Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2018 Highlights of NPS Investigative Services Branch

A few weeks ago the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service published its annual report, which recaps significant cases, operations, awards and recognitions, and other noteworthy events that happened in the program throughout the year.

ISB Special Agents investigate complex, sensitive, and/or long-term cases of all types of crimes that occur across the National Park System, and work closely with US Park Rangers in the field every day. Investigations include crimes of violence, major property crimes, fraud, embezzlement, major resource violations, drug cultivation, and other incidents. Agents investigate new cases to multi-year investigations, and from isolated incidents to crimes spanning multiple agencies and nations.

The report shows that there is much more going on within our national parks than most citizens probably realize. For example, the report notes this investigation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
In August 2017, a resource management employee located a handgun in the forest where the Chimney Top fire had burned in 2016. A US Park Ranger hiked with the employee to the area where the gun was located, and found several small fragments of bone. ISB Special Agents initiated an investigation and worked with the state medical examiner's office to do a more thorough search of the area where they located more remains. Investigators worked leads to positively identify the deceased and the manner of death. An abandoned vehicle was located in the area where the remains were found in 2009. Items found inside the vehicle were still located in evidence and matched items found on the scene, including the handgun. Investigators sent remains and familial DNA to be tested for the registered owner of the vehicle and received a match. The manner of death is believed to be suicide.
The report also provides follow-ups to a few news items we've reported on in the past few years. To read the full report, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Facility Opening Dates for 2019 Season

National Park Service staff, volunteers, concession operators, and partners are working together to open facilities for the 2019 visitor season on the Blue Ridge Parkway; and the full schedule of operating dates is now available on the park website. Some park concession facilities and visitor centers are now open, with all other points of interest and recreation areas opening between now and Memorial Day weekend.

Parkway visitors and neighbors are also reminded this season of their important role in the National Park Service experience. When visiting any section or site along the historic 469-mile route, visitors can help protect wildlife, plant ecosystems, cultural sites, and historical areas by staying on trails and roads, packing out trash, and leaving park resources as you find them.

“The millions of people that visit us each year have a tremendous opportunity to help preserve and protect the Parkway and its resources for future generations,” said Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee. “The protection of the Parkway, in large part, is in the hands of our users and dependent upon visitors treating this place and its resources with respect.”

Along with the complete schedule of facility operating dates, information to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience is available on the Parkway’s website; including regularly updated information regarding ranger programs, tours, music performances, and cultural demonstrations.

In order to address ongoing maintenance needs along the motor route, visitors can also expect several road projects happening throughout the summer season. The real time road map provides information regarding road projects or potential delays.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wilderness Wildlife Week

Featuring more than 200 free sessions and activities spanning five days, Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week is set for May 7-11. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

In its 29th year, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Whether it’s a hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, learning about wildflowers, or participating in our kids’ trout fishing tournament, Wilderness Wildlife Week brings together leading experts with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experiences,” said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge executive director of tourism. “Over the course of five days, participants have an opportunity to learn about the beautiful Smoky Mountains that we call home.”

The event’s headline session features Jeff Rennicke in a program entitled Hiking Towards Hope: Empowering the New Greatest Generation in the Great Outdoors (May 7 at 7 p.m.). Forensics expert Dr. Bill Bass (May 8 at 7:45 p.m.) returns with special guest emcee Frank Murphy to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region. Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and friends host the moving program Heaven & Nature Sing (May 9 at 7:30 p.m.) with Ken providing a second evening session entitled Inside Adventure: My Unplanned and Exciting Happenings in the Smokies (May 11 at 5:30 p.m.). Additionally, Pulitzer prize finalist Ben Montgomery shares the story of his grandmother and her experience on the Appalachian Trail during The Fascinating Story of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring True Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (May 10 at 7:45 p.m.).

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from lecture topics ranging from the area’s rich heritage to conservation. Workshops focus on photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are Love, Trails and Dinosaurs: The Inspirational Story of the First Person With Autism to Complete All Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails with Theresa Moore, Cherokee Myths and Truths with Jon Elder, I Found It in the Archives: Researching History and Family at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Michael Aday, Neatless, Wheatless and Sleepless: East Tennessee’s Contributions to World War II with Kathy Gwinn, and Ephemeral by Nature with Stephen Lyn Bales where he looks into some of the unusual animals in the Smokies including Appalachian pandas.

Outdoor excursions of all levels are available throughout the week. Highlights include an 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), a six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and a nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.).

A special kids’ fishing tournament kicks off on Saturday, May 11 with registration at LeConte Center Circle Drive covered pavilion. The Wilderness Wildlife Week Youth Trout Tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12. There is no fee to participate in this tournament. Fishing supplies are not provided to participants.

Throughout the concourse more than 40 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association, East Tennessee Historical Society, and Keep Sevier Beautiful, are open daily during the event beginning at 10 a.m.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and open to the public. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit MyPigeonForge.com.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Operation in Little Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 284-acre prescribed burn in the Little Cataloochee area on Thursday, April 4. The Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use from the Long Bunk Trail intersection to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail intersection during burn operations.

In the event of a weather-related delay, the one-day burn operation will be conducted on an alternative date between April 4 and April 15. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area and park-operated vehicles along Little Cataloochee Trail during burn operations and during post-operations monitoring for several days following fire ignition. All other trails and roads in the area will remain open to the public.

The 284-acre Bald Top burn unit is part of the larger Cataloochee Area Prescribed Fire Project. Fire managers are continuing to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the composition and open structure of the oak and pine woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to wildlife and overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

“One of the goals of the prescribed burn project is to improve elk forage and habitat,” stated Burn Boss Trainee Tom Edwards.

This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing regeneration of oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.

The burn is being funded by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and led by the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Fire Management Zone along with resources from the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, the Cherokee Interagency Hotshot crew, and the North Carolina State Forest Service.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in the Smokies, visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Smokies Seeks Volunteers For Trail Work

Interested in volunteer opportunities in the park? The Great Smoky Mountains is hosting several volunteer workdays in April to get some of our most popular trails ready for the busy summer season!

Volunteers will help clear debris from the trail and work to repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on Saturday, April 6, Saturday, April 20, and Earth Day, Monday, April 22, and in Tennessee on Friday, April 5 and April 19. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year, including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Trillium Gap Trail beginning May 1 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed-toed shoes, long pants, and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, rain gear, and any other personal gear for the day. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools for the day.

For more information about the volunteering in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, March 18, 2019

“Iron Will” Hike at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - Park Volunteer David Earle to Lead the Way!

Bring your iron will and join Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Volunteer David Earle on March 23rd for a strenuous winding eight-mile hike into the forest world of the Cumberland Mountain. Long ago, life in the mountains meant you walked in and with the mountains and understood their moods and seasons. During this hike, David will share stories of long gone people who came to the rough Appalachian backcountry with the iron will required to survive here. David will also parade the little known story of Camp Harvard, a summer school for geology held in 1875 and 1876 and located at the present Fort McCook parking area. “Geology is a passion of mine and this hike is perfect for grandstanding the area’s unique and abundant resources,” says an enthusiastic Earle.

The 10:00 am hike will begin at the park’s Sugar Run picnic area accessed via County Road 988. From there, hikers will travel the Sugar Run Trail to the Ridge Trail where they will turn west towards the Pinnacle Overlook. After “summiting” at the Pinnacle, the group will descend to Fort McCook and take the Harlan Road Trail back down the mountain to return to the Sugar Run picnic area.

Hikers should bring lunch and plenty of water. Hikers can plan on returning to their vehicles by 3 p.m.

For additional information on this year’s program or a program schedule, visitors can call 606-246-1075.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Public invited to 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Events

The National Park Service invites the public to attend its upcoming Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview, an open house style event highlighting Parkway activities and upcoming projects. The Parkway is hosting two Season Preview events this year. The first Season Preview will be held at the American Legion building in Blowing Rock, North Carolina on April 3, 2019. The second event will be held on April 4, 2019 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.. The goal of these events is to promote awareness and understanding among Parkway communities, neighbors and visitors of the National Park Service’s stewardship mission.

National Park Service staff will be on hand at each event to provide a “behind the scenes” look into the Parkway. The events will highlight over 20 information stations with park staff and partners at each station to answer questions and discuss upcoming projects.

“We’re excited to host the 2019 Season Preview events, and look forward to meeting many Parkway neighbors and friends,” said J.D. Lee, Parkway Superintendent. “These events take the Parkway into local communities and create opportunities to celebrate the important relationship between the Parkway and the Blue Ridge region.”

Representatives from Parkway partner groups including the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Eastern National and other non-profits who support the Parkway will also be on hand to discuss the roles each group plays and how to get involved in this work.

NORTH CAROLINA 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Event

What: Public is invited to meet National Park Service staff and learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway.
When: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Where: American Legion Building – 333 Wallingford Road, Blowing Rock, NC
Who: Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee along with other representatives of the Parkway’s management team, staff and partners

VIRGINIA 2019 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview Event

What: Public is invited to meet National Park Service staff and learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway.
When: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Thursday, April 4, 2019
Where: Virginia Horse Center Mezzanine – 487 Maury River Road, Lexington, VA
Who: Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee along with other representatives of the Parkway’s management team, staff and partners



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, March 15, 2019

Olympian-Guided Hiking Series Kicks off 21st Year with Friends of the Smokies

“Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy” is kicking off its 21st year as a guided hiking series to raise funds to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The series features day hikes in the Smokies led by U.S. Olympian and personal fitness guru, Missy Kane, each Wednesday in April.

April 3 – West Prong to Campsite 18 (5 miles round trip, easy difficulty)

April 10 – Huskey Gap to Fighting Creek Gap (5 miles round trip, moderate difficulty)

April 17 – Rainbow Falls (5 miles round trip, strenuous difficulty)

April 24 – Big Creek to Campsite 17 (11 miles round trip, difficult due to distance)

Since 1998, Missy Kane has helped hikers of all ages explore the park, learn more about exercise and physical fitness, and experience the history, wildlife, and natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. To date, these hikes have raised more than $200,000 through the generous support of participants and sponsors to help fund critical park projects including wildlife conservation efforts and trail maintenance.

“It’s hard to believe we are starting our 21st year of Get on the Trail with Friends & Missy,” said Missy Kane. “I especially love the spring series as the Smokies should be putting on a great wildflower show.”

To register for any of the upcoming guided hikes, hikers must pre-register by calling the Covenant Health Call Center at 865-541-4500. Space is limited and the hikes will sell out. The cost for each hike is $20 per person with proceeds supporting Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A complimentary Friends of the Smokies membership is provided with registration of the entire series.

Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy is presented by Humana and Knoxville News Sentinel, and sponsored by Home Federal Bank, Cabins of the Smoky Mountains, East Tennessee PBS, Farm Bureau Insurance, and LeConte Medical Center, with special thanks to Rocky Top Tours for logistical support.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Weather Impacts Cherokee National Forest Roads in Some Areas

USDA Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest say that many National Forest System Roads (NFSR) were heavily impacted by record breaking rainfall received this winter. National forest visitors should be prepared for poor driving conditions on some NFSR’s and use caution while using these roads due to changing road conditions because of weather.

Caution should be used when traveling backcountry roads. There are many roads throughout the 656,000 acre Cherokee National Forest that are rutted and rough and have been narrowed due to slides and slough offs. Many of these areas have been marked to help users locate hazards. There have also been a number of trees across roads throughout the area. National Forest visitors should always be aware of the risk of flash flooding in low laying areas. The following National Forest System Roads (NFSR) are closed due to hazardous conditions:

* NFSR #54 (Paint Mountain Road) in Greene County is closed from Lone Pine Gap to the Paint Creek Corridor NFSR #41.

* NRSF # 207 (Halls Top Road) in Cocke County is closed from the intersection of NRSF #207 (Halls Top Road) and NFSR #109 (Hog Back Road) and at the intersection of NRSF# 207 (Halls Top Road) and NRSF#207A (Bell Hill Road.) Halls Top Fire Tower can be accessed through Hartford, TN.

* NFSR #209 (Brush Creek Road) in Cocke County is closed from Allen Branch Pond to the intersection of NFSR #209 (Brush Creek Road) and NFSR #209C (Weavers Bend Road.)

For additional road information please contact: Watagua Ranger District at 423-735-1500, Unaka Ranger District at 423-638-4109, Tellico Ranger District at 423-253-8400, Ocoee Ranger District at 423-338-3300.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Why are dogs allowed on trails in national forests, but not in national parks?

Why are dogs allowed on hiking trails in national forests, but not in national parks? To state it more bluntly, why are the two federal government agencies at odds with each other? Either way, it’s a question that deserves an answer. The case for not allowing dogs on most backcountry trails in most national parks seems compelling, at least on the surface. Most parks publish their policies regarding pets on backcountry trails on their websites. Before digging deeper into this subject I assumed that these policies were developed by wildlife biologists, and were therefore backed by at least some science. But are these truly valid reasons? This blog post will attempt to answer that question.

Overall, the justifications for banning dogs on backcountry trails by the various national parks are fairly similar. Immediately below is a composite listing of these reasons from a sampling of park websites. The second section of this post cites data and research that support many of the claims by the National Park Service:

• Dogs may become prey for larger predators such as bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bobcats and even great horned owls. Moreover, if your dog disturbs and angers a bear or a moose, it may lead the angry bear or moose directly back to you. Wild canines are also highly territorial, especially during the summer denning season, and will kill loose dogs they encounter in their territory.

• Dogs can carry diseases into the park's wildlife populations. Conversely, they can also contract diseases from wildlife.

• Dogs are predators that can threaten, chase and even kill wildlife. They can also scare birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding and resting sites.

• The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, which disrupts or alters the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog, and may not venture out to feed.

• Dogs can encounter insects that bite and transmit disease, or plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.

• Pets may dig or trample fragile vegetation, and pollute water sources.

• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably, bark excessively or even bite someone. Park visitors should be able to enjoy native wildlife in their natural environment without disruption from other visitors’ pets.

• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.

As already mentioned, there are several published studies that support many of these assertions. The following are a few examples:

In 2008 the National Park Service published the results of a field research study, titled, “The Effects of Dogs on Wildlife Communities”, which discusses many of the points mentioned above in much more detail; in particular, how dogs impact wildlife. Conducted near Boulder, Colorado, the study found that the “presence of dogs correlated with altered patterns of habitat utilization for mule deer, small mammals, prairie dogs, and bobcats”. The assertion here is that dogs force animals to move away from trails, or force them to hide for extended periods of time. The paper also asserted that “Recreational trails with abundant dog scent could appear to carnivores to be linear dog territories, necessitating increased vigilance and activity”, meaning that the presence of dogs on trails is associated with increased activity of carnivores (bears, wolves, coyotes and mountain lions) in areas that are frequented by hikers.

A comparable study, conducted by Peter B. Banks and Jessica V. Bryant from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia found that “dog walking in woodlands leads to a 35% reduction in bird diversity and 41% reduction in abundance, both in areas where dog walking is common and where dogs are prohibited.” This was also reported in Science News.

Even more troubling, an article published in The Conversation (and Newsweek) by Dr. Al Glen from Landcare Research, New Zealand and Dr. Abi Vanak from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, India, claims that “dogs are implicated in the extinction of at least 11 species”… and are “also a known or potential threat to 188 threatened species worldwide: 96 mammal, 78 bird, 22 reptile and three amphibian species. This includes 30 critically endangered species”, many as a result of predation, but also through disturbance and disease transmission.

A recent BBC article also asserts that dogs threaten almost 200 species worldwide (the article also includes a video of dogs harassing two bull elk).

The very first point in the list above states that dogs can become prey for predators such as bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. Problems also arise for pet owners when a dog disturbs or angers a bear or a moose. These issues are also specifically addressed by scientific research. According to a study conducted by Stephen Herrero and Hank Hristienko, both leading authorities on bear behavior, dogs were involved in more than half of all black bear attacks on humans between 2010 and 2013. “The study found that in most of those cases, the dogs were running off leash and drew the bears to their owners.”

In October of 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued a press release warning Coloradoans about the increase in moose encounters throughout the state. The release quoted District Wildlife Manager Elissa Slezak of Summit County, who stated that “moose react to dogs as they would to wolves - one of their primary predators. Moose will often attack even the most gentle dog as if it were a wolf, especially if the dog barks at or chases the moose. Unfortunately, the dog typically runs back to its owner bringing an angry, 1,000-pound moose back with it. The dog often gets away but the owner cannot escape and ends up injured instead. We've seen several instances where that exact scenario played out and the dog owner was seriously hurt."

In order to formulate the policies of the 17,000 acres of parks and natural areas managed by the City of Portland, Oregon, the Metro Government compiled and examined “54 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and several research reports relating to the impacts of dogs in natural areas, including numerous literature reviews on the impacts of various types of recreation on wildlife and habitat”, which ultimately led to the banning of dogs on most trails within those spaces. What they found was categorized under four broad categories:

Physical and temporal displacement: “Displacement may be the most significant impact due to the amount of habitat affected. The presence of dogs causes wildlife to move away, temporarily or permanently reducing the amount of available habitat in which to feed, breed and rest. Animals become less active during the day to avoid dog interactions. Furthermore, the scent of dogs repels wildlife and the effects remain after the dogs are gone. The research is clear that people with dogs disturb wildlife more than humans alone. These effects reduce a natural area’s carrying capacity for wildlife, and also reduces wildlife viewing experiences for visitors.”

Disturbance and stress response: “Dogs cause wildlife to be more alert, which reduces feeding, sleeping, grooming and breeding activities, and wastes vital energy stores that may mean life or death when resources are low, such as during winter or reproduction. Animals release stress hormones and their heart rates elevate in response. When stress becomes too high, animals may flush, freeze, or hide. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites.”

Indirect and direct mortality: “Dogs chase and kill many wildlife species including reptiles, small mammals, deer and foxes. A Canadian study found that domestic dogs were one of the top three predators that killed white-tailed deer fawns. In northern Idaho winter deer grounds, an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer witnessed or received reports of 39 incidents of dogs chasing deer, directly resulting in the deaths of at least 12 animals (several other examples of wildlife deaths due to dogs are cited here). Dogs transmit diseases to wildlife and vice versa, including rabies, Giardia, distemper and parvovirus. Large carnivores such as cougars are especially vulnerable to domestic dog diseases including canine distemper.”

Human disease and water quality impacts: “Dog waste pollutes water and transmits harmful parasites and diseases to people. A Clean Water Services DNA study found that dog waste alone accounts for an average of 13% of fecal bacteria in stream study sites in the Tualatin River Basin. The City of Gresham found extremely high levels of E. coli bacteria in water quality samples of a very specific stretch of a stream, where dog feces were found along stream banks behind several yards with dogs.” In 1991 dog waste was labeled as a non-point source pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to it being the host to an array of diseases, as well as fecal coliform bacteria.

The Portland, Oregon Metro Government document cites many other statistics from an array of studies that supported their decision making.

So, if most, if not all of the reasons cited by the National Park Service are valid, many of which are backed by science, why does the U.S. Forest Service continue to allow dogs on backcountry trails, especially in designated Wilderness Areas where the land is supposed to remain in a natural state in perpetuity, and where impacts from human activities are supposed to be minimal? Seeing wildlife in their natural environment is one of the highlights of venturing into the woods and mountains for many hikers. This privilege should be vigorously protected. By no means am I advocating for the complete banning of all dogs on all national forest lands. However, I do believe we need more balance; more consideration for wildlife, and more protection of sensitive water sources. Doesn’t the U.S. Forest Service have a fundamental responsibility to protect the habitat and the long-term sustainability of wildlife? I believe the U.S. Forest Service and wildlife biologists should conduct studies to determine where dogs are appropriate and inappropriate on trails in our national forests and other wilderness areas. I also believe that stricter enforcement is needed for those who blatantly break existing rules, or any new rules. Certainly the fines that could be collected would pay for the increase in backcountry rangers who could be used to patrol sensitive areas.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Budget Prioritizes Improvements to Critical Park Infrastructure while Saving Tax Dollars

President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the National Park Service (NPS) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which includes funding that would help address the $11.9 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System.

"This budget reflects President Trump’s commitment to protecting and rebuilding our national parks and public lands to ensure they may be enjoyed by future generations of Americans,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “The President's request provides funding that will allow the National Park Service to repair an aging infrastructure, protect America’s scenic wonders and iconic historic sites, and provide rangers to greet the more than 300 million visitors who visit each year.”

Infrastructure – The NPS estimates that in FY 2018 there was more than $11.9 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that service national park visitors. In 2018, more than 318 million people visited the 418 national parks across the country. The NPS retired more than $600 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2018, but aging facilities, high visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 and $12 billion since 2010.

The President’s budget provides $246.3 million to fund construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $152.7 million for specific line-item construction projects like rehabilitating the Eagle Lake Carriage road at Acadia National Park in Maine, and rehabilitating the Kennecott Leach Plant foundation at Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It also includes $4.0 million for demolition and disposal of obsolete facilities, and another $4.0 million to implement safety and environmental mitigation or remediation of abandoned mines.

For other facility maintenance and improvement needs, the budget proposes $134.1 million for cyclic maintenance projects to ensure maintenance is done in a timely manner and does not become “deferred”. To address other facility needs such as deferred maintenance and code compliance, the budget proposes an additional $132.0 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the deferred maintenance backlog in the NPS. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2018, NPS leveraged $148.7 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in both FY 2019 and FY 2020, $165.8 million in fee revenues will be available for similar deferred maintenance projects.

Park Operations – The FY 2020 NPS budget requests $2.4 billion for park operations, which includes $5.7 million for NPS’s role in the Department of the Interior’s reorganization to help implement unified regions to improve service and efficiency. The budget proposes $10.0 million to support and enhance recreational access opportunities, including building accessible hunting blinds and fishing piers, and establishing a traditional trades apprenticeship program for veterans. The proposed budget also includes $4.0 million for Active Forest Management efforts to mitigate the fire risk to the public and NPS infrastructure assets.

State Assistance – The budget proposes a continued shift to use of the mandatory funding from oil and gas leases for state conservation grants. These grants provide funding to states to acquire open spaces and natural areas for outdoor recreation and access purposes, and develop outdoor recreation facilities. Permanent funding for these grants in FY 2020 is estimated to be $113 million.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, March 11, 2019

Shenandoah National Park Launches Official App

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn has announced the launch of the park’s official app, NPS Shenandoah. The free app, available in both Apple’s iOS and Android platforms is designed to give visitors a digital tool for exploring Shenandoah.

Users can choose to explore the park using the built-in map which allows them to see what services and opportunities are nearby, or by topic. Features include hiking, services, exploring Skyline Drive, and interpretive tours of Rapidan Camp, a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp, and Fox Hollow Trail. Superintendent Flynn said, “We are excited to give visitors an additional tool for enhancing their Shenandoah experience.”

The app is a GPS-based program that allows visitors to access its features even when they have no cell service as is often the case in Shenandoah’s remoter areas. Visitors should look for Shenandoah’s official app in their App Store as NPS Shenandoah and download prior to visiting the park. Once downloaded, select “Settings” and “Download Offline Content” to allow access to its features when there is no cell service.

Both versions of the app are free and may be downloaded from the official app stores:

Google Play/Android Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.nps.shen
Apple iOS App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nps-shenandoah/id1445607651?mt=8

The creation of the NPS Shenandoah app was funded, in part, by your entrance fee dollars.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, March 9, 2019

$671 million of backlogged maintenance projects completed in national parks during FY18

The National Park Service (NPS) estimates that during Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, over $671 million in needed repair work was completed at national parks across the country, one of the the largest amounts of deferred maintenance needs retired in a single year. This leaves, at the end of FY18, more than $11.9 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that service visitors to America’s 418 national parks.

“Improvements to visitor facilities, campgrounds, trails, and backbone infrastructure are essential to providing a world-class experience to our more than 300 million annual visitors and a safe work environment for our employees, volunteers, and partners,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said. “Addressing the deferred maintenance in our national parks is critical to our core mission and remains a top priority.”

The NPS saw 318.2 million recreation visits in 2018, the third highest total since record keeping began in 1904. The deferred maintenance figure increased by $313 million (2.7 percent) over FY 2017. Aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

Among the $671 million of backlogged maintenance projects the NPS successfully completed last year were a new roof over the visitor center at Gateway Arch National Park, a 26-mile pavement preservation project in Yosemite National Park, the restoration of native grasses at Nez Perce National Historical Park, and new paved trail surfaces at Independence National Historical Park.

Fiscal Year 2018 Deferred Maintenance Achievements:

$213 million in transportation DM was retired on over 1,000 transportation assets such as paved and unpaved roads, parking areas, bridges, and tunnels.

$201 million in buildings deferred maintenance (DM) was retired across 272 park units.

$92 million in utility systems, dams, constructed waterways, marinas, aviation systems, railroads, ships, monuments, fortifications, towers, and interpretive media and amphitheaters DM was retired across 169 park units.

$56 million in water and wastewater systems DM was retired across 108 park units.

$52 million in trails DM was retired across 146 park units.

$28 million in maintained landscapes DM was retired across 176 park units.

$18 million in housing DM was retired across 136 park units.

$11 million in campgrounds DM was retired across 57 park units.

Fiscal Year 2018 Reports:

Deferred maintenance and asset inventory reports are available online.

Additional information about NPS deferred maintenance is on NPS.gov.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Smokies Launches ‘SmokyMtnU’

Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff recently launched a pilot education program, ‘SmokyMtnU,’ through a partnership with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). As a part of a four-credit biology course, students are spending their spring break learning about the diversity of park resources from Monday, March 4 through Thursday, March 7.

Park staff collaborated with MTSU staff to create the new, hands-on, educational opportunity for undergraduate students to experience the park while earning college credit. Students meet weekly to dive into park-related content developed by MTSU Biology Professor, Dr. Ashley Morris, and Park Resource Education Supervisor, Stephanie Sutton. Students research and discuss topics ranging from politics behind the development of the park to managing forest health to exploring ongoing research in the park.

“The Smokies has long been a place of learning and discovery for students and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to formalize the experience as a credited college course,” said Park Ranger Stephanie Sutton.

As a part of the course, students will spend two weeks in the Smokies over the spring break and finals week periods. During the spring break trip, students will accompany park staff in the field to learn about managing wildlife, inventorying aquatic communities, protecting resources through law enforcement, and caring for natural history collections. During the finals week trip, students will participate on a multi-day, backpacking experience where they will learn about resource and visitor use management in the backcountry. Through this partnership, students will gain insight into a variety of career paths in a National Park setting.

Park staff will be hosting an informational session this spring with interested faculty from additional universities to broaden the program in 2020. Funding for the ‘SmokyMtnU’ program is provided by Friends of the Smokies, the park’s philanthropic partner.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

National Park Service visitation tops 318 million in 2018

Visitation to America’s national parks in 2018 exceeded 300 million recreation visits for the fourth consecutive year. The 318.2 million recreation visits total is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904.

“America’s national parks are national treasures that tell the story of our nation and celebrate its beauty, history and culture,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “I am pleased that so many Americans and visitors from around the world continue to take advantage of the affordable and accessible recreational opportunities provided by these sites.”

“The visitation to our national parks continues to affirm that Americans are in love with their public lands and hold dear the stories of our nation embodied in the natural, cultural and historic landscapes we protect in the National Park System,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said.

The 418 national parks throughout the country provide a vast array of opportunities for recreation and inspiration for visitors of all ages. With at least one located in every state, national parks are easily accessible and affordable destinations. In the past five years there have been about 1.6 billion recreational visits to national parks.

In 2018, Golden Gate National Recreation Area reclaimed the top spot for highest visitation in the National Park System from the Blue Ridge Parkway. These two parks have been trading places at one and two since 1979. In the national parks category, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (11.4 million) and Grand Canyon National Park (6.4 million) continue to hold the top two spots, as they have since 1990.

Here's a look at the numbers:

By The Numbers around the National Park System

• 318,211,833 recreation visits (385 of 418 parks report visitation figures)

• 1,401,420,191 recreation visitor hours

• 13,950,759 overnight stays

• 28 parks set a new record for visitation (about 7% of reporting parks), including Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park

• 17 parks broke a record they set in 2017

• 3 parks had over 10 million recreation visits – Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

• 9 parks had over 5 million recreation visits

• 77 parks had over 1 million recreation visits (about 20% of reporting parks)


Top 10 - National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 11,421,200
Grand Canyon National Park - 6,380,495
Rocky Mountain National Park - 4,590,493
Zion National Park - 4,320,033
Yellowstone National Park - 4,115,000
Yosemite National Park - 4,009,436
Acadia National Park - 3,537,575
Grand Teton National Park - 3,491,151
Olympic National Park - 3,104,455
Glacier National Park - 2,965,309


Top 10 - All Parks in the National Park System

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – 15,223,697 
Blue Ridge Parkway – 14,690,418
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 11,421,200
Gateway National Recreation Area – 9,243,305
Lincoln Memorial – 7,804,683
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 7,578,958
George Washington Memorial Parkway – 7,288,623
Grand Canyon National Park – 6,380,495
Natchez Trace Parkway – 6,362,439
Vietnam Veterans Memorial – 4,719,148





Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Smokies Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds.

Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, March 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations in the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall. The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Paul Super at paul_super@nps.gov or 828-497-1945 to register for the training. For more information about phenology research efforts across the country visit the National Phenology Network at https://www.usanpn.org/.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Cherokee Orchard Road Loop to Close Temporarily for Tree Removal Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Cherokee Orchard Road Loop will be closed for tree-removal work beginning Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 15. This 1-mile, single-lane loop section of Cherokee Orchard Road begins just past the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin. The cabin and parking area will remain accessible to visitors.

The loop will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists throughout the closure period to allow for the safe removal of damaged trees along the narrow road corridor. Hikers are encouraged to use one of the other trails to access Mt. Le Conte and to enjoy other areas of the park during this temporary closure.

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



Jeff
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Don’t Miss Out on One of the Northeast’s Most Epic Hikes: Franconia Ridge

The following is a guest blog from Max Desmarais, founder of Hiking and Fishing:

New England has some pretty incredible hiking between New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, but there are a few in particular that stand out from the rest. Franconia Ridge is one of those. It features gorgeous waterfalls at the base, easy access from the highway, over 3,700 feet of elevation gain, and 360 degree ridgeline views into the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The few mountains that make up the ridge are among the most hiked mountains in the northeast, making avoiding the weekend crowds a good idea.

Hikers can take a clockwise, or counter-clockwise approach to the ridge hike, and can make the trip 8.5 to 15 miles, depending on how many mountains you would like to summit.

The trail begins relatively flat during the first quarter mile where hikers make the choice to climb the largest mountain first, or view the gorgeous waterfalls (lets take on the bigger mountain first).

Ascending the Old Bridal Path for just under 3 miles, hikers will experience steep and rugged terrain that ascends to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. This steep terrain goes by quick, taking care of heavy elevation gain in a relatively short amount of mileage.

The views become rewarding around 2.5 miles into the hike along the Old Bridal Path where a spur ridge of Lafayette creates beautiful views into the valley below, and towards the ridgeline you're heading towards.

The AMC hut provides food, water, and camping options for backpackers. Hikers will pass right by the hut and descend to a small mountain pond, where you begin the last heavy 1 mile, 1,500-foot ascent to the Mount Lafayette Summit.

Quickly above treeline, hikers are exposed to incredible views of Franconia Notch, but also the weather, which in winter months, or storms, can be brutal. The climb passes over a well traveled rocky path to the summit.

The summit features incredible views year round of the Pemi Wilderness, Mount Washington, Franconia Ridge, and a vast portion of the White Mountains. Here you will begin your exposed ridge walk for 1.6 miles - ascending and descending Mount Lincoln, and heading over to Little Haystack Mountain. You will not want to leave this ridge, it is stunning from all angles.

Finally reaching Little Haystack Mountain, hikers can choose to further their hike, or head back down via the Falling Waters Trail (rightfully named so).

The trail descending Lincoln is technical, steep, a little dangerous on the legs and knees, but an absolute blast. Descending quickly, hikers begin to parallel streams that create gorgeous waterfalls, and eventually encounter the largest of the waterfalls near the base, which attracts large amounts of visitors on warm days.

From here, it's only a short trip back out to the parking lot, where you can quickly access the highway, and on to your next trek.

If you are headed to the northeast, and looking for all the information you need to hike Franconia Ridge, simply click this link.

For another outstanding hike option in NH, you may also want to check out this video of the popular Mt. Lincoln / Mt. Lafayette loop:




Author Bio:

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking and Fishing, a website aimed to provide individuals with useful information to enjoy outdoor experiences in New Hampshire and beyond.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Environmental analysis completed for Southside Project on Nantahala National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has completed an environmental analysis for the Southside project which will improve forest health, diversity, and wildlife habitat in southeastern Macon County and southern Jackson County.

"I thank the public for participating in the process. I am disappointed we could not make everyone happy but we tried to strike a balance so we have a forest that is resilient and sustainable for all the public's plants and animals," said Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins.

Changes to the proposed project based on public engagement and interagency coordination include dropping two stands from the initial proposal, including additional buffers around documented locations of green salamanders, and conducting thinning and burning treatments to improve species composition in the Whitewater River Falls and Gorge Natural Heritage Natural Area.

Among the public comments was concern for old growth. The Forest Service is committed to following an old growth strategy and carefully considers forest age classes.

About 33 percent of national forest in the project area is over 100 years old. Across the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, the trend towards older trees is increasing such that in 50 years nearly half of the forest will be comprised of trees older than 130 years. Only about 1 percent of the project area is young forest, defined as trees up to 10 years old.

"In the management of national forests there are trade-offs. We make decisions based on the best available science that lead us to cut some trees to make room for others," said Wilkins. "Forests need diversity and all ages of trees. What's missing from the Southside area is young forest."

Removing patches of older trees gives young trees access to sunlight and water allowing them to sprout and grow. Small and medium sized forest openings provide fruit and nutritious foliage and flowers that attract pollinators and other insects and support populations of small mammals that, in turn, are prey for larger animals. Openings can be created by natural processes such as storms or intense wildfires, but in their absence need to be created through active management.

The Southside project will create 317 acres of young forest in 23 separate stands across the 19,000 acres of the project area. Over one-third of the openings will be one acre or less. In the remaining stands, the average opening created will be 22 acres. Additionally, 37 percent (6,944 acres) of the project area is designated to preserve and produce old growth conditions, and will continue to be managed as such into the future.

The project will also rehabilitate existing wildlife openings; establish native nectar and pollen producing species in wildlife openings, log landings, and roadsides to benefit native pollinators; and improve fisheries habitat in Scotsman Creek.

Work in the project area is expected to begin next year though timber management activities will not likely occur until 2021.

More information is available at https://go.usa.gov/xEUQs.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, February 25, 2019

Smokies Visitation Rises in 2018 with New Foothills Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record 11,421,203 visitors in 2018. The 0.7% increase over 2017 is due to the opening of the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley in November. In just two months, nearly 200,000 visitors experienced this new park opportunity which resulted in record-setting visitation in both November and December.

“The new section of the Foothills Parkway is a spectacular scenic driving destination and we’re pleased that so many people have already enjoyed it,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We hope that people take the time to explore it across the seasons.”

Park visitation across the park remained relatively stable as compared to 2017 with the highest visitation in July, followed by June and then October. Monthly visitation records were set during June, September, November, and December. Visitors spent nearly 400,000 nights camping in the park which was down 3% from 2017, but within the 5-year average. The park offers 9 front country campgrounds and 100 backcountry campsites for visitors to enjoy across the park.

For more information about visitation, please go to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics web page at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Park Plans Prescribed Burn in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Zone fire management staff plan to burn approximately 500 acres of fields within Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur Monday, February 25 through Tuesday, February, 26.

Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted these burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats, and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

“The selected fields will be burned to restore meadow species, prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest, and to reduce hazardous fuels,” said Fire Management Officer Greg Salansky.

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Sparks Lane and the western end of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.

Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, but refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, February 22, 2019

THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS - Sodden & Verdant

Several months ago I published a 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. Roughly two weeks ago Mr. Abbey published another excellent film that chronicles his three-day backpacking trip in the Mt. Sterling area of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hope you enjoy:





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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HikinginGlacier.com
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Senate Moves to Protect More than 2 Million Acres of National Parks and Public Lands

More than two million acres of public lands are poised to receive new or enhanced protection with last week's Senate passage of the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47). National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) led outreach efforts for years in support of many of the bill’s provisions and commends the bipartisan Congressional leadership who worked to strengthen protections for national parks, wilderness areas, waterways and wildlife across the country.

The legislative package authorizes designation of two new national park sites and six National Heritage Areas to tell new American stories; permanent protection against new mining claims on lands including the doorstep of Yellowstone and North Cascades national parks; permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); and directives for the Department of Interior to study sites that could further enhance and diversify the national park system.

“The Senate’s action today, including protecting two million acres of national park and other public lands, is further proof that these issues can, and should, be bipartisan,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “NPCA has worked alongside communities, businesses and elected officials for years to protect Yellowstone’s doorstep from industrial mining, connect parks and wild lands in the California desert and increase preservation of centuries-old Native American structures in Georgia. We commend the many members of Congress who were champions for their constituents and the places and issues that they, and all Americans, care so deeply about.”

The Natural Resources Management Act includes permanent mineral withdrawals to approximately 30,000 acres of National Forest System lands, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. This landscape has been targeted by two proposed industrial-scale gold mines. NPCA worked more than three years alongside the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition to defend their communities and garnered support for the withdrawal from tens of thousands of members and supporters.

In the California desert, lawmakers approved the long-awaited expansion of Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks, new wilderness designations that promote landscape connectivity, protections for fragile waterways and increased habitat for wildlife including desert tortoise, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep. NPCA worked in partnership with local communities, elected officials, and stakeholders on California desert legislation since 2009 and will continue efforts to connect, protect and enhance this vital landscape and tourism economy.

Ocmulgee National Monument will also be re-designated as Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, quadrupling the national park site from 700 to nearly 3,000 acres. The Department of Interior will also be authorized to explore options for preserving additional historic, cultural and recreation sites of the Ocmulgee River corridor between Macon and Hawkinsville. NPCA worked for years in support of the opportunity, including the development of a 2017 study on the significant increase in economic activity that the expanded park would bring to middle Georgia communities.

“This area is recognized as one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the country,” said Chris Watson, NPCA’s Senior Southeast Program Manager. “This expanded national park designation recognizes Ocmulgee’s exceptional characteristics, such as its documented human presence that dates back nearly 17,000 years and preserves the regions treasured wildlife, history and culture. Already one of the most visited attractions in Central Georgia, the enlarged park will serve as a significant economic engine, bringing increased visibility to the region. The park also holds strong ancestral connection for the Muskogee Nation of Oklahoma, and we are honored to be working with them to help preserve these lands.”



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Indiana Dunes becomes the 61st National Park

The spending bill signed by President Trump on February 15, 2019 included a provision that changed the name of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. This change takes place immediately. The bill also changes the name of the Miller Woods Trail to the Paul H. Douglas Trail in honor of the late Illinois Senator who helped lead the fight along with Save the Dunes and other citizen groups to create the national lakeshore in 1966.

Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz commented, "103 years in the making, what a terrific tribute to the neighbors, partners, visitors and National PARK staff. We are so appreciative to the entire Indiana delegation for their recognition and support of this national treasure."

The park staff looks forward to celebrating this name change in the near future and to working with local communities and partners on spreading the word about the nation’s 61st national park. The work will continue to protect this very special place in Northwest Indiana and to provide outstanding service to the visiting public.

My new book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, includes a passage on how the Prairie Club, a hiking club based out of Chicago, fought to protect the dunes which were being industrially mined for sand, which was used to make concrete. Among an array of actions and tactics, the club even hosted the “Pageant of the Dunes” in 1917, a massive outdoor play that helped to raise awareness of the issue.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

HikingintheSmokys.com Adds Four New Hikes to Website

A couple of weeks ago Kathy and I paid a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains to take advantage of some nice spring-like weather, and to do a little hiking. As a result, we were able to do a couple of new hikes, which have just been added to our website. Here's a quick rundown of the new hikes:

Spruce Flats Falls - This hike has been on my radar for several years now, and I finally got a chance to check it out. It didn't disappoint - in fact, I would say it has to be one of the most scenic waterfalls in the park. Though it isn't marked on the official park map, the trail is well defined and very easy to follow.

Avent Cabin - This is another destination that isn't marked on the official park map. This hike visits the former art studio of Mayna Treanor Avent, who was a nationally renowned artist. Her works have been exhibited across America, including the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery.

Ogle Place - This short loop hike along Cherokee Orchard Road visits the Ogle Farmstead. Along the route you'll visit the cabin that was built by Noah “Bud” Ogle in the 1880s, his barn, as well as his "tub" mill.

Gatlinburg Trail - If you're looking for an easy hike just outside of Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Trail is a great choice. The trail follows along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River for a large portion of the hike. It also visits the remnants of an old homestead.

During our visit we also took the opportunity to hike the Bullhead Trail, which was heavily damaged during the November 2016 wildfire. As a result of many downed trees the park was forced to close the trail for almost two years. After removing enough of the deadfall to make the route safe, the park finally reopened the trail to the public in late-October of 2018. Although there are several burn scars along the route, the wildfire has created huge panoramic vistas in several places. As a result of all the changes, we have updated the two hikes on our website that utilize the Bullhead Trail. The shorter hike ends at a large cairn built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930's, now known as "The Pulpit". The longer hike goes all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte. As you can see from the new photos on these pages, I have to think that this trail might become the most popular route to the summit in the coming years.




Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking