Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 240 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery. The following are among some of the top reasons why you should pay a visit to this amazing park:

1) Cascade Canyon

The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.

2) Lake Views

Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.

3) Wildlife

Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.

4) Photography

The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams' 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.

5) Snake River Float Trip

The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.

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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, December 2, 2019

“History of hiking” is now 50% off!

Reminder: through Christmas, the paperback version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, is available at 50% off the regular price. Hiking enthusiasts can purchase the book on Amazon right now for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Additionally, the Kindle e-book version of my book will be sold for just $4.99 through Cyber Weekend. This special price will be offered for one week only, from November 27th through December 3rd.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is an outstanding gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Smokies To Close Park Roads This Afternoon Ahead of Storm

In anticipation of a significant snowstorm forecasted for East Tennessee tonight through tomorrow night, the Great Smoky Mountains has just announced several road closures in a series of Tweets:
US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC will close this evening at 5:00 PM due to significant winter weather.
Foothills Parkway East at Cosby will be closing at 4 pm today due to approaching significant winter weather event.
Foothills Parkway West from Walland to Wears Valley (New Section) will be closing at 4 pm today due to approaching significant winter weather event.
Here's the latest Winter Storm Warning forecast from the National Weather Service:

.A storm system will produce widespread precipitation across the southern Appalachians Tonight through Monday night. Temperatures will be cold enough to produce significant snowfall over the higher elevations, especially in places above 3000 feet. In addition to snow, winds are expected to remain breezy in the mountains which will lead to hazardous driving conditions.


* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 5 to 9 inches. Winds gusting as high as 45 mph.

* WHERE...Far east Tennessee Mountains.

* WHEN...From 7 PM this evening to 7 AM EST Tuesday.

* IMPACTS...Travel will be hazardous due to the falling snow and windy conditions. The hazardous conditions will impact the morning and evening commute.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Blowing snow will cause reduced visibilites and drifting of snow. Cold temperatures and strong winds will cause wind chill temperatures to drop into the teens to single digits.
To stay on top of all road closures in the Smokies, please visit their Twitter page:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, November 25, 2019

Is June a good time to visit Glacier National Park?

Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but June is really a great time to visit Glacier National Park! Obviously July and August are by far the most popular months for visiting the park; however, if you wish to avoid the crowds, you may want to check-out the month of June. Sure, the Going-to-the-Sun Road likely won't be open all the way to Logan Pass until later in the month, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to do. In fact, all of the services outside of the park, as well as almost all of the concessioners within the park, will already be open.

So why visit in June? For one, June is an absolutely great time for observing wildflowers. Whitewater rafting is also at its best during this time period. Other popular activities include horseback riding, fly fishing, and as a result of far fewer motorists on park roads, June is also a great time for cycling. And there's nothing like taking a cruise on one of Glacier's lakes to soak in the splendid beauty of the snow-capped mountains. For more information on many of these activities and others, please visit our Thing To Do page.

Although the nights are still relatively cool, temperatures usually reach into the 70s during the day, which makes for nearly perfect hiking conditions. While trails in the higher elevations will still be closed due to snow, there are still a ton of great hiking opportunities around the park. Here are just a couple of suggestions (many of which are normally part of the June ranger-led hikes program - which, by the way, are free):

West Glacier / Lake McDonald Area:

* Avalanche Lake

* Apgar Lookout

* Johns Lake Loop

* Rocky Point Nature Trail

* Upper McDonald Creek Trail

St. Mary Area:

* Beaver Pond Loop

* St. Mary Area Waterfalls Hike

* Sun Point Nature Trail

* Virginia Falls

Many Glacier Area:

* Apikuni Falls

* Belly River Ranger Station

* Grinnell Lake

* Lake Josephine Loop

* Redrock Falls

* Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail

Two Medicine Area:

* Aster Park Overlook

* Rockwell Falls

* Running Eagle Falls

And in case you need one more reason to visit in June: rates on accommodations are much lower when compared to peak season! If you do plan to visit Glacier this June, or anytime throughout the year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Audubon Invites You to Celebrate 120 Years of the Annual Christmas Bird Count

For the 120th year, the National Audubon Society is organizing its annual Christmas Bird Count. Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere. The twelve decades’ worth of data collected by participants continue to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.

When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years. The long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, earlier this year, Science published a study using decades of Audubon Christmas Bird Count data to describe a grim picture: a steady decline of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities. Christmas Bird Count data have been used in more than 300 peer-reviewed articles.

A brand new feature for this year’s 120th Christmas Bird Count will be “CBC Live”, a crowd-sourced, hemisphere-wide storytelling function using Esri mapping software. This “story-map” will ask users to upload a photo taken during their Christmas Bird Count as well as a short anecdote to paint a global picture of the Christmas Bird Count in real time.

Last year, the 119th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2615 count circles, with 1975 counts in the United States, 460 in Canada and 180 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands. This was the ninth-straight year of record-breaking counts. In total, 79,425 observers out in the field and watching feeders tallied up over 48 million birds representing more than 2600 species different species—more than one-quarter of the world’s known avifauna. Approximately 5 percent of the North American landmass was surveyed by the Christmas Bird Count. Last year included two new species for the Christmas Bird Count list of birds seen in the United States: a Little Stint in San Diego and a Great Black Hawk in Portland, Maine.

The Northern Bobwhite, the only native quail in the eastern United States, continues its downward spiral. This species has essentially disappeared from the Northeast and faces massive declines due to loss of shrubland habitat exacerbated by increased droughts. On the flip side, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches staged major irruptions southward during the 119th CBC.

Beginning on Christmas Day in 1900, Dr. Frank M. Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine -- proposed a new holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. So began the Christmas Bird Count. 120 years later, the tradition continues and still manages to bring out the best in people and contribute valuable data to the worldwide scientific community.

To sign up for a Christmas Bird Count and ensure your bird count data make it into the official Audubon database, please find the circle nearest you and register with your local Christmas Bird Count compiler on this map here. All Christmas Bird Count data must be submitted through the official compiler to be added to the long-running census.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a community science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more. For more information and to find a count near you visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, November 22, 2019

Shining Rock Wilderness Temporarily Closed to All Visitors Due to Wildfire

A wildfire was reported at approximately 3:00 am Thursday morning near Cold Mountain in Haywood County on the Pisgah Ranger District. Currently the fire is at approximately 106 acres.

The wildfire is burning within the Shining Rock Wilderness on the Pisgah Ranger District. The U.S. Forest Service has implemented a forest closure order for the entire wilderness area which prohibits all recreational uses, including the use of 53 miles of trails.

There are 30 firefighters working on the fire today and a crew will continue working throughout the night.

There will be heavy smoke in the area throughout Thursday night as a result of smoldering in the burn area. There is no imminent threat to structures at this time. Crews have been performing structure protection activities and this work will continue through Friday.

Agencies involved in the response include USDA Forest Service, NC Forest Service Haywood County Emergency Management, Cruso Fire Department, and National Park Service.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, November 21, 2019

“History of hiking” 50% off

As you're likely already aware, Black Friday is next week. As a result, I wanted to let you all know that my book will be on sale throughout the upcoming holiday season. Beginning today, and continuing through Christmas, the paperback version of Ramble On: A History of Hiking will be sold at 50% off the regular price. During this timeframe hiking enthusiasts will be able to purchase the book on Amazon for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Additionally, the Kindle e-book version of my book will be sold for just $4.99 on Black Friday and throughout Cyber Weekend. This special price will be offered for one week only, from November 27th through December 3rd.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is an outstanding gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, November 17, 2019

National Take a Hike Day

Did you know that today is “National Take a Hike Day”? Each year, on November 17th, National Take a Hike Day is observed by hikers across the country. Though the origins of this day seem to be a little murky, it appears that it may have been started by the American Hiking Society. Whenever and whoever started the day, hiking has its roots firmly planted in many of the same societal trends that shaped our country. According to the National Today website:
Hiking, while a major part of our culture today, wasn’t always the ubiquitous weekend warrior activity is today. Before Walden, Thoreau, and John Muir there was Romantic and Transcendentalism movement, art and cultural shifts to the natural order and time spent being outside. A reaction to the Industrial Revolution, train schedules, 90 hour work weeks and more.

The idea of taking a hike turned romantic and peaceful.
If you can’t actually make it onto a trail today, you can still download a copy of my book, “Ramble On: A History of Hiking,” to learn about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes, which will help to explain why today is now recognized as a "national holiday".

Happy Take a Hike Day!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Temporary Closures on Park Roads for Tree Removal Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that single-lane and full-lane closures will affect several park roads beginning Monday, November 18 through Friday, March 31 for tree removal work. Closures are necessary to ensure the safety of motorists and tree-removal crews along the park’s narrow roadways during the work.

The Cades Cove Loop Road will experience periods of full closure and partial closures from December 2 through December 19 on Mondays through Thursdays. Cherokee Orchard Road, beginning just beyond the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin, will be fully closed from December 2 through December 20 on Mondays at 6:00 a.m. through noon on Fridays. During the work periods, roads will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. The Noah Bud Ogle Cabin and parking area will remain accessible to visitors throughout the closure period. Wears Cove Gap Road will be fully closed from January 29 through January 30. Single-lane closures will be implemented on the Spur from November 18 through November 22, and again from December 2 through December 20. Beginning November 18 through March 27, single-lane closures will be implemented for short durations on Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Foothills Parkway West, and Lakeview Drive as well as the developed areas in Deep Creek, Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont.

All tree removal work involving single-lane closures will occur from 6:00 a.m. on Mondays to noon on Fridays throughout the work period, excluding federal holidays and the holiday period between December 23 and January 5. The work schedule is subject to change due to weather or other unplanned delays.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Blue Ridge Parkway Invites Public Input on Proposed Special Events Involving Temporary Closures

The National Park Service announced today the opportunity to provide input on two proposed Special Use Permits which could include temporary, full closures of sections of the Parkway motor road near Roanoke, Virginia and Asheville, North Carolina, in the spring and summer of 2020.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is reviewing a permit request from Revel Race Series to allow for a portion of a running event on the Parkway motor road on Saturday, May 2, 2020. The proposed permit would include a temporary, full closure of the Parkway motor road in both directions from Milepost 377 to 383, in Asheville, North Carolina, for all or a portion of the day.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is simultaneously reviewing a permit request from The Ironman Group to allow for a part of the cycling portion of a triathlon on the Parkway motor road on Sunday, June 7, 2020. This proposed permit would include a temporary, full closure of the Parkway motor road in both directions from Milepost 91 to 112, near Roanoke, Virginia, for all or a portion of the day.

These proposed events would bring recreational users to the park as part of larger regional events, while at the same time temporarily limit access to portions of the Parkway for the safety of event participants and park visitors. Any additional management costs incurred by the National Park Service would the responsibility of the event organizers, per National Park Service policy.

The public is invited to provide comments related to impacts of potential temporary road closures associated with each of these events on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment Site. Comments related to the Asheville area running event can be entered at; and comments related to the Roanoke area triathlon should be entered at The comment period for both proposed events is open through Friday, November 22, 2019. The National Park Service appreciates the public’s input, which will be one of many factors considered in the final permit decision.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Phase 1 of the Trillium Gap Trail Rehabilitation Project is nearing completion!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced that the first phase of the Trillium Gap Trail Rehabilitation Project will be completed later this week. On their Facebook page this morning, the park stated that ⁣Thursday, November 14th, will be the last day of the closure for the 2019 season.⁣ According to the post:⁣
The first phase of the project focused on the rehabilitation of the trail starting from the Trillium Gap Trailhead up to Grotto Falls. The project involved the removal of hazard trees along the trail corridor, the restoration of the trail tread, and the construction of new stone and timber structures to help combat erosion and provide a safer, more sustainable trail. The work was performed by the Smokies Trails Forever Crew, along with an ACE AmeriCorps Crew. ⁣

⁣Phase 2 of the project will begin in the spring of 2020. During the second phase, the upper section of the trail from Grotto Falls to Mt. LeConte is expected to be closed from mid-May through mid-November. The actual dates for the closure will be announced next spring. The lower part of trail from the Trillium Gap Trailhead up to Grotto Falls will remain OPEN throughout the closure, providing visitors access to the falls.
⁣The photo below shows a side-by-side comparison of the trail approaching Grotto Falls (photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park):

The rehabilitation project is supported by Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information about Friends of the Smokies visit: ⁣ ⁣

For information regarding the Smokies Trails Forever Program and Volunteering with Trails, please visit:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, November 11, 2019

National Park Service Announces Entrance Fee-Free Days for 2020

The National Park Service will have five entrance fee-free days in 2020. On each of these significant days of celebration or commemoration, all national parks will waive entrance fees.

The dates for 2020 are:

● Monday, January 20 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

● Saturday, April 18 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day

● Tuesday, August 25 – National Park Service Birthday

● Saturday, September 26 – National Public Lands Day

● Wednesday, November 11 – Veterans Day

“Across the country, more than 400 national parks preserve significant natural and cultural areas, each one an important piece of our national identity and heritage,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “Free entrance days serve as additional motivation for people to get outside and enjoy these places of inspiration and recreation.”

Since their inception almost 150 years ago, national parks have protected resources and provided places for public health and enjoyment. With at least one site in every state, the National Park Service’s 419 parks, recreation areas, cultural sites, rivers, and trails are accessible destinations that supply benefits for overall physical and mental well being. Time spent in nature reduces stress and blood pressure and often leads to lifestyle choices that include more exercise and better nutrition. Paddling, bicycling, walking, fishing, star gazing, and camping are just some of the many memorable and healthful recreational activities available in national parks.

Veterans Day on November 11 is the only remaining fee-free day in 2019. Out of the 419 National Park Service sites, 110 charge an entrance fee, with costs ranging from $5 to $35. The other 309 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, active duty members of the U.S. military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2020 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Friends of the Smokies Seeks Donations for Cades Cove Bear Brigade

Yesterday, the Friends of the Smokies announced on their Facebook page that they are seeking donations for the "Cades Cove Bear Brigade". Here's the post if you wish to help:
Love bears? For #fundmefriday we’re spotlighting an important project: Cades Cove Bear Brigade. This volunteer program focuses on visitor safety and protection of bears through education and outreach. Donate on Facebook or online:

About the project:

This program will enable the park to more efficiently manage “bear jams” and help visitors more responsible view wildlife. These funds will be used to purchase uniforms, outreach materials, and safety equipment. (Project cost: $3,000)

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, November 8, 2019

The National Park Service Salutes Military Veterans - Free Admission on Veterans Day

The National Park Service will commemorate Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, with special events and free admission nationwide.

“In recognition of the bravery and patriotism of America’s military veterans, all national parks will waive entrance fees for visitors on Veterans Day,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “While visiting our national parks, I encourage all Americans to pause and reflect on the significance of the holiday and the freedoms we enjoy thanks to the courageous service of the men and women in our military.”

“We are grateful for the brave men and women who have answered the call to serve in the military,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We invite all veterans to continue the long tradition of enjoying respite, recreation and relaxation in their national parks. From the peaceful quiet of watching wildlife to the thrill of whitewater rafting, parks are full of activities that refresh the body and soul.”

“We fought for this land, now it’s time to enjoy it,” said Adam Stump, a combat veteran who frequently visits national parks to hike and soak in the surroundings. “National parks provide amazing opportunities to appreciate the beauty and history of this country that we served to protect.”

Throughout the country, take advantage of the resources in 419 national parks to paddle, fish, hike, bike, swim, climb, explore or simply relax.

The National Park Service’s American Military website provides a list of events, as well as information about other military-related connections to national parks.

Veterans Day will be the last fee-free day in 2019. Active duty members of the military and permanently disabled veterans are also eligible for free year-round park passes. The passes provide free admission to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal recreational areas.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Smokies Hosts Star Gazing Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a stargazing event on Friday, November 15, 2019 at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in North Carolina. Located on Purchase Knob at 5,000 feet in elevation, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky from the Haywood County region of the park.

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. Visitors can expect to see many celestial wonders including star clusters, binary systems, as well as the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies.

“National park areas offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” says Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Visitors are often amazed at the amount of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The event starts at 5:00 p.m. with an indoor presentation of what can be seen in the nighttime skies during November. This event will be held rain or shine. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so visitors should bring warm layers for a fall Appalachian mountain evening. The program is free, but participation is limited by parking availability. Participants must register in advance to reserve one of the 45 parking permits. Reservations for parking permits can be made by registering through Eventbrite at or by calling 828-497-1907.

For more information about stargazing in the park, please visit the park’s website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Laurel Falls Trail Reopened, Road Work Continues

The Laurel Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened today, November 5, 2019, following road work on November 4. Road crews will continue to pave pullouts and parking areas on each side of Fighting Creek Gap Road and Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Townsend “Wye” intersection over the next few weeks, weather permitting. Motorists should expect short delays and allow extra time when traveling in these areas of the park.

For more information, please visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Prescribed Burns Planned for North Cherokee National Forest

During the period of November 4—8, 2019, if weather conditions permit, prescribed (controlled) burns will be conducted in various locations in the North Cherokee National Forest. Smoke may be visible in surrounding areas.

AREAS TO BE BURNED - November 4—8, 2019

Unaka Ranger District (423-638-4109)

Wagon Train (300 acres) – Located at: N 35° 57’ 46.36” X W 83° 1’ 41.14” in Cocke County on west end of Meadow Creek Mtn. along Yellow Spring Branch and Long Creek Rd, approximately 2.5 miles north of Del Rio.

Devil’s Kitchen (600 acres) – Located at: N 36° 00’ 12.05” X W 82° 46’ 59.42” in Greene County north of Asheville Hwy (Hwy 70) along Rough Branch. North end of the burn is Devil’s Kitchen Branch Rd.

Rich Mtn (100 acres) – Located at: N 36° 8’ 47.68” X W 82° 28’ 39.65” in Unicoi County on Rich Mtn. along FS Rd. 190, approximately 2.5 miles west of Erwin.

Green Knob (500 acres) – Located at: N 36° 7’ 27.61” X W 82° 28’ 28.60” in Unicoi County between Rich Mtn. and Green Knob along FS 190 Rd, approximately 2 miles southwest of Erwin. Shares a border with South California Creek burn.

South California Creek (400 acres) – Located at: N 36° 7’ 35.76” X W 82° 29’ 13.68” in Unicoi County north of California Creek at the head of the drainage along FS 190 Rd, approximately 2 miles west of Erwin.

Allen Branch Pond (170 acres) – Located at: N 36° 56’ 20.93” X W 82° 56’ 38.47” in Cocke County around Allen Branch Pond south and east of Weavers Bend Rd.

Watauga Ranger District (423-735-1500)

Heaberlin (400 acres) – Located at: N 36° 33’ 57.15” X W 81° 55’ 7.03 in Johnson County southeast of McQueen Gap in the Heaberlin Branch drainage, approximately 2.5 north northeast of Shady Valley.

Otherside (100 acres) – Located at: N 36° 13’ 31.36” X W 82° 0’ 38.52” in Carter County along Walnut Mtn. Rd northeast of Roan Mountain, approximately 3 miles northeast of Roan Mountain.

Brickyard (100 acres) – Located at: N 36° 30’ 14.75” X W 81° 53’ 7.76” in Johnson County north of Hwy 421 where it crosses Iron Mtn. near the top of Lewis Ridge, approximately 2.5 miles southeast of Shady Valley.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, November 4, 2019

Temporary Closure of Laurel Falls Trail November 4-5, 2019

The Laurel Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed on November 4-5, 2019, to allow road crews to pave the trail’s parking areas on each side of Fighting Creek Gap Road.

This temporary closure allows contractors to safely operate equipment in the vicinity of the trailhead. Work is expected to take all day Monday and Tuesday, and the trail will reopen Wednesday morning, November 6, weather permitting.

For more information, please visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Fall and Winter Road Maintenance Projects

National Park Service managers recently announced three upcoming projects that may affect Parkway travel in the coming weeks. Visitors should anticipate one-lane or intermittent, temporary closures in active work zones. Affected sections for all projects close at approximately 8:00 a.m. each weekday and re-open daily by 4:30 p.m. The motor road will be open on the weekend, weather permitting. Those who normally commute on the Parkway during the week may want to find alternate routes.

Project information and affected areas are as follows:

• Asheville, NC Edge Rutting Project – The project begins November 4, 2019, to repair severe edge rutting from Milepost 385 – 397.5. The project will continue into the winter as weather conditions allow and will be conducted with single-lane traffic control.

• NC Bridge Maintenance – This project also begins November 4, 2019, and includes a preventative maintenance work on 20 bridges in NC between Milepost 220-469. The work will occur under single lane traffic control.

• Parkwide Boom Axe Operations – Annually, Blue Ridge Parkway maintenance and resource management staff conduct boom axe operations to help control vegetation growth along the Parkway. This work, using a large tractor with a long arm cutting head, helps insure safe sight distances and a clear right-of-way. This tractor must remain in the travel lanes during operation to properly perform its work while cutting the banks and road shoulders. Both lanes of the Parkway will be closed to all activity (cars, bicycles, and hikers) in active work zones to ensure the safety of the maintenance workers as well as Parkway visitors. Planned boom axe closures begin in November and continue through early spring. The full schedule of planned boom axe closures is available on the Parkway’s website.

Specific information regarding daily closures, related to these projects or for any other reason, is available on the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map, found at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, November 1, 2019

Cades Cove Loop Road Opening Delayed until 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 3

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind park visitors that access to Cades Cove will be delayed on Sunday, November 3 until 11:00 a.m. for the annual Cades Cove Loop Lope. The event is held on an early morning in November to minimize disturbance to visitors for this once-a-year opportunity for pre-registered participants to run either a 10-mile or 5-K loop course in support of the park.

The park granted approval for the park’s philanthropic partner, Friends of the Smokies, to host this unique event to support the park under a Special Park Use permit. To accommodate parking for the event, access to the Cades Cove area is restricted at the Townsend Wye until 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, which is traditionally a period of lower visitation to the area. Registered Cades Cove campers, Tremont program participants, and event participants with a parking pass must show registration documents for access beyond this point.

For more information regarding temporary road closures, please visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Smokies Roadways Closed Due to High Winds and Downed Trees - Park Advises Hikers to Stay Off Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is experiencing high winds ahead of a cold front that is expected to move through the area later today. Newfound Gap Road (Hwy 441 from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC), Little River Road from the Townsend Wye to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Wears Gap and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are currently closed. Winds are expected to grow stronger this evening with gusts up to 45 mph across the higher elevations. The current road closures will remain in effect until the High Wind Warning has expired. At that time, crews will reassess conditions and begin clearing roads for reopening.

Hikers are advised to avoid hiking during this time period across the park, particularly in areas with standing dead trees. Park visitor centers and the Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open at this time. Visitors should exercise extreme caution when making travel plans.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Hazardous Weather Warning for Smokies Today

High winds and flash flooding are expected today across the Smoky Mountains. You may want to monitor the Smokies Twitter account for road closure updates if you plan to visit the park today: As what happened last week, high winds will probably result in falling trees in the park - especially in areas impacted by the 2017 wildfire. Here's the forecast from the National Weather Service for today:
This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...Today and Tonight

Severe storms will be possible early Thursday morning into early Thursday afternoon ahead of a cold front with strong winds being the primary hazard. A brief weak isolated tornado or two will also be possible. Best chances for severe storms will be to the north and east of Knoxville during the morning and early afternoon hours.

Periods of locally heavy rainfall are possible Thursday morning and afternoon which may cause localized flooding, especially across the Smoky Mountains, southeast Tennessee, and southwest North Carolina.

Strong winds will continue across the higher elevations into the early afternoon with gusts as high as 45 mph possible.

Freeze temperatures along with patchy to widespread frost are expected late tonight.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Friday through Wednesday

Freeze temperatures along with patchy to widespread frost will continue into Friday morning.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Smokies Roadways Closed Due to High Winds and Downed Trees

Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced high winds this morning with sustained winds of approximately 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph across the Tennessee side of the mountains. Newfound Gap Road, Laurel Creek Road, Little River Road and Cades Cove Loop Road are all currently closed due to downed trees. Winds are expected to grow stronger this evening with a High Wind Warning in effect until 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. All roadways will remain closed until the warning has expired. At that time, crews will assess damage and begin clearing roads for reopening.

Hikers are advised to avoid hiking during this time period across the park, particularly in areas with standing dead trees. Park visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas remain open at this time. Visitors should exercise extreme caution when making travel plans.

Please visit to view images from webcams across the park including Newfound Gap. For the most up to date information about road closures, follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Fire Restrictions on Open Fires in the Backcountry Lifted at Big South Fork NRRA

Due to recent precipitation, Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas announced the removal of restrictions on open fires within the backcountry of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Drought conditions for the area prompted the campfire restrictions on September 20.

Fire management staff stress that weather conditions can change rapidly. Both visitors and residents are asked to stay informed of fire danger and conditions.

Use caution when building fires. They must be completely extinguished with water, and cold to the touch before leaving them unattended. Fire must be used in accordance with state, local and park regulations.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 25, 2019

Smokies Adopts New Regulation for E-Bike Use

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the adoption of a new regulation to allow the use of low-speed electric bikes (e-bikes) in the park at all locations where bicycles are currently allowed. Both Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, which can provide electronic assistance until the rider reaches a speed of 20 mph, are allowed under the new regulation.

Commentary: I have no problem with the park allowing e-bikes on all park roads. However, I think this is an absolutely horrible decision for them to allow these "low-speed motorcycles" on the hiking trails listed below. This is simply asking for trouble, and predict there will be many user conflicts in the years to come in this park, and the other national parks who have adopted this rule.

Park specific regulations, as described in the Superintendent’s Compendium or Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, have been amended to record this change in Chapters 1. 4 and 4.3. Bicycles and e-bikes are allowed on any park road where motor vehicles are allowed; seasonally closed roads; and the Gatlinburg Trail between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Gatlinburg (1.9 miles), the Oconaluftee River Trail between the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the town of Cherokee (1.6 miles), Indian Creek Trail (2.9 miles), and Deep Creek Trail (1.4 miles).

E-bikes enable more people to enjoy a cycling experience in the park in a manner that is consistent with conventional bicycle use. Cyclists may only use the small electric motor to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic. More people, especially those with physical limitations, will now have the opportunity to explore the park in a unique way.

For more information about biking inside the park, please visit the park’s website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 Adds 5 New Hikes to Online Trail Guide

This past September Kathy and I had the opportunity to visit Glacier National Park for almost three weeks. During our visit we hiked more than 140 miles throughout the Two Medicine, St. Mary Lake, Many Glacier, Logan Pass and Lake McDonald areas. Many of these hikes were on trails we've already covered on our website,, but felt they were important in order to provide improved photographs of the iconic scenery hikers will see along those routes. These photos have now been published throughout the site. In some cases we re-hiked trails to update the information previously published on the website. For example, we hiked up to Sperry Chalet to document the damage from the Sprague Fire of 2017 - not only the reconstruction of the historic Sperry Chalet dormitory, but also the damage to the forest you'll encounter as you proceed along the route to the chalet.

During our visit we were also able to hike a few new trails, which have just been added to the site. These are listed below.

All in all, our trip effectively resulted in a minor overhaul of the website. Roughly half the 68 hikes we cover on our site now have new and improved photos, as well updated information pertinent to hikers. Our online guide remains the most comprehensive resource for travelers as they plan their hiking itineraries for their visits to Glacier National Park. The hikes covered on our site are listed in alphabetical order, by difficulty level, by key trail feature, as well as by location within the park. We also provide lists of our top 10 hikes, and the best easy hikes to also help with all your planning needs.

Here are the new hikes we've added to the site:

Belly River Ranger Station - This hike visits the historic Belly River Ranger Station in the northeast sector of the park - just north of Many Glacier. The district contains several historic buildings, including the original ranger cabin constructed in 1912, making it one of the oldest continually manned ranger stations in Glacier National Park. The station also has the distinction of being the only ranger station in the park to be accessible only by trail. It's assumed that it was at least partially built by Joe Cosley, who was among the first six rangers to be hired by the new park. Cosley, a poacher, eventually resorted back to his hunting and trapping ways while working as a ranger. The description for this hike contains a few more details about this legendary figure from the early years of the park.

The Dragon's Tail - This is a great alternative if you're looking to avoid the extreme crowds at Hidden Lake Overlook. Although you'll start-off using the same trail, the "climbers route" to Mt. Reynolds and the Dragon's Tail splits off from the main trail after roughly a mile. Hikers will enjoy sweeping views of Hidden Lake and the surrounding mountains from the east and southeast side of the lake. I loved this hike so much that it now ranks 4th on my list of the top hikes in Glacier National Park.

Upper McDonald Creek Trail - This relaxing hike travels through a lush, old-growth forest more normally found along the Pacific Northwest Coast. Along this route you'll visit Sacred Dancing Cascade and McDonald Falls, and end with a spectacular view of Mount Cannon rising almost 5600 feet above the valley floor. This is a great alternative if you wish to avoid the crowds along the Trail of the Cedars.

Sun Point Nature Trail - This is another pleasant hike that offers outstanding views of St. Mary Lake. It also visits Baring Falls and St. Mary Falls.

S. Shore St. Mary Lake - After visiting St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls the trail continues to a rock outcropping that overlooks St. Mary Lake from its southern shore. From this vantage point, roughly one hundred feet above the lake, you’ll enjoy a commanding view of the peninsula that juts out into the lake across from Sun Point, as well as the mountains rising above the north and northwest side of the lake.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 18, 2019

Roadwork Near Cataloochee Area Postponed

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that the expected closure of the main access road into Cataloochee has been postponed. The county road just outside the park, Cove Creek Road, was expected to be closed November 1 through February 29 for a road slide repair by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The roadwork has been postponed and the Cataloochee area will remain open and accessible throughout the fall and early winter, aside from weather-related closures. For more information about the roadwork schedule, please contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

For more information about park road closures, please follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on twitter or visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Science at Sugarlands / Mount LeConte Shelter

Join Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Science at Sugarlands tomorrow from 1:00-3:00 p.m. for "Lichens of the Smokies, Revealed" with James Lendemer from the New York Botanical Garden. All visitors are welcome to join the park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room, near the Gatlinburg entrance to the park.

Also, backpackers, and even day hikers, may want to note that the Mount LeConte Shelter has been closed due to aggressive bear activity.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, October 14, 2019

Roadside parking - be a hero not a hazard

Fall weekends are especially busy on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Beautiful views are unlimited but parking is not. Once a trailhead parking lot is full, many drivers park on roadsides. While parking is permitted on the shoulder of some roads, vehicles must not obstruct traffic. Blocked roadways can lead to accidents and delay emergency responders.

Follow these tips to be a hero and not a hazard:

* Know before you go as cell service is limited.
* Watch for pedestrians as you approach areas with parked cars.
* Check for signs that restrict roadside parking.
* Choose a spot that will not be damaged by tires on soft ground.
* Do not park on a narrow shoulder with a steep drop off.
* Park vehicles with all wheels off the road.
* Check for oncoming traffic before exiting your vehicle.

Some areas are so popular that it can be difficult to find legal parking. This is especially true during peak leaf season. High volume times are typically on the weekends during midday but well-known sites are busy from dawn to dusk. Plan several alternate locations and arrive in the early morning or late afternoon or visit on weekdays.

Popular locations with limited parking include:

* Black Balsam
* Dry Falls
* Graveyard Fields
* Max Patch
* Roan Highlands/Carvers Gap
* Any place you've seen on social media!

Explore our website to find new places to visit:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wildfire Risk Continues in Cherokee National Forest (and region)

Although light rain fell in some areas of the Cherokee National Forest, USDA Forest Service officials say much more moisture is needed in the days to come to significantly slow or put an end to the fall fire season.

Extended periods of hot weather and little to no rain has increased the risk of wildfires throughout the Cherokee National Forest. Wildfires are not only a threat to wildlife and the natural resources, but also to life and property.

"Without a doubt we were pleased to see the rain and cooler temperatures. It helped slow things down in some areas. We aren't letting our guard down. It doesn't take long for things to dry out and the fire hazard to rise," said Cherokee National Forest Fire Management Officer Trent Girard. "A few days of dry and windy conditions that are typical this time of year can have the woods dry and susceptible to fire in a hurry. We don't want folks to be fooled by the recent moisture we received. We still need to be very careful with fire and be aware of how quickly conditions can change."

The U.S. Forest Service reminds campers to be cautious when burning campfires. Use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 15 feet. Dig a pit in the soil to about a foot deep. Circle fire pit with rocks. Build a campfire away from overhanging branches, logs/stumps, steep slopes, dry grass and leaves/pine needles. Never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

The following guidelines are for safely extinguishing campfires and helping to prevent wildfires:

 Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
 Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
 Pour water until the hissing sound stops.
 Stir campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
 Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
 Stir and make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Living Step By Step on The Colorado Trail

Have you ever wondered what it's like to hike the entire Colorado Trail - from Denver to Durango? This video from Keith ("Spreadsheet") and Gina ("Mulch") do an excellent job of showing what to expect, what you'll see, and what it takes to tackle the 485-mile Colorado Trail. This, their second attempt. was completed in 33 days. On their first try, in 2015, they ran out of time just 75 miles short of the finish. Hope you enjoy:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Senate bill increases funding for the National Park Service by $133 million

Last week the United States Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. If enacted, it would increase National Park Service funding by $133 million and improve funding for other federal agencies that support our parks’ wildlife, clean air and water. The increased funding commitment will better protect park resources, support jobs, address overdue park maintenance needs and enhance the experience for 330 million annual park visitors.

Statement by John Garder, Senior Director for Budget and Appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association:
“Our national parks continue to face significant funding challenges for everyday operations and maintenance needs that help keep our most treasured places up and running safely for all to enjoy. This bi-partisan bill, through the leadership of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and support of the committee, provides additional resources for rangers whose numbers have been on the decline for years, and helps fix crumbling park roads and aging facilities. The bill also shows strong oversight of the administration’s damaging effort to reorganize the Department of the Interior, in part by defunding it.”
Key provisions that benefit our parks include:

• Provides a $62 million, 2% increase for the operation of national parks, supporting park stewardship, overdue park repairs, visitor programs and park rangers.

• Restricts new funding for the reorganization of the Department of the Interior, which threatens the management of our parks, their resources, the employees of the National Park Service, and its partner land management agencies.

• Increases funding for Park Service federal land acquisition, better protecting Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Cumberland Island National Seashore and many other parks.

• Provides needed support for National Heritage Areas, supporting historic preservation and interpretation at communities throughout the country.

• Provides increases to address the Park Service’s nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, helping to fix our park roadways and aging infrastructure.

• Urges protections for Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas development on adjacent federal public lands.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking