Climber cited for disorderly conduct after abandoning climbing partner

Friday, September 30, 2011

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Grand Teton National Park rangers finalized an investigation stemming from a search and rescue response in August that was initiated by the activation of a SPOT rescue locator. Dave Shade, 33, from Missoula, Montana was issued a citation because his actions that day created a hazardous situation during a late-hour rescue operation to retrieve his stranded climbing partner, Jesse Selwyn of Florence, Michigan. Shade was charged with disorderly conduct.

On Friday, August 19, Shade and Selwyn intended to climb the Black Ice Couloir on the northwest side of the Grand Teton; however, the two climbers could not find the entrance to the couloir and got off route, ending up on the Grandstand. After an extended discussion about how to proceed, Selwyn informed Shade that he felt he was unable to continue. Selwyn said that he believed he would become injured or die if he attempted to retrace the route they had come. He then told Shade that he was going to call for a rescue by activating the SPOT rescue locator that he was carrying. Until that time, Shade did not know that Selwyn was carrying the device.

Selwyn then activated the device and Grand Teton National Park Rangers were notified. After rangers hovered over the scene in a Teton Interagency helicopter and Selwyn signaled that he desired a rescue, Shade told Selwyn that he (Shade) did not need to be rescued. Further discussion ensued and ultimately, Shade left with the party's climbing rope, made four rappels and then began to retrace his route to the Valhalla Traverse. Shade made this decision before confirming that rangers were indeed going to return to rescue Selwyn.

The citation was issued because Shade assumed a rescue would occur and left his partner, taking their only climbing rope. Shade's decision created a hazardous condition for Selwyn, since at this point there was no guarantee of rescue. Selwyn was reached by Rangers that night, and was extracted via short-haul with darkness imminently approaching.

Wow, the citation seems a little harsh in my opinion. Maybe Dave Shade can be accused of acting a little irresponsibly, but I'm sure the only reason he proceeded with his actions is because he was 100% sure that his partner was going to be rescued at that point. If a SAR helicopter hadn't showed up, then yes, by all means, throw the book at him.

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Two Men Plead Guilty To Ginseng Poaching on BRP

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Blue Ridge Parkway Rangers conducting surveillance on August 27th near an area known for ginseng poaching saw a man dressed in camouflage in the woods. The man, identified as Brian Witherel of Fletcher, North Carolina, admitted to digging ginseng and was found to have 21 roots in his possession.

A second surveillance operation at another site known for ginseng poaching, this one on September 17th, led to a contact with Gregory Grycki of Asheville, North Carolina, who had 79 ginseng roots in his possession. Both were arrested.

Last week, each man appeared before a federal magistrate and entered a guilty plea. Witherel was sentenced to 11 days in jail and Grycki received 25 days in jail. The current price for ginseng in western North Carolina ranges from $410 to $425 for dry ginseng and $110 for green ginseng. Rangers also determined that Witherel had sold 16.6 pounds of dry ginseng and 3.5 pounds of green ginseng in 2008 for an estimated return, based on the market at the time, of over $10,000.

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Deep Creek Waterfalls and Wildflowers

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The Great Smoky Mountains Association presents: "Deep Creek Waterfalls and Wildflowers." In this video, the GSMA visits three waterfalls in the Deep Creek area: Juney Whank, Indian Creek, and Toms Branch Falls:

© GSMA 2011. All rights reserved.

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Andrews Bald Hike with the GSMA

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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Fantastic views and gorgeous fall colors await those hiking to Andrews Bald!

Join the Great Smoky Mountains Association and naturalist Liz Domingue on Saturday, October 8th for a 3.6 mile round-trip hike to Andrews Bald, one of the park's most picturesque destinations. This trail was one of the first to be improved in the park under the Trails Forever program.

Plan on packing a light lunch to enjoy at the bald while taking in the breathtaking colors of Autumn in the vast panorama.

As always, wear good hiking boots (the trail is rocky with a steep downhill section), bring water and rain gear. Though considered an easy hike, a hiking stick might be advisable also to help steady yourself as you traverse the rocks.

Meet Liz at the Clingmans Dome parking lot at 9:00 a.m. for what should prove to be a true Smokies experience!

Reservations are required and limited to 20 participants. A fee of $10 per adult will cover the cost of the presenter. Children under 12 are free. Call 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.

For more detailed information on the hike to Andrews Bald, please click here.

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Appalachian Bear Rescue Presentation

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The latest edition of the Cub Report from the Great Smoky Mountains Association is announcing that Appalachian Bear Rescue will be at Gatlinburg Welcome Center on Saturday, October 15. They will present educational information about black bears in the Smokies, and answer your questions from 10 to 3 p.m.

The Gatlinburg Welcome Center is located at 520 Parkway in Gatlinburg.

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Glacier’s Historic Winter

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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The winter of 2010/2011 was an historic one for Glacier National Park. A park press release at the end of April reported that USGS snow surveys measured 106 inches of snow on the ground at the 5,900 foot level near Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A whopping 166 inches were recorded at the 7,000 foot level!

All that snow resulted in the latest opening date ever for the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road, which tops out at Logan Pass at an elevation of 6646 feet, didn’t open until July 13th this year. The prior record for the latest opening date was set in 1953 when the road didn’t open until June 24th.

Here are two NPS photos showing the massive plowing project on the Going-to-the-Sun Road this past spring. Would you want this job?

All that snow resulted in a couple of historic avalanches.

One avalanche that received quite a bit of notoriety delivered a serious blow to the historic Sperry Chalet. The backcountry hotel, accessed only by a 6-mile hike, sustained a fair amount of damage, and resulted in a truncated tourist season this summer.

The avalanche slid off Lincoln Peak sometime during midwinter and plowed into the south end of the stone dormitory building. Snow and debris damaged the roof, broke a door, took off some shutters, and blew open windows. Four rooms on the interior were completely filled with snow. The damage delayed the opening, and forced an early summer closure as crews worked to complete repairs before another winter set in.

Here's what the chalet looked like in April in this NPS photo:

Here's what it looked like during our visit in mid-August:

Just a hundred feet up slope from the chalet the remains of the avalanche were still on display. Notice how most of the trees are still bent or were snapped off:

Another significant avalanche occurred on the other side of Gunsight Pass, not far from Sperry. The avalanche, just below Gunsight Lake, resulted in hundreds of trees being snapped off only a couple feet above the ground. We hiked this trail in September and had to bushwhack through a section of trail, more than a tenth of a mile long, that was choked with dead trees and crushed willows. Underneath the debris, still at this late date, were several feet of packed snow and ice.

While climbing through the debris I noticed this ice bridge:

I’m not sure how long it will take the park to clear the obstruction, but it’s likely to be there for awhile. As a result of heavy lingering snow, the trail over Gunsight Pass was not even expected to open in 2011.

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Timberland Hiking Boots Giveaway

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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What’s your favorite fall hike and why?

All you have to do is answer that question and you could win a new pair of Timberland hiking boots. will give away a pair of Men's Timberland Mountain Athletics Cadion 2.0, or the Women’s White Ledge Waterproof Hiker, to the person who can provide the best answer to the above question in the comments section of their blog posting from yesterday.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 10, 2011.

Good Luck!

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Blue Ridge Parkway

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Every weekend this October, the Blue Ridge Parkway invites the public to join the celebration at Mabry Mill where free special programs will highlight the area.

Fall Gathering Days will happen on October 8, 15, and 22 from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Wood smoke and the smell of apple butter boiling signal fall. Come help with chores associated with the fall season, like making apple butter and making and drying fruits and vegetables. See other chores common to the area in the early 1900s such as wheel-making, chair-making, basket-making, and fiber arts demonstrations.

Mabry Mill, as always, will have traditional string band music of the Carroll, Patrick, and Floyd County areas each Sunday afternoon through October 23 from 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM. Enjoy the Blue Ridge Thunderbirds (October 2), Mountain Ivy (October 9), South Fork Ramblers (October 16), Mountain Ivey (October 24). Bring a lawn chair and your flat footin' shoes.

Corn grinding and mill talks take place each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM.

Building a water-powered mill was Ed Mabry's dream, and he accomplished it in innovative ways. Learn about this icon of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the role the mill and the Mabrys played in the community. See the grist mill in operation.

The Mabry Mill Restaurant and Gift Shop is open 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM daily through the end of October. Local authors will be signing books on October 15 & 22 and a Halloween "party" with ghosts, goblins, and special treats will happen on that day. Enjoy the fall color "special" of chicken pot pie, spiced apples, fried green tomatoes, and coffee or tea for $6.95 through October.

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Astronomy Program at Big South Fork this Weekend

Monday, September 26, 2011

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Paul Lewis from the University of Tennessee and the Big South Fork astronomy volunteers will be at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on Saturday, October 1, 2011, for two special programs.

A telescope with a sun filter will be positioned in front of the Bandy Creek Visitor Center from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) to allow for solar viewing. Using special telescope filters allows us to safely view the sun without damaging our eyes. The sun should never be viewed without proper sun filters or permanent damage to the eyes may occur.

The cooler nights and clear skies of autumn make it a perfect time to observe the stars, planets, and deep space objects. On Saturday night at 8:30 p.m., Paul Lewis will describe which objects to look for in the night sky of October. This program will be held in the Bandy Creek Visitor Center parking lot across from the Visitor Center. Telescopes will be available for night sky observation after the presentation. You may want to bringa blanket or chair with you for comfortable seating. These programs are free and all are invited to attend.

In the event of rain or inclement weather, the evening program will be moved indoors to the building next to the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, and night sky observation with the telescopes will be cancelled. For additional information or questions, please call the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275.

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The Appalachian Trail is Coming to Theaters this Fall

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This fall, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will be touring the east coast to showcase the National Geographic film – America’s Wild Spaces: the Appalachian Trail. This limited engagement is part of the ATC’s 2011 membership drive and is expected to draw in over 1,400 viewers.

The film highlights the beauty and splendor of the Appalachian Trail. National Geographic takes viewers off their seats to discover the remote and often unknown corners of this 5-million-step journey.

During this event, attendees will have the opportunity to speak with a 2,000 miler (someone that has walked the entire estimated 2,180 miles of the A.T.) as well as meet the staff of the ATC to learn more about their programs and initiatives. At select locations, individuals highlighted in the National Geographic film will also be present for questions and comments.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is excited to present this film on the big screen,” stated Steve Paradis, Chief Operating Officer of the ATC. “This event provides the public an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Appalachian Trail and how to get involved with the Conservancy through our membership and volunteer programs.”

The tour will be making its only appearance in the Smokies region on November 19th, in Asheville, NC.

With a suggested donation of $30.00, attendees can reserve their seats by visiting - which includes a new membership or gift membership to the ATC. Every dollar raised goes to support the ATC and maintainer club efforts to conserve the footpath, viewsheds, and environmental and cultural resources along the A.T.

Event Highlights:

• Admission to view the National Geographic film - American’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail

• Chance to meet the hikers that were highlighted in the documentary (*at select locations only)

• Interact with a 2,000 miler

• 1 year membership to the ATC

• Subscription to A.T. Journeys, the official magazine of the ATC

• ATC decal and patch

Dates, Show Times, and Locations:

San Marco Theatre
1996 San Marco Blvd
Jacksonville, FL
October 29, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm

Midtown Arts Cinema
931 Monroe Drive
Atlanta, GA
November 3, 2011 from 7:30pm - 9:00pm

Movieland at Boulevard Square
1301 North Boulevard
Richmond, VA
November 5, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm

AMC Theatres
234 West 42nd Street
New York, NY
November 12, 2011 from 11:00am - 12:30pm

Colonial Park 4
5111 Jonestown Rd
Harrisburg, PA
November 13, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm

National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV
November 17, 2011 from 7:30pm – 9:00pm

The Carolina Asheville
1640 Hendersonville Rd
Asheville, NC
November 19, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm

To reserve your seat or for more information, please click here.

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Majestic Many Glacier

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I think most people would likely agree that Many Glacier is the most snenic area in Glacier National Park. Several of the most memorable hikes in the park begin from this valley.

Many people experience the grandeur of Many Glacier for the first time from the parking lot above the historic Many Glacier Hotel:

From there you can take an easy stroll around Swiftcurrent Lake. It's quite common to see bears and moose in this area:

Iceberg Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier. Below is Kathy as we approach the Ptarmigan Wall, an arête, or thin ridge of rock separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers:

Of course you can't name a lake "Iceberg Lake" if you don't have any icebergs floating around. Compared to our visits in 1998 and 2004, this was by far the most ice we've seen in the lake (all three visits occurred in early September):

The other extremely popular hike in Many Glacier is the one to Grinnell Glacier. The 300-acre glacier sits below Mt. Gould and the Continental Divide:

Due to the glacier retreating in recent decades, the melting ice has created a new lake next to the glacier:

Although not quite as popular as Iceberg and Grinnell Glacier, the hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel is one that should not be passed up. The highlight of the hike is passing through the 240-foot tunnel, which cuts a hole through the Ptarmigan Wall. The tunnel was built for horses and early park tours by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's, so that visitors could pass over into the remote Belly River area.

After hiking all day in the Many Glacier Valley, walking to the other side of the tunnel is like walking into another world. Just beyond the tunnel the trail hugs the red rock cliffs below Crowfeet Mountain:

The views from the other side are simply stunning. You can see Old Sun Glacier on the slopes of Mt. Merritt, Natoas Peak, and the Belly River as it flows into Elizabeth Lake more than 2300 feet below you:

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CLIF Bar's Day of Action

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Some of you may recall CLIF Bar's Meet the Moment campaign from this past spring. The Meet the Moment campaign encouraged people to post photos from their adventures, while helping to inspire others to get outside. In conjunction, CLIF Bar donated $5 to one of five non-profit projects - each one focused on protecting the "Places we Play".

We’re now excited to support them in helping to announce CLIF Bar’s Day of Action. On October 1st and 2nd, CLIF will team up with its five non-profit partners for five projects focused on Protecting the Places we Play.

Many of our most memorable Moments happen in the outdoors. That’s why CLIF Bar is committed to protecting and respecting the outdoor places where we play. We can make a real difference when we join others in taking big and small steps for the environment.

Join in CLIF Bar’s Day of Action by sharing how you make a positive impact in your community. Whether you bike to work or pick up trash on your local hiking trail, show how you take part! Go to CLIF Bar’s Facebook page to upload a photo and tell your story!

If you live near one of the five project areas, head on out and join in person to
help them come to life:

• Access Fund: National Climbing Access and Stewardship Summit – Golden, CO

• International Mountain Biking Association: Bike Skills Park & Trail Construction – Elkridge, MD

• Leave No Trace: Trail Building, Rocky Mountain National Park

• Surfrider Foundation: Pick Up Plastic to Help Keep our Oceans Clean – No matter where you live!

• Winter Wildlands Alliance: Help Protect Winter Ecosystems – Near Driggs and Island Park, ID

For more info and to register, you can go to

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New Segment Added to Overmountain Victory Trail

Saturday, September 24, 2011

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The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVNHT) and the Blue Ridge Parkway are pleased to announce the certification of a new segment of the OVNHT and to invite the public to join in a ceremony officially recognizing the designation on Thursday, September 29, 2011, at 3:00 p.m. at the Hefner Gap Overlook, Parkway milepost 326.

The OVNHT preserves and commemorates the route used by patriot militia in their 1780 campaign that led to victory over loyalist forces led by Major Patrick Ferguson at the key battle of Kings Mountain. Working with a variety of partners, the National Park Service (NPS), as administrating agency for the trail, continues to identify trail segments and open them up for public use. The newly opened 1.3-mile section of pathway is actually an original part of the route and is a roadbed that is centuries old.

On September 29, 1780, this section of historic roadway saw the passage of hundreds of patriot militia on horseback heading east through Hefner Gap and towards North Cove. Led by Colonels John Sevier and Issac Shelby, these Overmountain men had come from frontier settlements in present day east Tennessee some days previously. They would play a key role in the victory at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.

In 2008, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina was able to purchase the 534 acre Rose Creek tract, preserving land which borders the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as containing the newly certified OVNHT segment. In April of this year, the land was conveyed to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, which has worked with NPS officials to have the trail section certified.

The event is free and open to the public. Members of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association in period colonial dress will participate.

In the event of inclement weather, the program will be held at the nearby covered pavilion at the Historic Orchard at Altapass, located at Parkway milepost 328.3.

For further information, please contact OVNHT Superintendent, Paul Carson, at (864) 936-3477, or Blue Ridge Parkway Ranger, Jonathan Bennett, at (828) 765-1228.

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See John Muir "Live" in Waynesville

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Friends of the Smokies invites you to join them for an evening with John Muir, America’s wilderness adventurer and the man who played a crucial part in advocating the creation of our National Parks. The one-man performance will be played by acclaimed actor/storyteller Lee Stetson, on Saturday, October 15, 7:00 pm at Haywood Community College Beall Auditorium in Waynesville.

Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson will be on hand to greet guests. Attendees will be treated to a dessert reception during intermission.

Tickets for the event are: Advance $23, Door $27, Friends of the Smokies members $20, and Students $15.

Tickets may be purchased at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S Main St, Waynesville; by calling 828-452-0720; or on online.

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USDA Forest Service launches expanded Fall Colors 2011 website

Friday, September 23, 2011

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Just in time, Fall Colors 2011 is underway with the U.S. Forest Service leading the charge to urge people to get outdoors, spend time in rural communities, and enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular seasons.

For many rural communities, leaf peeping is a major source of revenue. Hotels, restaurants and local shops rely on the influx of dollars generated by the fall visitors.

From coast to coast, state and local economies are boosted because of the fall season. For example, the New England area receives an estimated $8 billion annually to local revenues. Throughout the Midwest, millions of visitors hit the road to enjoy the sights. In the West, the mountains provide destinations filled with tourists seeking a glimpse of shimmering gold aspens. Weather conditions in all areas impact peak viewing dates, so information provided on the Forest Service website will help visitors best plan their trips.

The agency’s revamped Fall Colors 2011 website includes clickable maps that link to forest-by-forest fall color information and to state tourism and fall color websites. Fall Colors 2011 also offers a variety of family activities such as coloring pages for kids, instructions on how to make a leaf book and links to a tree database. Photographs from visitors nationwide will be added to the site throughout the season.

Following tradition, the Forest Service has also turned on its Fall Colors Hotline: 1-800-354-4595. The hotline provides audio updates on the best places, dates and routes to take for peak viewing of fall colors on national forests.

In the Smokies:

In his latest report, Tom Harrington, a Park Naturalist and Volunteer with the Great Smoky Mountains Association, is predicting that the Smokies could have a favorable fall color season this year. However, due to reports from New England, this year’s colors may be relatively late across the Appalachians. You can read his full report by clicking here.

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Backpacking in the Linville Gorge

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Good video by Garrett Jones showing highlights from his 3-day, 25-mile backpacking trip in the Linville Gorge Wilderness:

Linville Gorge, NC 2010 from Garrett Jones on Vimeo.

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Glacier's High Country

Thursday, September 22, 2011

To see the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer you have to go deep into the high country. Fortunately, with more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, it's pretty easy to find a trail that offers mind blowing scenery.

Although not quite as popular as some of the other areas of the park, the Two Medicine area still provides some incredibly beautiful scenery. One of the best hikes in this area is Scenic Point. The rock outcropping that sits just above alpine tundra meadows, offers panoramic views of the Two Medicine Valley. On a clear day you can even see the Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains 90 miles away!

One of the most popular backcountry hikes in the Two Medicine area is the one up to Dawson Pass. Near the top a group of 9 or 10 bighorn sheep passed by us, no more than 20 yards away. As you can see, most of them were relatively young lambs. They stopped just long enough on this perch for a nice photo op:

Dawson Pass usually gets all the attention in Two Medicine. However, at least for me, I thought the views from Pitamakan Pass were much more dramatic. From the knife-edge pass you can see five lakes on either side of you. In this photo is the largest, Pitamakan Lake, sitting like a sapphire gem almost 800 feet below the pass:

This photo was also taken at Pitamakan Pass. The clouds above Rising Wolf Mountain were quite interesting:

One of my new favorite areas in Glacier is Preston Park, a large, incredibly beautiful alpine meadow, located in the valley between Mt. Siyeh and Matahpi Peak (near Logan Pass):

Of course one of the most popular hikes in Glacier is the Highline Trail. This world famous hike should be on the bucket list of any self respecting hiker. The views, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life. From Logan Pass, high adventure awaits right from the start. Hikers have to walk on a six-foot ledge for roughly a quarter of a mile. One false move and your next stop is on the pavement of the Going-To-The-Sun Road, more than hundred feet below:

99% of the Highline Trail passes through open country, so there's never any dull scenery:

The trail is famous for wildlife as well, especially bighorn sheep and mountain goats. This goat was sitting on a ledge right below the trail when we passed him:

Glacier is also famous for its two backcountry chalets, Sperry and Granite Park. Similar to the LeConte Lodge, the only way to reach these is by foot or horseback. The Granite Park Chalet can be reached via a 7.6 mile hike along the Highline Trail, or a 4.2 mile climb from The Loop area on the Going-To-The-Sun Road:

Get 30% Off All Patagonia Capilene Baselayers At Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). Use Coupon Code CAP30 At Checkout. Expires 9/30/2011. Coupon Code: CAP30

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Stargazing Program at Cades Cove

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park will offer a 2.5-hour stargazing program in Cades Cove on September 24 beginning at 7:30 p.m. in cooperation with the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society. Experienced astronomers and numerous telescopes will be on hand to provide a discovery of the autumn sky's position of stars, galaxies, and constellations, including the Milky Way. In case of rain or cloud cover where night skies are not visible, the program will be cancelled.

According to Park Ranger Mike Maslona, "It's a great opportunity to gaze at the star-studded sky without the obstruction of artificial light as seen in developed areas outside the Park. People will be amazed at the vast depths of this planetary world and all that they can see in the complete darkness. This program mixes astronomy, legends, and the beauty of the stars to create a worthwhile exploration into the wonders of the heavens."

Participants for the program should park near the exhibit shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road where a ranger will be to escort the group about one-third of a mile to a nearby field. Those planning to attend should dress warmly, and bring a flashlight and a lawn chair or blanket to sit on. Also, it is suggested to bring binoculars which can be used for stargazing.

For further information, call 865/448-4104; or if there is any uncertainty about whether the event will occur because of weather conditions, call the day of the event for its status.

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Newly Released Books for Hikers

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Below are four new hiking related books that you might be interested in. All have recently been published, or are due to be released shortly. Three of the titles are guides for trails within the Smoky Mountains region, while the fourth explains the ins and outs of hiking with children.

Tales From The Trails

Local hiker and author Barbara Davis relays her adventures in her brand new book, Tales From The Trails. In this 312-page book, Davis recounts the stories and some of her experiences during her quest to hike all of the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in the process, becoming a member of the prestigious 900 Club. The book also includes her experiences while hiking 362 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Fontana, NC to Marion, VA.

Five Star Trails: Knoxville

Veteran hiker and prolific author, Johnny Molloy, has a brand new release called Five Star Trails: Knoxville. In this new hiking guide, Molloy presents 40 of the best day hikes in the Knoxville area. In addition to a couple of hikes in the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Molloy covers trails in Frozen Head, Norris Dam, Big Ridge, and Panther Creek State Parks, as well as sections of the Cumberland Trail, a footpath that will eventually stretch 300 miles from Cumberland Gap to Chattanooga. He even covers a couple of hikes within the city of Knoxville itself.

Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads

Carolyn Sakowski's has just published her brand new third edition of Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads. The book offers 21 driving tours designed for those who wish to leave the interstate behind in favor of the peaceful two-lane highways that wind through the mountains of North Carolina. It's especially useful to those who want to see the leaves change colors in the countryside this fall, when the mountains come alive in a fiery display of red, orange, and gold. This new edition includes updated directions, new photographs, information about additional sites, and suggested spur trips, making it a truly comprehensive guide to North Carolina's mountain region and to the history and folklore that make the scenery come alive. Carolyn also provides information on some of the must-see hiking trails along her routes. Cyclists will also find this book useful as it can be used for trip planning as well.

Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids

Finally, for parents wishing to hike with their children, avid hiker and longtime journalist, Rob Bignell, offers readers a no-nonsense, informative guide to taking children on day hikes. Loaded with personal anecdotes and tips, “Hikes with Tykes” provides a step-by-step guide to everything an adult needs to know about hiking with children, including how to find kid-appropriate trails, keeping kids properly dressed, figuring out how much water and food to bring, preventing children from getting bored on the trail, how to treat injuries from blisters to broken bones, and much more.

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Lost! National Park Program to Help Children Learn Survival Techniques

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Daniel Boone would never admit to being lost - but did admit that he was "bewildered" once for several days when visiting an unfamiliar area. Unlike Boone, the average person of today would know nothing of the lifesaving tips they might need to survive being lost in the woods. On September 24th, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will host "Junior Rangers" as they learn secrets that Boone knew of survival and how to help themselves get found if ever lost in the wilderness!

Every year millions hike, canoe and simply wander into some of the most untouched and unspoiled wilderness areas America has to offer when they visit their national parks. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park's 85 miles of trails are used by thousands of visitors every year and periodically, rangers receive reports of missing hikers or lost children. One wrong turn or misread map can attribute to anyone being "bewildered," but when the visitor is a child, the situation can quickly become serious. Rangers are quite familiar with being sent to the backcountry of Cumberland Mountain to look for missing or lost hikers and sometimes these searches become true rescue missions as well.

Cumberland Gap Protection Ranger John Housch relates that many times visitors, especially children, when lost, will make decisions that make it difficult or impossible to find them, even though they are trying to be found! Search dogs, helicopters, bright flashlights and other search equipment can be alarming to a frightened child who may actually hide from the very people who are trying to save them! Ranger Housch invites parents to bring their children to this special Junior Ranger C.S.I. Program entitled Captive. Survival. Instincts. This special program will arm children with the tools to survive if they should ever become a "captive" of the wilderness!

The program will begin on Saturday, September 24th at 1:00 p.m. at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park visitor center. All are invited to join our Junior Ranger Corps during this exciting "ranger training"!

For additional information on Cumberland Gap National Historical Park's programs, please call 606-248-2817, extension 1075.

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Fee Free Day this Saturday at Big South Fork

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In honor of National Public Lands Day, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will offer free backcountry camping and free camping at Alum Ford Campground on Saturday, September 24.

National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands American's enjoy. The National Park Service has been participating in National Public Lands Day for more than three decades, and last year, 170,000 volunteers built trails and bridges and removed trash and invasive plants on public lands across the country.

For more information, you may call the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275, the Stearns Visitor Center at (606) 376-5073.

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Bear warnings posted on several trails in Smokies

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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In keeping with today's theme, I thought I'd bring to the attention of hikers that there are several trails that now have bear warnings posted on them in the Smokies. These warnings have been posted due to bear activity in the area, which likely is a result of a lower than usual soft mast crop. Great Smoky Mountain biologists have stated that the park's cherry, blueberry and blackberry crop was poor this summer.

Below is the current list of trails, campsites and shelters with posted warnings. Further down is the list of bear closures:

• Alum Cave Trail
• Clingmans Dome Trail
• Trillium Gap Trail - Grotto Falls parking area to Grotto Falls
• Laurel Falls Trail
• Little River Trail
• Pretty Hollow Gap Trail
• Rainbow Falls Trail
• Upper Forney Ridge Trail
• Backcountry Campsites 18, 28, 36, 37, 38, 61, 85
• Double Spring Gap Shelter
• Laurel Gap Shelter
• Mount Collins Shelter
• Mount Le Conte Shelter
• Spence Field Shelter

Bear Closures:

• Backcountry Campsites 21, 24, 35, 68
• Cosby Knob Shelter
• Silers Bald Shelter

To stay up to date on all the latest closings, please click here.

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Second on the Food Chain

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Hikers venturing into Montana’s backcountry, especially in Glacier National Park, will find themselves second on the food chain. At the very top of that chain are 800-pound grizzly bears.

Spend any time in Glacier and you’re almost guaranteed to see a grizz, especially if you visit the Many Glacier area. We’ve seen several grizzlies and black bears on all three of our visits to Glacier. On our most recent visit we saw a couple of lone grizzlies on separate hikes, and on another, saw a mother grizzly and two cubs early on, and then a group, or family of five grizzlies later that same day. In each of those instances the bears were several hundred feet above us.

However, we did have a couple of much closer encounters towards the end of our trip, which began to spook us a little. On our last day, while returning from Otokomi Lake, we ran into a couple of hikers who told us they had just passed what sounded like a something growling and smelling like a wet dog, which they assumed to be a grizzly that may have been protecting a fresh kill. This freaked us out a little, especially since they were the first people we had seen on the 10.5-mile hike. Although we never saw or heard anything, we were pretty relieved to return back to the trailhead.

The day before that, only 200 yards from the parking lot on our return from Iceberg Lake, a large male black bear crossed the trail less than 30 feet in front of us. Fortunately there was another group of hikers directly behind us, so it wasn’t quite as unnerving as it could’ve been.

The headline story of the trip, however, came about a week before leaving for home. We were hiking along the Gunsight Pass Trail, a trail notorious for lots of tall vegetation, not being well traveled, and passing through excellent bear habitat. Kathy had just yelled out a “hey bear!”, and no more than 30 seconds later, and maybe only 20 feet away from us, we heard a large animal crashing through the undergrowth as it tried to get out of our way. Now it’s possible it could’ve been a moose, but I really don’t think it could’ve moved that fast. Additionally, I think we would’ve been able to see it above the vegetation. More than likely it was a black or grizzly bear foraging for berries just off the side of the trail. Either way, it scared the (insert your own word here) out of us. What has perplexed me since that incident is why the bear didn’t immediately run away after my wife gave that shout out.

Fortunately Glacier does a great job of managing the interaction between humans and bears.

There are roughly 300 grizzlies and 900 black bears within the park. How does Glacier know that? If you’ve ever hiked in Glacier you may have noticed one or two trees with yellow tags, and have barbed wire wrapped around their trunks. Since bears like to use trees to scratch their backs, the barbed wire allows biologists to collect hair samples while bears are scratching their itch, The DNA collected from the samples is then used to estimate bear populations.

To be safe while out on the trail, Glacier highly recommends that hikers make a lot of noise. This includes yelling out “hey bear” every few minutes in order to give bears a heads-up that you’re entering into their territory. Bear bells, by the way, are pretty much useless. We passed several people wearing them, but really couldn’t hear them until they were within only a few yards. This just doesn’t give enough warning, thus increasing the chances of surprising a bear, which, obviously, is dangerous.

Park officials also recommend that hikers carry bear (pepper) spray. One hiker, during a break, had to put his bear spray in his shoe after this squirrel tried to drag it away:

Finally, the park also recommends hiking in groups. Most bear maulings occur when a solo hiker surprises a bear. Hiking in groups, however, increases the amount of noise. Glacier used to recommend hiking in groups of three or more. They’re now saying groups of four or more are safest. Parks Canada recently passed a measure making it mandatory that you travel in groups of four or more while hiking in parts of Banff National Park. One person in the group is also required to carry bear spray. A fine of $25,000 can be imposed on people breaking these laws.

Other things you can do to increase your safety while hiking in Glacier is to partake in ranger led hikes, many of which visit the most popular destinations in the park. You also have a great opportunity of meeting some interesting people from all over the world. For the most part the rangers travel at a pretty good pace, while providing information on the flora, wildlife, history and geology of the area. However, there are some hikes that are painfully slow, and others that attract some very large groups.

We did partake in a few ranger led hikes ourselves, but most of our hikes were alone. Due to the presence of grizzlies, many hikers tend to gravitate towards each other once on the trail. There were several occasions where we hooked up with other couples or groups. Other times we would try to stay in close proximity to another group. Given the situation, most people seem to be real open to this.

The park has also taken steps to help protect backpackers by setting-up separate food preparation areas at all backcountry campsites. Some campsites even have metal bear boxes for backcountry campers to store their food.

When the park experiences “bad bear” activity on any given trail, they’ll close it for several days at a time. Unfortunately this happens to some of the most popular trails on a fairly frequent basis.

I think I conquered my grizzly bear paranoia on this trip, but not my fear. Everyone should have a healthy degree of fear. To not fear a grizzly is to not respect them. And if you don’t respect them you’re eventually going to put yourself in a dangerous situation.

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Friends of the Smokies Guided Hikes

Join Friends of the Smokies, and local author Danny Bernstein, for a couple of guided fall hikes over the next several weeks:

October 4, 2011: Little Cataloochee Trail Hike

Explore the Cataloochee Valley on this moderately difficult 6.5 mile hike, which will feature some of the trail improvements made by the Trails Forever crew. Time permitting, hikers will also visit the elk herd in Cataloochee Valley. Total elevation gain/descent for the hike will be 1,500 feet.

Space is limited. Contact Friends of the Smokies to register at or call 828-452-0720.

November 1, 2011: Road to Nowhere Hike

Hikers will trek along a trail called "The Road to Nowhere" and explore a dark, 365-foot tunnel on this 9.4 mile hike. The hike is moderate in difficulty and has a total elevation gain/descent of 1,370 feet.

Space is limited. For more information call 828-452-0720.

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Shenandoah to Celebrate Civilian Conservation Corps Reunion 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

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Shenandoah National Park will be hosting the 78th Annual Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Alumni Reunion on September 24, 2011. The public is invited to meet with Alumni and hear first hand about their experiences. Alumni reunion events will take place at the Big Meadows Lodge Massanutten Room beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was established in 1933 as a work relief program, putting young men to work in Federal and State lands during the Great Depression. CCC camps were first established at Skyland (NP-1) and Big Meadows (NP-2) in May 1933, and from 1933-1942 the park supervised the work of eleven CCC camps. The Skyland and Big Meadows Camps were the first in the National Park Service and were visited by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in August 1933. During the course of the New Deal program over 1,200 "boys" a year worked to build facilities and create the landscape of the park. The park we see today would not exist without the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

During the reunion, visitors are encouraged to explore the newly installed exhibit in Big Meadows marking the site of NP-2, the second CCC Camp established in Shenandoah. Recent archeology revealed the locations of the buildings. The "company streets" have been mowed while the "buildings" have been allowed to grow up, giving visitors a visual representation of the buildings. This spring interpretive panels with historic photos were added at each building site.

Visitors wishing to learn more about the CCC should stop by the Byrd Visitor Center and explore the highly interactive exhibit, "Within a Day's Drive of Millions." This exhibit tells the story of Shenandoah's establishment and development including the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Visitors can also view a free film entitled, The CCC Boys.

Entrance fees to Shenandoah National Park will be waived on September 24 in celebration of National Public Lands Day.

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Smoky Mountain Agencies Ramp Up DWI Efforts

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In a press conference held on Wednesday, August 31st, local, state, and federal law enforcement officials in the Smoky Mountain Region gathered to announce the recently created Foothills Law Enforcement Coalition at a local college campus.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park took the lead in forming this 13-agency partnership, consisting of all the sheriff and police departments in the three Tennessee counties adjoining the park, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Made possible with special funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the focus is to increase public awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired through education efforts, as well as to coordinate law enforcement activities like sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.

Great Smoky Mountains is one of three parks participating in a pilot program funded by NHTSA aimed at reducing DUI crashes in the National Park System through enhanced education and law enforcement efforts. Now in the third year of this program, these efforts have enabled rangers at the Smokies to more effectively join with neighboring law enforcement partners to more effectively target impaired drivers. The other pilot parks are Delaware Water Gap and Zion.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s mountainous roads are narrow, windy and heavily travelled. It can be an unforgiving environment for a careless driver; or worse, for a driver whose mental state is compromised by alcohol or drugs,” said Clay Jordan, the park’s chief ranger, at the conference. “Of the 14 or so alcohol-related fatalities the three county area averages each year, three or four of them typically occur within the park.”

Kendell Poole, director of the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office, whose office receives funding from NHTSA to dole out to local law enforcement agencies, also played a role in the conference.

“This is a significant partnership,” he said. “By this endeavor, we are going to create further public awareness in and around the national park area. We’re going to create a united front and let people know we are serious about keeping our roads safe.”

In attendance were family members of a 32-year old man who was killed by a drunk driver and their story was brought to light. Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) also were present and interviewed by the media. All three Knoxville television stations, ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates, covered the event as well as print media from each of the participating communities.

The different departments also organized educational displays including goggles that simulate various stages of intoxication, along with examples of equipment used at sobriety checkpoints, and a DUI crashed vehicle. The press event also showcased a couple of professionally designed graphics, visually depicting the 13 agencies working together to combat impaired driving. The graphics are being distributed throughout the region as an educational tool.

Ruth Esteban, an official in attendance from NHTSA, stated that the press event was a great success and that news of the coalition efforts was acknowledged and well-regarded at the highest levels of NHTSA.

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Help Support This Blog

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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For anyone considering a trip to see the beautiful fall colors of the Great Smoky Mountains, it's not too late make plans and have your reservations in place. October in the Smokies is the second most popular month in terms of park visitation. And with the awesome beauty the autumn season provides, it's really no wonder.

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a moment to check out our Cabin and Chalet Listings for a wide variety of options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

By supporting our sponsors you help to keep this blog and the website up and running.

Thank you very much!

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From the Trailhead

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven."

- John Muir on his visit to Glacier in the early 1890s

Some of the best scenes in Glacier National Park are only a short walk from a road or parking area. Take for instance the views across Swiftcurrent Lake from the Many Glacier Hotel. From the balcony, or the shoreline, the views are some of the grandest in the park. From a photographic point of view we were quite lucky to have thick clouds leftover from a storm that passed through the night before:

The historic boat shuttle, Chief Two Guns, awaits her early morning passengers under the gaze of Grinnell Point.

One of the more remote areas on the east side of the park is Cut Bank. From the Pitamakan Pass Trailhead we had an outstanding view of Bad Marriage Mountain under an appropriately brooding sky. Too bad the Native American for whom the mountain was named after didn't have Dr. Phil around. The mountain might have a different name now:

Our favorite area of the park is without a doubt the Two Medicine Area. Although not as popular as Many Glacier or West Glacier, and perhaps not as scenic as Many Glacier, it has a much more laid back charm than the other more popular destinations. You could think of it as being like Townsend, TN; the "Quiet Side of the Smokies". The hiking out of Two Medicine is outstanding, but the views from the parking lot are just as magnificent. Sinopah Mountain, Lone Walker Mountain and Flinsch Peak create a perfect backdrop behind Two Medicine Lake, whether in the morning or at sunset:

One of the most iconic scenes in all of the national parks is from a roadside parking area off the Going-To-The-Sun Road. The island in the middle of the photo is known as Wild Goose Island:

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting some photos from Glacier's spectacular backcountry.

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Rangers Find Injured North Carolina Man Crawling Across Desert

Friday, September 16, 2011

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NPS Digest is also reporting that a 64-year-old man from North Carolina was found crawling across the desert in Canyonlands National Park last week.

On Friday, September 9th, rangers in the Island in the Sky District began looking into circumstances surrounding a campsite at the Willow Flat campground, which appeared to be abandoned and unoccupied. The investigation led to a search for Amos Richards, a visitor from North Carolina. Details led staff to believe that he may have been in or around the park’s Maze District.

A search was begun for Richards two days later, and was spotted from a helicopter around 2 p.m. in the area of Little Blue John Canyon, just outside the park’s boundary. He was flown to Moab Regional Hospital where he was treated for leg fractures, internal injuries, trauma, and dehydration.

Further investigation revealed that Richards attempted to hike in and out of Lower Blue John Canyon via the entry/exit route between West and Little Blue John Canyons. He fell approximately 10 feet trying to gain the wash bottom and suffered extensive leg trauma in the process. Richards couldn't bear weight on his right leg, so spent the next four days and three nights crawling across the desert in an attempt to get back to his car. He had no overnight gear, warm clothes or a map, but did have five liters of water and two power bars with him. No one knew where he was or what his plans were. It rained on him several times as he crawled across the desert.

Richards is expected to fully recover.

Sounds like this could be a possible episode for I Shouldn't Be Alive.

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Fall Scenes from the Smokies

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Pretty cool video of some beautiful fall scenes in the Great Smoky Mountains. The video was taken in 2009:

Smoky Mountains 2009 from James Swartz on Vimeo.

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Disoriented Hiker Found after Multi-Day Search in Shenandoah

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NPS Digest has a report about a 53-year-old man that was recently found after a multi-day search in Shenandoah National Park.

Last week, a DC area hiking club reported that a member of their group had become separated from the party on the Lower Hawksbill Trail. The missing man had just joined the hiking club for the first time that morning, so the person who called had limited helpful information. Moreover, no one actually saw him with the group once they started on the trail. The parking area they started from serves numerous trails that go off in virtually every direction.

With no information to work with, only hasty searches of the extensive trail system could be conducted on the following day. Those searches did provide one lead, a possible witness who reported seeing someone on the Appalachian Trail above Timber Hollow with the one identifying feature of the missing hiker – he hiked with an ice axe, something not normally seen in Shenandoah in August. The man was also described as being very disoriented and frustrated.

This piece of information led to a more focused search of the area around the possible point last seen, though no clues were discovered during the second full day of searching. The investigation however, led to a better understanding of potential problems this hiker may have been experiencing. He was described as an alcohol user who had a history of seizures that would leave him mobile but disoriented for hours at a time.

On the third day of search teams were sent down into Timber Hollow, below the AT, where it seemed likely he may have stumbled or otherwise entered – terrain described as some of the worst in Shenandoah. Almost immediately one team found clues believed to be associated with the missing person, including an empty bottle of vodka.

Shortly before noon on the third day the man was found at the bottom of Timber Hollow, lying in Hawksbill Creek. He was suffering from hypothermia with a body temp of 94 degrees and had a significantly altered mental state. He was littered to the boundary and then taken to a hospital.

The man ultimately spent four days in the hospital, being treated for significant chemical imbalances among other things. Once he regained his mental alertness he was able to provide some details of his experience. He had started with the group on the trail but was the last in line. He then experienced a seizure shortly into the hike. When he came to he began to search for his party, but was still somewhat disoriented. The weather had deteriorated, with thick fog and heavy rains. He remembered meeting the man who had provided searchers with information on the point where he was last seen. After talking with him, he stumbled off the trail and tumbled down the steep slopes, ending up well below the trail. Although injured from the fall, he was still able to move. He did not want to climb back up to the trail, so he walked across the slope, hoping the trail would come down to him. He ultimately found the drainage and decided to follow it down. He then spent the first night near the bottom of the hollow, and on the following morning, continued to look for a way out but started having difficulty with his legs going out. He ultimately just stopped and sat down. He had no memory of what happened on much of the second day. He spent about another 48 hours in stormy weather until the search team found him.

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Harleys, Helis and Harney Peak

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This really wasn’t what I was expecting. For whatever reason I thought we were going to be hiking on a hot dusty trail through an arid, dessert-like environment. Maybe it came from my experience hiking at nearby Badlands National Park several years back. Instead, the trail to Harney Peak passed through a pleasant forest of spruce, ponderosa pine, a few aspens, a couple of meadows, and a surprisingly large number of wildflowers.

The 7242-foot peak, the highest point in South Dakota, is located within the Black Elk Wilderness Area of the Black Hills. There are two primary trails that lead to this summit in the southwestern corner of the “Mount Rushmore State”. The Harney Peak-Willow Creek Trail, which begins from the Willow Creek Horse Camp and approaches the mountain from the north, is a 10-mile roundtrip hike that climbs roughly 2200 feet. We opted for the shorter route, a 7-mile roundtrip hike from Sylvan Lake that climbs roughly 1500 feet.

On the way to the trailhead we had a couple of interesting views of Mt. Rushmore:

About a half-mile into our hike we had the first views of our destination. It was fairly easy to pick out – just look for the stone tower atop the ridge towards the north.

The day we hiked this trail was the first day of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Although we were miles from the road we could still hear the roar of the engines – even from as far away as the summit. To add insult to injury, we were buzzed a couple of times by a tour helicopter with a Harley Davidson logo on it!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with the Sturgis Rally, I just wouldn’t recommend visiting the area this time of year if you’re looking for quiet and solitude. During the 24 hours we spent in the Black Hills area we probably saw at least a couple thousand motorcycles, even though we never came within 20 miles of Sturgis. If you think this might be an exaggeration, we were told that roughly 750,000 motorcyclists showed up for the event last year!

The peak was named in honor of General William S. Harney, a military commander in the Black Hills area during the Indian Wars. The mountain also served as a destination for Sioux Indians on their vision quests. Even today you’ll see a couple of prayer flags near the summit.

As already mentioned, there’s an old stone tower atop the summit that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1939, and subsequently used as a fire lookout. Although no longer in use, it is open to hikers. A plaque at the tower states that Harney Peak is the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe.

If you ever decide to hike the mountain you may want to note that the chipmunks at the summit are extremely aggressive. Watch your food like a hawk, and don’t leave your backpack open.

The views from the summit were quite grand:

As a side note, Harney Peak became my 16th state highpoint!

Trail: Harney Peak-Sylvan Lake Trail
RT Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1500
Max Elevation: 7242

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