Monday, August 19, 2019

Shenandoah National Park Announces Reopening of Big Meadows Wayside

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn is pleased to announce the reopening of Big Meadows Wayside at mile 51 on Skyline Drive. The popular historic campstore, gift shop, and restaurant has been undergoing renovations since last winter.

Superintendent Flynn said, “This work has prepared the Wayside for another 50 years of service while retaining the historic fabric of the building.” Among the most visible changes is the reconfiguration of the interior space. The restaurant has been returned to its historic placement on the meadow side of the building so diners have a view of the iconic Big Meadow.

Other changes include a fire suppression system and an entirely new electrical system. The renovation was completed by the Park’s concessioner Delaware North, Inc. (DNC). DNC officials joined Superintendent Flynn for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, August 15, 2019.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Smokies Resumes Paving Work on Little River Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the pavement preservation project on Little River Road will resume Monday, August 19. A thin pavement overlay will be applied to the entire length of the roadway between Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Townsend Wye, along with associated pull-offs and parking lots, and Elkmont Road leading to the campground. The project should be completed by September 20, 2019, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling on Little River Road should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays from August 19 through September 20. Single-lane, daytime and nighttime closures are permitted from 7:00 p.m. on Sundays through 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations. Parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently for pavement application. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no lane closures will be allowed during weekends, holidays, or on Sunday, September 15 due to anticipated high traffic associated with the annual Fall Rod Run in Pigeon Forge.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $ 6.5 million paving contract to GC Works, Inc. Road work will include the application of a thin lift overlay to preserve the life of the pavement. Potholes will be patched before application of the pavement overlay.

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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Programming Note: Friends Across the Mountains Telethon Tonight

Tonight is the 25th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. As in years past, the event will again be broadcasted on WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville, TN and WLOS-TV Channel 13 in Asheville, NC from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.

The broadcast will highlight projects and programs that Friends of the Smokies has funded over the years. It's a fun event that raises awareness of both the Park's needs (as the only major national park without an entrance fee), and the ways that Friends of the Smokies helps to fulfill some of those needs every year. The telethon raises roughly $200,000 each year, and has raised more than $3.6 million dollars over the last 24 years.

Volunteers will be on hand to help answer phones and keep running totals of the money raised throughout the evening.

If you wish, you can make a donation right now by clicking here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 12, 2019

USDA Forest Service extends comment period for draft regulations on management of national forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is extending the public comment period on proposed changes to modernize how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed rule would give the Forest Service the tools and flexibility to manage land and tackle critical challenges like wildfire, insects and disease while improving service to the American people. Based on the importance of the proposed rule, the Forest Service is extending the comment period by 14 days to allow more time for public review and comment.

The proposed rule was published June 13, 2019, and the public comment period was originally set to end on August 12, 2019. With the extension, the comment period now ends on August 26, 2019.

Revising the rule will improve forest conditions and make it simpler for people to use and enjoy their national forests and grasslands at lower cost to the taxpayer. The revised rule will also make it easier to maintain the roads, trails, campgrounds and other facilities people need to use and enjoy their public lands.

This announcement will also be published in the Federal Register. Public comments are reviewed and considered when developing the final rule. Instructions on how to provide comments are included in the online notice.

More information is available at

Comments may be submitted through by searching docket number FS-2019-0010. Comments can also be submitted by mail to NEPA Services Group, care of Amy Barker, USDA Forest Service, 125 South State Street, Suite 1705, Salt Lake City, UT 84138; or by email at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 9, 2019

Smokey Bear turns 75 today!

Happy Birthday to Smokey Bear, the mascot of the U. S. Forest Service created to educate the public on the dangers of forest fires.

Smokey Bear's famous message "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" was created in 1944 by the Ad Council, making it the longest running Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign in U.S. history.

Smokey's correct full name is Smokey Bear. In 1952, the songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a hit with "Smokey the Bear". The pair said that "the" was added to Smokey's name to keep the song's rhythm. This small change has caused confusion among Smokey fans ever since.

The U.S. Forest Service authorized the creation of Smokey Bear on August 9, 1944. Smokey's debut poster (see picture above - on right) was delivered on October 10 of that year by artist Albert Staehle.

Be sure to check out the Smokey Bear website to see the history of the AD campaign. The site includes an interactive trail by decade with an extensive collection of old posters, TV/radio spots (including the famous Bambi TV spot), and other memorabilia.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 8, 2019

N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation Seeks Public Input on Elk Knob State Park Master Plan

The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation is seeking public input on the Elk Knob State Park Master Plan. The Master Plan will be a twenty-year plan that covers the entire state park, which contains over 4,200 acres spanning Watauga and Ashe Counties. The park is sited within the Amphibolite Mountains, an ecological hotspot of global significance.

E2 Landscape Architecture in Asheville is working with the Division and the public to develop the master plan, initially identifying both the recreation and conservation needs for the park. Stakeholder input is important to the process, and the open house-style public meeting will allow feedback from the community.

The public meeting will be held on Aug. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Optimist Park Clubhouse, located at 1012 State Farm Road in Boone. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and can expect to spend 20-30 minutes to review, discuss, and weigh in on their preferred recreational amenities for the park.

Amenities that will be considered for the master plan include a natural and cultural heritage center or visitor center, day use areas, campground areas, and hiking trails including sections of the Northern Peaks State Trail.

An online public survey is available for those who cannot attend the public meeting. Interested citizens can take the survey by visiting

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Kevin Lynch Found This Afternoon Near the Cataloochee Divide Trail

After spending four nights lost in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Kevin Mark Lynch was found by searchers. At approximately 4:25 p.m. searchers discovered Lynch, alert and responsive, in the southeast area of the park near the Cataloochee Divide Trail.

Earlier this afternoon, grid search team members discovered the first significant leads in the search for Lynch when his hat and pair of sunglasses were discovered approximately 1,600 feet south east of the Cataloochee Divide trail. Shortly after, a second grid search team, found what appeared to be fresh footprints leading toward the Ferguson Cabin. At these discoveries, search efforts were consolidated and redirected to the areas adjacent to where the clues were discovered in a focused search effort. Within a few hours, Lynch was discovered after he responded to searcher’s yells. Lynch was only ¾ of a mile from the point last seen.

Lynch was transported by Haywood County EMS to Haywood Regional Medical Center for assessment where he will be reunited with his family, whom has gathered near the command center daily since his disappearance.

“From the moment we learned of Lynch’s disappearance, Haywood County Emergency Management and National Park Service staff worked quickly to take an aggressive and proactive approach with search tactics due to the dire circumstances surrounding Lynch’s health condition,” said Park Chief Ranger Lisa Hendy. The successful utilization of a joint command structure was definitely a contributing factor to the success of this operation. We cannot thank all of the agencies who supported this effort enough for their dedicated commitment to bringing Mr. Lynch home safely to his family.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

More Than 200 Searchers Continue Efforts to Locate Kevin Lynch on North Carolina Side of the Smokies

Over the course of the last four days, grid searchers, trackers, and numerous dog teams have searched a five mile radius intensely looking for any clues as to Lynch’s direction of travel. Searchers have hiked all trails in the area looking for Lynch, posting informational flyers at trailheads, and interviewing hikers.

On Sunday, July 28, North Carolina Highway Patrol utilized a helicopter with FLIR technology, forward looking infrared (FLIR), in an effort to locate sources of heat in the search area. Since Sunday, drones have been utilized daily to get a bird’s eye view of the area. Law enforcement officials and fire departments have gone door to door notifying home owners adjacent to the park boundary to be on the lookout for Lynch. Over 400 residences have been contacted thus far and their associated outbuildings and barns searched.

Yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, July 30, a contract helicopter was deployed to scan the terrain for specific geologic features, such as rock outcrops and grassy balds, to help identify areas that may be utilized by Lynch. Today, trackers and search dog teams will examine any points of interest. Grid teams will expand their search corridor from 100 ft. to 300 ft. off trails and streams. All-terrain vehicles will be utilized to search several old logging roads and manways located on private land in the search area.

A total of 209 searchers, trackers, and incident command personnel associated with 32 agencies are being utilized in the search effort today, with approximately 60 agencies assisting over the course of the entire operation.

“We are very fortunate to have had such an outpouring of support from local emergency services agencies” said Incident Commander Mike Scheid. “We have the best of the best out in the field searching for Mr. Lynch and we are doing everything we can to bring him home safely”. “We continue to be very optimistic that the outcome of this search operation will be a positive one”.

Lynch is a white male approximately 5’5” feet tall, weighs 150 pounds, has brown (salt/pepper) hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing brown cotton shorts, a brown shirt with a white tail deer on it, and a camouflage baseball cap. He was last seen at approximately 3:20 p.m. walking along the park boundary at the Swag resort in Haywood County, North Carolina. Lynch, from Woodbridge New Jersey, suffers from dementia and may be confused as to his location. If anyone has seen Lynch since Saturday afternoon please call or text the Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at (888) 653-0009 or go to and click “submit a tip.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

New Mexico man charged after his dog kills fawn

A New Mexico man who allowed his dog to kill a fawn in southern Colorado has been charged with several wildlife crimes.

Michael Garcia, 36, of Las Cruces, N.M., has been charged with illegal possession of wildlife, allowing his dog to harass wildlife and unlawful manner of take of wildlife. He was issued a citation by a Colorado Parks & Wildlife wildlife officer on July 23. The fines for the offenses are $1,372.50 and an assessment of 20 license-suspension points.

Garcia may elect to pay the fines or appear in court, explained Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for CPW in the San Luis Valley. If he does not pay the fine, he will be required to appear in court on Sept. 16.

“This is a disturbing case; we’ve heard from many members of the public wanting CPW to investigate,” Basagoitia said. “Information that they’ve provided has been greatly helpful to CPW efforts.”

According to the officer’s report, the man was in an area near the Conejos River when his dog chased the fawn and killed it. Garcia posted photos of the dog and the dead fawn on social media. Someone saw the post, reported it to Operation Game Thief and CPW began to investigate.

Garcia was working as a fishing guide on the Conejos River. District Wildlife Officer Rod Ruybalid located him, conducted an interview and issued the citation.

In addition to the fines, Garcia will also be issued 20 license-suspension points, which means he must appear before a CPW suspension-hearing officer. This is a separate process that could result in the suspension of license privileges from one to five years. Only the Parks and Wildlife Commission has the authority to impose suspensions.

Wildlife crimes can be reported anonymously to Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Those who report are eligible for a cash reward if the tip results in the issuance of a ticket or a conviction.

Chasing and killing wildlife is one of the reasons cited on most national park websites as to why they don't allow dogs on backcountry trails.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Search Operations Amplify for Missing New Jersey Man in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers continue to search for 58 year-old Kevin Mark Lynch who went missing on Saturday, July 27. Lynch was reportedly last seen walking along the boundary of the park at the Swag resort in Haywood County, NC near the Cataloochee Divide Trail.

Lynch is a white male approximately 5’5” feet tall, weighs between 150 pounds and has brown (salt/pepper) hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing brown cotton shorts, a brown shirt with a white tail deer on it, and a camouflage baseball cap. Mr. Lynch, from Woodbridge NJ, suffers from dementia and may be confused as to his location. If anyone has seen Mr. Lynch after Saturday afternoon please contact Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch at (865) 436-1230.

Yesterday, thirteen search teams composed of a variety of different agencies are conducting on and off-trail operations searching for Lynch. Teams are navigating through dense vegetation and difficult terrain in the remote southeast area of the park looking for any evidence of human travel. Park officials requested the assistance of six canine search teams through Haywood County Emergency Management. In total, 180 searchers, investigators, and incident command personnel are being utilized in the search effort.

At this time, search operations remain limited to a select number of trained searchers to enable a systematic, thorough search of the area. By limiting the number of searchers in the area, rangers have the best chance to find Lynch quickly. Dog teams and trackers can be hampered by additional people in the area when searchers are looking for signs of hiker travel.

Over thirty agencies are assisting with the search effort and include Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, North Carolina Public Safety Prison Division, South Carolina Search and Rescue K9 Unit, Sevier County Search and Rescue, Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue team (BUSAR), Canton Police Department, Centerview Rescue Squad, Cosby Volunteer Rescue Squad, Chattanooga Rescue Squad, Haywood County Search and Rescue, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, Civil Air Patrol, Haywood County Rescue Squad, Cataloochee Ranch Wranglers, Connestee Fire Rescue, Haywood County Transit, Haywood County Emergency Management, Haywood County Communications, Randall’s Adventure and Training Search and Rescue Team(RAT-SAR), Transylvania Rescue Squad, Brevard Fire Department, Asheville Fire Department, Henderson County Rescue Squad and Great Smoky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Team.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, July 29, 2019

Senate Committee Introduces Bill to Increase Funding for National Park Roadways

Today, the United States Senate introduced a bill that includes a 21 percent increase in funding for national parks. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, a surface transportation bill, would be used to repair and update roads, bridges, and transportation systems in national parks across the country. National park provisions are an important, but small portion of this nearly 500-page surface transportation bill.

“This legislation comes at a critical time for the country and our national parks,” said Emily Douce Director of Operations and Park Funding for the National Parks Conservation Association. “There are crumbling roads along the Blue Ridge Parkway, aging bridges in Great Smoky Mountains and outdated shuttle buses in Zion. Our national parks are scraping by on shoestring budgets, while facing billions of dollars in needed repairs and updates to their aging infrastructure and transportation systems. In fact, more than half of the Park Service’s $11.9 billion maintenance backlog is comprised of transportation needs. This bill is a big step in the right direction. If enacted, this would provide critical funding to repair important roads, bridges and park transit systems to ensure millions of visitors can continue to experience and enjoy national parks now and for years to come.”

The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages, including 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges. The America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act would authorize federal highway programs that provide $287 billion over five years.

Key park provisions included in the bill:

• Guarantees an increase in annual funding to the Park Service – an additional $310 million over the span of the five-year bill – through the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which provides funds to improve roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure in parks.

• Dedicates $50 million a year and authorizes $100 million a year for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program designed to address exceptionally large repair projects in our parks, such as the reconstruction of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades and a portion of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone.

• Provides measures to improve the resiliency of roads and bridges to natural disasters and extreme weather events.

• Encourages innovative solutions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, establishing a program that would support projects that protect motorist and wildlife through improved transportation infrastructure.

“Our park infrastructure is in bad shape, and the problem will only get worse if the chronic underfunding continues. We commend Chairman Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member Carper (D-DE) and the rest of the Environment and Public Works Committee for leading the effort to address the costly backlog of transportation projects throughout our country. Now, the other Senate committees and the House of Representatives must finish the work and pass final legislation to fix our country’s infrastructure, including our parks, and doing so without compromising public input and protections for our nation’s air, water and wildlife,” said Douce.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Consider These 2 Things Before Choosing A Pair of Hiking Socks

The following is a guest post by Ralph Scheterle of Ventury Sports. Ralph has spent the last year developing a unique hiking sock that could be a game changer for hikers of all kinds. He’s now launching that sock on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. In the process of developing his hiking sock he spent numerous hours surveying, interviewing, and hiking with other hikers to understand exactly what pain points to address when creating the best sock for hikers. The result of all that research is the knowledge he shares in this guest post:

There are a few things as important as your feet when hiking.

Some might say they are the number one asset to hikers on the trail.

As a hiker you probably know this to be intuitively true.

Think about it…

If you’re feet don’t work, they’re full of painful blisters, aching muscles, sprained bones, etc…

Then you can’t really hike.

Nearly ALL the hikers I talked to understood that foot health was our top priority if we are going to enjoy our excursions in nature.

But the question was how do we take care of our feet?

To answer this question I identified two areas that should be focused on.

How are you using your feet? (read: walking technique)


What are you putting on your feet?

Walking technique is a completely separate topic that deserves a post of its own.

But for this post I’m going to focus on what are you putting your feet?

Specifically, socks… (shoes also deserve a post of their own).

Time and time again I came across hikers who were overthinking the socks they were using. Or how socks fit into their hiking total package.

In reality I was able to identify two simple areas of focus when considering the right socks foot protection and hiking bliss.

Let’s get right into the first one…

1. Blister Prevention

We had the chance to survey more than 400 hikers. When asked what is the #1 challenge or difficulty on the trail more than 85% of the hikers responded with moist feet. Why? Why is this such a big problem for hikers? Well as a hiker yourself you probably already know. Regardless of being extremely uncomfortable to hike in wet feet, it’s also THE leading cause of blisters. Painful sores that can immediately cut an enjoyable hiking trip short. So when we assess the first thing to consider when choosing a pair of hiking socks it should be a sock that helps to fight against blister development. Which means starting with a sock that is able to control the moisture on and around your foot.

Moisture Control

Imagine you’re hiking deep within a humid, heavily forested area. Naturally your feet are going to get a little warm (if not down-right hot). At this point your feet will begin sweating and your socks get soaked. Like a sponge around water, the socks that you’re wearing begin to soak up the sweat. There are two factors at play here that lead to constantly moist feet, temperature regulation and the actual removal of the moisture.

Temperature regulation

Imagine again with me for a moment that in the scenario above you constantly had a heavy duty fan blowing on your feet at all times (don’t mind the logistics of how this will happen - we’re imagining). If there was a constant flow of air on your feet, even in the hot humid environs your feet would stay cool, which would prevent them from sweating, which keeps them dry. Breathability prevents sweating - so that’s the first thing you’re looking for in a sock.

Air flow.

Most synthetic materials (and especially cotton) are not breathable fabrics. Another way to read that - there is no air flow. But with a fabric that provides air flow you can help to keep your feet cool. Merino wool is a naturally breathable material. Actually scientists are quite baffled by this fluffy New Zealand sheep that is able to keep cool during the summers with all that fur but at the same time keep warm during the winters. But it’s that amazing accomplishment of nature that can also keep the temperature around your feet well regulated. Beyond the types of fabrics in your sock you’ll also want to look for socks that use cooling zones or special areas that provide for breathability in known hotspots. Especially around the midsection of the foot, toes, and above the heel. These special breathing areas have larger than usual holes (almost like a mesh pattern) to allow more air to access your foot.

Moisture removal (rapid dry)

BUT, as any hiker worth their weight in socks knows, temperature regulation is not enough.


Sometimes it’s just too hot, but most likely the reason is that it rains, or you step in a stream, puddle, lake, pond, or some other body water. Now you have wet feet. The goal at this point is to get the water away from your feet as quickly as possible. Moisture wicking materials - lucky for you and all of your hiking companions there are special materials that literally pull water away from your foot. Remember those amazing fluffy sheep from New Zealand? The Merinos? (Sounds like the family of a distant cousin.) Well nature has figured out a way, again, to keep the Merino sheep dry even when their fur gets wet. The wool of the Merino sheep has what is called Moisture wicking qualities. It acts as a straw sucking the moisture away from the skin. When woven and used within a sock the same effect happens to your feet too. Not only does the Merino wool pull the moisture away from the skin, but it also dries incredibly fast.

Fast drying - which is the next thing you want to look for when considering moisture removal.

Because after the moisture is pulled away from your foot it’s sitting in the fabrics of the sock but now it needs to get out of the fabric. This is where a fast drying material comes in. Merino wool is traditionally very fast drying. Nylon is also fast drying, but it’s not moisture wicking or temperature regulating. So there are some trade-offs there.

Two asides to consider:

Bacteria elimination - one trade off you should not compromise on is bacteria. These pesky little microbes are the cause of a whole host of problems including inflaming blisters to be worse (more painful) than they already are. Needless to say you don’t want bacteria anywhere near your feet. There are not many options to prevent bacteria growth. Keeping your feet dry goes a long way but it’s not a 100% solution. One solution that is not mainstream yet but is a proven fighter against bacteria is silver. Yes, like the silver in jewelry and tableware. Silver ions actively destroy bacteria. And modern tech has invented a Silver infused thread that actively fights against bacteria. There is nothing else on the market that will proactively attack bacteria. But if you can get a pair of hiking socks with Silver in them they are definitely worth more than their weight in silver. ;)
       ◾Bacteria can cause wounds to fester
       ◾Increase moisture retention
       ◾Causes foot rot
Minimize rub - last but definitely not least might be the most obvious cause of blisters. Rubbing. That’s why when it comes to socks you’ll want to choose a sock that does not move too much (if at all) on your foot or within your hiking shoe. To do this many hikers have resorted to using very thin materials (think stockings) in order to form fit their feet and prevent the slippage that leads to blister causing rub. Short of getting a pair of socks tailored to your feet the next best option is going to be finding a sock with a slight compression that can keep its place on your foot without squeezing your foot too tight and causing more hot spots.

2. Comfort

Which leads us to comfort. If you’ve hiked more than 1 mile then you’ll know that if your feet aren’t comfortable on the trail then nothing is comfortable. Ultimately that’s what you’re looking for in a hiking sock, long lasting comfort. To get that it’s best to consider a few core areas of your feet. Toes, front pad, heel pad, arch, and ankles. (basically the entire foot).

Padded areas

A sock that has extra cushioning in the toes and heel areas is great in theory. For the most part it’s great in practice too. However, a word of caution is to avoid socks with too much padding. With too much padding you can fill up your hiking shoe and cause more pain than comfort as crowding can lead to foot disfigurement and eventually blisters. My best recommendation is that you take your hiking shoes with you to try on socks. If the sock brand does not let you try on socks or does not have a favourable return policy then they’re not a brand worth dealing with anyways. But that little bit of extra padding goes a long way in protecting your feet from miles of constant beatings.


Also, depending on your personal tolerances find a sock with slight compression. I say your “personal tolerances” because everyone has different levels of sensitivity to compression.

As an aside, if you have plantar fasciitis I recommend getting a sock with a good amount of compression it will make your hike much more enjoyable.

That being said, in general you want a sock that will keep the sock molded to the form of your foot - preventing slippage. But also an extra bit of compression in the arch to support your arch lift as well.


At the risk of sounding redundant, I'm going to beat the drum one more time and say the last thing you want in the comfort category is a quality material. When it comes to comfortable materials Merino wool is the gold standard. If you can’t tell I’m a huge fanboy of Merino wool, but for good reason. It has an incredible technical capability mixed with silky smooth comfort.

And that’s that…

That’s everything you should consider when buying a pair of hiking socks.

Fairly simple right?

Sometimes the most beneficial solution is a simplified analysis.

Lastly, as mentioned at the top of the post, we are crowdfunding the hiking sock we created after 1 year of analysis and research. if you want the perfect pair of hiking socks (in my opinion) I recommend you check out the hiking socks I recently created. The new Ventury Silverlight sock is made of a dual layer system that uses both Merino wool and nylon/spandex to get the best of all worlds. They are also infused with silver threads throughout to make them entirely anti-microbial. The entire sock was constructed to fight blisters and provide ultimate comfort on the trail. And they’re available now on Indiegogo if you’d like to check them out.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about what you’ve read here please don’t hesitate to send me an email at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, July 22, 2019

Governor Cooper Signs Bills Authorizing New State Park and Trails

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed bills into law this month authorizing a new state park and three new state trails. The new laws (S.L. 2019-74, S.L. 2019-20, S535) allow the addition of Pisgah View State Park in Buncombe and Haywood counties; Northern Peaks State Trail in Watauga and Ashe counties, the Wilderness Gateway State Trail in the South Mountains range in McDowell, Rutherford, Burke and Catawba counties; and the Overmountain Victory State Trail reaching across Avery, Mitchell, McDowell, Burke, Rutherford, Polk, Caldwell, Wilkes and Surry counties.

Governor Cooper expects the new state properties to have widespread positive impacts for health, quality of life, and the economy. “These new parks and trails will conserve important wildlife habitats and support North Carolina’s flourishing outdoor recreation industry,” the Governor said.

The new state park, Pisgah View, will be in highly scenic southwest Buncombe and Haywood counties. The area is full of trails, unique habitats, cliffs, coves and upland forests that are home to several rare plant and animal species.

The Division of Parks and Recreation will also conduct a feasibility study that will further refine a corridor for the new Wilderness Gateway State Trail that would connect Chimney Rock State Park to South Mountains State Park, the Town of Valdese, the City of Hickory, the newly authorized Overmountain Victory State Trail and other natural areas located in Burke and Catawba counties. The division is to report back to the General Assembly by Dec. 1.

A state trail is comprised of multiple connected sections, each sponsored by a state or federal agency, local government or private landowner working in partnership to fund, build, and maintain the trail.

The opportunity to enhance visitor opportunities, unique experiences and education for all ages speaks to Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton. “People love parks and trails, so I’m pleased that we’ll be able to provide new opportunities for our residents and visitors to experience some of the most spectacular places in our state,” she said.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

National Park Seeks Information Regarding Man’s Death in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) investigators are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of David Carver, Jr who was found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on July 8, 2019. Carver was reported missing by a family member to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office in early June.

If you have information about Carver’s death, or know something that could help investigators determine how Carver got to the park and what he was doing there, please contact the ISB investigators through any of the following means:

• CALL or TEXT the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009
• ONLINE at and click “Submit a Tip”
• EMAIL e-mail the park
• MESSAGE on Facebook @InvestigativeServicesNPS or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS or Instagram @SpecialAgent_NPS

Callers may remain anonymous if they choose. Monetary rewards may be available to those who provide credible information that aids the investigation.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, July 15, 2019

US Forest Service Proposes Bold Moves to Improve Forest, Grassland Management

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) released proposed changes to modernize how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed updates would not only give the Forest Service the tools and flexibility to manage the land and tackle critical challenges like wildfire, insects, and disease but also improve service to the American people. Revising the rules will improve forest conditions and make it simpler for people to use and enjoy their national forests and grasslands at lower cost to the taxpayer. The revised rules will also make it easier to maintain and repair the infrastructure people need to use and enjoy their public lands—the roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities.

While these proposed changes will save time and resources, they are ultimately intended to better protect people, communities and forests from catastrophic wildfire and ensure a high level of engagement with people and communities when doing related work and associated environmental analyses.

“We are committed to doing the work to protect people and infrastructure from catastrophic wildfire. With millions of acres in need of treatment, years of costly analysis and delays are not an acceptable solution – especially when data and experience show us we can get this work done with strong environmental protection standards as well as protect communities, livelihoods and resources,” said Secretary Perdue.

In 2008, the Forest Service codified its procedures for complying with NEPA in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 36 CFR 220. However, these regulations, in large part, still reflect the policies and practices established by the agency’s 1992 NEPA Manual and Handbook. When these regulations were adopted in 2008, they were intended to modernize and improve management processes. The proposed rule would further modernize the agency’s NEPA policy by incorporating experience from past 10 years. This experience includes input from comments on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from January of 2018, as well as feedback from roundtables, workshops, and input from agency experts.

“We have pored over 10 years of environmental data and have found that in many cases, we do redundant analyses, slowing down important work to protect communities, livelihoods and resources,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “We now have an opportunity to use that information to our advantage, and we want to hear from the people we serve to improve these proposed updates.”

The updates would create a new suite of “categorical exclusions,” a classification under the NEPA excluding certain routine activities from more extensive, time-consuming analysis under an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The proposed categorical exclusions would be for restoration projects, roads and trails management, and recreation and facility management, as well as special use authorizations that issue permits for outfitters and guides, community organizations, civic groups and others who seek to recreate on our national forests and grasslands. The new categorical exclusions are based on intensive analysis of hundreds of environmental assessments and related data and when fully implemented will reduce process delays for routine activities by months or years.

The proposed update is open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Public comments are reviewed and considered when developing the final rule. Instructions on how to provide comments are included in the online notice.

More information on the proposed rule change and how to comment is available on the Forest Service website.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cades Cove Loop Lope Registration Opens Tuesday

Online registration for the third annual Cades Cove Lope Lope, the only footrace in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, opens at 10:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 16 at Participation is limited to 750 total runners on the 5k or 10-mile courses. This year’s race takes place on Sunday, November 3, 2019.

The Cades Cove Loop Lope is hosted by and benefits Friends of the Smokies, an official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The nonprofit organization raises money to support critical projects and programs in the park including environmental education, historic preservation, wildlife management, and more.

“We are so excited to bring back the Loop Lope for another beautiful fall in the Smokies,” said Kathryn Hemphill, Special Projects Director at Friends of the Smokies. “This is the only race happening inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you do not want to miss out. Nothing else will match the experience!”

This year, in addition to the 5k and 10-mile courses along Cades Cove Loop Road, the event features a virtual race option for those who cannot visit the Smokies to participate in person. Virtual runners can sign up online, run at the time and place of their choosing, and still support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

All participants must register in advance and space is limited. To protect the natural and cultural resources of Cades Cove, there are a limited number of parking passes available for runners to purchase at the time of registration. Free parking in Townsend and shuttle buses will be available for all registered runners without a parking pass.

Registration for both course lengths, the virtual race, and interested volunteers will open at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16. Registration and additional information can be found at This year’s event is made possible by generous support from Fleet Feet Knoxville, Little Arrow Outdoor Resort, DENSO, Rocky Top Tours, Townsend Gateway Inn, and Unlimited Training Systems.

If planning to take part in this year's run, or planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains anytime this summer or fall, please remember to help support by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page! Our hiking website provides links to a wide variety of overnight options - from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts in all the areas surrounding the park.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Translocation of Mountain Goats From the Olympics to the Cascades

On July 8, a coalition of state and federal agencies, with support from local tribes, began the second two-week round of translocating mountain goats from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains to meet wildlife management goals in all three areas.

This effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades while also removing non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

In May 2018, the NPS released the final Mountain Goat Management Plan which outlined the effort to remove mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula. The population of mountain goats at that time was estimated at 725. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process which began in 2014.

The first two-week capture period in September 2018 removed 115 mountain goats from the population in the park. An additional two-week period is planned for this year beginning August 19 through 30.

“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” said Jesse Plumage, USFS Wildlife Biologist.

While some mountain goat populations in the north Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent from many areas of its historic range.

Aerial capture operations will be conducted through a contract with Leading Edge Aviation, a private company that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals. The helicopter crew will use immobilizing darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially made slings to the staging areas.

While capture operations will be conducted throughout the park and national forest for both two-week periods, a few locations that are known to have a high number of mountain goats will be areas of focus for the capture crew. On the first two days of the capture period, the emphasis will be on the Klahhane Ridge and Appleton Pass areas. The Seven Lakes Basin area and the Lake of the Angels area in the southeast have a high number of mountain goats that the capture crew will be working to remove. In August, Mount Ellinor in Olympic National Forest will be an area of focus.

This year there will be two staging areas for each two-week period. For July and August, one staging area will be located on Hurricane Hill Road beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park. The other staging area will be located in Olympic National Forest in the Hamma Hamma area in July and switch to the Mt. Ellinor area in August. The staging areas will be closed to public access.

The animals will be cared for by veterinarians before WDFW wildlife managers transport them to staging areas in the north Cascades for release. To maximize success, goats will be airlifted in their crates by helicopter directly to alpine habitats that have been selected for appropriate characteristics.

WDFW plans to release the mountain goats at six sites in the Cascades in July. Three of the release sites will be staged from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS). These release sites include the Chikamin area on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Preacher Mountain on the MBS, and Hardscrabble Ridge on an inholding owned by Forterra. Two release areas are near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington on the Darrington District of the MBS. The other is near Mt. Index on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS.

Mountain goats follow and approach hikers because they are attracted to the salt from their sweat, urine, and food. That behavior is less likely in the north Cascades where visitors are more widely distributed than those at Olympic National Park, said Dr. Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats.

“In addition, the north Cascades has natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none,” Harris said. “We’d expect salt hunger to be lower in goats that have natural sources available to them.”

For more information and updates on the project, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, June 28, 2019

Park and DLiA Host Smokies Species Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) are celebrating the diversity of life in the park by hosting “Smokies Species Day” at Sugarlands Visitor Center on Saturday, June 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Attendees can learn about fungi, slime molds, beetles, moths, butterflies, and other creatures of the Smokies at this free, family-friendly event!

The event will be held outdoors on the patio area in front of the visitor center providing opportunities for people to tour the pollinator garden and participate in a hands-on citizen science program called Species SnapIt & MapIt which allows everyone to help gather scientific data about species encountered in the park. Researchers will also share how the ecosystem in fire-affected areas are recovering from the 2016 wildfires.

Smokies Species Day is centered on the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), a partnership between the park and DLiA, which has been taking place in the park for more than 20 years. The ATBI is a concerted effort to discover and understand all the species inhabiting the 522,000-acre park habitat, including plants, fungi, birds, amphibians, insects, bacteria, and more. Over the life of the ATBI, there have been a variety of organisms discovered that are new records for the park, as well as over 1,000 species that are new to science.

This event and research efforts are partially supported by Friends of the Smokies. For more information about DLiA, please visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Trillium Gap Trail Temporarily Closed Due to Trail Conditions

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Trillium Gap Trail will be temporarily closed through Thursday, July 11, due to hazardous trail conditions. The area received heavy rainfall over the last couple of weeks causing extremely slippery, muddy conditions on the trail surface undergoing rehabilitation.

“The safety of our visitors and staff is our highest priority,” said Park Trails and Roads Facility Manager Tobias Miller. “Dense clay soils, disturbed during the recent trail rehabilitation construction process, have become very muddy and slippery with the frequent rains and heavy visitor use on the weekends.”

Park trail crews will continue to diligently work on these sections during the closure to make needed repairs. The full closure will allow time for the trail tread to set up and harden for use. Weather depending, the trail is expected to reopen after July 11 for weekend use each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays through November 15. The trail and associated parking lot along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will continue to be closed during this time period on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly.

This rehabilitation project started on May 13 as part of the park’s Trails Forever program. The trail crew, youth corps, and volunteers have made excellent progress along the trail this season. At this time, this additional stabilization work is not expected to affect the overall timeline for the 2-year project.

The Trillium Gap Trail is one of the busiest trails in the park as it provides access to the popular Grotto Falls and the summit of Mt. Le Conte. There is no access to Grotto Falls during the trail closures. Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four trails to the summit including the recently restored Rainbow Falls Trail and Alum Cave Trail.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for highly skilled trail crew members to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including Rainbow Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Forney Ridge trails. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers and interns to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.

Volunteer work days for the Trails Forever program are held every Wednesday, May through August. Prior registration is required. Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or for more details and to register.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, June 24, 2019

Park Hosts “Smokies Service Days”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to participate in “Smokies Service Days” beginning June 29 to help complete much-needed work across the park. Park staff will lead these single-day volunteer opportunities that are ideal for people of all ages interested in learning more about the park through hands-on service.

Individuals, families, and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park campgrounds, native plant gardens, and a variety of natural and cultural resources. The program is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements including high school and college students, scout groups, and civic organizations. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

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

Those interested in volunteering must contact Project Coordinator, Andrew Mentrup, at 865-436-1278 or, prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

June 29: Cosby Campground Clean-Up
July 13: Chimneys Picnic Area Clean-Up
July 27: Elkmont Campground Clean-Up
August 17: Cosby Horse Trail: Clean-Up
September 14: Oconaluftee Visitor Center Flower Bed Maintenance
September 21: Sugarlands Visitor Center Non-Native Honeysuckle Removal
October 5: Elkmont’s Daisy Town Clean-Up

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, June 17, 2019

Shenandoah National Park Announces Construction Begins on a New Parking Lot for Old Rag Mountain Area Trails

Shenandoah National Park recently announced the groundbreaking of a new parking lot for the Old Rag Mountain and Nicholson Hollow area trails. The new parking lot is located near the existing parking lot on Route 600 in Madison County.

A contractor for the national park service has begun mobilizing to the site, with work beginning in earnest on June 10, 2019. The construction is anticipated to take several months to accomplish. Construction activity shouldn't interfere with hikers going to and from the area trails, however, there will be an increase in noise and truck traffic on Route 600 during the construction period.

When the new parking lot is completed, it will become Shenandoah National Park’s primary parking lot for visitors climbing Old Rag Mountain. A new connector trail built by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) will connect the new parking lot with the Ridge Trail. The park appreciates everyone's patience during this construction period and looks forward to the positive changes that will come when the new parking lot opens.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, June 16, 2019

American Trails Video: Building Trail Culture

American Trails recently published the presentation (below), which was given by Amy Camp during this years' International Trails Symposium. Ms. Camp's presentation discussed "Building Trail Culture" in communities across America. As trails in our national parks and forests become increasingly overcrowded (which I discussed in detail in my book), utilization of local trails will become more important as hiking participation rates continue to grow. Here's a synopsis of the presentation:
Trail communities around North America have come to appreciate (and clamor for) the economic benefits of trails. In fact, a model for community development—“trail towns”—has emerged to aid struggling communities in leveraging their trails. But we’ve got it mostly wrong. While economic gain contributes to community vitality, too heavy of a focus on any one trail benefit lacks balance…and heart. Those places that value trails simply for the dollars brought into town miss out on the “trail magic” that can touch communities. If we flip our focus from visitor transactions to truly engaging both visitors and locals, culture shift is possible. One concrete way of doing so is through programming immersive, memorable, joyful trail experiences. This talk will share programming examples and make a case for how these connections can transform communities from a culture of indifference to a culture of “yes,” of hospitality, of inclusion, and stewardship.

Building Trail Culture-Amy Camp from American Trails on Vimeo.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to attend “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs on Fridays beginning June 14 through August 2 at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater. The programs honor the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area through music, storytelling, and history walks.

“These programs offer incredible opportunities for visitors to discover Cosby by experiencing it firsthand with the people who live and work here,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are grateful to our friends from the local community who are leading these unique experiences.”

Programs feature local musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, and former residents who once lived in the park. Visitors are invited to step back in time during these summer programs to experience the music and mountain ways of people living in the Cosby area both then and now.

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

All programs will be held at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater unless otherwise specified. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.

To check out the full schedule of events, please click here.

Planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains this summer? Please help support by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page. Our hiking website provides links to a wide variety of overnight options - from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Smokies Hosts Women’s Work Festival

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Women’s Work Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The festival honors the vast contributions made by the women of Southern Appalachia. Park staff and volunteers will showcase mountain lifeways and customs that women practiced to care for their families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, cornshuck crafts, and use of plants for home remedies. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house.

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

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

Planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains this summer? Please help support by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page. Our hiking website provides links to a wide variety of overnight options - from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, June 7, 2019

U.S. Forest Service issues warning about Black Bears in Panthertown

Visitors to Panthertown on the Nantahala National Forest are asked to take precautions to avoid bears after recent reports of increased encounters.

No injuries have been reported. Encounters include bears stealing packs and riffling through camping supplies and gear. The bears will often stay in the area of the incident for multiple hours.

This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips.

According to District Ranger Mike Wilkins, "Bears become used to people due to the close proximity of residential neighborhoods and the regular use of the same camping spots. Once there is more natural food available across the forest the bears should be less aggressive."

While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:

* Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
* If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
* If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
* If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.

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

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

* Do not store food in tents.
* Properly store food and scented items like toothpaste by using a bear-proof container.
* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
* Do not leave food unattended.
* Never run away from a bear-back away slowly and make lots of noise.

A reminder to forest visitors that bear canisters are required in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest. Since this requirement has been in place the number of successful black bear attempts to getting campers food has significantly decreased. Remember to be bear aware.

For more tips, visit or go to and click on "Learn about Bear Safety"

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Tennessee State Parks Named Finalist for National Gold Medal Award

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association(NRPA), is pleased to announce Tennessee State Parks as a finalist for the 2019 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Musco Lighting, LLC has been a proud sponsor of the Gold Medal Awards program for over 10 years.

“We are honored to be among the best state park systems in the nation,” said David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Our parks provide the ultimate visitor experience and are an asset to Tennessee. We strive to provide rich interpretive programs and outdoor adventures while protecting ecologically significant areas, all with the backdrop of unparalleled natural beauty. This recognition is for every Tennessean who appreciates and benefits from our parks system.”

Tennessee State Parks is one of only two state park systems in the nation to receive accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). In recent years, the state has also acquired significant acres for protection. All park rangers are certified interpretive guides, and every park has expanded sustainability practices – including adding more recycling bins and composting food waste. Tennessee State Parks continues to celebrate record visitation, and is one of only seven state parks systems that do not charge an admission fee.

Tennessee State Parks joins three other finalists in the state parks category: Florida State Parks, Maryland Park Service and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.

Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials. A panel of five park and recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials.

This year’s finalists will compete for Grand Plaque Award honors this summer, and the seven Grand Plaque recipients will be announced live during the NRPA General Session at the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Sept. 24–26, 2019.

For more information on the Gold Medal Awards, visit or

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, June 3, 2019

Tourism to Blue Ridge Parkway creates $1 Billion in Economic Benefits

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that in 2018, 14.7 million park visitors spent an estimated $1.1 billion in local gateway regions while visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway. These expenditures supported 15.9 thousand jobs in the local region and had a cumulative benefit of $1.3 billion in local gateway economies surrounding Blue Ridge Parkway.

“Much of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s history relates back to its important role as an economic engine for this region,” said J.D. Lee, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent. “The 2018 visitor spending impacts remind us all of the important relationship between this park and our neighboring communities. The Blue Ridge experience is not complete without some time spent in one or more of the many towns and cities near the Parkway.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $20.2 billion of direct spending by more than 318 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 329,000 jobs nationally; 268,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $40.1 billion.

National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy too, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service. Lodging expenses account for the largest share of national visitor spending, about $6.8 billion in 2018. Food expenses are the second largest spending area and visitors spent $4 billion in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores. Visitor spending on lodging also supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.

Report authors also produced an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage:

To learn more about national parks in North Carolina or Virginia and how the National Park Service works with local communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to or

Ramble On: A History of Hiking