GSMA Early Spring Hike in Greenbrier

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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The latest Cub Report from the Great Smoky Mountains Association is announcing that an early spring hike is scheduled for next month. This is your chance to join Ranger Carey Jones for an exploration into a lesser known area of Greenbrier. False Gap Prong will lead you to an old cemetery and secluded former homesites with some scenic water views along the way. With the relatively mild winter this year, the GSMA expects participants will see some early spring wildflowers as well.

This moderate hike of roughly 2.5 miles will take place on Saturday, March 24th. The GSMA asks that you meet at 10:00 am at the Greenbrier Ranger Station, wear good hiking boots, bring rain gear, water, and a light snack. A hiking stick may be advisable, too.

Participation is limited to 20. Pre-registration is required, along with a $10 fee to cover the cost of the program. Children 12 and under are free. Call 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.

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Smokies Scavenger Hunt This Weekend

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Gather your friends, family or co-workers and create a team for the 4th annual Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt! The hunt ranges over most of the park, using roads and official trails to access particular areas. Some questions require research to answer. As it is illegal to remove items from the park, one digital camera with a flash memory card will be required per team. Questions are awarded point values based on level of difficulty. The team with the most points may get prizes, but everybody wins! You can have as many people on your team as you like, provided all fit into one vehicle.

The event will take place over a 24-hour period with teams receiving their hunt questions via e-mail by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 2 and are due back at Tremont no later than 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 with your answers. A light dinner will be served while tallying takes place. Advance registration required. This event is limited to 200 participants so register early! Cost per team: $50

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is an educational partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tremont is a non-profit environmental education center that provides in-depth education programs that celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster stewardship, and nurture appreciation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For additional information, visit Tremont's website at

Save Up To 40% On The North Face Jackets At Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). Expires 3/5/2012.

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Prescribed Fires to Begin in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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During the next 6 - 8 weeks, National Park Service fire crews will be conducting a series of prescribed fires within Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The prescribed fires, as defined in the Fire Management Plan, will all be located within the boundaries of the park. Plans call for burns of varying size to occur at locations in Tennessee.

Through years of scientific research it has been learned that fire is an essential, natural process. It has helped shape our woodlands for thousands of years, and is important for the survival of many plants and animals. Fires removes the layers of dead and down trees, leaves and other vegetation from the forest floor that can inhibit plant growth and recycles the nutrients back in to the environment. Fire also increases the diversity of plant and wildlife habitat. Some plants, such as American Chaffseed, have disappeared from the park because they need fire to reproduce.

In 2004 the Big South Fork NNRA completed a Fire Management Plan and began a long term project to restore the role of fire in the ecosystem. The park uses prescribed fires to reintroduce fire into the natural landscape. These prescribed fires are ignited by park staff only when weather conditions are most likely to recreate the low intensity fires that have occurred naturally in this region for thousands of years. Four units are scheduled for prescribed fire this year.

* The Darrow Ridge East Project is located along the western edge of the park in Fentress County TN. The project encompasses approximately 520 acres of land along the park boundary near the Timber Ridge Horse Camp.

* The Gobblers Knob B-1 Project is located in the Northwestern area of the park in Scott County TN. The project encompasses approximately 531 acres of land along the park boundary near the intersection of Divide Road and Terry Cemetery Road.

* The Gobblers Knob B - 2 Project is located in the Northwestern area of the park in Scott County TN. The project encompasses approximately 821 acres of land along the park boundary near the Terry Cemetery.

* The Burke Place Project is located along Highway 297 in Scott County TN just east of the Scott/Fentress County line. The project includes 8 Grass Fields encompassing a total of approximately 27.5 acres.

Ignitions are scheduled to occur in February, March and April. Only when the weather and other conditions meet the defined prescription will the fires be ignited. Ignitions will not occur every day.

In addition to meeting specific conditions, crews of up to 25 firefighters and several engines will be on hand for each burn. Any park neighbor who may be impacted will be contacted prior to ignition. During a prescribed burn all roads and trails in the burn area will be temporarily closed for visitor safety.

You may contact the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at 423-286-7275 for the latest information on the current status of the prescribed burns and associated closures.

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Laurel Creek Road and Cades Cove Closed Until Noon on March 1st

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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Managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced that the Laurel Creek Road, which carries traffic from the Townsend, TN Entrance into Cades Cove will be closed until noon on the morning of Thursday, March 1. The closure will allow the Park to safely remove two very large hazardous trees. The closure applies to hikers and cyclists as well as vehicles.

Traffic coming into the Townsend Entrance and traveling east-bound on Little River Road enroute to Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC will not be affected.

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Update on Fire in the Nantahala National Forest

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The U.S. Forest Service published an alert on their website yesterday regarding a 60-acre wildfire in the Tusquitee Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. Today they're reporting that the fire has grown to 750 acres.

Close to 40 U.S. Forest Service and North Carolina Forest Service firefighters are suppressing the wildfire. Control lines are in place, and the fire is 100 percent contained. Forest Service officials predict it will be another couple days before the fire is fully controlled. Forecasts of rain tonight and tomorrow could help in extinguishing the fire.

One hundred percent of the fire is on national forest land and no structures are threatened. No injuries were reported. The fire is located about 14 miles northwest of Murphy near Turner Top mountain. The terrain is steep and rugged.

Suppression efforts include a U.S. Forest Service hot shot crew, district staff and N.C. Forest Service resources on the ground. A type three helicopter is also on the scene. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire was reported to the Forest Service Sunday evening.

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North Carolina State Parks Reservations Service to be Interrupted

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The North Carolina state parks system will suspend its reservations system March 7-21 in order to complete a major upgrade of the Internet and call center-based service, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

All reservations made before March 7 for that time period will be honored, and individual state parks will be able to reserve campsites, picnic shelters and other amenities for visitors on a walk-in basis. The call center and online reservations network will be fully functional again March 21. As always, visitors can camp without an advance reservation if a site is available when they arrive.

The upgrade of software and operation systems will increase the efficiency of the service and for visitors, will offer interactive campground maps online and provide photographs of campsites, picnic shelters, vacation cabins, meeting facilities and other amenities that can be reserved.

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Forest Service Fights 60-Acre Fire in Nantahala National Forest

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The U.S. Forest Service is trying to suppress a 60-acre wildfire in the Tusquitee Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. Ninety percent of the fire is on national forest land and no structures are threatened. Due to steep, rugged terrain and fuel types, the fire is anticipated to reach 500-600 acres today. There's a slight chance of rain this evening, and a 60% chance of showers for tomorrow that could help.

More than 30 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are fighting the blaze, located about 14 miles northwest of Murphy near Turner Top mountain. Suppression efforts include U.S. Forest Service hot shot crew, district fire fighter staff and NC Forest Service resources on the ground. A type three helicopter is also on the scene. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire was reported to the Forest Service Sunday evening. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

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Smokies Stats of the Day

Monday, February 27, 2012

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The latest issue of Smokies Guide (the official newspaper for GSMNP) published a list of the average number of serious injuries in the park on an annual basis. I thought these were quite interesting:

Motor vehicle related: 250
Walking related: 38
Bicycle related: 16
Horse related: 7
Burns: 6
Cuts from knives, etc.: 6
Tubing related: 5
Bee sting reactions: 4
Bites from small animals: 3
Snake bites: 1

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Back to Cotton

Sunday, February 26, 2012

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Well, I’m officially back to cotton. Socks, that is. Since taking up hiking in the mid-1980s, I’ve worn cotton socks – no matter the weather, or the conditions of the trail. And in all that time I never had a problem with blisters. Then, roughly three years ago, for whatever reason, I decided to buy wool hiking socks. Two sets each from two major hiking sock companies. That’s when I started having problems. There were several times while hiking long trails in the Smokies that I developed blisters on the back of my heels. Then, after spending five weeks in Glacier National Park last year, hiking almost every day, I got blisters everywhere: back of my heels, on the bottom of my fore-foot area, even on my toes.

Immediately after my Glacier experience I thought the problem was with my old boots, rather than the socks. So, last December, I purchased a new pair of Merrell boots. Not wanting to wear them for the first time on a very long hike, I decided to wear my old LL Bean boots. However, I also decided to wear cotton socks on this hike, just to test my new hunch that it just may be the wool socks that are causing my problems. I figured the 12.6-mile roundtrip hike up to Rocky Top would be an excellent hike to test my theory. As you may have already concluded from the title of this post, I had no problems with blisters on this hike.

Either my feet don’t like wool, or more likely, the socks don’t fit properly. I think what’s happening is that the wool socks are a little too big, and the additional bulk is creating friction on my skin. On the other hand, my cotton socks fit “like a glove”, so to speak. In other words, they conform exactly to my feet.

The problem with the wool socks, I believe, is that the sizes are made in too broad of a range. If I remember correctly, I purchased the socks for boot sizes between 9 and 12. I wear a size 10 boot, but the socks were still a little large, and thus aren’t conforming exactly to my feet.

So, I’m back to old school, and against conventional wisdom. From now on I’m hiking in cotton socks!

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Cumberland Trail BreakAway

Saturday, February 25, 2012

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The Cumberland Trail Conference BreakAway program will happen again this year from February 26th through March 31st. Volunteers are needed to help with trail construction and maintenance, and help in the kitchen. Base camp for this year's program will be at the Dogwood Lodge near Soddy-Daisy, TN.

BreakAway is an Alternative Spring Break program hosted by the Tennessee Trails Association (TTA) and Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC). College students from across the country pay their own way to come to Tennessee to work on the Cumberland Trail along with TTA/CTC volunteers. Students and volunteers stay in East Tennessee and participate in trail building/maintenance for a week. BreakAway also provides for educational opportunities about the environment, history, geology, flora and fauna along the Cumberland Trail. Each college is limited to a maximum of 12 participants for this program. BreakAway participants must be affiliated with a BreakAway sanctioned school and have a site leader present.

For non-student volunteers requiring lodging/meals and who are not TTA or CTC members a $25/night fee is charged. Please contact the CTC to register for this event. For more information, email Tony Hook or call 931-456-6259.

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New Documentary on Aldo Leopold to Appear in WNC

Friday, February 24, 2012

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The public is invited to see the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and his environmental legacy. The movie, titled Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time, will be shown at four locations across western North Carolina in mid-March.

Green Fire shares highlights from Leopold’s extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement. It also illustrates how Leopold's vision of a community that cares about both people and land continues to inform and inspire people across the country and around the world, highlighting modern projects that put Leopold’s land ethic in action in a multitude of ways.

Green Fire will be shown on the following days and locations:

* March 15, 6 p.m.: Sylva, N.C., Jackson County Public Library, Community Room

* March 16, 6:30 p.m.: Asheville, N.C., University of North Carolina-Asheville, Highsmith University Union Grotto

* March 17, 6 p.m.: Crossnore, N.C., Crossnore Forestry Training Facility, Main Cafeteria

* March 21, 8 p.m.: Swannanoa, N.C., Warren Wilson College, Canon Lounge

Curt Meine, the film’s on-screen guide, is scheduled to attend all four showings. Meine’s doctoral dissertation was a biography of Aldo Leopold, published as Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work.

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Look Rock Observation Tower to Close for Construction

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Managers at Great Smoky Mountain National Park have announced that the observation tower at Look Rock on the Foothills Parkway in Blount County, TN will be closed for construction work from Monday, February 27 through Friday, March 23.

During the closure period a new radio repeater will be installed by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to upgrade the radio communications available to Blount County Sheriff’s Office and local Emergency Management Services. The paved trail that leads from the Look Rock Parking area to the Tower is also closed at its entrance off the Parkway.

In addition to its role as a public observation tower, the Look Rock Tower hosts an Air Quality monitoring site, and houses radio repeaters serving the Park, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Loudon Electric Cooperative, and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service.

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USFS officials in NC issue flash flood safety bulletin

Thursday, February 23, 2012

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U.S. Forest Service officials issued a flash flood safety bulletin for visitors to the Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie National Forests in North Carolina today. The National Weather Service describes a flash flood as a rapid rise of water in a low-lying area, usually caused by an intense storm that produces heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. Rising flood waters can carry a velocity strong enough to roll boulders and vehicles, tear out trees, destroy bridges and undermine roads. A low-lying area can become extremely dangerous in a matter of minutes.

As with all remote and rural locations in the U.S., warnings from city sirens don’t exist out in nature. Remember to check the National Weather Service forecast before you leave home, and be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest. Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio and a smart-phone application can help visitors stay tuned-in during their outdoor activities.

Flood awareness can be especially critical for campers. A flash flood can happen at a moment's notice, any time of the day and any time of the year. It is nearly impossible to see the water depths and the force of the current when a flash flood happens at night.

The bulletin offers these safety tips for avoiding flash floods:

* Safety is your own responsibility whenever you head outdoors.

* Families should discuss how they would alert each other and get to a safe zone if rushing or rising water, or any other emergency, interrupts their trip.

* When visiting a forest, be alert for heavy rains and sudden changes in weather.

* Recreating or camping near a stream or river can be a risk if there are thunderstorms in the area.

* Flash floods can occur with little or no warning.

* When a NOAA flash flood warning is issued for your area, or the moment you realize that water is rising around you, act quickly.

* In remote areas of the forest, use of cell phones and digital data services may be limited.

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One Bear of a Hike

You can call it a slog, a grind, or even a death march, but our hike up to Rocky Top this past Saturday was definitely one bear of a hike.

Kathy and I paid a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains this past weekend to do a little hiking. On Saturday we made the 12.6-mile roundtrip hike up to Rocky Top. It would be the first real hiking adventure we’ve done since our trip to Glacier National Park last August. We were both pretty shocked to discover how tough this trail really is. Last time we hiked it, back in 2008, we had no problems. Although we both ride bikes when it’s warm enough, and walk when it’s colder, we obviously got out of hiking shape pretty quickly. Since I walk at least 3 or 4 miles per day, 6 days a week, I thought for sure that this would have been enough training for this spur-of-the-moment trip. Obviously I was wrong. I guess having added a couple of pounds over the winter didn’t help either!

By the time we made it up to Spence Field our legs were already shot. And we still had 1.2 miles and another 550 feet of climbing left before reaching our destination. Even after reaching Rocky Top we still had more climbing ahead of us. In between Rocky Top and Spence Field are two short, but steep climbs, that left us completely spent. Three days later, my calves were still sore! I know, pathetic…

Below are a couple of photos from our hike.

This photo was taken along the upper portions of the Bote Mountain Trail. Notice how the trail has sunken a couple of feet below the ground on either side of the trail. Prior to the establishment of the Park settlers in Cades Cove used the trail to drive cattle up to Spence Field for the summer. This allowed them to use the fields in the Cove for growing crops. My guess is that the sunken pathway is the result of trampling by cattle, and the subsequent erosion over the years:

Rocky Top is a rock outcropping on the western side of Thunderhead Mountain. The true summit of Thunderhead (elev: 5527 feet) is roughly two-thirds of a mile further up the trail. Due to tall shrubs growing near the summit, Rocky Top provides much better views. This photo is looking towards Clingmans Dome and Mt. LeConte from Rocky Top:

Panoramic of the North Carolina Smokies and the Nantahala Mountains:

Looking towards Gregory Bald just below the 5379-foot summit of Rocky Top:

Kathy, on our way back down, near one of the saddles between Rocky Top and Spence Field:

For more detailed information on hiking to Rocky Top you can click here.

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Day Hiking Basics with Friends of the Smokies

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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Join Friends of the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports next month for an informative session on day hiking basics, local hiking groups and local hiking opportunities. The purpose is to provide knowledge of hiking fundamentals and equipment required to build confidence and ensure safety.

The seminar is free and includes light refreshments, handouts, and discussion of equipment.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 22, 2012, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at:

Blue Ridge Mountain Sports - Farragut
11537 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN

For more information and to register, please call Sarah Weeks at (800) 845-5665 or email her at

Patagonia 50% Off Sale on Winter Gear!

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Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days with Andrew Skurka

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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Fresh off his incredible solo trek around the Alaskan and Yukon bush in 2010, Andrew Skurka is at it again. This past summer he guided Gerry Morton, President and CEO of EnergyFirst, on a 7 day hike along the entire 224-mile John Muir Trail. Averaging 32 miles a day, the two hikers trekked from the Yosemite Valley to the summit of 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. The video below documents some of the highlights from their adventure.

In recent years Skurka has become known as a hiking and adventure superstar. During his trek around Alaska and the Yukon he traveled roughly 4680 miles in 176 days. This included 1315 miles of skiing, 2100 miles of trekking, and 1270 miles of packrafting.

In addition to his recent Alaskan and John Muir Trail excursions, he's hiked the Appalachian Trail, and in 2007, became the first person to hike the 6875-mile Great Western Loop, which includes the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails. It's probably safe to say that after all those miles he should be an expert on blisters. Andrew offers some excellent tips on preventing them in the January issue of Backpacker Magazine.

As of today, Skurka is officially an author as well. The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide was officially released today by National Geographic Books, and is available on Amazon. In this how-to guide, Skurka "shares the gear, supplies and skills that will allow you to love hiking, while still remaining safe and comfortable while camping."

Here's the video from the John Muir Trail:

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Great Girl Scout Appalachian Trail Hike Kick-off

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Girl Scouts of the USA will be holding their Kick-Off Ceremony at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)’s headquarters and visitor center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on March 11, 2012, to launch their seven-month effort to hike the Appalachian Trail. As part of their 100-year celebration of Girl Scouting in the United States, Girl Scouts from all over the country plan to hike the A.T. in sections, starting on March 12, 2012 (the anniversary of the first Girl Scout meeting) to October 31, 2012 (Girl Scout USA founder, Juliette Gordon Low's, birthday). The goal is to have every section of the A.T., from Maine to Georgia, hiked by Girl Scouts “in bits and pieces.”

The Kick-Off Ceremony will begin at 11:30a.m. outside the ATC’s headquarters and visitor center. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held at Curtis Freewill Baptist Church, half a block away on Storer College Place.

Three Girl Scout Troops from across Virginia will be hiking into Harpers Ferry to be a part of the ceremony. The ceremony will include speakers from the Girl Scouts, the ATC, and the National Park Service. The event is open to the public.

Angie Sheldon, Education and Outreach Coordinator of the ATC, stated, “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is so excited with the amount of interest the Girl Scouts have in getting out and enjoying the Appalachian Trail. It’s important, now more than ever, to encourage the youth to connect with their natural environment. What better place for them to have an adventure celebrating their anniversary, than along the Appalachian Trail!"

The Great Girl Scout Hike’s Honorary Chair, Mary “Mama Boots” Sands, inspired this celebratory hike. As a Girl Scout Leader in Kentucky (Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana), she began hiking and backpacking the A.T. in the early 1970s. Over the course of nearly 20 years, accompanied by groups of current and past Girl Scouts, she eventually section hiked the estimated 2,180 miles of the A.T.

Event: Great Girl Scout Appalachian Trail Hike Kick-Off Ceremony
Date: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Location: Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Headquarters and Visitor Center
799 Washington St., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 25425

To learn more about this event or to get involved, visit

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2012 ATBI Conference

Saturday, February 18, 2012

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is considered by some to be one of the most biodiverse places in North America. It is here, in the midst of such species richness, that Discover Life in America (DLIA) is conducting an ongoing project to inventory all species that exist in the Park. The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) seeks to inventory every species of living organisms in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The project continues to develop checklists, reports, maps, databases, GIS tools, and natural history profiles that describe the biology of this rich landscape to a wide audience.

To date, the ATBI has found 7391 new species within the park, including 922 that are new to science.

Next month, Discover Life in America is proud to be putting on the 15th annual All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Conference. The conference will be held over three days - March 22-24th - at the Glenstone Lodge in beautiful Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Although the main focus of the event is the presentation of scientific ATBI research, the conference will include field trips in the Smokies, nature hikes, photography, fund-raising auctions, and book signings. The conference is open to scientists, researchers, educators, the press, and interested members of the public.

Some of the field trips scheduled for this year include The Best Wildflower Hike in the Smokies with Janet Rock, GPS Basics, and Animal Tracking.

World renowned biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson will give the keynote address at Discover Life in America's ATBI Conference on March 23rd. Edward O. Wilson was recently called “one of the most important biological theorists since Darwin” by The New York Times. There will also be a chance to see and hear Dr. Wilson on March 24, 2012 at 6 p.m. at the Knoxville Museum of Art with a "Special Evening with E.O. Wilson," which is a fundraiser for Discover Life in America.

For more information, please click here.

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Banff Mountain Film Festival to Benefit Friends of the Smokies

Friday, February 17, 2012

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The Banff Mountain Film Festival returns to Knoxville's Bijou Theatre next month. Friends of the Smokies is the proud non-profit partner for presenting sponsor and host Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. Proceeds from the 2010 & 2011 Banff festivals in Knoxville raised more than $1,000 for conservation programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This year's festival will be held at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville on March 26, 2012.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is the largest and one of the most prestigious mountain festivals in the world. The World Tour showcases award-winning films and audience favorites from approximately 300 films entered from over 30 countries with stops planned in 360 locations worldwide. Traveling from remote landscapes and cultures, to up close and personal with adrenaline-packed action sports, the tour is an exhilarating exploration and celebration of the spirit of adventure.

Based on the film trailer below, it looks like they will have several exciting films again this year.

For tickets and more information contact Blue Ridge Mountain Sports at 865.588.2638 or 865.675.3010, or purchase online by clicking here.

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National Park Foundation Awards Grant to Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, announced today that they are awarding the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park with a 2012 Impact Grant to support the development of the education DVD The Civil War at Cumberland Gap, which will look at the homefront and slavery issues along with the multiple military occupations at the historic Cumberland Gap. The grant is part of the National Park Foundation's Impact Grant program which gives parks the critical financial support needed to transform innovative, yet underfunded ideas into successful in-park programs and initiatives.

The project follows three factual family or personal histories that play out on a steadily progressing timeline of the Civil War. The Cumberland Gap's military history is necessarily part of the project, but the individual sagas of Appalachian people will be the mechanism for explaining the Civil War at the Cumberland Gap. Specifically, through re-enactors, three stories will be conveyed:

(1) The desperate and heartbreaking family struggles of Union Soldier Franklin Jones who deserts while in the military hospital at Cumberland Gap.

(2) The murder of a former slave known as Samuel by presumed bushwhackers is also investigated.

(3) The unusual final military confrontation at Cumberland Gap as experienced by a young Confederate homefront soldier named Jeremiah Dean.

These stories, superimposed over the Gap's military activities, provide an overview of the diverse experiences and highlight the divisiveness of the war as it existed in Tennessee and throughout the country. Lesson plans will accompany the educational DVD and will be aligned with the National Council for the Social Studies Standards and will meet all criteria for the No Child Left Behind initiative.

The project is expected to be completed in August 2012 with the DVD being provided free of charge to teachers and home schooled groups.

A precursor for the development of the education DVD is the story of Federal soldier Franklin Jones produced for WBIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville, TN, as part of a long running program on that station known as The Heartland Series. The hour-long segment aired on WBIR during the fall of 2011.

"With these strategic grants, we have been able to positively impact hundreds of national parks across the country," said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. "This unique program helps the parks enhance the visitor experience, engaging more people, and ultimately building a stronger community of park enthusiasts who share an appreciation and commitment to protecting America's Best Idea, their national parks."

The National Park Foundation, in partnership with ARAMARK through the Yawkey Foundation, The Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation and The HISTORY Channel, awarded Impact Grant grants to 62 national parks across the country totaling more than $500,000. A full list of grantees is available on the National Park Foundation website.

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Raise a Toast for the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Program

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The Nantahala Brewing Company will be hosting a release party for the first in a series of three limited bottle releases of Trail Magic Ale at their Tap Room in Bryson City on March 10th.

The event will begin at noon with the tapping of the first keg of Trail Magic at 4 p.m. A limited number of 750 ml bottles will be available for purchase beginning at 6 p.m. via a lottery system.

And to sweeten the pot, a portion of the proceeds of the bottle sales will be donated to the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Program through the Friends of the Smokies.

Appalachian Trail Ridgerunners provide visitor information, trail maintenance, pack out litter, maintain composting privies, report on trail and shelter conditions, report emergencies, advise hikers on food storage and other regulations, and relay real-time information regarding possible problem bears along the A.T. in the Great Smoky Mountains.

According to the NBC website, the "first Trail Magic Ale release is an Oak barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout brewed with some special ingredients native to the Great Smoky Mountains. The final ABV is yet to be determined however, we can tell you that it’s currently north of 10% and uniquely tasty."

For more information on the event, please click here.

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Utility Work to Affect Some Trails and Roads in Pisgah Ranger District

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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Officials for National Forests in North Carolina announced yesterday that utility maintenance is underway near Hwy 276 in the Pisgah Ranger District, and work may continue through March 31st.

As a result, sections of the following trails and roads may be closed at times between now and March 31st:

* Black Mountain Trail

* Art Loeb Trail between Davidson River Campground and the junction with the Estatoe Trail

* Buckhorn Gap Trail

* Avery Creek Trail

* Avery Creek Road

To ensure the continuity of electrical service for local residents, Progress Energy will fell a minimum number of trees along and around Hwy 276 in the Pisgah National Forest.

Activities affecting roads and trails will take place Monday - Friday; no felling of trees will occur on Saturdays or Sundays.

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Reward Offered for Information Concerning Death of Black Bear in BSF

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Superintendent Niki Nicholas announced today that a $500 reward is being offered to anyone that provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the illegal killing of a black bear in the Big South Fork NRRA. The adult female bear was left in the woods and found by local hunters on Thanksgiving Day. There is no legal hunting season for bears in the Big South Fork NRRA or any lands surrounding the National Area.

The bear is believed to be the same female with two cubs that had been frequently seen in the same general area by many visitors to the park. The cubs are helpless without their mother and are not likely to survive due to their age. This poaching incident has essentially caused the death of three bears.

Anyone who has information about the incident is encouraged to call the National Area at (423) 569-9778 or use the tip line number at (423) 569-2404, extension 505.

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Superintendent Ditmanson Comments on Proposed Backcountry Fee System

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Some of you may recall the firestorm that erupted over the backcountry fee system proposed by Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials last July.

The controversy is the result of an announcement officials that they were considering a move to make all backcountry camping permits (for all sites) go through, an online and call-in reservation service. The proposal would cost backpackers between $2.25 and $10.00 to make a reservation for a backcountry campsite (depending on which of three proposals is ultimately adopted).

Kurt Repanshek at the National Parks Traveler published a lengthy article yesterday that includes several comments from Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson. As far as I know, these are the first public comments about the proposal made by the Superintendent.

In the article, Ditmanson offers some of his insights on potential problems with the system, including 48-hour cancellation fees and how they impact the "spontaneity of backcountry campers". He also discusses issues concerning Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who pass through the Smokies in April.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

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Park Information Volunteers Needed at Dollywood

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The Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to help provide park information at a Park bookstore inside Dollywood.

The park’s cooperating association, Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), needs volunteers to assist with the answering of park related questions and staffing of a hands-on exhibit table at Ranger Rob’s, a GSMA store located within Dollywood. The store sells park related items including guides, maps, outdoor apparel, and books focusing on the Park’s natural and cultural features. The Dollywood store attracts an audience who are interested in Great Smoky Mountains National Park information and trip planning assistance from Park VIPs.

“The Association is a significant partner and so are our volunteers. Volunteer assistance at this location will go a long way in informing visitors about how to experience the great recreational and scenic opportunities provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.

Volunteers will be working alongside GSMA employees and will be asked to commit to serve at least one 3-hour shift per week at the information exhibit table. The season runs from late March through September. The shift hours will vary depending on the season but will be during the mid-morning or late afternoon. Interested persons will be required to attend training and orientation sessions which will be provided by the park and GSMA. To volunteer for the park or for more information, contact Dana Soehn, Volunteer Coordinator, at 865-436-1265.

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Take a Hike (in every National Park)

Monday, February 13, 2012

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Many individuals have made it their goal to hike every trail within a national park. For those achieving that goal in the Great Smoky Mountains, for example, they earn the right to become a member of the exclusive 900 Miler Club.

Even more ambitious are those that seek to hike every trail in a national park over the course of just one year. In 2011, Montana resident Jake Bramante became the first person ever to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in only one year.

And then there’s Donna and Mike Guthrie, who have taken it upon themselves to hike at least one trail in every national park in the United States. They plan to achieve this goal by 2016, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, as well as their 70th birthdays. If you consider the logistics of reaching all 58 national parks – from the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, to the Everglades in Florida – the travel alone is an enormous undertaking.

The Colorado Springs couple set their ambitious goal in late 2009 as a way of seeing more of the country. To date, the Guthrie’s have already been to 32 parks, including a winter excursion to Yellowstone earlier this month. They’ve also seen some of the lesser-known parks such as Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, and Dry Tortugas in Florida. However, some of their favorites so far have been Crater Lake in Oregon, and Yosemite in California.

Throughout 2012 they plan to tackle Canyon Lands in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Asked what her favorite hike has been so far, Donna responded; “I think the hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier Park. It was an all day hike that was challenging but very doable. And it was worth the climb!”

Their most challenging hikes, they expect, will be in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks in Alaska. Neither park offers any established trails. Kobuk Valley, in northwestern Alaska, is so isolated that it can only be reached by chartered plane.

Although their plan was hatched a few months before the airing of the Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the Guthrie’s drew further inspiration from a segment in Episode 4 that featured Margaret and Edward Gehrke. The Lincoln, Nebraska couple traveled thousands of miles while touring the national parks between 1915 and 1939. While Edward snapped photographs, Margaret recorded their adventures in her journals. Just as the Gehrke’s did almost a century ago, the Guthrie’s have been documenting their adventures on their website:

In addition to recording the parks they’ve already visited, the Guthrie’s use their website to seek out suggestions from the public about accommodations, restaurants, trails and “not to be missed sights” in the parks they’ve yet to visit. You can even post a photo or two.

In 2016 they plan to hold a very big party in Estes Park to celebrate their birthdays and their accomplishments. If you happen to earn one of Donna and Mike’s “Take a Hike” caps, by joining them on a hike, you may receive an invite to the party yourself. So far they've given out about 45 hats.

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American Hiking Society Celebrates 20th National Trails Day

Saturday, February 11, 2012

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Mark this date down on your calendar: the American Hiking Society will be celebrating its 20th National Trails Day (NTD) event on June 2, 2012. The event will bring together outdoor enthusiasts across the country to celebrate America's magnificent trail system and its countless supporters and volunteers. Over 2,000 nationwide events will take place including trail maintenance, hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, running, trail celebrations and more!

To mark two decades of celebrating and maintaining America’s trails, the 2012 NTD event theme is America’s Largest TRAILgating Party. Move your party off the pavement to where the scenery is greener and the air is fresher. Experience, appreciate, and share the natural places we cherish by connecting with local outdoor clubs, businesses, community groups, and parks and recreation departments as well as federal land managing agencies.

"Twenty years ago, AHS built National Trails Day around the idea that for one day each year we should come together outdoors and give back to our favorite trails,” says Gregory Miller, American Hiking Society president. “Since then, people from all walks of life have been coming out in increasing numbers on NTD to celebrate our trails and the great outdoors.”

To find out more about NTD 2012, or if your community organization would like to learn how to host an event, please contact John Michels, Trail Programs Manager, at or (800) 972-8608 x 208 or visit the American Hiking Society website.

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Forest Service to Conduct Prescribed Burn on Bearpen Mountain This Weekend

Friday, February 10, 2012

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The U.S. Forest Service plans to implement a 1,200-acre prescribed burn in the Bearpen Mountain area of the Pisgah Ranger District this weekend.

The Forest Service will implement the prescribed burn to reduce woody debris in the forest, which will help prevent catastrophic wildfires.

The prescribed burn will take two to three days to complete and will be confined to Bearpen Mountain. The southern end of the burn will be Hwy 276 at the intersection of Avery Creek Road, extending to the intersection of Coontree Loop Trail and Hwy 276. The northern portion of the burn is Coontree Gap. The burn area will be contained by Avery Creek, Hwy 276, and Coontree Loop and Bennett Gap trails.

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Bear-resistant Storage Containers Now Required on Section of Appalachian Trail

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beginning on March 1st, anyone camping overnight along the five miles of Appalachian Trail from Jarrard Gap to Neels Gap in the Chattahoochee National Forest must bring a solid, non-pliable bear-resistant canister to contain personal garbage, toiletries and foods. The new regulation was issued by the USDA Forest Service in response to public safety concerns and repeated bear-human conflicts in the region.

Bear-resistant canisters trap odors inside, eliminating the lure of food, and they are designed to be tamper-resistant against extreme force. These canisters can be purchased at most retail stores and online sellers that stock camping gear.

“We’re taking this measure to protect campers and make our campsites less alluring to the bears that live here,” Blue Ridge District Ranger Andy Baker said.

The storage regulation is mandatory for all dispersed camping in Blood Mountain Wilderness Area within a quarter mile of the trail, as well as camping at Blood Mountain Shelter and Woods Hole Shelter. It is a seasonal requirement—only from March 1st through June 1st.

Forest officials said black bear encounters have increased significantly in recent years in the Blood Mountain Wilderness Area. Bears become more active as the seasons and weather change. They are particularly attracted to human food brought into wilderness in the early spring when natural food sources are not yet plentiful. This is also the peak season for northbound Appalachian Trail hikers to begin their journeys. Conflicts between people and bears in this area have resulted in temporary camping closures in the past.

“Any bear that associates people with food is a dangerous bear because it’s going to be aggressive,” Baker said. “By removing the lure of foods and other odors, we stop giving bears a reason to approach a campsite.”

Traditional food storage methods in the wilderness, such as “bear-bagging,” or hanging food bags between trees, will not be allowed. These methods are not always effective at preventing bears from retrieving food.

This seasonal camping restriction was developed in consultation with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.

For more tips on how to protect yourself and also protect black bears when visiting the national forest, visit the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests website at or contact the Blue Ridge Ranger District Office at (706) 745-6928.

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Grandfather Ranger District to receive $605,000 for forest restoration

Last week the U.S. Forest Service announced funding awards for ten new projects under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program. The recipient of one of those awards was the Grandfather Ranger District in North Carolina. Located within the Pisgah National Forest, the Grandfather Ranger District is an area of 330,360 acres southeast of the Blue Ridge Parkway, between Asheville and Blowing Rock.

Over the next 10 years, the award of $605,000 will be used primarily for the following projects:

* Restoration of the natural fire regime to fire adapted vegetation to benefit threatened and endangered species, restore native forests and woodlands, benefit early successional wildlife species, and reduce wildfire costs and severity.

Essentially, the goal is to increase the number of prescribed burns on 36,795 acres of pine and oak forests. The Forest Service typically burns about 2,000 acres a year, but with CFLR funding, will increase that to 6,507 acres per year.

* Control non-native invasive plants to benefit threatened and endangered species at Linville Gorge and restore riparian vegetation at Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River.

* Treat eastern and Carolina hemlock for hemlock wooly adelgid to maintain genetically and ecologically important hemlock forest in the face of a non-native pest.

For more information on the program, please click here.

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Sections of Blue Ridge Parkway to close for Two Months

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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Virtual Blue Ridge is reporting that the Blue Ridge Parkway will close a section of road between State Route 191, at French Broad Parking Overlook, Milepost 393.8, to State Route 151, Milepost 405, beginning Monday, February 13, 2012. This closure is expected to remain in place until April 15, 2012. The closure is required to complete repairs of Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1, located at Milepost 401.

The Parkway will also close the section between U.S. Route 19, Milepost 455.7, to the end of the Parkway at U.S. Route 441 in Cherokee, NC, until April 15, 2012, to complete repairs on the Big Witch Tunnel, located at Milepost 461.

This second closure will impact visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains wishing to travel the Parkway from the national park.

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A Photographic Tour of Glacier National Park

As many of you are likely already aware, my wife and I launched a new trail website late last year called Hiking in

As part of our launch we published a video to Youtube a few weeks ago that highlights scenes from around Glacier National Park. The short video is a collection of photos from some of the most popular trails, from deep in the backcountry, as well as from some of the most iconic roadside vantage points.

Hope you enjoy:

If this video has in anyway inspired you to make the trek to Glacier Park this summer, don't forget to visit beforehand for some help with your trip planning. Our site provides detailed information on more than 60 hikes in the park, as well as general travel information.

Happy Trails!

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Horace Kephart Books Added To NPS History E-Library

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The NPS History e-Library announced today that they have added 48 new reports to its ever expanding collection of electronic publications. The National Park Service history program will continue to provide on-line electronic editions of studies covering a wide array of new, rare, and hard-to-find materials about our parks and the National Park Service.

Included in this latest expansion are two books by Horace Kephart; Camping and Woodcraft, and Our Southern Highlanders.

To see the entire list of the new additions, please click here.

The NPS History e-Library now has four search engines available for use in finding historical materials. If you cannot locate a specific study you can use one of the following search engines.

History e-Library in the IRMA Portal:

History e-Library in NPS Focus:

Quick Links to additional NPS Library and Database sites:

Search the text of publications:

Another 100 new park brochures have also been added to the National Park Service park brochures web site, including this guidebook from 1941. Inside the cover, just below the title, it reads:

"ASTRIDE the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountains, greatest mountain mass east of the Black Hills of South Dakota, cast a spell of mystery and enchantment."

If you have any brochures that are dated prior to 1980 that you do not see on the site, you can send them to for inclusion.

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GSMNP Rangers Investigate Two Suicides Within Ten Days

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This morning's NPS Digest is reporting that rangers are investigating two suicides that occurred in the Great Smoky Mountains during the last days of January.

On the afternoon of January 20th, dispatch received a phone call reporting a vehicle parked in the Newfound Gap parking area with a suicide note on the dash and a body of a man lying on the ground below the overlook who looked like he wasn't breathing. Rangers responded and found the man sitting at the base of a rock wall with an obvious self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. A large caliber revolver was recovered at the scene, and a suicide note was found in the victim’s vehicle parked nearby. Rangers were assisted on scene by Cherokee Tribal EMS and an NPS special agent.

The victim was a 56-year-old man from Florida. Next of kin were notified later that evening. Investigators determined that he’d placed the telephone call to park dispatch just prior to committing suicide. They also learned that he’d been charged with 22 counts of possessing child pornography and that his trial was scheduled to begin in Florida the following week. Ranger Mike Scheid is the case officer.

Ten days later, on the afternoon of January 30th, park dispatch received a report from two hikers of a man down on the Bradley Fork Trail and lying in a pool of blood. Rangers responded to the scene, which was a third of a mile up the trail from the Smokemont Campground. They found a man lying face down in the middle of the trail with a large pool of blood on the ground to his left. He had no vital signs and had an obvious gunshot wound behind the left ear. A loaded .40 caliber pistol was found at the scene. Additional ranger staff and an NPS special agent responded along with Cherokee Tribal EMS and Cherokee Fire Rescue. The victim’s vehicle was located at the Smokemont Baptist Church parking area and his wallet and a large sum of cash were found under the pulpit in the church. The victim was a 36-year-old man from South Carolina. No suicide note was found on his person or in the belongings recovered from his vehicle or the church. Next of kin were notified later that day. Ranger Carman Barnard is the case officer.

Also, on the evening of January 31st, Blue Ridge Parkway rangers were notified that a man had been found near the Frying Pan Ridge access who appeared to be in distress and had blood on his head. A U.S. Cellular contractor performing tower maintenance at the Frying Pan Ridge site found the man lying next to his vehicle. The man motioned to him for help, and the contractor went to his assistance. While doing so, he observed a revolver and the man’s wallet lying next to him. The 39-year-old Delaware man was taken to Mission Hospital and found to have a .38 caliber bullet lodged in his brain. It’s still uncertain whether surgeons will attempt to remove the bullet or let it remain. The investigation is continuing.

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Ultimate Hike Information Session

Saturday, February 4, 2012

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The Ultimate Hike is a one-day event in which ordinary folks complete the extraordinary feat of hiking more than 26 miles in one day. The local opportunity will be held this spring on May 19th when participants will hike 26.5 miles of the Foothills Trail in an effort to raise money to help find a cure for pediatric cancer, the number one cause of death by disease in children.

Each hiker is required to attend one of the information sessions held around the Asheville area. The REI Asheville store will hold an information session on February 24th, from 6:30 to 7:30, for anyone interested.

This event benefits CureSearch for Children's Cancer. For more information on the hike, please click here.

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"Car Clouting" on the decline in the Smokies

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Earlier this week Smoky Mountain News published an interesting article about three individuals that will be heading to prison for breaking into a slew of cars at trailheads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest over a several month period.

In the article, SMN mentions that the Smoky Mountains used to average about 100 car break-ins, also known as "car clouts", per year. That number dropped to 37 incidents in 2010, and only 14 last year.

They offer these tips before leaving your car at the trailhead:

• Remove valuables from vehicles.

• If you must leave valuables in vehicles, hide them out of sight in the glove compartment or trunk.

• Scan the trailhead to make sure no one suspicious is hanging about. If they are, consider moving to another trailhead.

• Do not leave a hiking itinerary on your dash. Leave it with friends, family or at a ranger station.

• Don’t back your car into a parking spot. This provides thieves cover to break into the trunk.

You can read the article by clicking here.

> Backpacks on Sale - Up to 30% off

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America's Wilderness

Friday, February 3, 2012

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Simply beautiful! A National Park Service salute to the 1964 Wilderness Act:

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Making a case for the Great Plains Trail

Thursday, February 2, 2012

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“While I know that the standard claim is that Yosemite, Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows…but the prairies and the plains, while less stunning at first sight, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America’s characteristic landscape.”

– Walt Whitman

Most people are already familiar with the Appalachian, Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest Trails. All three trails traverse the United States from north to south. However, there's a great void within the middle of the country with respect to a national border-to-border trail. That could change if one mans vision comes to fruition.

Over the last year-and-a-half, Steve Myers, a 5th-grade teacher from Colorado, has been pushing the idea for a "Great Plains Trail". Last week Myers told the National Parks Traveler:

"I believe the Great Plains is an often overlooked national treasure with remarkable scenic qualities, incredible wildlife, and a rich human history. I believe the best way to experience the beauty of the Great Plains (or any place for that matter) is through direct experience and recreation."

Mr. Myers' ultimate goal is to establish a long distance, non-motorized trail that passes through the short grass prairies of the Great Plains. He envisions a trail that will run from Canada’s Grassland National Park on the U.S. / Canadian border in Montana, to the summit of Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas.

In between, day hikers and thru-hikers will pass through the American Prairie Reserve and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Pawnee National Grassland in eastern Colorado, Arikaree Breaks in western Kansas, Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado, and will likely follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through parts of Kiowa National Grassland in northern New Mexico.

As currently envisioned, the trail will allow for hiking, horseback riding, and in most areas, mountain biking. Eventually, Myers would like to see the trail be designated as a National Scenic Trail.

I know many people might scoff at this idea, but I'm in total agreement with Steve that the Great Plains are truly beautiful, and worthy of a national scenic trail. Non-believers just need to slow down and explore the region, and all it has to offer.

For more information, or how to get involved, please click here.

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ATC grants $2000 for bear cables in the Smokies

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

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The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has granted $2,000 from its specialty license plate funds to Friends of the Smokies to help reduce black bear access to backpacker food along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies.

“With more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail running along the high ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s only natural for our groups to work together,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies.

The work has taken place at two popular shelters on the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, Spence Field and Peck’s Corner. Using the grant funds from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, park staff installed poles and cables that backpackers can use to store food out of the reach of black bears.

Friends of the Smokies and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have also partnered to renovate many of the backcountry shelters along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies and to support several other efforts to address trail maintenance and hiker safety. Reconstruction at Laurel Gap, the fifteenth and final shelter project, was completed in December.

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