Numerous Rescues conducted in Shenandoah

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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This morning's NPS Digest is reporting that Shenandoah National Park conducted four major rescues during this past fall color season:

* A 66-year-old man fell from the summit of Little Stony Man, sustaining head injuries. Park Police assisted in the operation, using their hoist helicopter for the rescue and transporting the man to the hospital.

* A 24-year-old woman broke her ankle on Old Rag Mountain. Winds were too erratic to utilize the USPP hoist, so a technical ground rescue was undertaken. Fortunately, the winds stabilized and USPP was able to extricate the woman just before sunset, eliminating the need for a lengthy and hazardous night rescue.

* A 46-year-old woman broke her ankle on the Cedar Run trail, requiring a lengthy night rescue operation.

* A 40-year-old woman sustained a knee injury on Old Rag Mountain. Winds did not permit the USPP helicopter to assist in the operation, so a lengthy, 12-hour technical rescue and carryout was conducted utilizing 30 responders.

The NPS also states that all major rescue operations in Shenandoah are conducted utilizing personnel from all divisions as well as several cooperating organizations. The USPP aviation program has been a great asset for the park’s rescue operations by reducing the need for hazardous technical ground evacuations as well as improving patient care through much more timely transportation to hospital care.

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Storm damages closes roads in Smokies

Update: the Laurel Creek Road is now open, however, park officials have now closed the Cades Cove Loop Road, as well as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Wear Cove Road also remains closed. It's best to call the park hotline at 865-436-1200 for the latest closures.


A strong storm that passed through the Smoky Mountains overnight knocked over several trees, resulting in a couple of road closings.

Laurel Creek Road, between Townsend and Cades Cove, and Wears Cove Road between Wears Valley and the Metcalf Bottoms area, are both closed to all traffic right now.

It's possible both could open early this morning, however, there is a high wind warning for the Smokies that could complicate or delay clean-up efforts. According to the Weather Service:



To stay on top of the current weather and forecasts for the Smokies, please click here.

For the latest road closures in the park, click here, or call (865) 436-1200.

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Deer Poachers Caught on Blue Ridge Parkway

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The NPS is reporting that on the morning of November 24th a park visitor called the Blue Ridge Parkway dispatch to inform them that he had just seen two men poach a large buck.

According to the caller, he was watching the deer in a field in the park and told the two men about it. As he departed the area, the two men shot the deer. The Blowing Rock Police Department was able to respond and detain the two men until ranger Bruce Gagnon arrived.

The investigation revealed that a large, eight-point buck had been shot from the roadway from a distance of about 50 yards. The investigation into this case is being handled jointly by the National Park Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

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Climbing 4 Health

Monday, November 29, 2010

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Last week I received an email from a woman in Massachusetts who plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this upcoming February, in part as a fundraising goal.

Stacey Pratt will join a group that includes Khaliah Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter, that plans to summit the 19,350-foot summit in Tanzania. As part of her adventure, Ms. Pratt is also hoping to raise $5,000 by Worlds AIDS Day on December 1st to benefit the Global Alliance for Africa. Here are some of the ways that the Global Alliance for Africa uses donation funds to benefit local African communities:

•$400 funds an urban water program
•$375 buys a water pump for an agricultural initiative
•$150 funds a youth’s educational fees for one year
•$130 buys a bookcase for a library
•$100 funds vocational training for an adolescent for one year
•$50 buys a reading table for a library
•$35 buys a goat.

You can help Stacey by making a donation or by purchasing her hiking themed t-shirt which features a hiking boot with the red AIDs ribbon and the tag line "See you on top". For each t-shirt sold, $5.00 will be donated to Global Alliance for Africa.

For more information on Stacey's mission, and to purchase the t-shirt, please click here.

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Hiking and National Park related Gift Ideas

So we're less than four weeks away from Christmas and you're still looking for some gift ideas, or maybe just trying to find a simple stocking stuffer for that outdoor lover in your life.

Let me offer a few ideas that would make any hiker or fan of the Great Smoky Mountains a happy camper on Christmas morning:

Where are the best places to hike and take pictures in the Smokies? You now have the option to take the latest technology with you into the park to guide you to the places you want to go. This summer Travel Photo Guides released its iPhone App for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The App offers the best places to hike, the best places to take pictures of beautiful vistas, rivers and waterfalls, and where to find wildflowers and wildlife. It even provides camera settings and GPS coordinates.

So maybe that hiker is a little old school. How about a couple of trail maps? National Geographic Trails Illustrated recently published two new maps for the Smokies: one for Western Smokies that includes Cades Cove and Elkmont, and the other for the Eastern Smokies that includes Clingmans Dome, Mt. Leconte and Cataloochee. The maps show much greater detail, including backcountry campsites, footbridges, fords and stream crossings, nature/interpretive trails, as well as detailed trail mileages.

Just last month a brand new collection of photos from Ansel Adams was published. The book is the most comprehensive collection of Ansel Adams' photographs of national parks and wilderness areas. It includes more than two hundred photographs - many rarely seen and some never before published.

How about two old classic board games with a new National Park twist? Check out the National Parks Edition of Monopoly or Yahtzee.

Although spring is still a few months away, the Great Smoky Mountains Association has an excellent wildflower field guide for the Smokies (one that I own myself). The book is packed with color photographs and explains how to identify wildflowers in the field. It also includes sections on suggested walks, hikes, and drives in the park as well.

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail, is the brand new book from Jennifer Pharr Davis - the current female Appalachian Trail speed record holder. The new release chronicles her experiences during her first hike across the 2175-mile trail out of college.

Calendars also make for great stocking stuffers - and Amazon sells hundreds. For hikers, check out the Zen of Hiking or the Appalachian Trail wall calendars. How about the National Parks calendar, or the Blue Ridge Mountains wall calendars. The Ansel Adams calendar is always a popular choice as well.

And then of course there's always gift cards and gift certificates: Patagonia, Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Amazon all offer gift cards or certificates in any amount you wish to purchase.

For more ideas, and a full list of book and maps related to the Great Smoky Mountains and the surrounding Southern Appalachian region, please visit the: Smoky Mountains Day Hikers Store

Thank you!

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Christmas in the Smokies

Sunday, November 28, 2010

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The Great Smoky Mountains will be celebrating Christmas twice next month.

On December 11, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, join the national park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center for the Celebration of Christmas Past. There will be demonstrations of old-time holiday activities such as old-time music, harp singing, storytelling and reminiscing, craft demonstrations such as weaving, spinning, quilting, oak splint and bark berry basket making, and corn shuck doll making, historic toys and games, and children's activites. For more information contact the Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291.

The following week, on December 18, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, there will be a Holiday Homecoming at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The park will have hot cider, cookies and demonstrations of old-time holiday activities.

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Forest Legacy Program Reaches 2 Million Acre Milestone

Saturday, November 27, 2010

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Earlier this week the USDA Forest Service announced that it had reached a milestone of protecting more than 2 million acres of private forests threatened by development. The Forest Service's Northeastern Area helped the agency reach the milestone when the state of Ohio purchased a 15,494-acre property roughly 90 miles south of Columbus.

The Forest Legacy program works with private landowners, states and conservation groups to promote sustainable, working forests, on a willing buyer, willing seller principle.

The recent milestone was achieved through public-private partnership using federal and leveraged funds of approximately $1.1 billion through the Forest Legacy program. The Legacy program has leveraged the federal investment of more than 50 percent of project costs. To date, more than $630 million has been contributed to these efforts through non-federal matching funds.

In fiscal year 2010, the program was funded at more than $79 million to assist landowners across the country to conserve and manage their land while protecting environmentally important landscapes.

Roughly 57 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned yet the country has lost 15 million acres of private working forests in the last 10 years with an additional 22 million acres projected to be at risk in the next decade.

To read the full press release and see some of the forest legacy success stories, please click here.

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Don't fight the crowds today!

Friday, November 26, 2010

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What could be worse than spending your entire day fighting crowds, looking for parking spaces, and roaming from store to store looking for that perfect gift for that special hiker in your life?

You can avoid all this and enjoy the convenience of shopping from your own computer by clicking on our own Smoky Mountain Day Hikers Store for hiking gear and apparel from some of the best outdoor brands. We also have a wide variety of books related to hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and Southern Appalachian region. Just click here to visit our online store or check out some of these hot deals:

* Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) has a sale on Komperdell Trekking Poles right now: Get 30% off on Komperdell C3 AIRSHOCKS (SALE: $122.50, Retail: $175) and Komperdell C3 DUOLOCKS (SALE: $108.50, Retail: $155).

* Altrec Outdoors has their 6 Days of Deals where you can find up to 60% off on a variety of outdoor gear items. And through Saturday, you can get an additional 10% off - using coupon code: blackfriday10

* Don't forget to check out for some of the best bargains on books, cameras, computers, movies, toys, electronics -- or almost any other gift item you can think of.

* is offering up to 50% off on Women's Softshell, Fleece, Down and Rain Jackets, and up to 40% off on Men's Down Jackets.

* You can also take advantage of No Sales Tax and Free Shipping on all outdoor gear purchases over $50 at (tax included on orders from Utah residents).

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Smokies seeking up to 8 Park Rangers

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking up to eight Park Rangers (interpreters) to fill temporary full-time positions next summer. The positions will be located in Cherokee, Gatlinburg and Townsend, and will pay $15.00 per hour.

According to the job summary:

Park ranger – interpreters connect people to parks. They play a key role in ensuring that visitors have a meaningful, satisfying, and safe park experience, help visitors decide how to spend their time in the park, and inform them about the wonders that await their discovery.

Employees perform various interpretive and administrative tasks in the operation of a Visitor Services program. Employee researches, prepares and presents formal thematic educational programs incorporating knowledge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park natural and cultural resources and park resource management and science. Conducts roving interpretation, attended station interpretation and trail patrol. Duties may include operating all aspects of a busy visitor center desk or facility that includes understanding and operating phone and intercom systems, assisting visitors in planning backcountry travel, as well as answering visitor questions. Duties may also include safely handling visitor encounters with wildlife, traffic control, and responding to emergencies. The position requires guiding visitors both indoors and outdoors sometimes in extreme weather conditions.

Application deadline is Monday, November 29. Click here for more information.

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Friday's Video

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Join Elizabeth Watts from the Great Smoky Mountains Association as she and friends hike to Ramsey Cascades in this week's video.

The trails takes hikers though the largest old-growth forest remaining in the Great Smoky Mountains, and includes the 6th tallest tree in the park.

Ramsey Cascades is also the tallest waterfall in the Smokies:

For more information on hiking to Ramsey Cascades, please click here.

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Visits to Smokies up 19% in October

Thursday, November 25, 2010

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Visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park jumped by 19% in October when compared to the same time last year.

According to National Park Service Reports, 1,252,357 visitors experienced the fall colors this October, making it the highest number of visitors for the month of October since 1987 when 1,576,500 people passed through park boundaries.

During this past month, each of the entrances to the park reported increases versus the prior year:

* Gatlinburg was up 8.2%
* Townsend jumped 18.4%
* Cherokee increased by 13.4%
* The 13 outlying areas were up by a whopping 45.9%

Other parks around the region also reported huge increases in visitation during the month of October:

* Blue Ridge Parkway reported an increase of 10.2%

* Shenandoah National Park jumped 29.8%

* Cumberland Gap National Historical Park saw an increase of 14.4%

Is this a sign that the economy is starting to turn around? Either there's a lot of pent-up demand for people to get out of town, or maybe the fall colors put on an extraordinary show this year.

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Update: Cades Cove closures next week

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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Great Smoky Mountain officials published a press release today offering more details on the Cades Cove Loop Road closures next week. The entire Cades Cove will not be closed as originally posted on the parks' Temporary Road and Facilities Closures web page.

Here are the details from today's press release:

Managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced plans to close the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road to all vehicular traffic on Wednesday, December 1st, and to impose a partial closure on Thursday, December 2nd. During that time, park forestry technicians will treat hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA)-infested hemlock trees with a horticultural oil sprayed from large truck-mounted units as they have been doing since 2004. In the event of heavy rain or freezing weather, the operation will be rescheduled. To check the status of the road closure, visitors can call the park’s general information number at 865/436-1200.

During the full closure on December 1st, only hikers will be allowed to travel the Loop Road. Bicyclists will not be allowed to enter the Loop Road for safety reasons since there will be heavy equipment on the road making it unsafe for bicycling. Park personnel will be working at the entrance and exit areas of the Loop.

The spraying operation on December 2nd will only impact the western end of the Loop Road. Motorists and cyclists will be able to enter the Loop as they normally would, but will have to detour across the Loop via Hyatt Lane (the second gravel crossroad) to exit Cades Cove. Hikers can continue through the closed portion. The detour will shorten the length of the trip to an 8-mile tour of Cades Cove. The Hyatt Lane bypass will eliminate access to the Cades Cove Visitor Center and Cable Mill area as well as the several trailheads located on the western end of Cades Cove: Abrams Falls, Cooper Road, Rabbit Creek, and Wet Bottom Trails, and Gregory Ridge trailhead.

As part of the park’s control efforts of the hemlock woolly adelgid, actions include spraying hemlock trees with the oil/soap application in high-use developed areas that are easily accessible by vehicles such as Cades Cove, campgrounds, picnic areas and along roadsides. Jesse Webster, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project Coordinator, said that “In addition to the spraying method, the park also employs systemic insecticidal treatments and biocontrol insects to reduce the impacts of the nonnative insect. Recent research is showing many positive effects in areas of these treatments, despite the noticeable decline of tree vigor and mortality throughout the park.”

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Smokies receives 7 hybrid vehicles thru grant

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced earlier in the week that they recently took delivery of seven Ford Escape Hybrid vehicles. The vehicles were purchased using a $197,550 grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program.

The goal of the CMAQ Program is to reduce air emissions in counties where air quality is in non-attainment of EPA Clean Air Act standards. The portions of Swain and Haywood Counties that lie within Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both in non-attainment due to elevated levels of ground level ozone.

The park’s new cleaner hybrids will replace seven much more polluting vehicles, including two full-size pickups, three station wagons, and a sedan, some of which are over 20 years old, so emissions reduction are projected to be substantial. The new vehicles will be used in North Carolina Park operations ranging from Ranger patrols in the campgrounds to trail maintenance.

In 2006 the Smokies used a $33,600 state grant to convert all of their heavy equipment and large trucks to run on B-50 bio-diesel. They also received a second grant of $31,900 to purchase two emission-free electric vehicles.

With the addition of the seven new Escape Hybrids, the park now has 16 hybrid vehicles in service. You can read the full press release by clicking here.

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New Trail Maps for the Great Smoky Mountains

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National Geographic now has two separate Trails Illustrated Maps for the Great Smoky Mountains - in addition to the old map. National Geographic has divided the Park in two, thus allowing each map to show much greater detail. The original map, which covered the entire Park, had a scale 1:70,000. The two new maps now have a scale of 1:40,000 (1” = .6 miles) and provide much greater detail such as backcountry campsites, footbridges, fords and stream crossings, nature/interpretive trails, as well as detailed trail mileages.

The map for the western section of the Park includes the Cades Cove and Elkmont areas.

The map for the eastern section includes Clingmans Dome, Mt. LeConte and the Cataloochee areas.

Coverage Highlights Areas and places featured in this map series include: the Appalachian Trail, Benton Mackaye Trail, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The maps also include scenic overlooks and roadside pull-outs.

Of course the original map, which covers the entire Park, is still available.

Nat Geo Maps now available on a GPS!

National Geographic Maps and Satmap Systems have teamed up for the new Active 10 TREK GPS system. The system integrates the best-selling National Geographic outdoor recreation maps with the award-winning Satmap Active 10 handheld GPS unit.

The content offered on the GPS device includes the complete line of National Geographic outdoor recreation maps, including the TOPO! USGS topographic map series, the AdventureMap series of international adventure travel maps, and, for the first time on any GPS, National Geographic’s premier Trails Illustrated series of maps for national parks, national forests and many popular recreation areas. National Geographic maps will be available via SD-Cards, which will plug-and-play into the Active 10 TREK handheld GPS.

The Active 10 TREK comes pre-loaded with World and USA Base Maps. Customers can purchase a variety of Nat Geo SD Map Cards that slot into the GPS, making map reading fast and easy. The map is displayed on a large 3.5” screen in full color suitable for day and night use, including a red backlight option to help protect night vision.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is included on each of the Southern Appalachians, National Parks and the North and South Carolina SD Map Cards.

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.
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Dates set for Cades Cove closure

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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The Great Smoky Mountains announced today the dates for hemlock woolly adelgid spray operations that will close the Cades Cove Loop Road for two days next week.

At this point, the Cades Cove Loop Road is tentatively scheduled to be closed to all public use on Wednesday, December 1 through Thursday, December 2. Spray operations are weather dependent, so closure dates may be rescheduled if necessary.

The park will be conducting foliar treatments in which hemlocks are treated with insecticidal soap or horticultural oils. Sprayed from truck-mounted spray units, the sprays smother and dry-out the adelgids on contact. The equipment can spray up to 80 feet into the canopy of large roadside trees and can efficiently treat areas of smaller trees. This method kills only the insects that are present on the tree at the time of application and requires retreatment every six months to one year.

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Airbags.....for cyclists?

Introducing the Hövding! This "stylish" collar actually takes the place of a cycler's helmet, and acts as an airbag that inflates on impact. In the event of a crash, the Hövding deploys itself by inflating an internal airbag in less than one second, covering the head and protecting the skull from injury.

This short video explains the product in a little more detail:

So, for those that don't wear helmets while riding, would you wear one of these? Would you trust them to actually work?

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Thanksgiving Day Sale at

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I just wanted to point out that is holding their Thanksgiving Day Sale from today through midnight on Thursday.

* You can get up to 50% off on Women's Softshell, Fleece, Down and Rain Jackets.

* Backcountry is also offering up to 40% off on Men's Down Jackets.

* You can also take advantage of No Sales Tax and Free Shipping on outdoor gear purchases over $50 at (tax included on orders from Utah residents).

** Looking for books, cameras or a computer? doesn't think people should have to stand in line to get a great Black Friday deal. That's why they've already started Black Friday early. Click here for some great deals on movies, toys, electronics or almost any gift item you can think of.

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SAHC purchases tract in the Highlands of Roan

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Earlier this month The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) closed on the purchase of a tract of land on Hump Mountain in the Highlands of Roan. The property has been a longtime priority of SAHC because it presents an opportunity to preserve headwater streams of the Elk River watershed, which protects the public's water sources, and to preserve the integrity of the Roan Mountain Massif as a landscape-scale ecological unit. The priority tract was actually marketed for sale as a development called “The Views at Cranberry” for over three years, which illustrates how close to development this environmentally significant property was.

The tract is part of a nearly 40-year conservation effort among multiple federal, state, and private agencies to protect the Highlands of Roan, a 24,000-acre conservation area that is among the top ecological jewels of the Southern Appalachian mountains.

You can get a visual of the area that the SAHC purchased by looking at the photo here.

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No Lines, No Crowds, No Sitting in Traffic

Monday, November 22, 2010

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Starting now, and throughout the Christmas season, be sure to check in with our Day Hikers Store for the hottest “Deals of the Day” on hiking and outdoor gear from Patagonia, Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Ultralight Adventure Equipment.

Also, our Amazon affiliate store still offers a wide variety of maps and books related to hiking, history and travel in the Great Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway - many of them offered at discounts.

Shopping from the convenience of your own computer from one of our affiliate links helps to support the website. Please click here to visit our store.

>>By the way, Amazon just launched their Black Friday deals today.

Thank you very much!

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Chimney Rock State Park trail closures

Last week Chimney Rock State Park in Western North Carolina announced a series of capital improvements that will impact some of the hiking trails over the winter. On December 1st, the park will begin construction to improve accessibility and upgrade some of the trails at the higher elevations in the park.

Over the winter, a section of the Outcroppings, the trail that leads from the parking lot to the Chimney area, will be replaced providing easier access to the Chimney and points of interest above like the Opera Box, Devil’s Head and Exclamation Point. The section to be replaced is just below the Chimney and currently allows for only one-way traffic. After construction, the new trail and stairway will accommodate more guests and offer better egress from the Chimney area. Without a required secondary egress, the elevator will be out of service during Outcroppings construction making the Chimney inaccessible over the winter.

Areas of the park that remain accessible throughout improvements include: Hickory Nut Falls trail, Cliff Dwellers Gifts and Meadows area including the Great Woodland Adventure, Four Seasons trail, Grady’s Animal Discovery Den, Classroom on the Meadows and the covered picnic pavilion. Chimney Rock is also planning a variety of programs and events to enhance guest experience during improvements.

After this project is complete in early spring, the park’s 26-story elevator will be modernized, increasing reliability, speed and capacity, and the Sky Lounge facility will be renovated. Access by trail to the top of the mountain including the Chimney will return at this time.

You should also note that the Cliff Trail to the top of Hickory Nut Falls is also currently closed for improvements.

Chimney Rock park plans to reduce admission fees during improvements.

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Thinking Outside the Cave

Sunday, November 21, 2010

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Talk about thinking outside the cave, errr, box, The Nature Conservancy is proposing to build artificial caves in order to fight white nose syndrome.

Cory Holliday, Cave and Karst Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, thinks that building artificial caves next to existing natural bat caves will provide bats with safe havens from white nose syndrome, a disease that has killed more than a million bats in 14 states.

In April of 2009, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials closed all the caves to humans within park boundaries due to the disease.

The artificial caves, made with a pressurized, textured concrete, will be disinfected of the tell-tale white fungus that is thought to cause white nose syndrome.

Holliday states in an online interview that past experience has shown that bats are constantly seeking new habitats. He believes the bats would have no problem moving into an artificial cave as long as temperatures and humidity are correct.

I have no idea if this will work or not, but you have to appreciate thinking like this to solve problems that seem to have no solution.

This story does lead to one question in my mind. Is it not possible to disinfect natural caves of the white fungus? I have no idea what that would entail, and I imagine that it's been tried or at least discussed, but I would be curious as to why this couldn't be a possible solution.

You can read the full interview with Mr. Holliday by clicking here. You can also take a look at a sketch blueprint of an artificial cave clicking here.

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Earl Shaffer's Journal

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The other day I was surfing the internet looking for any new and interesting outdoor blogs, and came across a website called Trail Journals. Actually I landed on Earl Shaffer's 1965 Appalachian Trail Journal.

Shaffer is best known for being the first person to complete the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in 1948 - taking him 124 days. Interestingly, the Appalachian Trail Conference thought his claim of hiking the entire Georgia-to-Maine trail was fraudulent. Eventually the ATC came around on his claim. His trek had the effect of raising public awareness of the trail, especially after he published a memoir of his experiences; Walking With Spring.

In 1965 Shaffer became the first person to thru-hike the trail in both directions. On this occasion, at the age of 46, he completed his southbound hike in just 99 days. Earl kept a daily journal during this hike which Trail Journals has re-produced in electronic format, and is the first time it's ever appeared in print.

Shaffer would go on to hike the A.T. on a third occasion. In 1998, at the age of 79, he completed the trail on the 50th anniversary of his first thru-hike. This hike made him the oldest person, at that time, to ever thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (that record has since been broken). The story of this journey is told in the book, "The Appalachian Trail, Calling Me Back to the Hills."

For more information on the rich life of Earl Shaffer you can click here.

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Nat Geo Maps on a GPS: the new Active 10 TREK GPS

Saturday, November 20, 2010

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Earlier this week National Geographic Maps and Satmap Systems announced the launch of the new Active 10 TREK GPS system. The system integrates the best-selling National Geographic outdoor recreation maps with the award-winning Satmap Active 10 handheld GPS unit.

The content offered on the GPS device will include the complete line of National Geographic outdoor recreation maps, including the TOPO! USGS topographic map series, the AdventureMap series of international adventure travel maps, and, for the first time on any GPS, National Geographic’s premier Trails Illustrated series of maps for national parks, national forests and many popular recreation areas. National Geographic maps will be available via SD-Cards, which will plug-and-play into the Active 10 TREK handheld GPS.

The Active 10 TREK comes pre-loaded with World and USA Base Maps. Customers can then buy the National Geographic SD Map Cards that slot into the GPS, making map reading fast and easy. The map is displayed on a large 3.5” screen in full color suitable for day and night use, including a red backlight option to help protect night vision.

The GPS unit also allows users to plot routes, POIs (Points of Interest) and view key statistics such as total ascents, distance, time and speed.

The Active 10 TREK is priced at a very reasonable $369.99, and the National Geographic SD Map Cards cost $99.99 each.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is included on both the Southern Appalachians and the North and South Carolina SD Map Cards.

** Of course if you're old school and enjoy the look and feel of a real map, you can check out the Trails Illustrated series of maps for the Smokies by clicking here.

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Share the Experience Photo Contest accepting entries through 12/31

Friday, November 19, 2010

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The National Park Service published a press release today reminding citizens that they can still submit their photos for the Share the Experience Photo Contest through Dec. 31.

The photo taken by the grand prize winner will appear on a 2012 America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. He or she will also receive a prize package that includes a trip for four to a federal recreation area, photography equipment, and a pass to the national parks and other federal lands for 2012. Second-, third-, and fourth-place winners, and 10 Honorable Mention winners will also receive prizes.

Amateur photographers can participate by uploading photos on or through Facebook, Flickr, or Shutterfly to the contest website.

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Win $5,000 Worth of Gear!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

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What would you do if you could spend $5000 on outdoor gear?

Dick's Sporting Goods and Marmot have teamed up for a contest in which they will give away $5000 worth of free gear to one lucky winner. The gear may be acquired over the course of the twelve months following winner’s selection.

To enter simply go to the Marmot Facebook Page and hit the "Enter Sweepstakes" button. You can also enter by using your Dick’s ScoreCard Rewards Card when making a purchase at any Dick’s Sporting Goods store, by making online purchases, or using your mobile phone to text your entry. Please click here for more details on alternative methods.

You may enter as many times as you wish; however, there is a limit of one entry per person per day, regardless of method of entry.

The deadline for entering the sweepstakes is December 24th - which is the same day they'll be picking the winner.

Now that would be a great Christmas present!

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Clingmans Dome and Roaring Fork Road Closings

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The last of the seasonal road closing for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be occurring over the next several days.

On Wednesday, December 1, Clingmans Dome Road will be closed for the winter. This will impact access to several trailheads along the road, including; the Spruce-Fir, Road Prong, Sugarland Mountain, Fork Ridge, Noland Divide, Forney Creek, and Forney Ridge (Andrews Bald) trails.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will also be closing on December 1. Trails impacted by this road closing include; Trillium Gap, Grapeyard Ridge, and the Baskins Creek Trail.

The last road to shut-down for the season will be the Little Greenbrier Road, which will be closed on January 1 and will only impact the Little Brier Gap Trail.

Of course all of the trails mentioned above will continue to be open for hiking, however, you may have problems reaching these particular trailheads.


* The Mt. LeConte Lodge will be closed for the season on November 23.

* The Cades Cove Campground Store will close on December 22, but will reopen from December 26 thru January 2 to serve visitors during the holiday period. The store will also be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Vending machines at the store will remain in service throughout the winter.

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Dogs on trails in the Smokies

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive on a fairly regular basis is to whether or not pets are allowed on the hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The quick answer to that question is, no.

However, I should mention that dogs are allowed on two short walking paths within park boundaries: the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.

The Gatlinburg Trail is a 1.9-mile, one-way path that leads from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. This relatively flat trail runs through the forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Bicycles are also allowed on this trail.

The Oconaluftee River Trail also allows dogs and bicycles. This trail is 1.5 miles in length and follows the Oconaluftee River from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of Cherokee, NC.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park prohibits dogs on backcountry trails for several reasons:

• Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.

• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife.

• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness.

• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears. In fact, in August of 2016, a black bear killed a leashed dog in Shenandoah National Park. This isn't an isolated incident. 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 between 2010 and 2013.

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

I should also point out that dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. For more information on bringing your pet into the park, please click here.

For more in-depth information on this topic, I would strongly urge you to read this. If you wish to bring your dog into the backcountry, there are many places outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that do allow dogs on hiking trails, such as Cherokee, Pisgah, Nantahala and the Chattahoochee National Forests. Each of these areas offer numerous outstanding hiking opportunities. Karen Chavez from the Asheville Citizen-Times published a guide book that covers more than 50 hikes for you and your dog in North Carolina.

Does your pooch need to be outfitted before your next big hiking adventure? REI has a wide variety of hiking gear for your dog, including backpacks, booties and life jackets.

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The South’s Best Kept Secret

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The latest issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine includes an article about the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, which they call the "South’s Best Kept Secret".

Carol Borneman, an interpreter for the park, is quoted in the article as saying, “We have everything that the Smokies has — except the crowds.”

The article provides for a quick overview of the park steeped in early-American history. It also provides several suggestions for hiking and backpacking trips.

One of the hikes they mention is to the White Rocks Overlook on the eastern end of the park, a place that I've hiked to twice. A stiff climb up the Ewing Trail from Civitan Park provides for some outstanding panoramic views. Looking south provides views into the farm lands of Virginia, while a peer to the north looks over the rolling hills of Kentucky.

Another cool hike we did on a couple of occasions was to Tri-State Peak. It's one of the relatively rare places where a person can stand in three different states at one time: Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Tri-State Peak was also the place where I saw hoar frost for the first time.

To read the article please click here. For more information on hiking in the park, please click here.


**Check out our Day Hikers Store for the hottest “Deals of the Day” on hiking and outdoor gear**
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Comparing the top hiking books for the Smokies

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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Trying to decide which hiking guide to purchase for the Great Smoky Mountains? Below is a quick reference guide that compares the most popular hiking guides for the National Park.

Hiking Great Smoky Mountains
By Kevin Adams
287 pages – 2nd edition (2013)
Covers 82 hikes as well as info concerning the AT
Book also includes:
* Locator map
* Elevation profiles
* Trail maps
* Quick reference trail highlights
* Many photos
* Safe hiking tips and backcountry camping information

Best Easy Day Hikes GSMNP
By Randy Johnson
117 pages - 1st Edition (2010)
Covers 22 hikes
Book also includes:
* Information on the “Quiet Walkways” scattered throughout the park
* Covers several self-guided nature trails
* Includes a few trails that are rated as moderate or even difficult in some cases
* Locator map
* Trail maps
* Brief history of park, safety tips and basic travel information
* Recommendations based on best views, nature lovers, history hikes, waterfalls etc.

Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
By Johnny Molloy
384 pages - 1st edition (2012)
Covers 50 hikes
Book also includes:
* Ratings and rankings for each trail
* Clear and concise directions to the trailhead
* Detailed route map and elevation profile
* Distances and approximate times of each hike
* Easy-to-follow trail notes and permit information
* Overnight backpacking options
* Black and white photos

100 Hikes Great Smoky Mountains
By Russ Manning
282 pages – 2nd edition (1999)
Cover 100 hikes (as you might expect)
Book also includes:
* Locator map
* Provides elevation change data
* Many photos
* Brief natural and park history
* No trail maps

Day and Overnight Hikes: GSMNP
By Johnny Molloy
210 pages - 4th edition (2008)
Covers 41 hikes in total: including 13 day loops and 10 overnight loop hikes
Book also includes:
* Recommendations based on winter, solitude, easiest, wildlife, and most scenic hikes, etc.
* Quick reference trail highlights
* Locator map
* Elevation profiles
* Trail maps
* Weather data, safety and hazard information

Hiking Trails of the Smokies
By the GSMA
a.k.a "The Little Brown Book"
584 pages – 1st Edition (1994)
Covers 162 hikes
Book also includes:
* Elevation profiles
* Trail maps
* Safe hiking tips, weather and suggested loop hikes
* Information on all backcountry campsites, shelters, regulations and permit/reservation information

Other guide books you might find helpful:

* Appalachian Trail Guide to Tennessee-North Carolina

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pocket Guide

* Great Smoky Mountains Travel Photo Guides iPhone App

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Invasion of exotic earthworms & Bats in crisis

Monday, November 15, 2010

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The Great Smokies recently published a couple of "Quick Dispatches" on their "Dispatches from the Field" web page.

Both stories are a little disturbing for those that love the Smokies.

The first article discusses the invasion of an exotic earthworm known as the Asian Jumping Worm. Why is this little guy causing such a problem?

Apparently the worm is a voracious eater, able to consume massive amounts of leaf litter that takes away a chief food source for leaf-litter-feeders such as millipedes, fly larvae and springtails. This in turn impacts animals that feed on these invertebrates.

The article states that in some areas on the western side of the Smokies, the Jumping Worm population is so high that there is almost no leaf litter left. This is resulting in native animals disappearing. There's also a lack of nutrients from decaying plants which is impeding the ability to build new soil.

Scientists from Austria, the University of Georgia in Athens, and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah have commenced a three year study on the worms and their impact on the park. You can read the full article by clicking here.

The second story delves into the widely reported White-Nose Syndrome that is spreading across the bat populations in the east. White-Nose Syndrome, a white fungus that grows on the nose, toes, and wing webbing of bats, is responsible for a 45% mortality rate each year among Little Brown Bats. Scientists think that this entire species may be extinct in 20 or fewer years as White-Nose Syndrome spreads through U.S. caves.

Bats play an essential part in the ecosystem by eating insects, including disease-carrying mosquitoes. They also pollinate flowers and food.

You can read this article by clicking here.

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Appalachian Trail Conservancy Open House

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The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will be holding its' 8th Annual Open House next month.

This years' Open House, held on December 4th, from 9am – 5pm, will feature a Trail Tale Contest. This is an opportunity for A.T. alumni to share their adventures (or misadventures) for a chance at a prize (Leki Hiking Poles). Hikers and Appalachian Trail enthusiasts are also invited to come and just listen in the company of other hikers.

The event is timed to coincide with “Old Tyme Christmas” in the lower part of the town (Harpers Ferry, WV) and the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park’s special holiday programs.

For more information on the event, please click here.

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Jennifer Pharr Davis announces speed record attempt on A.T.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In an article published today, North Carolina native, Jennifer Pharr Davis, announced that she will be attempting to break the overall speed record on the Appalachian Trail this coming June.

In 2008 she became the women's speed record holder by completing the entire length of the 2175-mile Appalachian Trail in just 57 days, 8 hours and 35 minutes - averaging 38 miles per day - with no rest days!

Davis told writer Marty Basch in a recent phone interview that she plans to tackle the overall speed record, held by Andrew Thompson who completed it in 2005 in only 47 days, 13 hours and 31 minutes. Next June, Davis plans to depart from the northern terminus of the trail at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Davis is also the author of a new book - Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail. The book chronicles her adventures, experiences and challenges during her first A.T. thru hike just out of college in 2005.

Incidentally, I'm quite familiar with the author of the article. I've read a couple of books written by Marty Basch - an accomplished adventurer himself. Against the Wind, about his solo bicycle ride from Maine to Alaska, is a particularly good read.

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Holiday Specials on Cabin Rentals in the Smokies

Planning a trip to the Smokies during the holiday season? Check out some of the specials and discounts our website advertisers are offering on overnight lodging this winter. You can find a variety of discounts on cabins and chalets in Townsend, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you or anyone you know is planning a visit to the Smokies this holiday season, please take a moment to check out some of these outstanding offers:

Anytime of the year is a great time to visit the Smokies and Auntie Belham's Cabin Rentals but it is even more special during the Holiday Season. Visitors from all over come to enjoy the Winter-fest activities, shopping, attractions and even more importantly, time together as a family or couple in a warm & cozy Auntie Belham's Log Cabin or Chalet. And to make that even more appealing, starting December 1st, every one of our guests will receive the Auntie Belham's Mountain Adventure Pass which entitles them to a $200 daily value of free admissions to several surrounding attractions which include, Horseback Riding, Zip-Lines, Indoor sky diving, Dinner Theatre attractions, Musical Attractions and the always fun Go-Carts. Please visit or call 1-800-436-6618 to reserve your adventure. Anyone who mentions this blog or Hiking in the Smokies will get a 10% discount on all new reservations (excludes holiday periods).


Chalet Village: During November and December, pay for 2 nights and receive the 3rd night half price, or pay for 3 nights and the 4th night is FREE! (EXCLUDES HOLIDAYS & CABIN 1716) Click here for more information on discount details.


Cramers Creekside Cabins, Inc. would like to welcome you to the Smokies. We want everyone to come and enjoy the breathtaking views of The Smoky Mountains. Stay 3 nights for the price of 2 until 12/17/10. Excluding Holidays. Promo Code HIKING: or call 1-877-357-1777


Hidden Creek Cabins is offering 50% OFF on all weekdays left in November and December, excluding holiday weeks. 1-828-488-5626


Hidden Springs Resort HOLIDAY SPECIALS! Through December 12th, 2010 (Excludes Thanksgiving): Stay 2 nights get 30% off!, stay 3 or 4 nights, get 1 night free! Stay 5 or more nights get 50% off! All "Volunteer State" residents receive an additional $35 off. Our way of saying "THANK YOU" to the dedicated people of Tennessee! All 4 bedroom and larger cabins: Take your pick for $245/night. Also, we will try to work with your budget. Call for details 1-888-477-8366 or visit


Moose Creek Crossing Cabin Rentals November and December Special: Pay for 3 nights or more and receive one night free until December 31, 2010. Valid on new reservations only - Discount applies to least expensive night on remaining inventory. Holidays not included. Must call our office at 1-888-972-2246 to receive this offer.


Visit Our Favorite Cabins to find the cabin or chalet that's just right for you. The owners believe in superior guest service - see for yourself. We have more than 4 decades of rent-by-owner experience between us, so you can bet we know how to take care of you! And no reservation fees, either. Just great rates and great places to stay. We're booking quickly, so don't delay. 10-25% discount on all remaining non-holiday dates in November/December, 2010. Contact cabin owner for details.


Timber Tops is offering 3 nights for the price of 2, valid on new reservations and excludes holidays.

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Update on Red River Gorge wildfire

Saturday, November 13, 2010

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A wildfire that began three weeks ago in the Red River Gorge is nearly 100% contained, but there are still a few areas that continue to smolder. The blaze that began after a campfire got out of control has burned roughly 1,650 acres in the Auxier Ridge area of the Gorge, which is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest of east-central Kentucky.

Seventy-five firefighters and a helicopter were needed to suppress flames that reached as much as 40 feet high in some places. An entire section of the Gorge was closed, including the popular Tunnel Ridge Road, as well as a part of Ky. 77 from Nada Tunnel to the Martin's Fork parking area.

Yesterday morning U.S. Forest Service officials reopened a portion of Tunnel Ridge Road as well as several trails in the area.

All trails in the Grays Arch area off Tunnel Ridge Road are open to hikers except for Rush Ridge Trail #227. Tunnel Ridge Road remains closed past the Grays Arch Trailhead. The Auxier Ridge area, including the trail system, will remain closed while the roads and trails are assessed for damages and potential safety hazards.

The extremely dry weather conditions caused the wildfires to burn unusually hot, causing trees to burn at the base and fall across the roads and trails. Along some trails, the trail tread is damaged where the fire burned tree roots underground, leaving large holes.

A fire ban remains in effect for the Red River Gorge. No campfires or other open flames are currently permitted. The fine for having a fire on national forest lands during a declared fire ban is $500 minimum and a mandatory appearance in federal court. Up to six months imprisonment also may be incurred. Individuals who allow a campfire to escape and result in a wildfire may be required to pay restitution for suppression costs.

The U.S. Forest Service is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to conviction of the individuals responsible for the escaped campfire on Auxier Ridge.

Click here for a map of the area still impacted by the closures.

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Results of National Historic Landmark Photo Contest

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Yesterday the National Park Service announced the results of the National Historic Landmark Photo Contest. Winners were chosen from a record number of entries.

The winning photograph for this year was “Mount Rainier in the Morning” by Matthew Bell of Olympia, Washington. The photo is described as:

Under a sky of periwinkle blue and pastel pink, the bulk of Mount Rainer, with its gray face swathed in snow, slopes gently downward toward the lush meadow that occupies the middle-ground of the photograph. In the foreground, a waterfall’s “pale streams,” spectral and smoke-like, course down a wall of rock.

Twelve photographs received honorable mentions in the annual contest. You can view each of the winners by clicking here.

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Two more arrests made involving "car clouting" in the Smokies

Friday, November 12, 2010

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Earlier this week I reported that several arrests have been made in the Great Smoky Mountains involving car break-ins and thefts. This mornings' NPS Digest is reporting that two more arrests have been made involving 15 vehicle break-ins in recent weeks. Here's the report:

Beginning on September 20th and ending on October 29th, approximately 15 vehicle larcenies occurred within the park at various trailheads, with the vast majority being in the Greenbrier area.

Ranger Jared St. Clair led an investigation by his district ranger staff. They were joined by a Forest Service special agent because many larcenies were also occurring on Forest Service lands. Two suspects were ultimately identified – James and Jamie Walker of Cosby, Tennessee.

On November 3rd, the Walkers were arrested by local police on unrelated charges. When special agent Jeff Carlisle and the USFS special agent interviewed them at the county jail, they admitted to several of the break-ins. Carlisle and St. Clair again interviewed one of the Walkers a few days later. During that interview, he admitted to all the break-ins and added two others. A presentation will be made to the assistant US attorney and both will be charged with multiple felony counts, including breaking and entering, theft of property and bank fraud.

With the closing of these cases, the park has cleared the majority of open larceny cases. Three separate groups of car clouters have been arrested.


** Take a moment to check out our Day Hikers Store for maps and books related to hiking, history and travel in the Great Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway - many of them offered at discounts.
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Friday's Video

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In case you missed the fall colors in the Smokies this year, at least you can enjoy them for a brief moment on film. The Great Smoky Mountains Association published this video that highlights the fabulous fall colors of the Smokies from a couple of weeks ago:

© GSMA 2010. All rights reserved.


* Check out our Day Hikers Store for maps and books related to hiking, history and travel in the Great Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway - many of them offered at discounts.
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Win the Ultimate Mountain Gig

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah is giving away the "Ultimate Mountain Gig" this winter. In addition to the $40,000 salary you'll receive for four months of "work", you'll get the full VIP treatment that includes a suite at the Waldorf Astoria, heli-skiing, avalanche training, spa treatments and full gear!

Your "job" will entail blogging about your activities at least 4 times per week with photos and video, attending Canyons events and participation in monthly Canyons activities. You'll also have to shadow shifts with various departments such as Ski Patrol, Food and Beverage, Lift Operations, etc.

Anyone 21 years and older is invited to submit a two-minute video clip which shares how they mountain (on or off the slopes) and why they are best suited for the “Ultimate Mountain Gig.” Each applicant must also submit a 500-word writing sample in the form of a blog. Applications must be submitted by November 25, 2010.

For more information and to apply for the “Ultimate Mountain Gig,” please click here.

The Canyons Resort is the largest single Ski and Snowboard Resort in Utah.

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Want to be an official Gear Tester?

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Backpacker Magazine is again seeking readers who might be interested in becoming a gear tester for the outdoor publication in 2011.

Backpacker is seeking up to six passionate, frequent hikers who understand equipment and aren't afraid to tell it like it is. If you match this profile, you'll need to enter the online contest.

If you happen to be one of the lucky winners, you’ll be given regular testing assignments between May 1 and October 1, 2011. Selected applicants must spend at least 25 nights camping and hike a minimum of 250 miles during that same time period. Winners will be given regular testing assignments and their names (and photos) will appear in the magazine.

To register for the contest you'll need to send a short (150 word) sample gear review of your favorite piece of gear to Backpacker. Also, the magazine is requiring that you produce and post a YouTube video in order to introduce yourself and show why you would make the perfect Backpacker Magazine Gear Tester.

Backpacker editors will choose up to six finalists.

Deadline for submission is April 19, 2011. For more information, please click here.

On Sale - Men's Down Jackets Up To 40% Off At Valid While Supplies Last.

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