Saturday, June 30, 2012

Update on Shenandoah National Park Fire

The Neighbor Mountain Fire in Shenandoah National Park has now grown to 827 acres as of the latest update this morning. The fire is burning in steep and rocky terrain, north of Route 211 and west of Skyline Drive. The forest involved is a mix of hardwoods, mountain laurel, blueberry and leaf litter. The number of firefighters and overhead staff assigned to the fire has also grown to 181 crew members. Heat and rough terrain are expected to slow suppression efforts over the next several days, while the estimated date for full containment is July 15th. The following trails and facilities are closed:

* Appalachian Trail between Elkwallow and Beahms Gap
* Jeremys Run Trail
* Neighbor Mountain Trail
* Knob Mountain Trail
* Knob Mountain Cutoff
* Jeremys Run Overlook
* Byrds Nest #4 shelter

Just north of Shenandoah is the Point 2 Wildland Fire, which has grown from 353 acres to 623 acres since yesterday. The fire is located on Massanutten Mountain between Veach Gap and Sherman Gap in the counties of Warren and Shenandoah, in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. The fire is still only 5% contained, but 163 fire-fighting personnel are now on hand. InciWeb warns that the fire poses a potential threat to homes and private land on the east and west sides of the fire. The following trails are closed until further notice:

* Massanutten National Recreation Trail (#408) from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap
* Tuscarora Trail (#405.1) is closed from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road (SR 613)
* Sherman Gap Trail (#403)
* Veach Gap Trail (#484)
* The Little Crease Trail Shelter is also closed

Both fires, by the way, were caused by lightning.


John Muir Was Absolutely Right!

"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 National Park in the early 1890s

With more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, Glacier is renowned as a hiker's paradise. However, did you know that there are many other outdoor recreational activities available in and around the park, including rafting, boating, fly fishing and horseback riding? Check out our "Things To Do" page on our new "sister" website for links to outfitters and guided trips in the Glacier Park area.

Also, if you are planning to visit Glacier Park this summer, be sure to visit our accommodations page to help with all your lodging needs!

Thanks for your support!


Thomas Divide Hike

Join the Great Smoky Mountains Association and naturalist Liz Domingue for a 3.5 mile round-trip hike on the Thomas Divide Trail next Saturday. This trail, located off Newfound Gap Road on the North Carolina side of the park, was built by the CCC in 1934.

It has moderate uphill and downhill grades. You'll encounter a forest of Eastern hemlock, yellow birch, American beech, and several species of maple. Many fallen chestnut logs can be seen on the forest floor.

Every season will reward you with diverse vegetation, and if Nature proves herself early as she has been known to do this year, you may be rewarded by some impressive displays of Turk's cap lilies and wild bergamot.

As always, wear appropriate hiking gear. Bring rain gear and bottled water, along with a snack or lunch. A hiking stick is recommended.

Since the trailhead can be hard to locate, Liz recommends meeting her at Sugarlands Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. on July 7, and car-pooling from there.

This hike is limited to 20 participants. There is a $5 fee for GSMA members, and a $10 charge for non-members. Children under 10 years of age are not encouraged to take part in this hike. Children 10-12 are welcome and there is no charge for them.

Call 865-436-7318, Ext. 222 or 254 to register.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Smoky Mountains Exploring Sister Park Relationship with New Icelandic Park

The Alcoa Foundation has just announced that it is providing grants to Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and The American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF) to launch a two-year Icelandic National Parks Training Program, which helps promote and protect national parks and reserves throughout Iceland. The program is designed to develop the capacity of Icelanders working on the development, management, and conservation of Iceland’s national parks—both park staff and employees of partner organizations. Fourteen Icelanders have been selected to participate in two study programs; both will be held in the United States.

The fourteen training fellows will receive classroom instruction on topics such as managing natural resources and building partnerships, while also observing and interacting with staff at several national parks in the United States. They will return with management skills and peer networks for conservation and park development. The fall 2012 training session will be held near Washington, D.C., and the spring 2013 session will be held in Washington State and Oregon.

Alcoa Foundation is funding the program through grants of $40,000 to Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and $112,000 to ASF. Friends of the Smokies raises funds and provides volunteer support to help preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Friends of the Smokies has previously consulted on the creation of the Friends of Vatnajokull group, and the two national parks are considering a possible sister park arrangement to guide future interaction.

ASF is a publicly supported nonprofit organization that promotes international understanding through educational and cultural exchange between the United States and the five Nordic countries. Other key program partners include the U.S. National Park Service Office of International Affairs and the Association of Partners for Public Lands.

The fourteen Icelanders selected for the training include eight park rangers from Iceland’s national parks—two from Thingvellir near the capital of Reykjavik, one from Snaefellsjokull in Western Iceland, and five from the vast Vatnajokull National Park in Eastern Iceland. Other fellows represent a mixture of agencies and non-profit organizations, including the Environmental Agency of Iceland, Friends of Vatnajokull, the Icelandic Search and Rescue Association, the Icelandic Tourist Board, and the Northeast Nature Center.

Three national parks have been established in Iceland: Thingvellir National Park that was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1972, Snaefellsjokull National Park, and Vatnajokull National Park, which is Iceland’s newest national park and also the largest national park in Europe. Together they contribute to safeguarding important wildlife, geological formations, ecosystem services, and outdoor recreation.


Wildfires in Southern Appalachians Grow; More Trail Closures

As of this morning there are now 47 uncontained large wildfires burning nationwide, up 6 from yesterday. Below is a run down of the three fires burning in the Southern Appalachians:

The Neighbor Mountain Fire in Shenandoah National Park has grown to 800 acres as of yesterday afternoon. The fire is burning north of Route 211 and west of Skyline Drive. Seventy-three firefighters and overhead staff are currently assigned. Heat and rough terrain are expected to slow suppression efforts over the next several days, while the estimated date for full containment is July 15th. The following trails and facilities are closed:

* Appalachian Trail between Elkwallow and Beahms Gap
* Jeremys Run Trail
* Neighbor Mountain Trail
* Knob Mountain Trail
* Knob Mountain Cutoff
* Jeremys Run Overlook
* Byrds Nest #4 shelter

Just north of Shenandoah is the Point 2 Wildland Fire, which has grown to 353 acres as of last night. The fire is located on Massanutten Mountain between Veach Gap and Sherman Gap in the counties of Warren and Shenandoah, in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. The fire is still only 5% contained, but 105 fire-fighting personnel are on hand. The following trails are closed until further notice:

* Massanutten National Recreation Trail (#408) from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap
* Tuscarora Trail (#405.1) is closed from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road (SR 613)
* Sherman Gap Trail (#403)
* Veach Gap Trail (#484)
* The Little Crease Trail Shelter is also closed

US Forest Service officials in the Cherokee National Forest say a wildfire has burned nearly two hundred acres on the Ocoee Ranger District in Polk County since Monday. The fire is located off U.S. Highway 64 near Goforth Creek in steep rugged terrain. There are currently no threats to any structures.

Approximately 50 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, and various volunteer fire departments are working on containment lines. The extremely steep terrain combined with very hot and dry conditions is making firefighting efforts difficult.

Ocoee Acting District Ranger Andy Gaston said, “Motorist should exercise caution when traveling along Highway 64. Firefighting crews and equipment as well as smoke will be in the area and may cause traffic delays. In addition, the Goforth Creek parking area will be used for firefighting access and equipment parking and is closed to public use.”

Gaston also noted that, “There have been hot and dry conditions over the last few days and this pattern will continue into the weekend and the 4th of July week. National Forest visitors need to be very careful with fire and ensure that campfires are out and cold before leaving.”

Finally, the Iron Mountain multi-use trail, located adjacent to Cottonwood Patch campground in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, is temporarily closed on the Tennessee side due to fire activity. The trail will re-open once conditions are safe.


Appalachian Trail Conservancy Seeks Trail Crew Volunteers

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy(ATC) is searching for volunteers, ages 18 and older, to help maintain sections along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). No previous Trail experience is necessary - just a desire to work hard, live in the backcountry and have a great time among new friends.

For more adventurous volunteers, the Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew (S.W.E.A.T.) leads volunteers into the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to work at the highest elevations along the A.T. Volunteer opportunities are available now until August 18th.

Konnarock, the ATC’s flagship crew, recently completed the first half of their season and are searching for additional volunteers to work from July 5th through August 13th. The Konnarock Crewtackles projects involving trail construction from the A.T.'s southern terminus in Springer Mountain, Georgia to Rockfish Gap in central Virginia. Trail construction involves working with a team of volunteers, using hand tools and working eight-hour days.

The Mid-Atlantic Crew is also searching for volunteers this fall. Based at an old farmstead in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the Crew works on the A.T. from Rockfish Gap in Virginia to the New York-Connecticut state line. This is an eight-week program running from August 30ththrough October 22nd.

For both the Konnarock and Mid-Atlantics Crews, volunteers arrive on the Wednesday afternoon before their work week for a dinner and mandatory orientation session and work a five-day week in the field, from Thursday through Monday.

The ATC’s all-volunteer trail crews are led by paid trail crew professionals who teach volunteers trail stewardship and Leave No Trace skills during the multi-day adventure. The ATC provides food, tools and the equipment necessary to get the job completed. Multi-week volunteers arewelcome to stay at our various base camps between sessions.

Trail Crews tackle projects such as relocation, reconstruction, and bridge and shelter construction along the A.T. The all-volunteer crews are active every year, from May through October, on projects located from Maine to Georgia. Trail Crew projects, which may last for a week or more, are planned and completed in cooperation with Trail-maintaining clubs and agency partners such as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. The ATC’s Trail Crew program is supported by La Sportiva and Mountain Khakis.

To learn more about the ATC’s Trail Crews, visit


Clingmans Dome - Highpoint of the Smokies

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the third highest point east of the Mississippi, and provides one of the most scenic viewpoints in the United States. This video from the Great Smoky Mountains Association takes you on a journey through one of the most interesting mountain ecosystems in the country:

© GSMA 2012. All rights reserved.

Most people are likely already aware that the Appalachian Trail crosses over Clingmans Dome, but did you know that the Mountains-to-Sea Trail begins from the highest point in the Smokies?


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wildfire in Ocoee Ranger District of Cherokee National Forest

US Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest say a wildfire has burned nearly two hundred acres on the Ocoee Ranger District in Polk County since Monday. The fire is located off U.S. Highway 64 near Goforth Creek in steep rugged terrain. There are currently no threats to any structures.

Approximately 50 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, and various volunteer fire departments are working on containment lines. The extremely steep terrain combined with very hot and dry conditions is making firefighting efforts difficult.

Ocoee Acting District Ranger Andy Gaston said, “Motorist should exercise caution when traveling along Highway 64. Firefighting crews and equipment as well as smoke will be in the area and may cause traffic delays. In addition, the Goforth Creek parking area will be used for firefighting access and equipment parking and is closed to public use.”

Gaston also noted that, “There have been hot and dry conditions over the last few days and this pattern will continue into the weekend and the 4th of July week. National Forest visitors need to be very careful with fire and ensure that campfires are out and cold before leaving.”

Forest Service officials say fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices are prohibited on national forest lands year-round, regardless of weather conditions or holidays. Regulations are enforced, and violation is punishable as a misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.


Wildfire Shuts Down Trails in Shenandoah National Park

As of yesterday afternoon, a 180-acre wildfire in Shenandoah National Park has shut down the following trails:

* Appalachian Trail between Elkwallow and Beahms Gap

* Jeremys Run

* Neighbor Mountain

* Knob Mountain

* Knob Mountain Cutoff.

Jeremys Run Overlook and Byrds Nest #4 shelter are also closed. The fire is currently burning on Neighbor Mountain, roughly located near the Thornton Gap Entrance.

Just north of the northern entrance, outside of Shenandoah, there is another 181-acre fire. Known as the Point 2 Wildland Fire, this fire is located on Massanutten Mountain between Veach Gap and Sherman Gap in the counties of Warren and Shenandoah. As of last night, the fire was 5% contained. A couple of trails have also been closed:

* Massanutten National Recreation Trail (#408) from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap

* Tuscarora Trail (#405.1) is closed from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road (SR 613).

* Sherman Gap Trail (#403)

* Veach Gap Trail (#484)


Most fire and all fireworks banned in Daniel Boone National Forest

Due to current drought conditions, management officials have issued emergency orders concerning visitors’ use of fire in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Beginning June 27, campfires, charcoal grills, candles and open-flame torches are prohibited outside of developed recreation areas on national forest lands. Fires are allowed in developed sites within Forest Service designated fire rings constructed of metal or concrete.

Portable lanterns and stoves that use gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted, which allows for the use of tabletop and backpack stoves that are popular with many campers and hikers.

A separate order prohibits “possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device” anywhere on national forest lands of the Daniel Boone.

“When considering the current drought conditions and the extended forecast with little to no rain in sight, these orders were issued to help ensure public safety and reduce the chance for wildfires,” said Deputy Forest Supervisor Bill Lorenz.

“The fire bans are needed as an added safeguard for our visitors, employees, neighbors, and adjacent property.”

Forest Service fire managers closely monitor the potential for wildfire during extended periods of dry weather. Weather data and computer models are used to determine fire risks. The current indicators show high fire danger for this time of year.

“The lack of rain and high temperatures has caused the forest ground fuels to become extremely dry over the past few weeks,” added Lorenz.

“Over the past several years, some of the most damaging wildfires affecting our natural resources have occurred during drought conditions. These fires started from escaped campfires or campers using fireworks or candles.”

In Kentucky, the official fire hazard seasons run from February 15 - April 30 and October 1 - December 15. Wildfires in Kentucky rarely occur outside of these timeframes unless drought conditions are in progress.

Inside the developed recreation areas where campfires are allowed, officials recommend that campfires be kept to a minimum and contained in designated fire rings or grills within developed recreation areas.

Any individual caught violating the campfire or fireworks ban on national forest lands will be issued a minimum $300 fine. Individuals or groups responsible for causing a wildfire may also be held liable for suppression costs, which can become extensive once firefighters and heavy equipment are needed.

The commercial firework displays that are scheduled to occur at Laurel River Lake and Cave Run Lake for the Fourth of July are exempted from the emergency order banning fireworks in the national forest.


Mulberry-Globe Stewardship Project to Improve Caldwell County Streams

Earlier in the week the U.S. Forest Service announced that several streams around the Boone Fork Campground will be improved as part of the Mulberry-Globe Stewardship Project, now underway in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.

China Creek is among the waterways that will benefit from new project added to the Mulberry-Globe project.

“Thanks to $74,611 in matching funds from the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Forest Service and partners will restore several streams around Boone Fork Campground and relocate a trail near China Creek as part of the Mulberry-Globe Stewardship Project,” said District Ranger John Crockett.

The stream restoration effort near Boone Fork Campground, which is closed this year, will improve water quality in Boone Fork and one of its tributaries, as well as Deep Cove Creek, by reducing erosion and enhancing passage and habitat for trout and other species. The project will enhance degraded stream banks and aquatic habitat at 13 areas along a half-mile stretch of Boone Fork. Other project goals include:

* Improving fish passage at one culvert on Deep Cove Creek.

* Removing four culverts and stabilizing an eroding stream bank along Boone Fork.

* Stabilizing a reservoir pipe.

* Planting native trees, shrubs and herbaceous ground cover on all disturbed stream banks to provide long-term bank stability, stream shading and cover and food for wildlife.

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), U.S. Forest Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) are collaborating on the stream restoration effort titled the Boone Fork Stream Rehabilitation and Habitat Enhancement Plan.

For more information on the project moving forward, please click here.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mammoth Cave NP bans all fires north of Green River

Superintendent Patrick Reed announced today that the park has placed a temporary ban on all campfires in the backcountry, along the floodplains, and at Maple Spring Group Campground north of Green River.

"The National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement today regarding increased fire danger, and like most of our area, the park has not experienced significant rainfall for three weeks," said Reed. "To protect the park, we are instituting a ban on campfires along the floodplains and all of the park north of Green River."

The temporary ban includes all campfires in backcountry camping sites and the Maple Springs Group Campground. Canoeist who camp along the Nolin or Green River floodplains are also banned from lighting campfires.

"Campfires will still be permitted in the Mammoth Cave Campground and in the Houchin Ferry Campground," said Chief Ranger Brad McDougal. "This ban will remain in effect until there is a change in the current weather situation, such as a rise in relative humidity or sufficient rainfall to reduce the fire danger."


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Report Finds Annual Spending on Outdoor Recreation Reaches $646 Billion, Employs 6.1 Million

A report released last week by the Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) shows that outdoor recreation is a major economic driver in the United States — and one that has grown throughout the recession. According to The Outdoor Recreation Economy report, more than 140 million Americans engage in outdoor activities each year, directly delivering $646 billion to the economy and supporting 6.1 million domestic jobs.

This new study reinforces what the outdoor industry has known for a long time — outdoor recreation is a larger and more critical sector of the American economy than most people realize.

The outdoor recreation economy is responsible for:

* 6.1 million direct American jobs
* $646 billion in direct consumer spending
* $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue
* $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue

“During a time when some American industries are struggling, we are seeing solid growth,” said Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports and chair of the OIA Board of Directors. “Since 2005, the outdoor recreation economy has grown approximately 5% annually. In fact, outdoor recreation supports a significant number of jobs, on par with — or, in some cases, more than — other sizeable American industries.”

America is recognized globally as the leader in outdoor recreation. CEOs from leading outdoor recreation companies are calling on policymakers to take action to promote this critical component of the American economy.

“Outdoor recreation directly fuels major sectors of the American economy like manufacturing, hospitality and transportation. Just like any other sector of the U.S. economy, outdoor recreation needs support to continue to thrive,” said Manzer.

“This is the definition of a win-win scenario,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. “In this country today, we’re battling an economic recession, a healthcare crisis, and we’re trying to create safe and sustainable places for families to live. The outdoor industry provides solutions for all of this. We need to come up with a strategy to protect the industry, its jobs and our customers.”

The outdoor industry can continue to be a growing jobs generator and an economic driver in the United States if parks, waters and trails are managed as a system designed to sustain these economic dividends for America.

For a full copy of the report, please click here.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains on Late Night Radio

Every now and then I have a hard time getting to sleep - for whatever reason. Last night was one of those nights. After getting a little bored with the topics being discussed on the national sports talk station, I searched the dial for something a little more interesting. I happened upon a discussion on missing persons in national parks.

The program was on Coast to Coast with George Knapp as the host. His guest for the night was David Paulides, a former lawman turned investigative journalist. With some of his research highlighted in a couple of recently published books, Paulides has collected more than 450 cases of mysterious and baffling disappearances in our national parks over the last several decades.

The first hour, already in progress when I joined-in, focussed on missing cases throughout the western parks. However, Paulides spent the next hour discussing three disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains, with most of that time spent on Dennis Martin, the six-year-old boy who disappeared at Spence Field in 1969. Over the years the father of the boy apparently refused to speak about the disappearance anymore, but Paulides was granted an interview at the Martin home recently. Paulides presents some interesting information about the case that was never discussed in the local press, including a quite fantastic observation made by Harold Key. I didn't know this either, but there were 80 armed Green Beret Special Forces that took part in that search for Dennis, that ultimately came up empty handed.

The interview was timely in light of the two young men that mysteriously disappeared in the Smokies back in March - just days apart from each other.

Although his conclusions as to what may have happened in many of these disappearances seems a little far-fetched, the interview and the facts surrounding the cases are quite compelling. If you wish to listen to the interview, the complete program is available here for download on the Coast to Coast website. Paulides was also featured in a fairly in-depth article recently published on a Las Vegas TV website.


Friends of Shenandoah Day: July 28, 2012

On Saturday, July 28, the Friends of Shenandoah will hold its Second Annual Friends of Shenandoah Day. This day of special hikes, ranger programs and entertainment is for Shenandoah National Park Trust members and their families. Activities overlap so you can choose what you like best. All activities are suitable for able-footed children or toddlers in backpacks.

For more information on all the events offered, please click here.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

How would like to be a Backpack Field Tester?

Tahoe Mountain Sports and Boreas Gear are teaming up to get real-world feedback from hikers, bikers, campers and climbers across the country on the unique, innovative backpacks from Boreas Gear.

Five testers will be selected to put a Boreas pack to the test – whether it’s on a week-long backpacking trip or daily bicycle commute – whatever you’re adventure is, Tahoe Mountain Sports wants to know how the Boreas Backpack performs. Just head to the Tahoe Mountain Sports Facebook Page and tell them what you propose to do with a new Boreas pack.

“We’re looking for testers who can really take advantage of what our packs have to offer – whether you’re planning a big backpacking trip, you need a great day pack to haul around climbing equipment, or you live on your bike,” said Anders Johnson, sales manager with Boreas Gear.

Check out the full line of Boreas Gear backpacks to see which pack would be best for you to test, and get creative! Pack selection subject to availability.

Tahoe Mountain Sports pick five testers on July 6 and send them packs for field testing. The testers will then send 500 to 1,000 word reviews with a minimum of three photographs to Tahoe Mountain Sports by August 15th. By completing the review and photos, testers will get to keep their new Boreas pack!

“We’re excited about Boreas packs, and we want to help get the word out by putting these in the hands and on the backs of real-world users,” said Dave Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

NC Wildlife Commission Seeks Information on Wrongful Elk Deaths

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking information from the public to assist in an investigation about the deaths of three elk, found outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Mount Sterling area of Haywood County.

All three elk are believed to have died as the result of gunshot wounds inflicted sometime around May 18th. Forensic tests show a bull elk was mortally wounded by a .22 caliber firearm; a cow elk was shot in the neck with birdshot from a shotgun; while an undetermined gunshot led to the death of a pregnant cow elk.

Anyone with any information is asked to call toll-free 1-800-662-7137, available 24 hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park began an experimental reintroduction of elk in February 2001 and there are now nearly 150 animals. Originally found throughout the southern Appalachians, elk had disappeared from North Carolina by the early 1800s. Elk are listed as a species of special concern in North Carolina.


US Forest Service adds four heavy helicopters to support wildfire suppression

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced earlier this week that the agency is adding four heavy helicopters to the aviation firefighting fleet.

The helicopters will be available this summer for large fire support and initial attack to any location in the United States.

The U.S. Forest Service successfully suppresses about 98% of the approximately 10,000 wildfires that occur each year on National Forest System lands.

Two of the heavy helicopters are S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; one is an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and one is an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla.

Helicopters are used primarily for dropping retardant or water during wildland fires, supporting the actions of firefighters on the ground. The additional helicopter assets will strengthen the agency’s capability to respond effectively to fire activity during the summer wildfire season.

The Forest Service can respond vigorously to wildfire with an array of assets that includes more than 15,000 USDA and Department of the Interior firefighters (about 70% from the Forest Service) and up to 950 engines, 14 large airtankers, eight Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, one very large (DC-10) airtanker, 300 call-when-needed helicopters, and a mix of type 1, 2, and 3 helicopters.

On June 13, the agency awarded exclusive use contracts for seven "Next Generation" airtankers. Three will be operational in 2012 and four in 2013. This is the first step in implementing the Large Airtanker Modernization Strategy, which was submitted to Congress in February and recommends 18 to 28 large airtankers.

The Forest Service uses many tools for wildland fire suppression including accelerated restoration efforts that include thinning and other fuels treatments. Restoration of National Forest System lands are critically needed to address a number of threats to the health of forest ecosystems, watersheds, and forest dependent communities.

This year, as in the past, firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks Protection Ranger

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting for a protection ranger who is interested in working at the Little River Ranger Station within the Tennessee District.

Little River rangers are responsible for a full range of law enforcement and all-risk duties, including traditional patrol operations, EMS, SAR, resource protection and wildland fire details. The park has an active FLETC field training evaluation program and opportunities may exist to apply for a field training ranger position.

The patrol area of responsibility for the Little River workgroup includes a large portion of Newfound Gap Road, a four lane highway known as the “Spur,” Elkmont Campground, and backcountry areas, including Mt. Leconte. The area is extremely busy with a high volume of traffic-related incidents. Rangers also work closely with the Gatlinburg Police Department and their fire and rescue squads.

Interested career or career conditional rangers, who currently hold Type I or Type II law enforcement commissions are encouraged to respond by close of business, July 5th.

For more information regarding this position, please contact Little River Area Supervisor Bobby Fleming at or call 865-430-0325.


Understanding Survival

In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses weather, lightning and altitude:


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Woman Reports Sexual Assault on Blue Ridge Parkway

This morning's NPS Digest is reporting that a rape took place along the Blue Ridge Parkway last month.

A Virginia woman reported that she was attacked and raped by two men at the Ground Hog Mountain picnic ground.

On Sunday, May 13th, the woman was transported to a local hospital, where she reported the assault to hospital staff. They in turn contacted park dispatch that evening and reported the incident. Rangers interviewed the woman, who said that she’d been walking the trail that runs through the picnic area around 3 p.m. that afternoon when she was attacked from behind by the two men. They assaulted her and then fled. She said that another woman helped her back to her car, that she then left the area, and that about four hours after the attack, decided to go to the hospital due to the pain of her injuries.

Rangers conducted a consent search of her vehicle for evidence of the crime and found a receipt dated May 13th and time stamped at 3 p.m. from a location more than 20 miles from the scene of the alleged attack. The woman was released the next day.

Following consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, rangers turned the case over to Patrick County investigators. They contacted the woman and arranged a second interview. She reluctantly consented and the investigators met with her on May 20th. She refused to provide additional details regarding the incident. The investigation continues.


Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2012

The 2012 Class of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame was introduced at the annual Hall of Fame Banquet, held at Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, PA on June 8. The 2012 Class included five pioneers of the Trail, including the first two women inductees.

"Each class of Appalachian Trail Museum Hall of Fame inductees includes people who have made a major contribution to the Appalachian Trail, or otherwise have advanced the cause of the Appalachian Trail. The 2012 class certainly upholds those standards" said Larry Luxenberg, founder of the Appalachian Trail Museum and president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society - the organization that sponsors the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.

This years' inductees include, Emma Rowena "Grandma" Gatewood, David A. Richie, J. Frank Schairer, Jean Stephenson and Major William Adams Welch.

For a short bio on each of these inductees, please click here.


National Parks From Space

Most of you are likely aware, or have seen photos of earth taken from the space shuttle or the International Space Station. However, did you know that NASA has a collection of photos featuring various national parks around the country? To be honest, many of the photos weren't all that impressive, in my opinion. There are a couple, such as Death Valley, or Crater Lake and North Cascades, that are quite compelling. However, the one photo that I was extremely impressed with was that of Grand Teton National Park:

To see other space photos of national parks you can browse through the NASA image gallery.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Appalachian Trail Celebrates 75th Anniversary This August

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length from Georgia to Maine. The anniversary will occur on Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

The original Trail took more than 15 years to build and was completed on August 14, 1937. Construction involved the cooperation of hundreds of volunteers, state and federal partners, local Trail-maintaining clubs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

The A.T. travels through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from its southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to its northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine. Over 250,000 acres of contiguous Trail lands are protected and managed along the footpath. The trail reaches its highest point at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.

An estimated 2 to 3 million people visit the A.T. every year. Hikers from across the globe are drawn to the Trail for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people, strengthen old friendships or to experience a simpler life. About 2,000 people attempt to "thru-hike" the estimated 2,180 miles of the Trail each year, with only one out of four completing the entire journey.

"This year marks a milestone for the Appalachian Trail," said Mark Wenger, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. "Not only does this anniversary celebrate the completion of the Trail, it also celebrates the unique collaboration and determination of countless individuals, private organizations, and state and federal agencies in their efforts to complete this long-distance hiking trail from Maine to Georgia."

The conception of the A.T. came from the October 1921 article "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning" in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Written by Benton MacKaye, he proposed the idea as an escape from daily life in an increasingly industrial nation. MacKaye originally called for a series of work, study and farming camps along the Appalachian Mountains, but building a trail to connect them soon became his primary objective. The Appalachian Trail Conference (now called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) was founded four years later in 1925.

Since the A.T was first completed in 1937, it has undergone a remarkable transformation. Almost 99% has been relocated or rebuilt. Hundreds of miles of the original route were along roads and passed through private lands. Thanks to the determination of Myron H. Avery and the ATC, the passage of the National Trails System Act, and the work of many partners and volunteers, more than 99% of the A.T. is now in public ownership. Not only is the footpath itself protected, but a corridor of land, averaging one thousand feet in width, is also protected.

The Trail today is not only better protected but traverses more scenic landscapes than the original route. Many of the A.T.'s most cherished highlights were not part of the A.T. in 1937: Roan Mountain, Tennessee; the Mt. Rogers High Country, including Grayson Highlands, Virginia; the Pochuck Creek swamp, New Jersey; Nuclear Lake, New York; Thundering Falls, Vermont; and Saddleback Mountain, Maine, to name a few.

The treadway itself each year becomes more sustainable. Except for places where the Civilian Conservation Corps provided additional support (mostly in Shenandoah National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Maine), the original Trail was often routed straight up and down mountains, making for rough hiking and a treadway prone to severe erosion. The ATC's trail crews and volunteer trail-maintaining clubs have relocated or rehabilitated countless miles of Trail and each year continue to improve the treadway.

As a unit of the National Park System, the Trail is managed under a unique partnership between public and private sectors that includes the ATC, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs and an array of state agencies.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T., the ATC will host a weekend celebration on August 11 and 12 at its headquarters at 799 Washington St., Harpers Ferry, WV. Highlights include guest speakers, workshops, activities, food, music and games.

Trail-maintaining Clubs across the East Coast are also preparing events to celebrate the anniversary. The Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers in Ceres, Virginia, are hosting a hike on June 14 to 18, and volunteers from the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club in Damascus, Virginia, have planned a day hike on August 18. Members from the Maine Appalachian Trail Club in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, also have celebratory activities planned on August 18.

For more information about the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T., including ways to give back and local celebrations, visit


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Smokies Offer New Programs For Families

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with support from the National Park Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation and the Great Smoky Mountains Association, will be kicking off the summer with new programs designed specifically for families. The new programs are based on the park's current Hike the Smokies and Adopt a Trail programs, both of which have been hugely successful.

The new child-friendly Hike the Smokies program encourages families to hike the park's shorter, less-strenuous trails and offers them an opportunity to record the number of miles hiked in a booklet designed especially for the program. The booklet also contains a spot for family members completing 10 and 40 miles to display special stickers awarded for achieving those two milestones. Special "Hike the Smokies-For Families" lapel pins are awarded to those completing 25 and 50 miles. For more information about Hike the Smokies, click here.

The new Adopt a Trail program gives parents and children an opportunity to help maintain a short, kid-friendly park trail. As trail adopters, families help preserve the beauty of a park trail by keeping it trash-free. Adopters also help by removing small branches from the trail and reporting larger maintenance needs to the park. After five maintenance trips, families receive a special certificate and lapel pin in recognition of their work. For more information on Adopt a Trail, click here.

Two family-oriented work days will be offered this summer as part of the Adopt a Trail program. Both days were designed with kids in mind. The first work day is Saturday, June 30th on the Pine Oak Nature Trail in Cades Cove, on the Tennessee side of the park. The second work day will be held on Saturday, August 4th on the Balsam Mountain Nature Trail, on the North Carolina side of the park. To participate in one of the trail work days, contact Christine Hoyer at 828-497-1949.

"Today's children are tomorrow's leaders and stewards of our national parks," says Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Family volunteer opportunities in the Smokies are not only a great way to get young people involved in our national parks, they're a wonderful opportunity for families to spend quality time and enjoy the outdoors together."

The park also continues to offer traditional ranger-led hikes. Many of these hikes are opportunities for children to complete fun activities, as well as to learn about the park's plants and animals. Some hikes also incorporate learning how to properly prepare for hiking in the park's backcountry. Schedules for ranger-led hikes may be found in the Smokies Guide, which is available at any park visitor center or by calling 865-463-7318.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Possible new clues in Gatlinburg Trail assault

National Park Service investigators are seeking to identify and question an individual who a local couple says meets the description of the June, 8th assault suspect. The couple saw the man on the Gatlinburg Trail on Wednesday, June 6th, and again that Friday, near the time of the attack. Both his physical appearance and dress match that of the suspect.

During contact with the couple, the unknown man made statements suggesting that he is a roofer. The man is thought to drive a full-size, dark blue or black, standard-cab pickup truck. Chief Ranger Clay Jordan emphasizes, however, it is not known whether this individual is actually the assailant or whether he truthfully identified his occupation.

The suspect is described as a white male in his 40s, with dirty-blonde crew-cut hair and glasses. He is thin and stands about 5' 9" tall. At the time of the attack, he was wearing black dress pants and a gray t-shirt. He also has multiple tattoos, including one described as a word tattooed across his stomach.

Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the person sought for questioning is encouraged to call the tip hotline at 865-436-1580. A reward of up to $5,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assailant.


Classic Hikes of the Smokies: July

The Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes of the Smokies series continues next month with a hike to Purchase Knob.

Thursday, July 19: Purchase Knob
7.5 miles, 1,500 ft. ascent

From Purchase Knob, we'll walk to the Swag and back. When we return, Smokies rangers will show us around the building and explain the work that goes on at Purchase.

To register email Hannah Epperson at or call (828) 452-0720.

A donation of $35 to go to the Friends’ Smokies Trails Forever program is requested, and includes a complimentary membership to Friends of the Smokies. A donation of $10 is requested from current Friends of the Smokies members. Members who bring a friend hike for free.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rosebay Rhododendron Super Bloom

According to the latest video from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the Great Smoky Mountains just may be experiencing a Rosebay Rhododendron "super bloom".

Rosebays are already blooming in abundance in the lower elevations, and over the next several weeks will bring out the blooms up to elevations of 5000 feet. But as the video explains, in some years, there are more blossoms than usual, and are known as a "super bloom" years. In fact, the GSMA stated on their Facebook page yesterday that the blooms might be the best in 100 years!

© GSMA 2012. All rights reserved.

To experience the Rhododendron blooms up close, check out the Cove Mountain Trail, Meigs Creek Trail, Cooper Road Trail, Little Bottoms Trail, and the lower half of Abrams Falls Trail.


Part of Davis Creek Road in Nantahala to Remain Closed until Early Fall

The USDA Forest Service announced Friday that a portion of Davis Creek Road in the Tusquitee Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest, will remain closed until early fall to complete road improvement work.

The contract road work affects approximately three miles of National Forest System Road (NFSR) 420-1 (also known as Davis Creek Road or Tipton Creek Road), from the intersection of NFSR 420-5 south to the intersection of NFSR 420-4. The road was scheduled to re-open soon, but this date has been changed in order to allow the construction contractor time to complete the work.

The project will result in greatly improved, safer, all-season access both to National Forest lands and the Tipton Creek Community, as well as better access from Murphy north toward Tellico Plains in Tennessee. The Forest Service will construct a new asphalt route that will bypass steep switchbacks, which will be eliminated and restored to natural grade. The remaining portion of Davis Creek Road south, past Allen Gap to the pavement, will remain gravel. The project will close Davis Creek Road to traffic in the construction zone.

Travelers wishing to go west or north from Murphy toward Tennessee should use alternate routes during the closure period, such as Joe Brown Highway or Beaverdam Road. Questions concerning the road work may be directed to Karl Buchholz, engineer, at 828-257-4262.

The $508,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project will improve a roadway that serves visitors to the national forest and residents of surrounding communities.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

REI Awards Appalachian Trail Conservancy $20,000 Grant to Support Volunteer Leadership Development

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced yesterday that it has just received a $20,000 grant from REI, a national outdoor retailer, to support the ATC's Volunteer Leadership Meeting held this August.

Ninety leaders from the ATC's 31 Trail Club affiliates will attend the two day meeting to focus on volunteer leadership development. Participants will learn about volunteer recruitment and retention, Trail history and culture, and the role of technology and social media. The event will take place from August 10 to 12 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

REI has provided support to the ATC for nearly a decade. Annually, REI dedicates a portion of its operating profits to support and participate in outdoor volunteerism — working with hundreds of nonprofit organizations in communities across the country.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to have supporters like REI to help further train and develop the future leaders and stewards of the Appalachian Trail,” said Mark Wenger, executive director of the ATC.

REI stores in Georgia and Virginia have conducted many Leave No Trace workshops for volunteers. Last year the Asheville REI store hosted the Radical Reels Tour, donating all proceeds to the ATC. REI staff has also assisted several times with the ATC's Trail to Every Classroom program training.

“At REI we are committed to living active lives in the outdoors and caring for the places where we recreate,” said Ray Dinterman, REI retail director. “In partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, we bring our stewardship ethic to life by working side-by-side with our members, employees and entire communities maintaining one of our country’s most treasured resources, the Appalachian Trail.”


No Water at DeSoto Falls Recreation Area

Water resources at DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in the Blue Ridge Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest will be unavailable until further notice.

The water source is contaminated and not suitable for use at this time. The bathhouse and drinking water facilities are unavailable for use.

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest ask that you bring your own water until further notice.

In the meantime, due to limited services, the camping fee will now be $6.00 per night/site. Officials stated that they are working to resolve the issue and will have water available as soon as possible.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Defining Survival

Below is the first in a series of outdoor survival videos, produced by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, that I will be posting on this blog over the next several weeks. Each episode deals with a different aspect of survival in the outdoors. Although the videos are geared towards hunters and fishermen, the excellent advice and tips they provide are applicable to anyone who ventures into the wilderness, including hikers and backpackers. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to surviving any number of events that could happen while in the wilderness.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Americorps Team Begins Work on the Cumberland Trail

Seven members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) recently arrived at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to begin work in the park for the next five weeks.

The team, with members hailing from California all the way to New York, will help to maintain and build trail within the park during their five-week assignment. Specifically, they will focus on a four-mile stretch of the Cumberland Trail, which begins just past the Tri-State Peak above the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and runs to Chattanooga. The trail will serve as a connector route between a longer 220-mile long trail linking state and national park areas, and numerous communities. The renovated trail will draw many new visitors with its scenic beauty atop a ridge overlooking the pristine Fern Lake.

"This is going to be a great trail once they're through with it," says Park Ranger and Volunteer Coordinator Scott Teodorski. "I think visitors new and old alike will find this to be one of their favorites in the park. I know it will be one of mine." The AmeriCorps team will also set up an information table at the Cumberland Gap NHP visitor center on Saturday, June 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. NCCC member Miguel Ortega will answer questions about the project, in addition to distributing information on the program to all interested.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a 10-month full-time, team-based national service program for men and women ages 18-24. They serve in five regions of the United States in communities, meeting needs in the areas of disaster services, environmental stewardship, energy conservation, urban and rural development and infrastructure improvement. NCCC members respond to disasters, construct homes, develop trails in state and national parks, mentor children and youth, oversee emergency shelters, lead volunteers and meet many other needs identified by communities. Members receive CPR and First Aid training, leadership coaching, project development, valuable work experience and an AmeriCorps education award of $5,550 that can be used to pay tuition or student loans.

NCCC is one of three AmeriCorps programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. Interested applicants can learn more at For more information about this project or event, contact Joe McGrath at (585) 313-4730 or Andrew Golden (608) 669-1448.

For more information on the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and how to become more involved please visit


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Forest Service Issues Warning about Black Bears in Shining Rock Wilderness

The U.S. Forest Service issued a warning yesterday for visitors to the Shining Rock Wilderness area of the Pisgah National Forest to be on the look-out for black bears.

While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

The warning comes after several bear encounters were reported recently in Shining Rock Wilderness, located north of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Transylvania County. Although minor property damage has been reported, there were no injuries.

Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing the following safety tips:

* Do not store food in tents.
* Properly store food by hanging it in a tree or in another secure container.
* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills or other areas of your campsite.
* Do not leave food unattended.

For more tips from the forest service, please click here.


Smoky Mountain Way

Check out this new song and video from Craig Roberts, a musician from N.E. Ohio. The tune is called Smoky Mountain Way, and could become the first real anthem for hikers in the Smoky Mountains!

What's really cool is that Craig has made the song available for download on his website, and a portion of the proceeds from those sales will be donated to the Friends of the Smokies Trails Forever program.

In addition to helping a great cause, you also get a great song to add to your Ipod collection!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Historic Spence Cabin in Elkmont Open for Public Use

After standing empty for many years, the historic Spence Cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been restored and is available to the public for day-use. The cabin is located in the Elkmont Historic District, about 9 miles from Gatlinburg, TN.

"Spence Cabin sits right on the Little River in the middle of historic Elkmont and is a beautiful setting for a special event," says Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "The park's Historic Preservation Crew did an outstanding job restoring the cabin. We're very excited to finally make it available to the public."

Constructed in the late 1920s, the cabin is named for the Spence family, who were the last to hold a lease on the home. It is also known by many former Elkmont residents as the River Lodge. The true-to-original pink and green color scheme, stone chimney and rock entryway lend the cabin a quaint charm and are vivid reminders of the rich history of the Elkmont area.

To retain its historic character, the cabin was not upgraded to modern standards. For those seeking a rustic space in a beautiful setting, however, it may be just right. Accommodating up to 40 people, the cabin has four small meeting rooms, one large room with a gas fireplace and two restrooms. It is equipped with folding chairs, dining tables and buffet tables. Although the cabin has no cooking appliances, there is a refrigerator and electrical outlets in a small "warming kitchen." Behind the cabin, there are two stone patios, one of which overlooks the Little River. With the exception of the riverside patio, the cabin is fully accessible to mobility impaired individuals.

Reservations for the Spence Cabin may be made beginning June 13. November 15 is the last day to rent the cabin this year. It may be rented on a daily basis from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. The rental fee is $150 per day Monday -Thursday and $200 per day Friday -Sunday.

The Appalachian Clubhouse, also located in the Elkmont Historic District, is available for rent, as well. The historic clubhouse was rehabilitated in 2011 and is rented on a daily basis for a fee of $300 per day Monday - Thursday and $500 per day Friday - Sunday. The clubhouse accommodates up to 96 people.

The park will hold an open house for both facilities on Friday, June 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend.

The park regularly offers ranger-led tours of the Elmont Historic District every Friday at 10:00 a.m. These tours are an excellent opportunity to learn more about Elkmont's history as a turn-of-the-century logging boomtown and summer resort community. Those interested in joining a tour should meet behind the Elkmont Campground Ranger Station a few minutes prior to the start of the tour.

Reservations and additional information for both the Spence Cabin and Appalachian Clubhouse, including maps and photographs, are available at Additional information on the Spence Cabin can also be found here. Check out this video tour of the building. In addition to some interesting historical photographs, the video shows how peaceful and inviting this place must have been back in the day:


Cades Cove in Black & White, and Sepia

Every now and then I like to channel my inner Ansel Adams and take a few black and white photos. I got an opportunity to shoot in B&W (as well as sepia tone) while in Cades Cove last week. Here are a few of the better ones:

Looking down Hyatt Lane:

The Tipton Place:

The Dan Lawson Place:


Monday, June 11, 2012

Investigation Continues in Gatlinburg Trail Assault Case - Reward Offered

On June 8, at 2:43 pm, a 44 year-old female was sexually assaulted on the Gatlinburg Trail. The victim received multiple stab wounds to the neck, shoulder and hand. She made her way to the Gatlinburg Bypass where she flagged down a passing motorist for assistance. The victim was taken by helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where she was treated for her injuries. The victim was released from the hospital last night.

National Park Service Special Agents continued to investigate the case over the weekend and have worked with the victim and a forensic artist to create the sketch of the suspect. The suspect is described as a white male of thin build, in his 40s, 5'9" - 5'10" tall, dirty-blonde hair, with a crew cut and thin mustache. He was wearing glasses, black dress pants and a gray t-shirt at the time of the attack. He has multiple tattoos, including on his shoulders and an unknown word across his abdomen. Here's the sketch of the suspect:

A reward in the amount of $5,000 has been established for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. Persons having seen this individual or having any knowledge of the crime should contact a special tip line at: 865/436-1580.

Chief Ranger Clay Jordan said today, "We stand committed to bringing this assailant to justice. Working together with the assistance of the public, I am optimistic that we can solve this case." Jordan said that although this still appears to be an isolated incident, ranger patrols in the area have been increased.


Hiking the Highline

Steve Salis narrates this 15.3-mile classic trek in Glacier National Park. His route that takes him across the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, over Swiftcurrent Pass, and then down to Redrock Falls before finishing at Many Glacier. This is truly an epic hike - one that offers the absolute best of all that Glacier has to offer:

Have any plans for visiting Glacier National Park this summer? Be sure to visit our accommodations page to help with all your lodging needs. We also offer a "Things To Do" page that provides links to outfitters that offer guided trips and tours in and around the park.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

GSMIT Announces Bird Banding Program

The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is seeking volunteers to assist with bird banding projects on several dates throughout this summer.

Scientists estimate that there are nearly 230 different species of birds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thirty-four species considered endangered, threatened or of conservation concern have been observed in the park. With all its unusual birds, it is no surprise that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is considered one of the most important places for birds in the eastern United States.

Keeping up with all these species within the 520,000 acres of the national park is a daunting task, and for the past twelve years, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has been assisting the park in monitoring these birds through bird banding.

The dates for these citizen science projects are: June 14, June 22, July 5, July 25, August 2 and August 8.

Bird banding sessions typically last 5-6 hours beginning with set-up a half hour before sunrise. Participants do not have to attend the entire session. Dress should be weather-appropriate. Participants should bring snacks, plenty of water and rain gear in case of sudden showers. There can be bugs, poison ivy or an occasional stream to cross, so participants should be prepared for all those situations.

Those interested in attending any of the sessions should contact Charlene Stewart at (preferred) or 865-448-6709. Please provide your name, number attending, and best contact information in case of a cancellation.

For more information on the projects, please click here.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Woman Stabbed on Gatlinburg Trail

A 44-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and then stabbed several times while hiking along the Gatlinburg Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park yesterday.

The victim was taken by helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. She remains in the hospital and is in stable condition.

The woman managed to make her way to Highway 441 shortly before 3 p.m. and flag down a passing motorist.

Rangers immediately closed the 1.9-mile Gatlinburg Trail and contained an area between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the city of Gatlinburg.

The suspect is described as a white male of thin build, in his 40s, standing 5-foot, 7 inches tall, with a crew cut and thin mustache. He was wearing black dress pants and a gray T-shirt at the time of the attack, the park reported. He has multiple tattoos, including one on his stomach.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the park dispatch emergency line at 865-436-9197.


Hundred Mile Club Hike: Riprap Hollow

The Hundred Mile Club, part of the Shenandoah National Park Trust, will be holding a hike to Riprap Hollow next month.

Riprap Hollow is one of the most popular circuit hikes in the South District. The first few miles offer beautiful mountainside views. As the trail continues you’ll enjoy stream crossings, a waterfall and a spring-fed swimming hole. The 9.5-mile hike is considered to be a moderately strenuous, and has an elevation gain of 2225 feet.

The hike will occur on Wednesday, July 11th. Hikers should meet at the Riprap parking area, milepost 90, at 9:00 a.m.

If interested, contact SNPT at info@snptrust.o​rg or (434) 293-2728 to RSVP. Space is limited, so RSVPs are required. Details are on the Calendar of Events page.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Expanded Shared Use on Grand Gap Loop Trail in BSF

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area announced yesterday that the Grand Gap Loop Trail is now open for shared use by hikers and mountain bikers every day. The trail provides spectacular views of geological formations and the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The trail had previously been open for use by mountain bikes only Monday thru Friday. Opening the trail to use seven days a week will increase the opportunity for bikers to enjoy this beautiful route.

There are several ways to enjoy the Grand Gap Loop Trail. Except for a few moderately technical sections, the 6.4 mile loop is mostly flat, smooth single track. The trail is alongside several rock shelters and cliff line overlooks of the river. Bikers can also take John Muir Trail from Grand Gap Loop to Station Camp area which is a 7.5 mile extension of the Grand Gap northward. This single track trail is flat, smooth and flows well. It connects to Duncan Hollow Road.

There are two popular options for riding both Grand Gap and John Muir Trail. For an 18 mile ride, park your vehicle at the intersection of Duncan Hollow and Alfred Smith Roads (no facilities). Ride 1.8 miles down Alfred Smith Road to Grand Gap. Ride Grand Gap, then continue north on the John Muir Trail and return to your vehicle via Duncan Hollow Road.

For a 28 mile out and back single track ride, drive 1.8 miles down Alfred Smith Road to a small trailhead parking lot at the Grand Gap Loop-Alfred Smith Road intersection. Begin by riding Grand Gap Loop and then the John Muir Trail to its northern end. Turn around and return to the trailhead.

For further information, you can contact the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials recently confirmed the presence of
invasive emerald ash borer beetles in the park. Last week, beetles were discovered near Sugarlands Visitor Center and in the Greebrier area, on the Tennessee side of the park. The insects were recovered during routine inspection of traps and sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist for confirmation.

The emerald ash borer was first discovered in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002 and has steadily spread from there, damaging millions of ash trees across the country. The ½ inch-long beetle lays eggs in bark crevices on all species of ash. Upon hatching, larvae burrow under the bark, creating feeding tunnels that interfere with the tree's ability to translocate nutrients and fluids. The tree gradually starves and eventually dies.

The park began trapping the beetles in 2008 as part of a broader effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Under APHIS guidance, traps were placed in a 100-mile-wide band outside the previously known infested area. At the time, the park was considered to be at high risk for new infestation because of the sizable number of visitors who reside in already infested counties.

The spread of emerald ash borer beetles primarily results from transport of infested logs and firewood. A park-wide ban remains in effect for any firewood originating from a location for which a federal or state quarantine is in effect. A list of all quarantined areas may be found here.

Park management is evaluating a range of options in regard to addressing the emerald ash borer's presence in the park. "Protecting the park's biodiversity is of the utmost importance," says Superintendent Dale Ditmanson." We will carefully consider all options available to us before determining the best course of action in dealing with this invasive species."


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Temporary Closure of Rich Mountain Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that Rich Mountain Road off of the Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed on Monday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 12 to allow for vista clearing work. Crews will be trimming and removing vegetation from around two overlooks to restore the historically unobstructed views.

The work performed is a part of a park wide vista clearing project which is reopening the views from 34 park overlooks. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 1.

During the Rich Mountain Road closure visitors will not be able to drive the one way road from Cades Cove Loop to the park boundary. The Indian Grave Gap trailhead will also be inaccessible.


"Women's Work" Event at the Mountain Farm Museum

On Saturday, June 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the Mountain Farm Museum in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will come to life as national park staff and volunteers pay tribute to rural women of the past through demonstrations of traditional women's work. This day recognizes the many contributions of the region's rural women by providing an opportunity to experience the past and to actively take part in the traditions of the southern Appalachia through hands on activities.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic Mountain Home buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, cornshuck crafts, sewing, and traditional mountain music. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house.

All event activities are free to the public. The Mountain Farm Museum is located on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Highway 441) adjacent to the national park's Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For additional information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pisgah National Forest 1 of 3 USFS GO “Signature Sites”

The U.S. Forest Service is waiving recreation fees (as well all 397 national parks) and hosting outdoor events across the country to celebrate the 5th annual National Get Outdoors Day on Saturday, June 9th.

GO Day is designed to attract new, diverse communities to outdoor activities and motivate kids to explore their national forests and other public lands. Dozens of events on national forests and grasslands will feature opportunities including camping, rock wall climbing, kayaking, biking and archery.

"National Get Outdoors Day provides an opportunity for kids of all ages to explore and enjoy their national forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This is an open invitation for some healthy fun. Once you’ve experienced the forest, we think you’ll keep coming back.”

Free local recreational and educational activities will be offered nationwide. Many events are designed to better engage urban and multicultural youth and attract first-time visitors to public lands.

In addition to the local events, the Forest Service is hosting three “signature sites” touted for their unique landscapes and planned activities:

Pisgah National Forest, Asheville, N.C. - Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest, this site enjoys breathtaking views of tens of thousands of forested acres. Hands-on activities led by local outdoor businesses and organizations will include fly fishing, canoeing, archery, orienteering and wildlife gardening at the Cradle of Forestry.

City Park, Denver, Colo. – This event will feature fun-filled outdoor activities, learning opportunities and family entertainment. Activities include rock wall climbing, kayaking, live music, Junior Ranger activities, dancing, outdoor arts, fishing and bicycling.

Salt Lake City, Utah – The Venture Outdoors/GO Day celebration has introduced thousands of people to rock climbing, fly fishing and water safety. The festival, held in Millcreek Township, features recreation clinics, guest speakers, giveaways, creative children's activities and great food all day long.

Visit the GO Day website to find a full listing of events – and check back regularly as new events are being added to the list.


Summer Ranger Hikes to begin in Smokies and BRP

With the arrival of summer comes a variety of ranger led hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, including:

Rock Castle Gorge Hikes: Every Saturday from 06/16/2012 to 09/22/2012, join a BRP ranger at the Rocky Knob Cabins off of Woodberry Road for a five mile hike through Rock Castle Gorge. Wear good hiking boots and bring water and lunch. There are several stream crossings along the way, so be prepared with waterproof shoes. Shuttle back to cars from VA Rt 8 will be provided for drivers, or you may set up your own shuttle ahead of time. You can call 540-745-9662 for more information. Location: Rocky Knob Cabins, Milepost 174 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (9:30 AM to 2:30 PM).

Hike to Grotto Falls: Every Monday from 6/11/2012 to 8/06/2012, hike with a ranger through an old growth forest to one of the most popular waterfalls in the park. The hike is rated moderate in difficulty. (10:00 AM to 12:30 PM).

The Great Smoky Mountains has various other hikes scheduled throughout the summer. For a complete list of ranger led events, please click here.