Monday, January 31, 2011

Discounts for Winter Weekend Getaways

Right now is one of the best times to take advantage of some of the best discounts of the year on cabin rentals in the Smokies. And just in time.

This weekend is the 5th annual Winter Heritage Festival in Townsend. And don't forget Valentines Day is just around the corner as well. The Great Smoky Mountains make for a great romantic weekend getaway.

Below are several specials and discounts that our website advertisers are offering on overnight lodging over the next several weeks. You'll find a variety of great deals on cabins and chalets in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Townsend and on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you or anyone you know is planning a visit to the Smokies in the next couple of weeks, please take a moment to check out some of these outstanding offers:

Alpine Chalet Rentals: Between February and May 23rd, your 3rd night is half off, Or the 4th night FREE, Or, Stay 7 nights & only pay for 5 nights. Please check cabins that are offering great deals for staying 2 nights. The specials will be listed on each individual cabin page.


Cramers Creekside Cabins, Inc. invites you to The Great Smoky Mountains. This time of the year Tennessee is a wintery bliss! Come and enjoy this magical time. We would like to offer you 3 nights for the price of 2, during January 4th-March 31st. Visit or feel free to call us at 877-357-1777. Take a break from the world in our winter wonderland!


Heartland Rentals: During the month of February, stay 3 nights and pay for 2.


Hidden Creek Cabins is offering 50% off when staying at least 2 nights on all remaining weeknights in February. Weekends are 25% off with a 2 night minimum. Hidden Creek Cabins is also giving away a free Valentines stay to one lucky fan on their Facebook page. Just hit "like us" and you will be automatically entered for that drawing and for all future drawings. You can also follow them on Facebook for last minute deals, specials and local coupons.


2010 was a hard year, so let's start 2011 off the right way ... with a relaxing vacation in one of our luxury log cabins! Hidden Springs Resort would like to make this happen with our great winter deals! These specials are valid thru March 4th, 2011 (excluding February 10-14): Stay 2 nights and get 30% off each night / Stay 3 or 4 nights and get 1 night free / Stay 5 or more nights and get 50% off each night / Book any 4 bedroom cabin or larger and get an additional $50.00 off your stay!


Moose Creek Crossing Cabin Rentals For Valentine's Day weekend - stay three nights for the price of two!

WINTERFEST SPECIAL: Book any cabin and stay before March 17, 2011: Stay 3 nights for the price of 2, Stay 4 nights for the price of 3, Stay 5 nights for the price of 4, OR Stay 7 nights and get 2 nights free!! Holiday weekends not included. Cannot be combined with other specials. Discounts applied to least expensive night. Must call our office to receive this discount at 1-888-972-2246. Ask about their other year-round discounts as well.


Smoky Mountain Chalet Rentals Winter Weekday Special: Through the week of February 27, 2011, check-in on Sunday or Monday, pay for at least 3 nights and depart by Friday and you will get one night free! Applies to reservations made after 12/16/10. EXCLUDES THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 13, 2011.


Timber Frame Rentals: Our beautiful timber frame homes located between Franklin & Highlands are the perfect winter escape. Our rates are discounted to $200/night. Come and enjoy a great hike and return to the comforts of home and a roaring fire!


Timber Tops Luxury Log Cabins is offering 4 Nights for the Price of 3 on all Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Cabins. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chattahoochee-Oconee to Host Public Meetings on Trails

Earlier this week the USDA Forest Service announced a series of meetings to provide opportunities for public discussion on the long-term management of recreation trails in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The meetings are the beginning of a new collaborative effort to understand the desires and expectations of trail recreationists and to develop a common understanding of the natural resource management issues and needs.

“We hope this will bring about strong partnerships to ensure the forest has a sustainable trail system,” said George Bain, Forest Supervisor of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

Information on the trail system is currently available in all Forest Service offices and on the website at under the section entitled “Recreation”. The agency will share further detailed information about the trail system during the public meetings.

These meetings are open to all and will be held at five convenient locations to give the public several opportunities to participate. Each meeting is designed to be the same. To further encourage participation, the Forest Service is using new media tools in conjunction with the public meetings. Please sign up to follow the Forest Service on Twitter at

Encompassing around 867,000 acres across 26 counties, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest provides the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 118,000 acres of designated Wilderness, more than 800 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation activity opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture.

The dates for the five meeting will be: 2/15, 2/17, 2/26, 3/8 and 3/10. For more information, and locations for each of these meetings, please click here.


Practice Map and Compass skills with Free App

YonYonson, a small web development company out northern England, is offering a free map and compass training application that you can download onto your desktop.

The product, known as Cardinal Points, uses an interactive compass, and an expansive 360 degree panoramic view of the Castlerigg Stone Circle to guide you through key navigational techniques. The panorama allows users to pan around and take bearings from individual stones using the compass, while giving the feeling of really being out there.

Many modern day hikers rely on a GPS to navigate through the wilderness these days. However, you should always have a map and compass as a back-up. What if your batteries die? What if you lose service or connection for whatever reason? Having an old-fashioned map and compass - and knowing how to use them - could get you "un-lost" someday.

For novices, Cardinal Points is a good starting point for learning these important skills. You can click here for more information and to download the program.

Thanks to My Life Outdoors for the heads-up on this.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

N.C. State Parks Declare 2011 'Year of the Turtle'

North Carolina state parks have declared 2011 the “Year of the Turtle,” with plans for a 12-month exploration of this wildlife resource through its interpretive programs, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

North Carolina is home to 21 turtle species, including the familiar box turtle, which burrows up to two feet beneath its upland forests in winter, and the rare loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles that lumber ashore to nest on its beaches. With the catch phrase “Come Out of Your Shell,” the parks will entice visitors to learn more about this abundance with special education programs, guided hikes and activities.

This marks the second year that state parks education programs have revolved around a specific nature theme, with 2010 being the “Year of the Birds,” featuring more than 600-bird-themed park activities. Coincidentally, the North Carolina aquariums and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are also participating in the “Year of the Turtle” through the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation consortium.

Once again, the state parks are celebrating the interpretive theme with original bandanas that feature illustrations of eight turtle species, designed from photos by state park rangers. The bandanas are available for $3 at the state parks and through the online web store at

Every state park has resident turtle populations, and the United States has more turtle biodiversity than any other country. But turtle populations worldwide have declined up to 40 percent. Turtles face threats including habitat loss and degradation, mortality from roads and predators, exotic invasive species and disease and climate change. Raising awareness about turtle species can help address broader environmental issues.


Wilderness & Remote First Aid Training

The Knoxville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross will be offering a Wilderness & Remote First Aid training course in April.

The course aims to provide individuals with a foundation of first aid knowledge and skills to be able to respond to emergencies and give care in areas that do not have immediate emergency medical services (EMS) response, such as wilderness and remote environments. Participants will also learn to develop leadership skills and learn how to prevent, plan for, and respond to emergencies.

Topics covered include:

• Primary and secondary assessments
• Wounds and wound infection
• Head (brain), neck and spinal Injuries
• Heart-related emergencies
• Hypothermia
• Altitude-related illnesses
• Allergies and anaphylaxis
• Burns
• Bone and joint injuries

The 16-hour course will be conducted over the weekend of April 16-17 at Concord Park in Knoxville, with much of the training being conducted in an outdoor environment. Participants must be at least 14 years of age and have a current certification in Adult CPR/AED. Participants must attend all sessions. The cost is $100 per person.

For answers to several FAQs, please click here.

To register for the class call the American Red Cross at 865-584-2999, or visit

(Thanks to Liz Etnier, author of Day Hiker’s Guide to all the Trails in the Smoky Mountains, for giving me a heads-up on this.)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Are bears in the Smoky Mountains being mismanaged?

There is a pronounced tendency among some pantywaist poltroons in the U. S. National Park Service, in the Smokies and elsewhere across the country, to fall back on the tired old nostrum which suggests that their mission exclusively involves the natural world, humans be damned.

As you might tell from the quote, Jim Casada, book author and frequent contributor to several outdoor magazines, has a pretty provocative article on the Tuckasegee Reader website in which he basically calls out park service employees in the Smokies for not doing enough to protect humans from bears.

Casada's contention is that by not aggressively managing bear-human contact, bears are beginning to lose their fear of humans, which could result in more encounters and possibly deaths.

In a Little River Outfitters forum posting from earlier this week, Casada points out that:

Similarly, my brother, Don, covers perhaps a thousand miles of Park trails each year. He says that he has noticed a distinct change in bear behavior in the last two or three years, including two encounters this past summer in which bears showed no fear of him whatsoever.

In his Tuck Reader article, Jim offers a tried and true solution once used by the park back in the day:

All that is required is taking any of many actions which traumatize bears in the sense that they restore a healthy dose of fear of humans. There was a time, although the Park doesn’t like to talk about it, when bears which repeatedly caused “bear jams” (stopped traffic on Highway 441) got a serious dose of corporal punishment in the form of a spanking. Yes, that’s right—a good old-fashioned dose of hickory tea. The bear would be shot with a tranquilizing dart and then, usually after being transported, get a good whipping as it began to awaken. Almost invariably one spanking did the job.

There's also a current discussion on this article in the Backpacker Magazine forum.

So, do you agree with Casada, or do you think park rangers in the Smoky Mountains are following the proper and best bear management methods?


Friday's Video

Daredevil kayaker, Tao Berman, has put together a compilation of his "greatest hits" while paddling some of the most extreme whitewater in the world:


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains historical visitation trends

Last week the National Park Service Public Use Statistics Office reported that the Great Smoky Mountains ended the year with a total of 9,463,538 visitors to the park in 2010.

I was curious to see what the historical trends were for this measure of the country's most visited national park. This same website also provides annual visitation count data going back to 1931. Here's a look at the total number of visitors by year:

It might be a little tough to see from this graph, but the park reached the one million visitor milestone for the first time in 1941, just as the United States was getting ready to enter into WWII. During the war years, visitation declined significantly, just as you might expect. However, in 1946, the first full year after the war, visitation jumped above one million mark again, and never looked back.

From 1946 through 1977, the park experienced almost uninterupted growth. 1977 was also the first year visitation pushed through the 9 million mark. Since that year, and up until the present, the number of visitors has basically trended within a range of 8 - 10 million visitors per year. On three occasions the park has exceeded the 10 million mark. Interestingly, since 2001, the Smokies has seen a tighter range of visitors flowing into the park, averaging just above 9 million visitors per year.

You can click here for a few more visitation stats for 2010 and the month of December.


Protection ranger positions available in Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking candidates for three permanent, full-time protection ranger positions – one each in the Cades Cove, Cosby, and Cataloochee areas.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers participate in the full spectrum of frontcountry and backcountry emergency services operations, including law enforcement, SAR, EMS and wildland fire. Each of these areas offers unique opportunities to develop and maintain a broad set of traditional ranger skills. There may be opportunities for advanced training, including participation in the FTEP program.

Candidates who possess a type I or type II NPS law enforcement commission are eligible to apply.

For more information, please click here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Update on the Appalachian Clubhouse at Elkmont

The latest issue of the Cub Report from the Great Smoky Mountains Association is reporting that the Park's historical carpentry crew has completed rehabilitation of the Appalachian Clubhouse at Elkmont.

The current plan is to allow visits to the exterior of the building and make the interior available for use by groups with a reservation and a rental fee.

According to Wikipedia, an affluent group of Knoxville hunting and fishing enthusiasts formed the Appalachian Club in 1910, and purchased what is now "Daisy Town," south of the confluence of Little River and Jakes Creek. They built the Appalachian Clubhouse for use as a lodge. The original structure burned down in 1932, and was replaced by the current structure in 1934.

For more information on the Elkmont Historic District rehabilitation project, please click here.


In case you own a Backcountry Access Tracker2

Backcountry Access (BCA) is offering free replacements on its Tracker2 avalanche beacon after multiple malfunctions were reported by the Jackson Hole ski patrol and alpine guides.

Essentially, the ski patrol and guides at Jackson Hole have reported several instances where the Tracker2 stopped transmitting. BCA suspects the problems were being triggered by a buildup and discharge of static electricity while in the pockets of users.

BCA is offering free upgrades to its software on the beacon, which will provide additional safeguards against inadvertent shut downs.

Bruce Edgerly, VP of Marketing for BCA, recently told, “we have executed what I believe to be a very proactive and responsible corrective action.”

For more information on the issue, please visit the BCA blog.


Smokies Recruiting for 2011 Internships

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently recruiting for several 3-6 month internships during 2011. The positions are available for college students and recent graduates who would like to gain valuable work experience while helping to protect the cultural and natural resources in the park through education, research, and management.

The internships are available for people who are interested in botany, ecology, cultural museum collections, backcountry management, fishery management, GIS, vegetation management, wildlife management, and resource education. These are great entry level positions for anyone wishing to pursue federal, state or local park and forest careers.

Interns receive dorm housing, uniform shirt, and a weekly stipend ($125), but are responsible for their own travel expenses to the park. A personal vehicle is also encouraged to facilitate off-duty use since public transportation is limited in the area.

For general questions about the internship program, you may contact Volunteer Coordinator, Dana Soehn, at (865) 436-1265 or

(Thanks to Liz Etnier, author of Day Hiker’s Guide to all the Trails in the Smoky Mountains, for giving me a heads-up on this.)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival and Tours

The 7th annual Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival is set for Feb. 4-6 this year, and will celebrate one of the largest wintering populations of bald eagles outside of Alaska. The Eagle Festival offers a wide range of opportunities for Reelfoot Lake visitors to see these magnificent birds in the wild. Guided van and bus tours will be offered for $5 per person, leaving twice daily from the Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitor Center.

Local park and wildlife experts will also present several unique programs throughout the three-day event, offering something for all ages including walking tours, interpretive sessions, an art and photography contest, storytelling, a silent auction and several arts and crafts vendors. The Saturday evening program on Feb. 5 will feature John Stokes and his live Birds of Prey program, giving the audience a rare up-close look. Other displays and live birds of prey will be present throughout the weekend.

Bald eagle and waterfowl tours, along with several educational lectures, will continue at the park through February 28th.

“The return of the American Bald Eagles to Reelfoot Lake has become one of the most exciting winter events in Tennessee,” Reelfoot Lake State Park Manager James Cox said.

Designated as a national natural landmark, Reelfoot Lake was created during a series of violent earthquakes in northwest Tennessee during the winter of 1811-1812. Eyewitness accounts from that time stated that the Mississippi River actually flowed backwards for 10–24 hours to create the lake!

For more information on the Eagle Festival, please click here.


The 5th annual Winter Heritage Festival in the Smokies

Next weekend Townsend, Tennessee will hold its 5th annual Winter Heritage Festival in the Smokies.

The festival, to be held on February 3-6, will include hikes, history, exhibits, lectures and craft showcases during the Thursday through Sunday event.

Some of the hikes scheduled this year will include an Elkmont Hike with Herb Handly, as well as a short walk to Gourley Pond with Park Ranger Mike Maslona.

Among the many programs and presentations there will be:

* A Winter Birds, Slide Show and Walk with Kelly Caruso.

* Winter on Mount LeConte with Doug McFalls, the winter caretaker at the lodge from last year.

* Kermit Caughron, Bee Man - the Man, the Myth, the Legend with John Davis.

The Winter Heritage Festival has received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, and has been designated a "Top Twenty Event" by the Southeast Tourism Society.

For a full list of programs and events, please click here.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Air Horns as Bear Deterrents (revisited)

** For the most up-to-date information on this topic, please click here.

Almost two years ago I posted a blog that explored the question as to whether or not air horns make for good bear deterrents.

My thoughts were that the high-decibel noise coming from an air horn might be more effective than bear spray because:

1) You don't have to worry about the direction of the wind (or rain)

2) You don't have to wait for the bear to get close enough before sounding the horn

3) Bears have much better hearing than humans, thus the noise would bother them even more than humans

That posting generated quite a bit of interest, so I decided to revisit the subject to see if there was anything new to report on. In particular, were there any new studies providing hard evidence as to whether air horns actually work or not?

It seems that the idea of using air horns as a bear deterrent has actually gained some traction since I last visited this topic. However, I couldn’t find anything definitive. In other words, I couldn’t find any studies that have actually been conducted on black bears or grizzly bears to determine the effectiveness of air horns as a deterrent.

Here’s what I did find:

In a recent “Ask A Bear” column, Backpacker Magazine cited a test conducted on polar bears in the 70s that found that ultrasonic frequencies fine-tuned and blasted over large speakers repelled bears roughly 69% of the time.

This was the only study that I could find that was even remotely related to my question, but it really doesn’t answer it. One, the test was conducted on polar bears, and two, air horns weren’t used in the test. I should point out that the column also states that bear guru Stephen Herrero thinks that an ultrasonic bear repellent is worthy of further study and testing.

The Get Bear Smart Society, a Canadian organization that works to educate the general public as well as government agencies across North America, believes that air horns can be effective when used in conjunction with human dominance techniques to move a bear off (as mentioned in their A guide to non-lethal management techniques).

On their website, they state:

Noise deterrents work by making a loud, unpleasant sound that causes the bear to be uneasy and move away. Noise deterrents are advantageous if you are a long distance away from the bear. Furthermore, they cause neither harm nor injury to the bear when correctly used.

In some cases, noise deterrents do not work either because the bear has habituated to human noise or because it has no natural fear of the noise. For example, a habituated bear is very unlikely to respond to a vehicle siren if officers remain in the vehicle. Unlike human dominance techniques which speak the language of the bear, a bear may have to be taught that noise deterrents are followed by an unpleasant or negative situation. However, once a bear makes the association, an officer may only have to cock his shotgun to make the bear leave

I found several governmental websites in the United States and Canada that offered similar advice. For example, the Kenai Fjords National Park website states that “It is a good idea to carry a non-lethal deterrent such as an air horn or pepper spray in case of a surprise encounter…”

As a result of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published Deterrence Guidelines in the Federal Register, which states that:

These guidelines…are appropriate for safely and nonlethally deterring polar bears from damaging private and public property and endangering the public. The use of commercially available air horns and other similar devices designed to deter wild animals…may be effective in deterring bears while causing no lasting or permanent harm to individual animals.

The Department of Earth & Atmospheric Science at the University of Alberta has this advice on their Bear Safety Information page:

Make lots of noise, especially when traveling in dense vegetation. Sing, shout, or talk loudly. You can carry portable air horns, cans of rocks. (Please note that bear bells are not effective – they do not make enough noise to warn a bear that you are approaching. You need to be loud so the bear can hear you coming!) Remember that the noise you make can be masked by loud natural sounds such as the wind or water. Therefore it is possible that the noise you make can go unnoticed by a bear whose attention is focused on feeding. You must make every attempt not to surprise a bear. In areas of loud natural noise, be louder!

However, they do warn that air horns can sometimes provoke a bear into attacking.

The Alberta Sustainable Resource Development website makes these points about deterring a bear:

• Noisemakers are best used to deter a bear that is at a distance – one that sees you and continues to approach or one that’s heading to your camp or settlement.

• Before using noisemakers, be sure to assess the situation. Make sure the surroundings are clear of people and the bear has an obvious way out. A bear that’s been startled by a noisemaker may not be able to avoid groups of people as it flees the area.

• Remember, the noisemaker may not immediately deter the bear, especially if the bear has had previously experience with noise deterrents. Also, noisemakers may not prevent the bear from returning to the area.

• Bear spray is best used when you need to deter a bear at close range.
The bottom line, I guess, is that there’s no 100% safe and reliable way to deter a bear. Each bear has a different personality, and each encounter is essentially a unique situation. In addition to air horns and pepper spray, high pitched whistles are also known to be of help in some situations.

Your best bet is to make sure you make a lot noise while hiking in bear country, and to practice bear awareness and avoidance techniques.

If anyone has access, or knows of any definitive studies that have been conducted with air horns, please let us know and/or provide a link in the comments section.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spring Photography Workshop with Bill Lea

Attention budding photographers: the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont will be offering its' annual Spring Photography Workshop on April 15-18.

Nationally recognized nature photographer Bill Lea will lead a workshop this year emphasizing wildlife, landscape, and macro photography. Bill and his assistants will tailor the program to the skill level and interests of each individual participant, with plenty of one-on-one instruction. Field sessions and lectures will cover the use of light, composition, and equipment.

This is a great opportunity to learn how to capture the beauty of the Smokies through the eyes of a professional photographer.

For more information, please click here.

If you can't make it to the workshop there's a new book coming out in the near future that might be of interest to you. Photographer and author, Jim Hargan, has published a brand new guide for photographing the Great Smoky Mountains, and is due to be released on March 7th. For more information and to pre-order the book on Amazon, please click here.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Latest Trail Tracks Newsletter from American Trails

Below is a link to Trail Tracks, the latest monthly e-Newsletter from American Trails.

Of particular interest is the recent controversial order by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that gives the Bureau of Land Management immediate authority to "designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as 'Wild Lands' and to manage them to protect their wilderness values." The new order will allow the BLM to review up to 220 million acres of federal land not currently designated as Wilderness, and possibly apply the new "Wild Lands" designation which has similar use restrictions. There are many who feel this order will provide activists with a way to bypass Congress and cover millions of acres in western states with the same restrictions as Congressionally-designated Wilderness areas.

Among the other topics covered in this issue, you can also check out the gallery of 180 pictures that were entered in the annual National Recreation Trail Photo Contest. The winners of this American Trails contest will be announced in the February Trail Tracks.

To read the newsletter, please click here.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Smokies visitation slightly down in 2010

The Great Smoky Mountains reported a total of 9,463,538 visitors to the park in 2010, a 0.3% decrease from the prior year. Although Gatlinburg (1.5%), Townsend (3.2%) and Cherokee (4.6%) each saw year over year increases, the park's 13 outlying entrances reported an overall decrease of 9.1%. Much of that decrease was driven by declines at the Foothills Pkwy East portion of the park, which has been closed for much of the year due to the reconstruction project. This section of the park saw a decline of just over a half million visitors, or 46.2% versus 2009.

The 9.46 million visitors to the park in 2010 represented the second highest total in the last decade. Only 2009, the 75th Anniversary year, was higher.

For the month of December, the entire park saw a sharp decline from the same period in 2009. Visitors arriving through the Gatlinburg entrance were down more than 40%, while Townsend dropped 20%, and Cherokee plummeted more than 56%.

Nearby Parks:

* The Blue Ridge Parkway reported a total of 14,517,119 visitors in 2010, which represented an 8.9% decrease from the previous year. This is a bit of a surprise given that the park celebrated its 75th Anniversary this past year. Road closures likely played a large part in this decline.

* Shenandoah National Park reported 1,264,347 visitors for the year, an 11.7% increase versus 2009.


Gatlinburg contest: Recreate Your Childhood Experience

The Gatlinburg Department of Tourism is sponsoring a contest for visitors to "Recreate Your Childhood Experience" and recount their memories of visiting Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains as a child.

The contest invites participants to submit a brief description of their favorite childhood memory while visiting Gatlinburg, along with an old photo from that trip.

Each month from January through June, one entry will be randomly selected as the winner to revisit Gatlinburg and recreate those childhood memories.

For more information on the contest, including rules, please click on: The Gatlinburg Facebook page allows you to view each of the entries as well.


Friday's Video

Join adventurer Alastair Humphreys as he treks the Laugavegur, the famous trekking route in Southwestern Iceland. The route is noted for the wide variety of landscapes that are experienced over the course of its 55km. His slideshow includes mountains, volcanoes, hot springs and the stark beauty of the region - but virtually no ice!

Iceland's most famous long-distance trek from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

A.T. Journeys

The latest issue of A.T. Journeys, the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has just been posted to the ATC website.

Of particular interest in this issue is the article about the Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew (S.W.E.A.T.). It's basically a day in the life type article on what it's like to be a part of the crew that helped to repair the section of trail near the Tricorner Knob Shelter this past summer.

"Carry a stick of butter; it is an ideal survival food."

There's also a good article about two avid hikers and their plans to hike to the summit of Mt. Katahdin - in the winter.

The same link to the magazine also provides access to past issues of A.T. Journeys. Just below the most recent issue is an article that provides a good overview of the elk reintroduction program in the Smokies.


White Nose Syndrome Video

The Great Smoky Mountains just posted a new video on their website regarding White Nose Syndrome, the disease that is devastating whole bat populations across the east.

The video, produced by Great Smoky Mountains Association, is well made and provides more in-depth information for those that have been following this issue for the last couple of years. Just click here to visit the park website and watch the video.

Additionally, the park has also just announced that a new bat exhibit has been installed at the park’s Sugarlands Visitor Center, which will give visitors a chance to learn about these often misunderstood mammals.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Return of the Smokies greenhouse

The latest Dispatches from the Field update highlights the return of the greenhouse at the Twin Creeks Science Center.

You may recall the windstorm on Christmas Eve of 2009 that flattened the historic Caughron Barn in Cades Cove. That same storm that produced gusts of up to 95 miles per hour also toppled the greenhouse that had been used to cultivate native grass seedlings. Those seedlings are used to restore native grasses in Cades Cove.

To read the latest report, please click here.


Wrap-up Report On 111th Congress Issued

The NPS Digest published a "Wrap-up Report On 111th Congress" that highlights the list of National Park Service-related laws enacted during the most recent Congress. In all, there were more than 300 NPS-related bills introduced in the House and Senate during 2009 and 2010 session. By far, the two most important bills were the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.

These two pieces of legislation had a significant impact on our national parks:

* The $787 billion Recovery Act provided $750 million for the National Park Service to spend on the maintenance backlog and other critical needs and an additional $170 for the Department of Transportation to spend on national park roads.

* The Omnibus Public Land Management Act resulted in the designation of more than two million acres of wilderness in nine states. The new act also authorized three new units of the National Park System: Paterson Great Falls in New Jersey; the William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home, in Hope, Arkansas; and the River Raisin Battlefields in Monroe, Michigan.

* Thousands of miles of new scenic and historic trails were also designated by the Omnibus, including the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the New England National Scenic Trail, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, and additions to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Two other types of trails, the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail and the Votes for Women History Trail Route, were also authorized.

To read the full report, and see the complete list of National Park Service-related laws enacted during the 111th Congress, please click here.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Win a trip to a National Park

The National Park Traveler is offering you a chance to win a 4-day, 3-night trip to one of 14 national parks; that is, if you're a student between the age of 8 and 18, or, you happen to have a child in that age range that has some pretty good writing skills.

The National Park Traveler announced today it's first "Take Your Family to the National Parks" Essay Contest. Entries are being accepted from students in three age brackets: 8-11, 12-15, and 16-18.

Elementary students in the 8-11 age bracket are being asked to address the question: "Why are national parks good for kids?"

Middle school students in the 12-15 age bracket should address this question: "If you were to write President Obama telling him why the National Parks should be saved, what would you say and why?"

High school students in the 16-18 age bracket should address this question: "What are the greatest threats to our national parks, and how can they be countered?"

The winning essays will be selected by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and will be announced during National Parks Week in mid-April. A list of the grand prize winners and runners up, and their essays, will be posted on National Parks Traveler.

One grand-prize winner from each age bracket will receive some cool gear, plus their choice of a three-night stay for four members of their family from a range of lodgings in Badlands National Park, Big Bend National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Bryce Canyon National Park, Death Valley National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Mammoth Cave National Park, Olympic National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Shenandoah National Park, and Zion National Park.

For more information on prizes, rules, and how to enter the contest, please click here.


The Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt

On March 5th the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont will hold its 4th annual Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt

The hunt ranges over most of the park, using roads and official trails to access particular areas. Some questions require research to answer. As it is illegal to remove items from the park, one digital camera with a flash memory card will be required per team.

Questions are awarded point values based on level of difficulty. The team with the most points may get prizes, but everybody wins! You can have as many people on your team as you like, provided all fit into one vehicle. One registration form per team must be completed and submitted to Tremont no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, February 28, 2011. The event will take place over a 24-hour period with teams receiving their hunt questions via e-mail by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4th and are due back at Tremont no later than 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5th with your answers. A light dinner will be served while tallying takes place. This event is limited to 200 participants so register early!

If interested, the cost is $50 per team. The time is now to gather your friends, family and co-workers to create your own team.

For more information you can call 865-448-6709 or email You can also click here for a registration form.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Time-lapse video of snow storm

Below is a pretty cool time-lapse video of the snow storm that hit the northeast last month. The video was taken by Mike Black from his home in New Jersey:

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.


ATC awarded grant to support Appalachian Trail Communities

The Virginia Environmental Endowment has awarded a $22,000 grant to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to support the Appalachian Trail Community program in Virginia. During the 2011 granting period, the ATC plans to accept at least five new communities from Virginia into the growing network of designated trail-side communities.

Through this grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, the A.T. Communities program will expand its capacity by developing volunteer training, communication tools, program website and other resources to support local communities.

The Appalachian Trail Community program, managed by the ATC, provides tools and support to local communities that capitalize on the Trail as a community asset for tourism and outdoor recreation. The program is designed to provide an incentive for conservation of the Trail’s signature landscapes while giving communities the opportunity to grow rural economies that sustain rural heritage and quality of life. Launched in 2010, this program will ensure long-term stewardship and protection for the Appalachian Trail.

One quarter of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and its 280,000-acre land base traverse the Commonwealth of Virginia, protecting a 550-mile swath of the state’s natural resources, scenic beauty, and rich biodiversity. In addition, the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.) provides an unforgettable outdoor experience to an estimated four million visitors each year, including many local residents who use the Trail for physical and spiritual renewal. In Virginia, the Trail slices through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and Shenandoah National Park, offering ecological and economic benefits to 23 Virginia counties. With the millions that visit the Trail every year, as well as its international iconic status, it's no wonder that outfitters, restaurants and businesses catering to outdoor recreation call A.T. communities home.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The 3rd Annual Roan Mountain Winter Rally

The Friends of Roan Mountain recently announced the schedule for the 3rd Annual Roan Mountain Winter Naturalists' Rally to be held on Saturday, February 12.

There will be presentations from biologists and naturalists in the morning, and then a series of hikes in the afternoon. In all, there will be four hikes from which to choose from, including:

* an animal tracking hike near the Doe River

* a photography hike through the beautiful winter woods west of Twin Springs

* a kids’ hike up on the balds

* a geology hike near the old Peg Leg Mine area of the park

Please click here for more information on the rally. Registration is required, and there is a small fee that includes lunch.

For more information about Roan Mountain, please click here.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Membership has its benefits

Did you know that REI has a fairly unique membership program?

REI, one of the leading outdoor gear and clothing retailers, offers a lifetime membership program that includes a member refund in the form of an annual dividend notice.

For a one-time fee of just $20, outdoor enthusiasts receive a lifetime membership to the REI co-op. Each March active members receive a refund in the form of an annual dividend notice, which is typically 10% back on all eligible REI purchases. You can use the dividend notice as soon as you receive it to purchase gear and services at REI, or you can redeem it for cash.

REI members enjoy other benefits as well, such as:

• Special members-only offers on gear and clothing.

• Savings on adventure travel with REI Adventures.

• Substantial savings on REI in-store rental equipment such as skis and kayaks.

• Reduced pricing on bike and ski shop services (available in most REI stores).

So, if you're one that buys a lot of outdoor gear and apparel, this is a really good deal. For more details on the program just click on the AD below:


Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday's Video

Have you ever heard of the Wagah border crossing ceremony? I first heard about this while watching one of Michael Palin's travel shows on PBS several years ago.

Wagah is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. Every evening since 1959 the small village of Wagah hosts what is known as the "Beating Retreat Ceremony." The hostile relationship between India and Pakistan is acted out in an exaggerated and somewhat belligerent military drill as flags for each nation are lowered and the border gates are closed.

This is truly one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen:

If you haven't seen enough of this spectacle, here's a view of the ceremony from the Indian side of the border:


Thursday, January 13, 2011

BRP receives $10,000 Grant for Oral Histories

Earlier this week the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation announced that it has received a $10,000 grant from the National Parks Foundation that will allow for the collection of a number of important oral histories.

The focus of this oral history project will be to record the first-hand accounts of the people who helped to build the parkway, including the Civilian Conservation Corps crews from the 1930’s and 1940’s. The project will also seek to conduct oral histories of the culturally diverse groups traditionally not associated with the parkway, including African-American communities, some of whom worked in racially segregated CCC camps, Cherokees who formerly lived in areas where the southern terminus of the parkway lies, and the descendants of Italian-American and Spanish-American stone masons brought from Europe to construct the intricate stone-work associated with the parkway’s bridges, walls, and overlooks.

For more information on the project you can click here.


Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette

Backpacker Magazine apparently has a new member of their blogging team. The author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking, Professor Hike (a.k.a. Jason Stevenson), has agreed to dispense with his sage outdoor advice three times a month.

His latest posting, 5 Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette, includes some very useful advice that hikers ought to heed. His list includes stepping aside on slopes, letting cairns be, using an "outhouse" that's far away from water sources, campsites and trails, saying hello to other hikers, and ditching your cell phone (for non-emergency use).

For whatever reason Professor Hike left out many other trail etiquette rules.

For example:

* Hikers should always yield to horses. It's probably a good idea to move off the trail and give as much room as possible. Horses can be quite skittish. I have a friend who was riding his bike past an Amish buggy several years ago, and got kicked in the chest by the horse as he was passing.

If you're a mountain biker, the proper rule is to yield to both hikers and horses.

* When hiking in a group, yield to single or pair hikers.

* Stay on the trail. Taking shortcuts and cutting switchbacks causes erosion.

* Keep your dog on a leash. It keeps your dog and wildlife safe. It also prevents unwanted interactions with other hikers. I can't tell you how many times I've seen "lost dog" postings at trailheads.

* Hike quietly. Allow your fellow hikers to enjoy the peace and solitude of the wilderness, especially at key viewpoints and lunch spots.

* Leave no trace. If you "Pack It In" then, "Pack It Out". Litter doesn't seem to be as much of a problem as it used to be, however, I still come across it every now and then.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow / Ice warnings for hikers in the Smokies

Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains just posted this piece of information for hikers on their website:

Snow/ice Warning - recent winter storms have left deep snow and ice accumulations on backcountry trails, especially at high elevation. Travel in the backcountry is difficult at this time. Hikers are reporting that Alum Cave Trail is impassible due to heavy snow and that snow is waist deep on portions of the Appalachian Trail. Ice crampons are recommended due to ice on trails.

Also, it looks like every road in the park is still closed at this point. For updated road information please call 865-436-1200.

For the most up-to-date weather information, please click here.


Trails Forever Program making strides in 2010

At the end of 2010, Christine Hoyer, the Trails & Facilities Volunteer Coordinator for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, posted a year-end review of the Trails Forever program.

The report provides an overview of how the Trails Forever program continues to take shape, and how the steady growth in the number of volunteers and the quality of the trail improvements in the last year is already making a huge difference.

You can read her report by clicking here.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

National Parks in the News

The following are a couple of news items that were reported in the NPS Digest yesterday that I thought might be of interest to you:

* Late last year the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that 47 projects in national parks, forests and wildlife refuges across the United States will share in $27 million from its Paul S. Sarbanes Transit In Parks program to improve public and alternative transportation within the grounds. Funding from the grants will support more than 30 NPS and partner projects, such as bicycle and pedestrian network installations, procurement of hybrid and clean diesel fuel buses, visitor information and wayfinding systems, planning studies and railroad improvements.

There are no projects announced for the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway or Shenandoah. You can click here for the full list of projects.

* In February, the National Park Service will launch a Civil War 150th anniversary webpage. The site will serve as the hub of information about the activities and events planned for this significant commemoration as well as a platform to invite people – especially those who may not be interested in the fighting itself – to learn about the people and lasting legacies of the war, including the struggle for civil rights that continues to this day. A Civil War history website will launch in April in conjunction with the anniversary of the shots fired on Fort Sumter.

* In March, the NPS will launch a series of state webpages that will begin to demonstrate the full scope of National Park Service activities. Each new state page will offer an interactive map that features not only national parks, but also the locations of other program work – preservation grants, National Natural Landmarks, and RTCA projects, for example. The page will also highlight, with photos and short descriptions, exemplary projects in each state and upcoming, state-specific news and events.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Dick Winters passes away

Dick Winters, the focal subject of the TV movie series, 'Band of Brothers,' died last week at the age of 92. The announcement of his death was made today due to his request to withhold the news until after his funeral.

I consider Band of Brothers by far and away the greatest war movie ever made. I base this on several factors, mainly the realism of the cinematography and the acting. The series, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and originally broadcast on HBO in 2001, should be required viewing for all high school students in order for them to understand the sacrifice the soldiers of WWII endured for the cause of freedom we (and Europe) enjoy today.

In addition to the movie series, Winters was also the subject of a book by the same name, written by Stephen Ambrose in 1992. Ambrose also spent a few pages discussing Winters European Theater service in his 1997 classic, Citizen Soldier. Both books are excellent reads, even if you're only mildly interested in WWII history.

The movie, the book and even Dick Winters' own biography demonstrate his uncanny leadership abilities, a trait that is sadly lacking in our modern world, whether it be in politics or in corporate management ranks.

America has truly lost a great man.

You can read his wikipedia bio here.


Snow shuts down the Smokies!

Snow continues to pile up in the Great Smoky Mountains - with up to an additional foot on the way. More than two feet of snow is already on the ground atop Mt. LeConte. In addition to every road being closed right now, the park has issued this statement on its website:

Due to a winter storm, park facilities, including visitor centers, will be closed until 12:00 p.m. on Monday, January 10.

The National Weather Service is calling for more snow for the region for today and tonight, which will likely keep most roads in the park closed through at least Tuesday. Here's the latest forecast:




The timing of these storms is likely having a large negative impact on Wilderness Wildlife Week, which began this past Saturday. Obviously most of the hikes have been cancelled as a result of all the road closings.

Simply Beautiful:

Yes the fall colors and the wildflowers of the Smokies are beautiful, but snow turns the mountains into an enchanted wonderland. Check out this short video taken by the winter caretaker of the LeConte Lodge:

You can also check out some of the amazing winter scenes that have been recently posted on the High on LeConte website by clicking here.

Here are the current road closures:

• Newfound Gap Road (US-441)
• Little River Road
• Laurel Creek Road (the access road to Cades Cove)
• Cades Cove Loop Road
• Gatlinburg Bypass
• Foothills Parkway West
• Foothills Parkway East
• Old NC-284 between Big Creek and Cataloochee
• Cataloochee Entrance Road
• Cherokee Orchard Road
• Greenbrier Road
• Lakeview Road
• Toms Branch Road
• Wear Cove Road
• Tremont Road
• Cosby Campground Entrance Road

To stay up-to-date on weather forecasts and conditions in the Smokies, click here.

For the latest road reports, click here or call the park office at (865) 436-1200.


Appalachian Trail Slideshow/Movie Presentation

Peter Barr, author of Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers, will be hosting a slideshow/movie presentation of his 2010 Appalachian Trail thru-hike next month in Hendersonville, NC.

In addition to hiking the 2,181 miles of the A.T., Barr hiked an additional 200 miles to reach peaks, waterfalls, high points, historical spots, and views which will also be featured in the presentation as well.

His movie/slideshow will take place on February 2nd at 7:00 p.m. at the Henderson County Library, and will last 80 minutes. There will be a question and answer session afterwards.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Help the National Park Foundation raise up to $600,000

Please take a moment to help the National Park Foundation raise up to $600,000 - with just one click!

From January 9th through January 21st, the National Park Foundation will be one of four charities competing for a percentage of a $1 million grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. As part of this unique challenge grant, each of the competing charities is guaranteed $100,000, but has the opportunity to raise up to $600,000! Public support through an online voting campaign will determine how the remaining $600,000 will be allotted to the participating charities.

The National Park Foundation is competing against Keep America Beautiful,, and American Forests.

You can cast your vote for the National Park Foundation daily at or on Lowe's Facebook page. The NPF would also appreciate if you could help spread the word about this outstanding fundraising opportunity for our national parks.

Funds raised for the Foundation through this campaign will support national park restoration and preservation efforts, connect underserved communities to their parks, and give disadvantaged children the opportunity to experience their national parks for the first time. Every vote is critical.


Chestnut blight and the good virus

The latest update on the Smokies Dispatches from the Field page is about the chestnut blight and the "good virus".

In the 1940s the chestnut blight, a fungus accidentally introduced from Asia, killed an estimated four billion American chestnut trees nationwide. Before the blight, roughly one third of all the trees in the Great Smoky Mountains were chestnuts. Today, even single spindly saplings are rare.

Scientists are now investigating an organism, known as a hypovirus, that may help trees overcome the deadly chestnut blight. You can read more about this research project by clicking here.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Most roads closed in Smokies: More snow on the way

The snow from last night and in recent days has closed almost every road in the Great Smoky Mountains this morning. The winter caretaker atop Mt. LeConte is reporting 7 new inches of snow, making a total of 15 inches on the ground right now.

The National Weather Service is calling for more snow over the next several days, which will likely keep most roads closed during this time period. Here's the latest forecast:


Here are the current road closures:

• Newfound Gap Road
• Little River Road
• Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove
• Cades Cove Loop Road
• The Gatlinburg By-Pass
• Cherokee Orchard Road at Twin Creeks Science Center
• Greenbrier Entrance Road
• Cataloochee Entrance Road
• Toms Branch Road
• Cosby Entrance Road
• Lakeshore Drive
• Old NC-284 between Big Creek and Cataloochee
• Tremont Road
• Wears Cove Road
• Foothills Parkway (east and west)

To stay up-to-date on weather forecasts and conditions in the Smokies, click here.

For the latest road reports, click here or call the park office at (865) 436-1200.


The Last Best Place

Backpacker Magazine has a feature article piece posted on their website from their November issue: The Last Best Place.

More than three decades ago, a tiny band of California hikers discovered a magical valley in the Sierra Nevada. They possessed a rough map, but told no one. Now, the truth comes out.

This is fairly long, but a great article - probably one of the best I've ever read from years of reading their publication.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Announced

Earlier this week the Appalachian Trail Museum Society announced the establishment of a hall of fame that will recognize those who have made significant contributions towards establishing and maintaining the 2,181-mile footpath.

With the announcement, the Appalachian Trail Museum Society released the following details about the nomination criteria and nominating and selection processes:

Criteria - Those eligible for consideration include anyone who has made a major contribution to the Appalachian Trail, or otherwise has advanced the cause of the Appalachian Trail. These include, without limitation, pioneers who conceived of and developed the trail; those who organized or directed major trail organizations like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs; longtime trail maintainers; leaders who promoted and protected the Appalachian Trail; hikers who have made significant accomplishments, and other persons who have enriched the culture or community of the Appalachian Trail by their association with it.

Nominations - Nominations will be solicited from throughout the hiking and trails community by clicking on this link. The deadline for nominations is March 20, 2011. Anyone may submit a nomination, without charge, regardless of whether he or she is a member of a hiking or trails organization. Only one nomination should be submitted per year per person.

Hall of Fame Committee; Election - An Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Committee has been selected by the Appalachian Trail Museum Society Board of Directors to supervise the election process and to submit the finalists to the board. That committee is chaired by Jim Foster, a museum volunteer and 2007 thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.

Announcement and recognition of inductees - Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductees will be announced during the Appalachian Trail Museum's annual festival, scheduled for the third weekend in June. The inductees will be enshrined on an Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Wall of Honor to be located in the Appalachian Trail Museum.

To visit the museum website, please click here.


Friday's Video

Presenting the "Top 10 Biggest and Best Jumps Ever". Ski, motorcycle, airplane and BASE jumps. Some of these are simply amazing. Some are just crazy and stupid.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A day in the life of the LeConte Lodge winter caretaker

The Smoky Mountain News published an excellent article yesterday about Doug McFalls, the Gatlinburg native who spent last winter as the LeConte Lodge caretaker. The article does a great job of explaining a little bit of what it's like to spend the winter near the top of the 6593-foot summit of Mt. LeConte. It explains the caretaker's duties, the weather conditions, how they keep supplied, as well as some of the hikers and critters they meet during their stay.

You can read the article by clicking here.


17 Free Entrance Days Announced for National Parks

The National Park Service announced yesterday that it will waive admission fees on 17 dates during the upcoming year.

The 2011 fee-free dates will be:

• The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 15-17)

• National Park Week (April 16-24)

• The first day of summer (June 21)

• National Public Lands Day (September 24)

• Veterans Day weekend (November 11-13)

Many national park concessions will also offer discounts on fee-free days, saving visitors money on food, lodging, tours, and souvenirs.

For more information, please click here.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Via Alpina

Backpacking Light posted an excellent article yesterday about the Via Alpina, a relatively new route that traverses eight countries in Europe.

The route combines a network of pre-existing long distance trails that traverses more than 1200 miles as it passes through Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, and finally down to Monaco on the Mediterranean.

The author, Brandon Wilson, provides a great trip report. The photos themselves are well worth the click!

It's a shame there aren't more hut hiking opportunities in the United States, similar to what you find in Europe. As far as I know, there are only three areas in the U.S. that provide hut hiking opportunities: the 10th Mountain Division Hut System in central Colorado, the Appalachian Mountain Club hut system in New Hampshire's White Mountains, and the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park.

Please let me know if you know of any others.


Hiking fears: Keeping things in perspective

Professor Hike (a.k.a. Jason Stevenson) has a thoughtful article on the Backpacker Magazine website regarding the things that hikers fear the most.

He makes the point that many hikers spend far too much time and energy worrying about scary — but low percentage — threats like bears, cougars, and poisonous snakes, and not enough time concerning themselves with dull but common dangers like germs, blisters, and hypothermia.

I agree with him for the most part, but hiking in grizzly country still makes me uncomfortable. I once saw a grizzly on a trail in Yellowstone. That glare he gave both my wife and I was quite frightening. Fortunately there were a couple of other hikers in the vicinity at that exact same moment, so the bear didn't bother us.

For those that find themselves worrying about any or all of these low percentage threats, hopefully this article will help tyo keep things in perspective the next time you hit the trail.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Specials on Cabin Rentals in the Smokies

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

Alpine Chalet Rentals: Receive a 3rd night FREE during the month of January. Between February and May 23rd, your 3rd night is half off, Or the 4th night FREE, Or, Stay 7 nights & only pay for 5 nights. Please check cabins that are offering great deals for staying 2 nights. The specials will be listed on each individual cabin page.

Cramers Creekside Cabins, Inc. invites you to The Great Smoky Mountains. This time of the year Tennessee is a wintery bliss! Come and enjoy this magical time. We would like to offer you 3 nights for the price of 2, during January 4th-March 31st. Visit or feel free to call us at 877-357-1777. Take a break from the world in our winter wonderland!

Heartland Rentals: During the months of January and February, stay 3 nights and pay for 2.

Hidden Creek Cabins is offering 50% off when staying at least 2 nights on all remaining weeknights in January and February. Weekends are 25% off with a 2 night minimum.

2010 was a hard year, so let's start 2011 off the right way ... with a relaxing vacation in one of our luxury log cabins! Hidden Springs Resort would like to make this happen with our great winter deals! These specials are valid thru March 4th, 2011 (excluding January 13-17, and February 10-14): Stay 2 nights and get 30% off each night / Stay 3 or 4 nights and get 1 night free / Stay 5 or more nights and get 50% off each night / Book any 4 bedroom cabin or larger and get an additional $50.00 off your stay!

On January 12th and 26th ONLY: make a reservation on one of these 2 days for anytime in the year 2011, you will get an additional $25.00 off your reservation (only valid on the days indicated and you must ask for it).

Moose Creek Crossing Cabin Rentals WINTERFEST SPECIAL: Book any cabin and stay between January 2, 2011 - March 17, 2011. Stay 3 nights for the price of 2, Stay 4 nights for the price of 3, Stay 5 nights for the price of 4 OR Stay 7 nights and get 2 nights free!! Holiday weekends not included. Cannot be combined with other specials. Discounts applied to least expensive night. Must call our office to receive this discount at 1-888-972-2246. Ask about their other year-round discounts as well.

Smoky Mountain Chalet Rentals Winter Weekday Special: Through the week of February 27, 2011, check-in on Sunday or Monday, pay for at least 3 nights and depart by Friday and you will get one night free! Applies to reservations made after 12/16/10. EXCLUDES THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 13, 2011.

Timber Frame Rentals: Our beautiful timber frame homes located between Franklin & Highlands are the perfect winter escape. Our rates are discounted to $200/night. Come and enjoy a great hike and return to the comforts of home and a roaring fire!

Timber Tops Luxury Log Cabins is offering 4 Nights for the Price of 3 on all Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Cabins.



Moon Travel names Smokies as best camping destination

Moon Travel Guidebook author and blogger, Laura Martone, has published her top picks for the best U.S. travel destinations in 2011.

In her list, published today, Martone picks the best destinations for a variety of categories, including best city for art lovers, history buffs, the top bargain destination, and the best city for a family vacation, among others. As part of her list, she named the Great Smoky Mountains as the best place to camp. Here's what she has to say:

Best Place for Camping: Encompassing parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular parks in America—and one of the best places for a camping trip. Outdoor enthusiasts will find an assortment of reasonably priced campgrounds, not to mention an abundance of diversions, including waterfalls, hiking trails, picnic areas, wildlife-viewing opportunities, and curious features like the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome.

You can check out the full list by clicking here. Also, Moon Travel Guides will be giving away a $250 Southwest Airlines gift card to one lucky reader to help kick-start their 2011 travel plans.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Rockslide closes Laurel Creek Road

Laurel Creek Road, the access road to Cades Cove, is closed due to a rockslide according to the park website.

Just last week there were several reports in the local press of the increased risk of rockslides in the region due to all the recent rain and snow.

I'll provide additional information as it becomes available.


Hike leaders needed for ATC Conference

The latest edition of the Carolina Mountain Club newsletter includes a notice that volunteers are needed to be Hike Leaders and Assistant Hike Leaders during the upcoming ATC Biennial Conference.

The Conference, which is being called Virginia Journeys 2011, will be held from July 1 – 8, 2011 at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia (about 25 miles east of Bristol).

More than 60 guided hikes will be offered during the week-long event. If you're interested in leading any of these hikes, please contact Pat Egan at: or 540-997-1339.

For more information on the conference, please click here.