Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Join the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to Remove Invasive Exotic Plants

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is seeking volunteers to participate in two invasive exotic plant workshops on Friday June 3 and Saturday June 4, 2011. The second workshop coincides with 2011 National Trails Day, which encourages all Americans to get outside, experience, appreciate, and help to protect our valuable natural resources and recreational opportunities.

The workshops, hosted by the ATC and the Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership (SACWMP), will educate hikers and the general public about the threats of invasive exotic (IE) plants, how to identify and inventory IE species, and how to remove these plants, protecting native biodiversity along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

On both days, volunteers will target multiflora rose, Japanese stiltgrass, Chinese privet, autumn olive and other weeds which are known to occur around Stecoah Gap. There is no charge for the event, and participants will receive free guidebooks for the identification and control of invasive exotic plants as well as a SACWMP T-shirt in appreciation for their efforts.

Participants should meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Stecoah Gap parking area on NC 143 (7 miles east of Robbinsville, NC). Each morning will begin with a brief educational workshop that includes distribution of guidebooks and other materials useful for the identification and management of IE plants. Afterward, the group will work along the Appalachian Trail and NC 143 to control any IE plants that are encountered using manual and chemical controls. Volunteers are only asked to participate in one of the workshops, but are encouraged to attend both days if possible.

The ATC will provide all equipment needed for the workshop and control projects. Volunteers are asked to bring lunch, two quarts of water, rain gear, sturdy hiking boots or shoes, durable pants and long sleeve shirts. Carpooling is available from the Forest Service Building in Asheville (160A Zillicoa St.) leaving at 8:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday, returning to Asheville by 6:00 p.m.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering or requiring more information should contact Julie Judkins with the ATC as soon as possible by e-mailing jjudkins@appalachiantrail.org or calling (828) 254-3708.


Affordable Footwear Act introduced in U.S. Senate

When I first saw that headline (above) my initial reaction was "are you serious - don't these guys have anything else better to do!". But after clicking on the link and reading the press release, I realized this was probably something that should've been done a long time ago. Number one, I believe in free trade and open markets. And, since I spend a lot of time playing outdoors, this bill appears to potentially save me some money on footwear in the future.

Here's the release from the Outdoor Industry Association:

Senate bill S. 1069, the Affordable Footwear Act, has been introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a longtime champion for the outdoor industry, and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) hailed the introduction of the legislation that will lower costs for outdoor industry footwear manufacturers and their customers while supporting U.S. production of outdoor shoes and boots.

The Affordable Footwear Act would create a four-year suspension of many of the disproportionately high import tariffs, some as high as 37.5 percent, that are assessed against outdoor footwear. The bill also ensures U.S. manufacturing that is currently underway in this area remains globally competitive by excluding any product with American production and preventing tariff engineering that undermines U.S. footwear producers. The bill is also temporary so that domestic production can be reevaluated after four years and products removed where appropriate.

With footwear being the fastest growing category in outdoor industry product sales, passage of the Affordable Footwear Act is a top priority for OIA. S. 1069 was developed in close consultation with OIA members that produce footwear in the United States and was modeled after successful OIA legislation that has saved the outdoor industry more than $25 million to date. With the bill’s passage, the significant savings generated will be reinvested back into product innovation, job creation and lower costs for outdoor consumers.

“The Affordable Footwear Act is a win-win for everyone,” said OIA President & CEO Frank Hugelmeyer. “The lower costs from this bill will allow footwear companies to invest in new product innovation and American jobs and will ultimately benefit their customers.”

Many of the footwear products included in the Affordable Footwear Act were previously included in several miscellaneous tariff bills that OIA guided to passage in 2006 and were renewed in 2010. Those bills have saved outdoor companies $5 – $7 million annually. The footwear act also adds certain leather hiking boots and additional footwear products.

OIA encourages its members to support passage of the Affordable Footwear Act by calling or emailing your senators and requesting they cosponsor the legislation.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Video of tornado damage in the Smokies

Check out this amazing video from the Great Smoky Mountains Association that shows some of the extensive damage from the EF-4 tornado that ripped across the western end of the park on April 27th.


Come Outside and Play Event

The Forest Service (George Washington & Jefferson National Forests), U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, is sponsoring a “Come Outside and Play” event at Glen Alton in Giles County, Virginia on Saturday, June 4, 2011 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Partners from a number of local organizations will be on hand to teach skills, lead activities, guide hikes, and give presentations. The event will feature a variety of activities for all ages including:

* Wetland hikes (every hour) – Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Virginia Master Naturalists
* Fly tying and hunting macro-invertebrates – Trout Unlimited
* Raptor identification (on-going) – Friends of Hanging Rock
* Kids fishing and fish simulator machine (on-going) – Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
* Leaf and tree identification walks (10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m.) – Girl Scouts
* Fish identification (ongoing) – Forest Service Center for Aquatics
* Historic lodge tours (11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) – Forest Service
* Chestnut display (ongoing) – American Chestnut Foundation
* Mud Pie Kitchen (ongoing) – Forest Service
* Anniversary of the Weeks Act / Toys of the 1920’s (on-going) – Forest Service
* Free hotdogs and lemonade (11 a.m.) – Friends of Glen Alton

In honor of National Trails Day, three additional guided hikes will begin at 3 p.m. Participants for these hikes will gather at Glen Alton and drive to the trailheads. Craig Mohler will lead a hike on the newly completed Potts Rail Trail; the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will lead a hike on the A.T. starting at Pine Swamp Trailhead; and Brian Hurt will lead a hike to the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory.

“Come Outside and Play” is part of a larger initiative known as America’s Great Outdoors which encourages all Americans to enjoy their natural and cultural heritage. Outdoor recreation provides Americans physical and emotional rejuvenation and promotes outdoor conservation. Federal agencies provide exceptional recreational opportunities on more than 600 million acres of land that receive more than a billion visits each year.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hiking the Colorado Trail

Earlier in the week I received an email from Nathan Stoll, a hiker and budding film maker. He asked me to take a look at a series of videos he's publishing to Youtube that document his hike across the Colorado Trail - a nearly 500-mile trail that stretches from Denver to Durango:

Nathan hiked the trail with his friend, Jon, in 2010. He's already released the first 6 episodes, and plans to release the final 6-8 episodes next fall. His ultimate goal is to combine all of the short segments into one film that he hopes will be picked up by an outdoor film festival at some point.

For a taste of the series, here's episode 4:

You can watch the other episodes by visiting his Youtube page.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

GSMA Synchronous Firefly Night Walk

Join the Great Smoky Mountain Association and naturalist Wanda DeWaard next Friday, June 3rd, at 7:00 pm for a Walk with the Fireflies. Wanda will not only discuss the synchronous fireflies in the Smokies, but also will give you some history of the Elkmont area and other interesting natural history and cultural facts.

Pre-registration and payment is required and is limited to 15 participants. The fee is $10 for adults; children 12 and under are free. Call 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants and sturdy walking shoes. Bring a small flashlight with a red or blue film (cellophane), water, rain gear, snacks, light day pack, and a pad of some sort to sit on (not a chair).

Meet at Elkmont at the Little River Trailhead at 7:00 pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult.


CLIF Bar launches "Meet the Moment" iPhone app

Two weeks ago CLIF Bar launched a new campaign called Meet the Moment in which outdoor types have the opportunity to upload photos and share stories on how they Meet the Moment.

Now, CLIF Bar has just announced that people will now have the opportunity to upload their "Meet the Moment" photo directly from their mobile phone, and will have the chance to win their next adventure courtesy of CLIF Bar!

LeadDog's first iPhone app is now available in the App Store! Just search "Clif Bar" or "Clif Bar Meet the Moment" from the app store on your phone and download.

As part of the campaign, after creating your first Moment, CLIF Bar will donate $5 to one of five non-profit projects - each one focused on protecting the Places we Play - the places we Meet the Moment. Every time you upload a new Moment, you'll have a chance to win your next big adventure of your choice - like trekking the Amazon or chasing the Tour de France. There will be 3 lucky winners in all.

The campaign ends on July 31st, and the winners will be selected in September. Donations will be made to the Access Fund, International Mountain Biking Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Leave No Trace, and Surfrider. For more information, and to enter, please click here.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Abrams Falls Trail has reopened

Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, park officials in the Great Smoky Mountains have announced that the popular Abrams Falls Trail has reopened.

The trail was closed after a tornado ripped through western end of Cades Cove on April 27th and downed more than 4500 trees in the area.

The 2.5-mile trail to Abrams Falls was reopened yesterday, however, 33 miles of trails and three backcountry campsites remain closed in that area:

• Backcountry Campsites 3, 11, 15

• Ace Gap Trail

• Beard Cane Trail

• Cooper Road Trail from the Beard Cane/Hatcher Mountain Trails junction to the Cades Cove Loop Road

• Hannah Mountain Trail is closed from Rabbit Creek Trail junction to Abrams Falls/Little Bottoms Trails junction.

• Hatcher Mountain Trail

• Little Bottoms Trail is closed from Campsite 17 to Abrams Falls/Hannah Mountain Trails junction

• Rabbit Creek Trail

• Wet Bottoms Trail

• All trails leaving from the Abrams Falls trailhead and Abrams Creek Ranger Station are closed to horse riding due to downed trees.

According to a press release from today, the Park has hired a number of local people and is receiving assistance from 23 trail workers from six western parks to help support Park efforts to clear and rehabilitate trails. There is no estimate when the repairs to the other trails will be completed at this time.

For more information on hiking to Abrams Falls, please click here.


Searchers Find Body of Missing Man in Smokies

NPS Digest is reporting that the body of a missing Florida man was found by searchers in the Great Smoky Mountains on Tuesday evening.

The 58-year-old man’s SUV had been parked for nearly a week in a pullout along Newfound Gap Road. The pullout, about a half mile from Smokemont Campground, serves no trailheads, so vehicles would not normally be there overnight. Rangers checked on the plate several times during the week, but no wanted notices were found from any agencies and there were no suspicious signs around the vehicle.

On Monday night, rangers were finally able to locate family members, at which point they found that the man was missing. A search dog from the North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association was brought in and found the man’s body in a steep, thickly wooded location about 250 yards from the vehicle. Investigators found a handgun at the scene, but no evidence of foul play. The Swain County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the cause of death to be from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Earlier in the week officials announced that they were scaling back efforts to find 45-year-old Christopher Lee Cessna, a Cary, NC man who has been missing since April 27th.


A sprint to the top of the Eiger

In November 2008, Swiss climber Ueli Steck set the solo speed record on the 13,025-foot north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland.

In this video, Steck makes a mockery of the mountain by practically sprinting to the summit in a ridiculous two hours and forty seven minutes. This clip comes from the award-winning film, Swiss Machine, which was shown as part of last year’s Reel Rock Tour.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Speed Record for Smokies A.T. Traverse

Nearing Newfound Gap I passed former Smokies Traverse record holder Will Harlan heading the other direction. Upon realizing who he was I blurted out something like "Are you Will Harlan! Oh cool. I'm going to break the record today!"

Yesterday I received an email from Gatlinburg resident, David Worth, announcing that he just broke the record for the fastest trek across the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Last Thursday, May 19th, David ran/walked/trekked 72 miles - from Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap - in 14 hours, 50 minutes and 22 seconds, besting the previous record set by Will Harlan of 15 hours and 57 minutes.

To break down his stats a little; it took, on average, just under 12.5 minutes for David to complete each mile. Or, to put another way, he was moving at roughly 4.85 MPH. Considering the extreme distance, the terrain, and the elevation gain, you could say that was flying!

Major congrats and kudos to David for an awesome feat!

You can read about his adventure on his blog by clicking here.


Park Scales Back Search For Missing Man

Great Smoky Mountains rangers have scaled back their efforts to find 45-year-old Christopher Lee Cessna, who has been missing since April 27th.

For over a week, rangers and search dog teams combed the forest near the Newfound Gap parking area where Cessna’s car was found, but found no sign of him. Searchers intensively covered an area of about two miles radiating out from the parking lot and from the hiking trails that pass through the area, and probed acres of steep, rocky terrain and dense brush. Up to 30 searchers, including as many as four search dog teams, covered the area each day and followed up on every suspected scent alert – but found no trace of Cessna.

The case remains open, and staff will continue to be on the lookout for signs of Cessna while engaged in regular duties.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

National Park Photos of the Day

For a couple of national parks in the Rocky Mountains, winter isn't quite over yet. Check out the NPS photo below from earlier this week showing 22 foot drifts near Bus Terminus on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road runs through the heart of the park, and is the highest continuous paved road in the United States. The road climbs to 12,183 feet and connects the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Near the road's highest point, at Lake Irene near Milner Pass, there are still 114 inches of snow on the ground!

There has been so much new snow in Colorado this month that Aspen and Arapahoe Basin will be reopening to skiers during the Memorial Day weekend.

Record snows in Wyoming are also causing problems in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The Beartooth Highway, the scenic highway that links the communities of Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, will not be open for the holiday weekend. The road is still buried under more than 25 feet of snow in some spots, and has pushed back the plowing schedule as crews continue working on the road - as you can see in this NPS Photo:

If planning a trip to any of these parks, you may want to check this NPS Digest report for more details.


Benton MacKaye Trail Presentation

Dick Evans, President of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association, will be discussing the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) at the Asheville REI next month. 288 miles in length, the BMT begins at Springer Mountain, GA and ends in Davenport Gap at the north-eastern end of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The BMT celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2010.

The free event will be held from 7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14th. For more information and to register, please click here.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chattahoochee N.F. releases tornado damage assessment

US Forest Service officials for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest have released a damage assessment for the tornados that ripped through the area late last month.

According to the report, tornados damaged more than 80 miles of roads, numerous trails, a campground and more than 2000 acres of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Lumpkin, White, Habersham, Rabun and Jasper counties in north Georgia.

The storms forced officials to close the following roads due to safety concerns:

1. Chattahoochee River Road, north of Helen,
2. Boggs Creek Road, in Lumpkin County,
3. The east end of Tray Mountain Road, in White County
4. Timpson Creek Road, in Rabun County.

“Many of the Forest’s roads have been damaged from trees falling across them, clogged culverts and water damage,” said George Bain, Forest Supervisor. “The public is urged to exercise extreme caution when traveling forest roads where tornados occurred.

A significant number of trees that came down in this storm event were of significant commercial quality. The Forest Service is working to make as much of this product available to local industry as is feasible, according to guidelines in the forest Land Management Plan. Because of the location and type of damage, it is expected to take longer than normal to remove, causing some areas to remain closed this recreation season and even into next year, officials predict.

The Forest Service has also closed Boggs Creek Campground in Lumpkin County until further notice.

Some trails, including Logan Turnpike near the Appalachian Trail is blocked, however, the A.T. remains open. Other trails closed include the Town Creek OHV Trail System near Greenville and the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Trail in Jasper County.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Curry Mountain Trailhead Closure

The GSMNP website is reporting that the parking area at the Curry Mountain trailhead on Little River Road has been closed for safety and resource protection purposes. Hikers should park in the nearby Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.

You may also want to note that bear warnings have been posted on the popular Clingmans Dome Trail and Laurel Falls Trail. A bear warning indicates that bears have been active in that area. For park information on what to do if you see a bear, please click here.


Treating and avoiding blisters

Peak summer hiking season is just around the corner, which means many people will be dealing with the unpleasant experience of blisters over the next several months.

Backpacker Magazine recently posted a series of photos that show to properly treat blisters in order to help keep you on the trail.

The best thing to do, however, is to avoid blisters. Here are a few suggestions:

* Train your feet. Don’t go out on a long hike without taking the time to toughen up your feet by doing walks or short hikes leading up to the big day.

* Don’t try to break in brand new boots on a long hike either. Wear a new pair around town, or on short hikes, before taking them long distance.

* Walking barefoot around the house, especially outside, will toughen the skin of your feet.

* Stop and remove dirt, sand, or any other debris that gets in your boots ASAP.

* Air your feet out during a break in order to cool and dry them off.

* For people with feet that sweat excessively, try using extra-strength antiperspirant creams, roll-ons, or powders to reduce sweating.

* If you have areas on your foot that have caused problems in the past, try putting moleskin or athletic tape on before blisters have a chance to form.

For more tips on avoiding blisters, please click here.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trail Dames Summit 2011

Trail Dames, a "hiking club for women of a curvy nature," will be holding its first annual Hiking and Backpacking Conference for Women next month.

Summit 2011 will feature classes on all aspects of hiking and backpacking, lectures and slide shows featuring women that have hiked all over the world, panel discussions focusing on the challenges that women in the outdoors face today, as well as many other special features.

This is a great opportunity for women to not only learn, but to commune with others that share their love of the outdoors. Trail Dames hopes that you will leave inspired, fullfilled and ready to hit the trail.

The Summit will be held on June 24-26, 2011, at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. For more information, please click here.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Big Savings on Outdoor Gear

With Memorial Day Weekend just a week away now, a couple of online outdoor retailers have already launched major sales to help adventurers get ready for the summer hiking, backpacking and camping season.

Through May 30th, REI is running their Anniversary Sale - their biggest sale of the year. Shoppers can save up to 30% on top-brand outdoor gear, clothing and footwear, including tents, packs, sleeping bags, GPS units (such as the Garmin GPSMAP 62S GPS for only $279.99) and more:

REI isn't the only outdoor retailer holding a big sale right now. Backcountry.com is also offering up to 40% off during their Memorial Day Sale. This includes discounts on hiking, camping, paddling and climbing gear, as well as clothing, footwear and travel gear. Backcountry also offers Free Shipping on orders over $50.00:


George Washington National Forest Management Plan Released for Comment

Earlier in the week, the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the release of the Draft Forest Land and Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) for public review and comment. The Plan will guide forest management activities on the 1.1 million acre forest for the next 15 years. The Plan is the result of a collaborative effort between National Forest managers, partner agencies such as the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, conservation organizations, and interested members of the public. The draft documents are available here.

The forest faces many challenges relating to the development of surrounding lands and increasing demands for the multiple uses of the George Washington National Forest, which encompasses the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The proposed plan lays the foundation to address the ecological and social needs of forest stakeholders, while continuing the legacy of cooperatively protecting water and restoring forests that began a century ago with the Weeks Act. Management direction in the proposed plan addresses needs to: supply clean water, restore and maintain ecosystems, ensure forests are resilient to the stresses from climate change and urbanization, provide financially and ecologically sustainable access to the Forest, offer a diversity of recreation opportunities including remote settings, address energy development opportunities, and utilize best available science.

The Forest Service is scheduling public workshops in June and July where GWNF staff can answer questions about the draft documents, stakeholders can interact with Forest staff and other stakeholders to seek ways to modify the draft Forest Plan, and written comments can be submitted. The Forest website will announce the dates, times and locations of these workshops.

The proposed revised forest plan would:

* Sustain streams and protect water quality benefiting drinking water, aquatic biodiversity and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

* Restore diversity and habitats for species requiring grassy openings and open woodlands through the fire and timber programs and treatment of non-native invasive species. Currently mature and older aged forests are well represented; young forests and open woodland conditions are lacking.

* Reduce vulnerability to climate change and impacts from development of adjoining lands by maintaining and restoring resilient native ecosystems, restoring watershed health, reducing existing stresses like non-native species, and engaging in partnerships across landscapes and ownerships.

* Ensure that 80% of the most remote settings on the GWNF retain their remote character, prohibiting timber harvest and road construction with limited exceptions. One new area is recommended for a Wilderness Study Area designation and three other areas are recommended additions to existing Wilderness Areas, with all four areas totaling 20,000 acres.

* Identify a sustainable road system that anticipates the decommissioning of about 160 miles of road.

* Manage for sustainable recreation use of the GWNF.

* Make almost one million acres of the GWNF available for gas leasing with various levels of restrictions including a prohibition on horizontal drilling on all federal leases. The Plan allows consideration of wind energy development, but prohibits it on 450,000 acres of identified sensitive areas.

Written comments can be submitted to:

George Washington National Forest
Forest Plan Revision
5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019

Comments can be emailed to: comments-southern-georgewashington-jefferson@fs.fed.us.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Appalachian Bear Rescue Video

Within the last couple of weeks Appalachian Bear Rescue has launched a new Youtube Channel containing several new bear related videos - as one might expect! Appalachian Bear Rescue, located just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rehabilitates orphaned and injured bears for release into the wild.

Below is a video of Easter, a malnourished and severely dehydrated cub when found and brought into ABR last month. Easter arrived at ABR weighing just 3 pounds, 8 ounces, instead of a more normal 10 pounds for her age.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Search In Progress For Missing Man in Smokies

Rangers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have begun a search for a North Carolina man who was reported missing on April 27th. Searchers are also asking that anybody who may have seen Christopher Lee Cessna, 45, during the last three weeks, whether in the park or elsewhere, to contact the park.

Cessna was reported missing to the Cary, NC Police Department on April 27th. They then issued a missing person report, but it wasn’t sent to the park because family members had no reason to suspect that he would go there. The park learned that Cessna was missing when they checked the license plate of Cessna’s 2009 Audi, which may have been parked at Newfound Gap Parking area for weeks. The popular Appalachian Trail crosses the park at Newfound Gap, so it’s common for vehicles to be left there for weeks at a time.

Rangers are mounting a search radiating out from Newfound Gap along the Appalachian Trail and connecting trails. They are looking for clues of somebody having gotten off the trail and are checking the logs at the shelters for any entries related to Cessna.

Cessna reportedly had been despondent and a handgun he owned could not be found at his residence, so there are concerns that he may have planned to take his life. Cessna is 45 years old, white, 5’10” tall and weighs 230 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes and a fair complexion. Anyone who may have seen him is asked to call Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 865-436-1230.


Fish and Wildlife Service Unveils National Plan to Combat Deadly White-Nose Syndrome

Yesterday, the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a national management plan to address the threat posed by white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than a million hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was discovered near Albany, New York in 2006.

“Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and economic impacts,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about the disease, but there is much more work to be done to contain it. This national plan provides a road map for federal, state, and tribal agencies and scientific researchers to follow and will facilitate sharing of resources and information to more efficiently address the threat.”

The National Plan for Assisting States, Tribes and Federal Agencies in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats provides a coordinated national management strategy for investigating the cause of the syndrome and finding a means to prevent the spread of the disease. The service considered approximately 17,000 comments received on the draft plan made available to the public in October 2010.

Since the syndrome was first documented, the service has been leading a national response that now includes more than 100 state and federal agencies, tribes, organizations and individuals.

Interior Department agencies have invested more than $10.8 million in this effort since 2007. This includes more than $3 million in research funding that is supporting ongoing research projects looking for methods to control or cure the disease.

For example, researchers working with the U.S. Geological Survey have identified Geomyces destructans, a fungus new to science, as the presumed causative agent.

In addition to research, the national response has also developed decontamination protocols to reduce the transmission of the fungus, surveillance strategies, and technical white-nose syndrome diagnostic procedures.

Bat populations are at risk in some areas of the country as a result of white-nose syndrome. Ecologists and natural resource managers are concerned because of the critical role that bats play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and in agricultural systems. A recent analysis published in Science magazine’s Policy Forum showed that pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year.

The national plan’s release coincides with the fourth annual WNS Symposium to be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, May 17-19. More than 170 of the world’s top scientific experts on bats, wildlife disease, and the WNS fungus will present the latest research and information on how to contain the spread, determine the cause, and hopefully find a cure for WNS.

State, federal and tribal land managers will also discuss the national response to WNS and implementation teams will formalize work plans as part of a more detailed implementation strategy.

The final document and additional information about WNS are available here.

In 2009, the Great Smoky Mountains closed all of its 16 caves and two mine complexes to public entry. In the winter of 2010, two little brown bats in a park cave tested positive for the WNS fungus. Earlier in the year, the park produced a video that describes park bat and cave resources, and the potential threat posed by the often fatal disease to its bat populations.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Trails Day Events

On June 4th is National Trails Day, a celebration of trails that evolved from Ronald Reagan's 1987 report, President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, that recommended that all Americans be able to go out their front doors and within fifteen minutes, be on trails that wind through their cities or towns and bring them back without retracing steps.

Across the country, in just a couple of weeks, will be hundreds of opportunities to participate in this years' event. Below are some of the events in and around the Great Smoky Mountains:

Smokies: Crews and volunteers will be making improvements on A.T. sections between The Boulevard Trail and Silers Bald.

Big South Fork: Crews will do repair and rehabilitation work on trails.

Roan Mountain: A birding, nature and history-related hike on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Trail Building Work Day near Asheville and Waynesville.

Appalachian Trail: Invasive Plant Removal near Robbinsville with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Swag: Guided hike along the trails on The Swag property, and the adjoining Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To see all the events associated with National Trails Day, please click here.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trails Forever Presentation Rescheduled

Last month I posted a blog about the Trails Forever Presentation that was to be given by the Friends of the Smokies at the REI store in Asheville. For whatever reason, the original date for that event has been cancelled, with the rescheduled date now being June 22nd.

The presentation will provide an overview of the "Trails Forever" trail-care program, and how rangers and volunteers are making great things happen in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Trails Forever is a unique opportunity for anyone who loves the Smokies and its trails to contribute to its lasting preservation - through donation or volunteer time ("sweat equity"). In conjunction with the presentation is a volunteer workday in the Smokies, now rescheduled for July 9th. REI and volunteers will be working with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trail Crew to improve drainage and trail tread. More details will be provided at the presentation.

The Friends presentation will be from 7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m., and is free. For more information, please click here.


Cosby in the Park Festival

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced the annual “Cosby in the Park” festival to be held on Saturday, May 21, at the Park’s Cosby Campground. “Cosby in the Park”, in its 12th year, is presented by the Cocke County Partnership, Great Smoky Mountains Association, and the Park. The event celebrates the cultural heritage of this area and highlights the many recreational opportunities available in the Cosby section of the Park. The event is free to the public and is scheduled between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

“Each year we take this opportunity to celebrate the life and culture of the people who lived in this area,” said Kent Cave, Supervisory Ranger at Sugarlands Visitor Center. “We are looking forward to another year of music, cultural demonstrations and fellowship in Cosby during this beautiful season,” he said. The festivities take place in the campground amphitheater and picnic area, both located along the Cosby Campground entrance road. Free parking for attendees will be provided in campground Loop B.

A full day of activities is planned that include Southern Appalachian music, hikes, and demonstrations on local history, blacksmithing, quilting, corn shuck dolls and crafts, old time toys, natural foods and medicinal plants, and other folk arts. Sack races and other games and crafts are planned for children and families to enjoy.

This year there will be some additional focus on the Civil War sesquicentennial with a history talk at 12:30 pm. “As the country begins to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War we are pleased to have noted Cocke County historian Duay O’Neil presenting on the topic again this year,” Cave said.

The scheduled activities are:

Amphitheater Stage (Allan Goss, Master of Ceremonies):

•10 am - 11 am: Lost Mill String Band
•11am - 11:30 am: Honoring of the Carver Family
•11:30 am - 12:30 pm: Mountain Strings
•12:30 pm - 1:00 pm: Duay O'Neil: Civil War in the Cosby Area
•1:00pm -2:00 pm: Boogertown Gap Band
•2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Steve Mayfield and Susie Reynolds
•3:00 pm - 4:00 pm: The Green Family Band


•Seeking Edible and Medicinal Plants along the Cosby Nature Trail, 1.5 miles moderate, 11:30 pm – 1:30 pm, Ila Hatter (meet at amphitheater area)

•Hike to Ella V. Costner Grave. 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm. Moderate in difficulty. Meet at Cosby picnic area pavilion. Leaders: Shane and Judy McGaha/Alma Williamson

For more information on additional events and activities, please click here.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Foxfire Hikes at Anna Ruby Falls

Is it magic? An unexplainable scientific phenomen? Join Chattahoochee National Forest rangers at Anna Ruby Falls in North Georgia tomorrow night (and next Tuesday) to view the bioluminescence more commonly referred to as “Foxfire”. Hikers will walk up to the waterfall for nighttime viewing, and then back down the trail to view the magical foxfire.

Bring a flashlight, and wear comfortable shoes, as the hike is approximately one mile round trip.


Tuesday, May 17
Tuesday, May 24

Cost is $3.00 per adult and $1.00 for children under age 10.

To Pre-register (registration required), call (706) 878-1448. Gate opens at 8:30 pm.

In the event of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled.


CLIF Bar's Meet the Moment

CLIF Bar has launched an exciting new campaign today called Meet the Moment.

Meet the Moment is about supporting the pursuit of athletic adventure, and the lifestyles and communities that come with it. Whether it's action, adventure, or the thrill of the chase, CLIF Bar wants to know how you Meet the Moment.

To take part, all you need to do is upload photos and share your stories on how you Meet the Moment at www.MeettheMoment.com.

As part of the campaign, after creating your first Moment, CLIF Bar will donate $5 to one of five non-profit projects - each one focused on protecting the Places we Play - the places we Meet the Moment. If CLIF Bar collects 10,000 Moments, they'll double the contribution dedicated to each project! And every time you upload a new Moment, you'll have a chance to win your next big adventure - like trekking the Amazon or chasing the Tour de France - it's completely up to you! There will be 3 lucky winners in all.

Additionally, your photos may serve as an inspiration to others and will help to show how much beauty there is among the Places we Play.

The campaign ends on July 31st, and the winners will be selected in September. Donations will be made to the Access Fund, International Mountain Biking Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Leave No Trace, and Surfrider. For more information, and to enter, please click here.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shenandoah National Park Announces 2011 Resource Seminar Series

Shenandoah National Park has announced its Resource Seminar Series for the park's 75th Anniversary celebration in 2011. Resource Seminars provide participants with the opportunity to get to know their national park a little more personally through hands-on opportunities and field experience. They provide a more in-depth experience to learn from scientists, researchers, educators, and other experts about resource issues and recreational opportunities in Shenandoah National Park. This year’s seminars include:

Hiking With Children: Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Basics of Family Camping: an overnight event on Saturday and Sunday, July 16–17, 2011

“Family Hiking: Hiking With Children” features Jeff Alt, noted author of A Walk for Sunshine and A Hike for Mike. Jeff will explain how to keep your children interested, entertained, and safe when hiking together. Jeff will provide tips on essential gear, types of clothing, trip planning, food, hydration, safety, how to keep the kids entertained, and on how families with children can experience nature together using the trails in Shenandoah National Park. The “Hiking With Children” seminar is free with your paid entrance into the park.

“The Basics of Family Camping” participants will camp overnight with park rangers and expert campers and learn basic camping skills. Gain practical knowledge which you can employ to plan your own family camping adventures. Camping equipment and food are provided for this overnight campout and includes optional hiking and exploring opportunities.

Advance reservations are required and space is limited. To register, visit the Shenandoah National Park’s website. For more information, contact the park’s Education Office at 540-999-3500, ext. 3489.


The Salamander Capital of the World

Next Saturday, May 21st, join the Great Smoky Mountains Association and former park ranger Carey Jones for a Salamander Foray in "The Salamander Capital of the World".

Meet at Sugarlands Visitor Center at 10 a.m. The program will take place on the Ash Hopper Branch Trail across from the RV parking lot.

The cost is $10 for adults, but children under 12 are free. Call 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

AASHTO Approves New U.S. Bicycle Routes Across America

Earlier this week the Adventure Cycling Association and the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) announced that AASHTO’s Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering has approved of six new U.S. Bicycle Routes (USBR):

USBR 1 in Maine and New Hampshire

USBR 20 in Michigan

USBR 8, 95, 97, and 87 in Alaska

These are the first official U.S. Bicycle Routes to be established since 1982.

The Adventure Cycling Association's blog also announced that Virginia has submitted changes to their existing USBR 1 and USBR 76. Originally approved in 1982, these routes are now being updated with minor adjustments to roads with better accommodations. This blog posting also contains maps of the six new USBR's.

When complete, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will be the largest official bike route network on the planet, encompassing more than 50,000 miles of routes.

For more details on the new additions, please click here. You can also click here for an overview map of the entire U.S. Bicycle Route system.


Join the Konnarock Trail Crew this summer

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is looking for volunteers to work and play in the backcountry on its Konnarock Trail Crew. Konnarock, the ATC flagship crew, tackles projects involving trail construction and rock work between the Trail’s Southern terminus, Springer Mountain Georgia and Shenandoah National Park: just over half of the Appalachian Trail. The program runs Wednesday to Monday evenings each week starting May 12 through Aug. 15.

Trail Crew volunteers are provided with food, transportation, lodging, tools, equipment and the opportunity to have a lot of fun. It’s free of charge and no experience is necessary, only the willingness to work hard and get dirty. You will meet people of all ages, from all walks of life, from all over the country and around the world.

Trail work is hard, physical labor. Trail construction involves working with a team of like-minded volunteers using hand tools. Crews work eight-hour days, rain or shine, hot or cold. They set up and live in a primitive campsite near the project site. Everyone, 18 or older, and of all backgrounds is welcome. Enthusiasm, good health, physical vigor, and adaptability are essential.

In addition to other projects this summer, the Konnarock Trail Crew will be working on relocation projects in the Roan Highlands and at Fontana Lake.

The Smokies Wilderness Elite A.T. Crew (SWEAT) is also recruiting for volunteers this summer. SWEAT is something completely different from other ATC volunteer Trail crews. The SWEAT Crew focuses on performing basic maintenance such as cutting back vegetation, removing blowdown, and clearing waterbars. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) SWEAT Crew is a mobile crew, carrying all food, tools and camping gear into the heart of the largest and most beautiful wilderness area in the east, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Spots on both crews are still available, but they’re quickly filling up! To become a part of the action, call 540-953-3571 or e-mail crews@appalachiantrail.org.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogs are back up and running!

In case you're wondering what happened to this blog, and blogs all over the world for that matter, here's a statement from Blogger (Google):

What a frustrating day. We’re very sorry that you’ve been unable to publish to Blogger for the past 20.5 hours. We’re nearly back to normal — you can publish again, and in the coming hours posts and comments that were temporarily removed should be restored. Thank you for your patience while we fix this situation. We use Blogger for our own blogs, so we’ve also felt your pain.

Here’s what happened: during scheduled maintenance work Wednesday night, we experienced some data corruption that impacted Blogger’s behavior. Since then, bloggers and readers may have experienced a variety of anomalies including intermittent outages, disappearing posts, and arriving at unintended blogs or error pages. A small subset of Blogger users (we estimate 0.16%) may have encountered additional problems specific to their accounts. Yesterday we returned Blogger to a pre-maintenance state and placed the service in read-only mode while we worked on restoring all content: that’s why you haven’t been able to publish. We rolled back to a version of Blogger as of Wednesday May 11th, so your posts since then were temporarily removed. Those are the posts that we’re in the progress of restoring.

Again, we are very sorry for the impact to our authors and readers. We try hard to ensure Blogger is always available for you to share your thoughts and opinions with the world, and we’ll do our best to prevent this from happening again.

Posted by Eddie Kessler, Tech Lead/Manager, Blogger


2011 Roan Mountain Goat Sitting Schedule

Grassy balds in the Great Smoky Mountains, such as Gregory and Andrews, require occasional mowing in order to prevent trees from reclaiming the open meadows. On Roan Mountain, however, they use goats!

For the last three years scientists have been testing the use of goats as a measure for keeping the more than 1000 acres of grassy balds in tact.

Known as the “Baa-tany Goat Project,” the goats are surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence from late June thru early September. The enclosure covers a one-half to one acre plot, and is moved every week or two as the goats deplete the vegetation growth.

As you might assume, the Baa-tany Goat Project requires herders to oversee the goats. Here’s where you can help, while at the same time, enjoy a completely unique camping experience. The Baa-tany Project needs volunteers to help oversee the goats throughout the summer. There are still a handful of weekends available if you would like to lend a hand. Once the weekend schedules are full, they'll begin seeking volunteers for weekday shifts. For more information, please click here.

Below is a video that provides an overview of the project:


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hiking and backpacking in the Red River Gorge

“The amount of use in the Red per square foot far exceeds most other national forest units and is actually on par with most national park units,” says Charlie Rowe, a forest service ranger who leads a volunteer maintenance crew inside the Red.

Last week I posted a blog about our recent hike along the Auxier Ridge Trail in the Red River Gorge. Coincidentally, in the latest issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, is a feature article about the Gorge, The mag provides a good overview of the national geological area in eastern Kentucky, and includes recommendations for day hiking and backpacking to some of the best destinations in the Red.

I thought the quote from the article (italicized above) offered a pretty interesting stat that I had never heard. The statistic is even more amazing when you consider that the Gorge was almost destroyed by the Army Corp of Engineers in the early 1960s. In order to stop the periodic flooding of towns downstream, the Corp proposed to build a dam that would've transformed the Gorge into a large lake. The battle to "Save the Red River Gorge" lasted for decades, and included a Dam Protest Hike on November 18, 1967. Participating in this hike was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, which helped to draw national attention to the situation.

The battle to save the Gorge was effectively won when the Red River was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River on December 3, 1993.

You can read the full BRO article by clicking here.

For more information about the Gorge, please click here.


Tips for crossing streams and rivers

Over the weekend the folks over at Trailspace.com published an excellent article offering tips for crossing streams and rivers.

As most of you are probably already well aware, there are numerous streams that hikers must cross in the Great Smokies. Many have footbridges, while others require just a step over to reach the other side. However, the Park has this warning on their website that you should keep in mind:

River levels can rise rapidly after a heavy rainfall. A localized thunderstorm dumping rain far upstream on the park's highest peaks can create sudden and unexpected flood conditions at lower elevations. You may not even have felt a raindrop!

After reading the Trailspace.com article, make sure to read the comments from the other readers who provide some additional tips that may be useful - should you ever be in the situation.

For those hikers that enjoy exploring some of the less traveled paths in the Smokies, Tom Dunigan has a list of trails in the Smokies that cross streams without the benefit of footbridges on his GSMNP Landforms website.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Big Brothers Big Sisters raffles cabin in Smokies

For the second year in a row, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina will be giving away a custom-built log cabin as part of its fundraising campaign this year. The grand prize in this years' raffle will be a fully furnished log home, located in Bryson City, North Carolina, near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The cabin is valued at more than $280,000!

The 2,000 square foot cabin has a hot tub, pool table, a sleeping loft, two bathrooms and a 1,400 square foot wraparound porch with majestic views overlooking the beautiful Deep Creek Valley.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is an organization that originated out of Cincinnati in 1904 to help children, between the ages of 6-14, by spending time with them in a one to one mentoring relationship.

Raffle tickets are priced at $100 each, with no more than 10,000 tickets being sold. Entrants may purchase as many available tickets as they like. The drawing for the prize will be July 4, 2011.

For more information, please click here.

This could be all yours:


NC State Parks Announces Mobile Phone Application for Park Visitors

A free mobile phone application with comprehensive information about North Carolina’s state parks has been introduced by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation in partnership with Friends of State Parks and ParksByNature Network, a developer of mobile, interactive networks.

The downloadable Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide for Apple iPod and iPhone and Adroid smartphones allows visitors to plan and explore state parks with details readily at hand about park locations, trails, facilities, reservations, events and special news alerts.

In addition, an upgraded “pro” version for iPod and iPhone offers GPS-aided, state-of-the-art navigation of state parks, storage of detailed topographic maps and enhanced interactive features. A similar upgraded version for Andrioid users is in development. A substantial portion of the annual subscription price for the upgraded versions will go to benefit the nonprofit Friends of State Parks.

Once downloaded, the quick-search information in the Park Ranger Mobile Tour Guide is accessible to smartphone users even when cell phone service is unavailable. This includes official park and campground maps plus details on natural features, activities, fees and regulations. A social networking tool allows users to share their state park experiences and photos in real time.

With the “pro” version and smartphone GPS technology, visitors can record hikes and mark waypoints, track plant and animal species, download maps and store them offline, keep track of friends and family members within a state park and send personal “alerts” to select contacts. A highlight is the ability to quickly share experiences with others on popular social media sites.

The Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide can be downloaded from the iTunes Store and Android’s Market or directly from the official stateparkapps.com website.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shortage of Freeze Dried Camp Food This Summer

Steven over at My Life Outdoors posted a report yesterday, that as a result of economic times and natural disasters, makers of freeze dried foods, like Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry, are currently experiencing shortages due to high demand. The shortages, according to his report, are likely to persist through the summer hiking season.

Steven even went so far as to check in with his local Mountain House retailer in Midland, Texas, and found the shelves bare.

But backpackers and campers don't despair, it looks like both REI and Amazonstill have plenty of freeze dried meals from which to choose from.


Two more trails closed in Smokies

In addition to the 7 trails that were closed last week, rangers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced the closure of two more trails as a result of the EF-4 tornado that ripped through the west end of Cades Cove on April 27th.

The damage from the storm resulted in more than 4,500 downed trees in the area.

The new closures include the Wet Bottoms Trail, and the Cooper Road Trail from the Beard Cane/Hatcher Mountain Trails junction to the Cades Cove Loop Road.

Here's the full list of trail and backcountry campsite closures:

• Backcountry Campsites 3, 11, 15

• Abrams Falls Trail

• Ace Gap Trail

• Beard Cane Trail

• Cooper Road Trail from the Beard Cane/Hatcher Mountain Trails junction to the Cades Cove Loop Road

• Hannah Mountain Trail is closed from Rabbit Creek Trail junction to Abrams Falls/Little Bottoms Trails junction.

• Hatcher Mountain Trail

• Little Bottoms Trail is closed from Campsite 17 to Abrams Falls/Hannah Mountain Trails junction

• Rabbit Creek Trail

• Wet Bottoms Trail

• All trails leaving from the Abrams Falls trailhead and Abrams Creek Ranger Station are closed to horse riding due to downed trees.

To view a map of the closed trails, please click here.

The park has stressed that no park roads are affected by the storm damage, and that the remainder of the park’s 800 miles of trails remain open. In the Cades Cove area visitors are encouraged to seek alternative trails. Access to Gregory Bald via Parson Branch Road is unaffected. Visitors can stop at any park visitor center for additional advice.


Damascus, VA Designated An Appalachian Trail Community

On May 14, 2011, as a part of the 25th annual Trail Days festival, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, and town leaders from Damascus will hold a ceremony celebrating their designation as the newest Appalachian Trail Community with a proclamation signing, speakers and presentation of town signs. Scheduled speakers include Mayor McCrady, Virginia Delegate Joe Johnson, Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Coordinator Mike “Wingheart” Wingeart, and others.

The Appalachian Trail Community designation program is a new program of the nonprofit managers of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.). Launched in 2010, this program recognizes communities for their part in promoting awareness of the A.T. as an important national and local resource. Towns, counties and communities along the A.T.’s corridor are considered assets by A.T. hikers, and many of these towns act as good friends and neighbors to the Trail.

The designation ceremony will take place at 12:30 pm at the Gazebo in the Damascus Town Park, following the Giddy Up Cloggers. Hiking groups and clubs are invited to gather around the stage with banners and flags to show support of Damascus during this special event. At the end of the ceremony, attendees will line up for the popular Hiker Parade, marching through downtown along the Appalachian Trail.

Trail Days, a multi-day festival attracting approximately 4,000 hikers and about 15,000 other visitors to Damascus each year, offers hiker workshops, hiker services, food, gear vendors and entertainment. Many events are family-oriented such as slide-show programs, outdoor activities, presentations, hiking seminars, movies, and musical concerts.

For over 50 years, volunteers from the MRATC, one of the ATC’s federation of 31 AT maintaining clubs from Georgia to Maine, have led the maintenance, management, and protection of the A.T. in the area, in cooperation with the ATC, the US Forest Service’s Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, and Grayson Highlands State Park. The club works closely with Damascus to make the most of this new program. They have helped design hiker brochures and work closely with local schools to get students on the Appalachian Trail.

I've never been to Trail Days, but Damascus is a very cool little town. I should also mention that the hike to Mt. Rogers is one of my all time favorite hikes.


Monday, May 9, 2011

National Trails Day in the Smokies

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Regional Office of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, are pleased to coordinate the Annual Appalachian Trail Work Day on National Trails Day, on Saturday, June 4, 2011. They invite you to participate in helping them to take care of the A.T. in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The A.T. Maintainers Committee of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have responsibility for seeing that the A.T. and its facilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are maintained on a continuing basis. With your help on National Trails Day, projects are completed that otherwise would not be accomplished.

This year, crews and volunteers will be working on A.T. sections between The Boulevard Trail and Silers Bald.

Registration for the event is $17.00. Registration fees are an important source of funds for trail improvements in the Smokies. You can receive a $2.00 discount if your registration is postmarked by May 16th. After May 16th, the fee is $17.00.

Please note that registering early helps the Crew Assignment Committee get workers placed in work groups, and increases your chance of being assigned to your hike/work preference. Workers will receive a commemorative t-shirt and a sack lunch.

Email Holly Scott at fotshb@bellsouth.net for more information, and to receive an application.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Outdoor events and festival calendar

Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has created a comprehensive database of many (if not all) of the outdoor events and festivals occurring in the Southern Appalachian region this summer. The database includes everything from music festivals, BBQ festivals, and beer and wine tastings, to hiking, mountain biking and water sport festivals.

Blue Ridge Outdoors' top 50 events are listed here. BRO also has a complete list of events in a calendar version.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park Contest

In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the park, the 75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park and the Surrounding Communities contest was launched this week. The contest consists of a game of questions about the park and its neighboring communities, and will provide an opportunity for visitors and residents alike to participate in the anniversary celebration, learn more about the area, and win valuable prizes.

Participants are encouraged to find answers to these questions by visiting the areas, searching the community and park websites, and contacting visitor centers.

A brochure was designed containing 75 questions about the park and the surrounding counties. To participate in the game, answer the questions, and then return the form to the park by November 1, 2011.

All participants submitting correctly completed entry forms will receive a certificate of participation, a specially designed decal, and will qualify for prize drawings in November. The Grand Prize will include a Shenandoah National Park Vacation Package for two at Skyland Resort, a limited edition print of the park signed and numbered by artist Kevin Adams, and a biplane ride for two over the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont of Virginia. Sixteen additional prize packages will also be awarded.

For more information about Shenandoah National Park’s 75th Anniversary and the 75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park and the Surrounding Communities contest, visit the anniversary website at www.celebrateshenandoah.org.

Completed forms should be mailed to:

Shenandoah National Park
Attn: 75 Reasons
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East
Luray, VA 22835


Emergency Survival Pack Essentials

Guest blog by Tom Huntington:

Spring is finally here! With prime summer hiking season just around the corner, now is a good time to check your gear for wear and tear, and to make sure your emergency survival pack still has all the essentials. Every outdoor enthusiast should know to bring an emergency survival pack and what items it should contain. Here are five basic things every survival pack of any size should include, no matter where you’re going.

1. A knife. A knife is one of the most versatile tools you can carry, and is one of the tools no wise outdoorsman would be caught without. A small folding knife is easy to pack, as it can either be placed in a pack or pocket, or clipped to your belt.

2. Water Proof Matches, lighters, fire-starters. One of the most important skills to have in the wilderness is to be able to start a fire. Bringing along a source of fire, or better yet, a few different ones, is absolutely essential.

3. First-aid supplies. Depending on how much space you have for this, be sure to at least include the basics: Bandages, disinfectant, insect repellant, and a pain-killer / anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin. Iodine pills are a good item to bring along as well for purifying water.

4. LED flashlight or headlamp. The brightest flashlights use LED bulbs. In an emergency situation at night, this can make all the difference. LED lights are also incredibly energy efficient, so an LED flashlight will last much longer when you need it.

5. Multi-tool. While almost all multi-tools include a folding knife, they also often include things such as saw blades, screwdrivers, can-openers, and other very useful tools in a convenient, compact unit. Having a multi-tool with you will greatly enhance your ability to tackle a wide range of tasks from repairing gear, to building a fire, to opening a can of food.

The idea of the emergency survival pack is to be able to cover your most basic needs: A fire starter for warmth, an LED flashlight for light, a knife or multi-tool for repairs, crafting items and obtaining food, and first aid supplies for injuries. While this certainly doesn’t cover everything that would be useful in an emergency situation, these items are good basics to start with, and should be at the core of even the smallest survival kit.

-- Tom Huntington writes about outdoor survival and emergency preparedness for the Coast Products website.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Over 4,500 trees down in Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains officials published a press release late yesterday reporting that a survey by trail workers shows that, as a result of last weeks' tornado, a total of over 4,500 trees are down in the closed sections of the park, with some areas resembling jackstraws for over a mile at a time.

Trail workers also counted over a thousand areas where trees were blown down and their roots tore gaps in the trail.

At this time, the full and partial closures of seven trails on the west end of the Smokies total roughly 27 miles.

The popular Abrams Falls Trail remains impassable due to numerous blow downs and over 40 areas where root balls were ripped out of the trail surface, leaving hot-tub sized craters. Park managers hope to have Abrams Falls Trail reopened by Memorial Day.

Below is a map of the affected trails. Please click for a larger view:

Park managers stress that no park roads are affected by the storm damage, and that the remainder of the park’s 800 miles of trails remain open. In the Cades Cove area visitors are encouraged to seek alternative trails. Access to Gregory Bald via Parson Branch Road is unaffected. Visitors can stop at any park visitor center for advice.

You may also want to note that the camping area and lower picnic area at the Horse Creek Recreation Area in the Cherokee National Forest are closed until further notice. The area received extensive tornado damage as well. Visitors are welcome to camp at Paint Creek or Rock Creek Recreation Areas.


The World's Oldest Cyclist Turns 103

Check out this video interview with Octavio Ordunez, likely to be the world's oldest cyclist, who turned 103 years of age this past March.

Despite the fact that his 81-year-old wife made him switch to a three wheel bike after he turned 100, Octavio still rides almost everyday - riding roughly 6 miles. During the interview Octavio offers a few tips for staying healthy, including eating an apple each day. I guess riding down to the beach everyday to see younger women in short skirts and pants couldn't hurt a man from keeping his health either.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Hiking Books for the Southern Appalachians

Below are four recently published hiking related books that might be of interest to you. Three of the books trail guides for various locations within the Southern Appalachian region, while the fourth provides tips for ultralight backpacking and camping.

Backpacking North Carolina: The Definitive Guide to 43 Can't-Miss Trips from Mountains to Sea

Author Joe Miller provides the first-ever stand-alone guidebook - for beginners and experts - to backpacking in North Carolina. The book covers 43 of the best trips the state has to offer, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, along the Appalachian Trail, on the NC side of the Smokies, as well as trails in the Piedmont and Coastal areas.

Each trip description offers key maps, elevation profiles and navigation information, including water sources and camping spots, as well as trip highlights and special considerations such as camping permit requirements. Miller offers tips for enriching the experience, such as filling dark nights with stargazing and other activities, and gives advice for backpacking with children.

Several "best-of" lists are also included, featuring trips with exceptional nature study opportunities, water recreation, fishing, bird watching, waterfalls, and easy excursions for beginners.

Ultralight Backpackin' Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping

Down-to-earth, short, and to-the-point, this book presents everything hikers and backpackers need to be safe, comfortable, and well fed while carrying a very small and lightweight pack.

Author Mike Clelland is famous in the ultralight backpacking community for his no-nonsense approach to gear lists. He has decades of experience in taking beginners out on the trail through his work with Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking School, and as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Clellend is also an illustrator who does humorous and instructional cartoons for books and magazines with a focus on camping, skiing, and climbing.

Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia

Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia includes 60 hikes to more than 200 waterfalls in the mountains of north Georgia. With each hike, ranging from an easy stroll to 12+ miles, Jim Parham provides directions to the trailhead, a general route desciption, mile-by-mile hiking directions, GPS coordinates, map and elevation profile, as well as photographs of the waterfall(s) to be seen. Waterfalls range from popular destinations like Raven Cliffs Falls or Anna Ruby Falls, to major rapids like Bull Sluice and the remote cascades at Three Forks. Parham also provides natural and historical background for the trails that wend through the north Georgia area.

Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park

This is the updated and revised 4th edition, featuring twenty-eight of the best short hikes in Shenandoah National Park. From half-hour strolls to full-day adventures - all along Skyline Drive - this pocket-sized handbook includes photos, maps, GPS coordinates and detailed directions for each hike.


Judge awards $1.9M to family of boy killed by bear

On Tuesday of this week a federal judge awarded nearly $2 million to the family of Samuel Ives, an 11-year-old boy killed in 2007 by a black bear in the American Fork Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah. The boy was dragged from his tent and mauled by a bear on the night of June 17, 2007.

Ives’s mother and stepfather contend that their son was killed due to negligence on the part of the U.S. Forest Service. The bear that killed Sam had attacked another man 12 hours prior at the same campsite where Ives and his family were staying. According to the lawsuit, Forest officials searched for the bear after its first attack, but were unable to find it. Unfortunately they failed to issue a warning to other campers staying at the same campground.

The U.S. District Judge found that both federal and state government agencies, including the Forest Service, were liable for Ives’s death. The judge found the Forest Service to be 65% at fault for failing to warn the public about the potential safety risks of camping in the area. The Division of Wildlife Resources was found to be at 25% fault for its lack of communication with the Forest Service, and the family was deemed to be 10% at fault for leaving food wrappers and trash in their tent.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Forest Service was negligent to the tune of $2 million dollars? If these are punitive damages, who do they punish? Ultimately it is we tax payers who will be writing this check. Moreover, does this set a precedent where any accident, or anything that could potentially go wrong, become the focus of a lawsuit aimed towards national and state parks? Just as one example - does this mean that if there's snow on the ground, or if it's raining, that park rangers have a duty to warn all hikers that trails might be slippery?