campgrounds

• Abrams Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, and Cosby

Horse Campgrounds

• Big Creek and Cataloochee

Roads - Tennessee

• Abrams Creek Road
• Cosby Access Road
• Foothills Parkway East
• Foothills Parkway West, from Look Rock to Hwy 129 – at 8 pm
• Greenbrier Road
• Newfound Gap Road, from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Newfound Gap – at 8 pm
• Ramsey Cascade Road including Ramsey Cascade Trail
• Rich Mountain Road- at 8 pm
• Tremont Road (Upper) from Tremont Institute to Middle Prong Trailhead- at 8 pm
• Wear Cove Gap Road- at 8 pm

Roads - North Carolina

• Cataloochee Entrance Road
• Clingmans Dome Road- at 8 pm
• Newfound Gap Road, from Smokemont to Newfound Gap- at 8 pm
• NC Hwy 284 •Twentymile

Facilities/Concession Operations

• Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob
• Appalachian Clubhouse- after last reservation
• Clingmans Dome Information Center-at 8 pm
• Leconte Lodge
• Spence Cabin- after last reservation

Park officials will continue to monitor the track of the storm closely. If the storm continues on its current track, additional closures may go into effect on Sunday, September 16.

Scheduled closures will make most park trailheads inaccessible. Overnight backcountry use is not recommended beginning Saturday through Monday due to the potential threat of downed trees and flooded stream crossings causing rivers and trails to become hazardous. All backcountry reservation holders are encouraged to change their itinerary or cancel their permit and receive a refund. Refunds will be available to those who are unable to reschedule their trip for an alternative date.

Following the storm, roads, campgrounds and facilities will be reopened as quickly as possible once they are passable and safety assessments have been made.

For up-to-date information about roads and trail closures, visit the park’s website at, follow the park on Facebook at, or follow “SmokiesRoadsNPS” on Twitter.


Shenandoah National Park Announces Schedule for Reopening

Shenandoah National Park has announced a phased reopening of Skyline Drive, facilities, and the backcountry after its closure due to Hurricane Florence.

Skyline Drive, Big Meadows Lodge, and Skyland Lodge will reopen at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14, 2018. Lewis Mountain Cabins, the backcountry, campgrounds, campstores, and waysides will reopen at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 15. Visitor Centers will reopen at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. For more information about concession services, call please call 877-847-1919. The Park will continue to provide updates via its website (, its social media feeds, and its information line (540-999-3500, option 1, option 1).

Hurricane Florence’s predicted path brings its remnants into the area of Shenandoah National Park Monday and Tuesday. Park officials are monitoring its progress. Saturated soil continues to be a concern for tree falls so visitors should use caution when travel through the Park.


Some Areas of Cherokee NF Closing Due To Hurricane Florence

The USDA Forest Service is closely tracking the forecast models of Hurricane Florence. It has been determined that it is necessary to close all developed (improved facilities) campgrounds and certain other areas in the northern portion (Unaka and Watauga ranger districts) of Cherokee National Forest by Friday September 14 at 12 noon. Sites will be evaluated for health and safety and reopened as conditions allow following the storm passage.

The closures are being implement in the interest of public health and safety. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest strongly recommend that, due to expected wind and rainfall, the public not use trails or general forest areas. Emergency response times will be multiplied if an incident or medical emergency were to occur.

Excessive rain and high wind have the potential to create high water, flash floods, falling trees, mudslides, and severe damage to facilities and roads. Much of the Cherokee National Forest is heavily forested, remote and mountainous, making the potential for hazardous conditions significant.

Anyone planning a visit anywhere in the Cherokee National Forest should seriously consider postponing their visit until the threat of Florence diminishes.


Entire Blue Ridge Parkway To Close Ahead of Hurricane Florence

On Friday September 14, 2018, the entire 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway and all associated facilities, with the exception of the Pisgah Inn and Peaks of Otter Lodge, will be closed at 8:00 p.m. in anticipation of high winds and heavy rains due to the remnants of Hurricane Florence. Saturated soils in combination with high winds in these areas increase the risk of rock slide and falling trees and debris. This closure will remain in effect until further notice.

• Access to Pisgah Inn will be via US-276 only. No access via the Parkway from the north will be available.

• Access to Peaks of Otter Lodge will be via VA-43 only. No access to Peaks of Otter Lodge via the Parkway from the north will be available.

During this closure, all scheduled ranger programs and special events and uses are cancelled. This includes concerts at Humpback Rocks, Roanoke Mountain and Mabry Mill as well as the Overmountain Victory Celebration at the Museum of NC Minerals.

During the closure these sections of Parkway are closed to ALL use, including cyclists and pedestrians. Attempts to route around gates and barriers is prohibited. The public’s cooperation with these closures is important to the safety of our visitors and emergency responders, as well as the protection of Parkway resources.

Updates and information regarding the status of park facilities, including the road itself, will be available on multiple platforms, including the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map, the Parkway’s website, and its Twitter and Facebook pages. Park visitors and neighbors are encouraged to check these sites regularly for information and before heading out to the Parkway.


Hiker From Maryville Dies in Big South Fork NRRA

At approximately 1:00 PM on Sunday, September 09, 2018, park rangers were notified of a 59-year-old male in need of medical assistance on Twin Arches Loop Trail, between Twin Arches and Jake’s Place, within the park.

Park rangers arrived and provided CPR without success. Maryville, Tennessee-area resident Monte McDonough, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was recovered and transported to Pickett County Coroner with the assistance of personnel from Fentress County Rescue Squad, Frozen Head State Park, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

No additional information is available at this time.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence Potential Impact in the Smokies

If you plan on being anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains between Friday and Tuesday, you may want to note that there's an increasingly strong chance that you will be feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. The hurricane will likely reach the Carolina Coastline as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by late today. The current track of the storm has it pushing inland almost directly over the Southern Appalachian Mountains around Sunday and Monday. Visitors and hikers should be prepared for strong winds, heavy rain and the possibility of flooding during this period. As of right now, the North Carolina side of the Smokies could get between 3 and 5 inches of rain through Tuesday. The Tennessee side is projected to receive 1-3 inches. However, this storm appears to be highly un-predictive, so it's best to stay tuned to the Weather Channel for the latest information.

You may also want to note that Shenandoah National Park closed this morning, while the U.S. Forest Service will close all campgrounds and recreation sites, day use or overnight, in the Nantahala and the Pisgah National Forests by noon today. They have also warned the public not to use trails or general forest areas as well. Having said that, it would seem to follow that it is a possibility that the Smokies may have to close the park as well. Keep an eye on the Smokies Facebbook page and their temporary closures page for the latest information.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence Closures for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The U.S. Forest Service, Forest Supervisor, having closely tracked the forecast models of Hurricane Florence, has decided to close down all campgrounds and recreation sites, day use or overnight, in the Nantahala and the Pisgah National Forests by Thursday September 13th at noon.

This will include the temporary suspension of creating reservations on Cancelled reservations, for this timeframe, will be refunded by the reservation service.

The Forest Service will close all seasonal gates, to ensure no one has the opportunity to get trapped behind gates. We strongly request that, due to expected wind and rainfall, the public not use trails or general forest areas. Emergency response times will be multiplied if an incident or medical emergency were to occur.

The health, safety, and well-being of the public and visitors to our National Forests is of our number one priority. Sites will be evaluated for health and safety and reopened as conditions allow following the storm passage.


Shenandoah National Park Announces Closures Due to Hurricane Florence

Shenandoah National Park will close at noon on Thursday, September 13 in anticipation of severe weather associated with Hurricane Florence. Meteorologists are forecasting a significant wind-rain event, particularly in Shenandoah’s higher elevations. Damaging winds combined with already saturated soil will make for hazardous conditions with trees toppling and branches falling.

Shenandoah’s backcountry will be closed to overnight camping as of Wednesday, September 12. Staff have suspended issuing permits and are contacting those with permits to advise them of the closure.

Skyline Drive will be closed to incoming traffic at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.

Shenandoah’s concessioner, Delaware North, will close its properties including Big Meadows and Skyland lodges and visitors will be evacuated by noon on Thursday. For more information about the concessioner’s closures, please call 877-847-1919.

Park staff are assisting with the evacuation and readying the Park’s equipment for deployment before sheltering until conditions improve.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Smokies Issues Safety Reminders During Elk Breeding Season

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind park visitors to exercise caution as they view and photograph elk to protect both the animals and themselves. Elk have entered the fall breeding season, known as the rut. As a result, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed to all users. Even when elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields.

During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Bulls are much more aggressive toward people and vehicles this time of year. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge. “Bull elk, which can weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, are wild animals with unpredictable behavior,” said park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “To help ensure your safety, maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from them at all times. Park in a safe location and remain close to your vehicle so that you can get inside if an elk approaches.”

Visitors are encouraged to use binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras with telephoto lenses to best view and photograph wildlife. Feeding, touching, or disturbing any wildlife, as well as willfully approaching bears or elk within 50 yards (150 feet)–or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife–are all illegal in the park. If approached by an elk, visitors should slowly back away to create space for the animal to pass. If viewing elk near roadways, pull completely off the road, and remain in or next to your vehicle at a safe distance from the animal.

For more information about elk in the park, and to watch a short video about elk viewing safety, visit


Monday, September 10, 2018

Hurricane Florence

If you're going to be anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains between Friday and Monday of next week, you may want to note that there's an increasingly strong chance that you will be feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. The hurricane will likely reach the Carolina Coastline as a Category 4 hurricane by late Thursday. The current track of the storm has it pushing inland over the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains region around Saturday or Sunday. Visitors and hikers should be prepared for strong winds and heavy rain during this period. This projected track could change for the better or the worse, so stay tuned to the Weather Channel for the latest information.

You may also want to note that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial have temporarily closed all visitor facilities effective today at 12:00 pm.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Orvis Event to Benefit Friends of the Smokies

Orvis Sevierville is pleased to announce their “Giveback Days” event taking place throughout the month of September. The outdoor retailer is partnering with Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit that assists the National Park Service to preserve and protect the Great Smoky National Park by raising funds and public awareness.

“The Friends of the Smokies are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year,” stated Tricia Maggard, Orvis Sevierville retail manager. “We are pleased our donation will be used to upgrade the park’s emergency radio system, which is a crucial piece of safety equipment every national park needs. We support the group’s ongoing commitment of enhancing Great Smoky National Park for future generations.”

In addition to a $2,000 cash donation from Orvis, the company is challenging their customers to give back, as well. During the month of September, customers donating $10 or more will receive a $10 Orvis savings card (limit one per customer).

There will be an after-hours event in the Orvis Sevierville store, 136 Apple Valley Road, on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, from 6-8 p.m. where the final donations will be awarded to the Friends of the Smokies and partner groups will be raffling Orvis products to help raise additional funds. The public is invited to attend and there will be free refreshments and drawings for Orvis savings cards.

Orvis commits 5% of pre-tax profits to protecting and sustaining the natural world, not only now, but for all who follow.

For more information, please visit


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fall Color Hiking in the Smokies

Experts are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for an above average fall color display this year. It will be dependent on less rain falling on the mountains over the next several weeks, which forecasters seem to think will happen. If you're planning to hit the trail this fall to take in the colors, you may want to check out our fall color hiking guide, which offers recommendations on where to hike as the season progresses. Please click here for more information.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Shenandoah National Park Celebrates Wilderness This Weekend

Shenandoah National Park will honor America’s wilderness heritage during its 18th annual Wilderness Weekend, September 8 – 9, 2018. Today, more than 110 million acres are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness designation provides enhanced protection of areas that are used as sanctuaries for human recreation, habitat for wildlife, and sites for scientific research.

This year commemorates the 42nd anniversary of Shenandoah’s wilderness designation. Forty percent of the park, or nearly 80,000 acres, is designated wilderness and represents one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States. Come and join the celebration by viewing Shenandoah’s Wilderness from Skyline Drive, hiking a trail, joining a ranger program, learning how to use traditional tools, watching a movie about wilderness, or exploring visitor center exhibits. Special events will take place throughout the weekend.

At Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive), a special activity table featuring backcountry travel and camping skills will be set up on Saturday, September 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Interpretive rangers will present several programs featuring wilderness topics throughout the weekend. Don’t forget to experience the interactive Wilderness exhibit at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center!

At Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 on Skyline Drive), there will be a traditional tool display and demonstration from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on both days. Shenandoah National Park Trail Crew will share their expertise in how traditional tools are used to maintain trails in wilderness areas. You can try your hand at using these tools! Wilderness patrol rangers will be setting up a “wilderness campsite,” and presenting short talks about wilderness skills. Interpretive rangers will be available to help you explore the history and significance of Shenandoah’s Wilderness through exhibits and hands-on activities for children. The interactive exhibit at Byrd Visitor Center, “Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment, including the significance of wilderness designation. A film, American Values: American Wilderness explores wilderness across the United States, and can be seen upon request in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium.

Saturday at 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., the “Dogs East” organization will present a special demonstration by highly trained search and rescue dogs at the Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51 on Skyline Drive in the picnic grounds).

All events are free and no reservations are needed, however, there is a $30-per-vehicle entrance fee to Shenandoah National Park which is good for seven days or use a valid Annual or Lifetime Pass. Go to the Wilderness Weekend page to learn more!


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Conquering A Granite Goliath

Below is an outstanding short film by Christopher R. Abbey on what it's like to climb 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. The film has recently become an official selection for the Highlands Park Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

CONQUERING A GRANITE GOLIATH - Summiting Mount Whitney from Christopher R. Abbey on Vimeo.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Response to the Fatality at Ashby Gap, VA

The following is a statement from Laura Belleville, Vice President of Conservation and Trail Programs for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:
“On August 21st, a 71-year old man hiking the Appalachian Trail, one mile north of Ashby Gap, Virginia, was fatally struck by a falling six-inch tree limb. Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and family.

While falling limbs and trees can potentially present a safety hazard to hikers walking on the Trail, the chances of getting struck are extremely low. For backpackers, it is worth noting that care should be exercised when selecting a campsite.

Hikers should inspect their surroundings by 100 feet and look up for disease and damaged trees or limbs. Trees and limbs are also more susceptible to falling during a windy day, during a flood, heavy snow, or other unusual conditions.

We appreciate the prompt response of the rescuers from Clarke County, and we hope that incidents like this never occur again.”


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Telethon Raises $210,000 Towards New Radio System in Smokies

Friends of the Smokies collected $210,525 in donations Wednesday during its 24th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon from hundreds of callers, online donations, and support from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J, and SmartBank.

Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.9 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The telethon was broadcast live Wednesday night on WBIR in Knoxville, TN, WLOS in Asheville, NC, and on Facebook.

“This community has always come together to meet the needs of the national park in their own backyard and this night was no exception,” said Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), whose wife and daughter volunteered during the broadcast. “Our friends and neighbors on both sides of the mountains pledged their support – even my daughter’s high school teacher called in to make a donation. We are so thankful to have Friends of the Smokies in our corner.”

Donations made Wednesday night will support the organization’s 25th Anniversary Signature Project to upgrade the park’s emergency radio systems. The $2.5 million effort will leverage $1.25 million in federal funds and grants to match every donation made to Friends of the Smokies. The state-of-the-art radio upgrades will allow rangers to respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations in the park, keep more than 11 million annual visitors safe, and communicate with emergency services in surrounding communities. In addition to this capital campaign project, Friends of the Smokies will provide more than $1.2 million in annual support to the national park.

During Wednesday’s program, SmartBank presented a check for $15,000 and Sugarland Cellars presented a $16,000 check to support the fundraising efforts. Justice Gary Wade, Friends of the Smokies’ founding board chair and dean of Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law, pledged $5,000 on behalf of the school during the broadcast.

Friends of the Smokies’ president Jim Hart thanked the generous donors who called and donated online, “To have a record-breaking fundraiser during our 25th anniversary is truly a testament to the generosity of this community. We are so grateful for the tremendous support as we close in on our $2.5 million goal.”

Matching telethon donations can still be made online at or by calling the TN office of Friends of the Smokies at 800-845-5665 or the NC office at 828-452- 0720.


Monday, August 20, 2018

USDA Forest Service Announces New Strategy for Improving Forest Conditions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) recently announced a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics.

Specifically, a new report titled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based investment Strategy outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.

“On my trip to California this week, I saw the devastation that these unprecedented wildfires are having on our neighbors, friends and families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We commit to work more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. We commit to strengthening the stewardship of public and private lands. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.”

Both federal and private managers of forest land face a range of urgent challenges, among them catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds, and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The conditions fueling these circumstances are not improving. Of particular concern are longer fire seasons, the rising size and severity of wildfires, and the expanding risk to communities, natural resources, and firefighters.

“The challenges before us require a new approach,” said Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen. “This year Congress has given us new opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include mitigating wildfire risks. We will use all the tools available to us to reduce hazardous fuels, including mechanical treatments, prescribed fire, and unplanned fire in the right place at the right time, to mitigate them.”

A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. This allows the USFS to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that protect communities and create resilient forests.

The USFS will also build upon the authorities created by the 2018 Omnibus Bill, including new categorical exclusions for land treatments to improve forest conditions, new road maintenance authorities, and longer stewardship contracting in strategic areas. The agency will continue streamlining its internal processes to make environmental analysis more efficient and timber sale contracts more flexible.

The Omnibus Bill also includes a long-term “fire funding fix,” starting in FY 2020, that will stop the rise of the 10-year average cost of fighting wildland fire and reduce the likelihood of the disruptive practice of transferring funds from Forest Service non-fire programs to cover firefighting costs. The product of more than a decade of hard work, this bipartisan solution will ultimately stabilize the agency’s operating environment.

Finally, because rising rates of firefighter fatalities in recent decades have shifted the USFS’s approach to fire response, the report emphasizes the agency’s commitment to a risk-based response to wildfire.

The complete strategy is available at Photographs of the event are available at:


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Service reopens comment period on new management rule for red wolves in North Carolina

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period on a proposed rule to replace the existing regulations governing the nonessential experimental population of the red wolf under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

On June 28, 2018, the Service published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would remove management efforts from existing private lands and instead focus continuing efforts on certain public lands in Hyde and Dare counties, North Carolina. The new proposal is based on a comprehensive four-year evaluation of the northeast North Carolina non-essential experimental population (NC NEP) of red wolves designated under section 10(j) of the ESA. On July 10, 2018, a public meeting was held in Manteo, North Carolina, that drew about 70 people, who shared comments and perspective about the proposal. A 30-day comment period on the proposal closed on July 30, 2018.

The Service is reopening the comment period to allow the public more time to review and comment on the proposed rule. Comments already submitted need not be resubmitted, as they will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule. The Service seeks a variety of information in a number of areas including, but not limited to: the NC NEP’s contribution to red wolf recovery; ideas and strategies for promoting tolerance of red wolves on private property outside the NC NEP management area; and ecological, agricultural and socioeconomic effects of the proposed 10(j) rule. A complete list of information the Service is seeking can be found in the proposed rule.

For more information, including a copy of the proposed rule, visit the red wolf species profile.

The public comment period for the proposed new rule will be reopened for an additional 15 days beginning August 13, 2018 and will close on August 28, 2018. The Service will accept comments received or postmarked on or before August 28, 2018.

You may submit written comments on this proposed rule by one of the following methods:

1. Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. In the Search box, enter FWS-R4-ES-2018-0035, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the Proposed Rules box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” Electronic comments should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. EST on August 28, 2018.

2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2018-0035, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

All comments are posted on, including any personal information you provide. To increase efficiency in downloading comments, groups providing comments from large numbers of people should submit their comments in an excel file.


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 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


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.


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:


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 or call 828-625-9611.


Everything you need to know about online visa services

The following is a guest blog from

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?


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