Friday, August 31, 2012

Abigndon, Virginia Designated as an Appalachian Trail Community

On September 11, 2012, from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will celebrate the official designation of Abingdon, Virginia as the newest Appalachian Trail Community™. The Town of Abingdon, in conjunction with the ATC and the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, has planned an evening of celebratory activities including presentations, vendors, live music and guest speakers. This event is open and free to the public.

A presentation entitled “Hikers and Bikers” will commence at 4:00 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center located at One Partnership Circle, Abingdon, VA. Mark Wenger, executive director/CEO of the ATC, will talk about his 8-year section-hike along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), which was completed in 2011. Lawrence Dye, Virginia Creeper Trail ambassador, will also speak about his bicycling experiences along the Virginia Creeper Trail. Dye has logged approximately 170,000 miles along the Virginia Creeper Trail since the 1990s.

Following the presentation, attendees are invited to the Abingdon Farmers Market located at the Abingdon Market Pavilion at 100 Remsburg Drive, Abingdon, VA for light refreshments and live music. Local produce will also be available for purchase until 7:00 p.m.

The designation ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Abingdon Farmers Market. Speakers will include town leaders and dignitaries such as Mark Wenger, executive director/CEO of the ATC; Laura Bellville, director of conservation of the ATC; and Beth Merz, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area ranger.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to celebrate communities that are helping to protect and promote the Appalachian Trail,” said Julie Judkins, community program manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “These new partnerships will increase local stewardship of public lands, support community initiatives for sustainable economic development and conservation planning as well as support healthy lifestyles for community citizens”.

The Appalachian Trail Community™ is a new program of the ATC, the nonprofit responsible for management and protection of the A.T. Launched in 2010, this program recognizes and thanks communities for their part in promoting the A.T. as an important local and national asset.

Abingdon, Virginia A.T. Community Designation Ceremony
Date: September 11, 2012
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

“Hikers and Bikers” Presentation: Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, One Partnership Circle, Abingdon, VA 24210
Designation Ceremony: Abingdon Market Pavilion, 100 Remsburg Drive, Abingdon, VA 24210

Program Schedule:
4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.: “Hikers & Bikers” presentation
5:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Live music, refreshments and vendors
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.: A.T. Community Designation Ceremony

The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the A.T. is approximately 2,180 miles in length, making it one of the longest, continuously marked footpaths in the world. Volunteers typically donate more than 220,000 hours of their time doing trail-related work each year, and about 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the A.T. each year. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T.

If interested in attending the ceremony, please contact Tenille Montgomery at 276.676.2282 or via e-mail at For more information about the Appalachian Trail Community™ program, visit

Hiking in the Smokies

Summer Wildflowers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sadly, and unbelievably, we're already near the end of summer. Didn't it just start a few days ago? Unfortunately time continues to march on, whether or not we're ready. If you didn't get a chance to visit the Smokies to see some of the wildlfowers this past summer, you're not completely out of luck. The Great Smoky Mountains Association recently published this short video that highlights some of the colorful wildflowers that mark the summer season in the Park:

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Fall Roan Mountain Naturalists’ Rally Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago the vision of a German immigrant, Freddie Behrend, became a reality with the establishment of the first Roan Mountain Naturalists’ Rally. Nature enthusiasts have been coming to Roan Mountain on the weekend after Labor Day ever since to celebrate the natural world.

This fall's rally continues to celebrate the natural world by providing two top speakers: Roan Mountain authority Jennifer Bauer, and Pisgah National Forest botanist, David Danley. The weekend also offers more trips than ever for participants, including two for handicapped folks.

This year's Fall Naturalist Rally includes hikes, bird-watching and night sky viewing led by Friends of Roan Mountain. During the day, on both Saturday and Sunday, dedicated professional and amateur naturalists will lead trips and conduct workshops on the Roan itself, and in Roan Mountain State Park. Trips or workshops at the fall rally will include birds, trees, wildflowers, ferns, mushrooms, nature hike for kids, medicinal & edible plants, fossil casting, reptiles, geology, rare plants, nature photography, butterflies and other insects, animal tracks and signs, wildflower pollinators, stream ecology, fish and a handicapped accessible nature walk.

The Rally will be held September 7-9. For more information, please click here or call 423-543-7576.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Help tag monarch butterflies in Cades Cove

Here's an excellent opportunity to help with scientific research on monarch butterflies in the Smokies. Join naturalist Wanda DeWaard and the Great Smoky Mountains Association on a monarch tagging venture in Cades Cove on Saturday, September 29th.

Volunteers will meet Wanda at the orientation shelter at the beginning of the Cades Cove loop road at 9:30 a.m. for an introduction to the program, prior to car-pooling into the Cove for tagging. The program will end around 2:00 p.m.

Light-weight long pants and a broad-brimmed hat are strongly recommended, as well as some insect repellent. Pack a light lunch and water. A limited number of butterfly nets will be available to share, but if you have one, bring it along. A hand lens is always helpful, too. Butterfly field guides and reference books will be available to help identify other species that may end up in your net.

If interested, don't wait too long to register! This popular event is limited to only 20 people. To register, call 865-436-7318, ext. 222 or 254. A nominal fee of $5 will be charged for GSMA members, and $10 for non-members. Children under 12 are free and welcomed.

For more information on monarchs please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plates for the Parkway: Local Dining to Benefit the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is pleased to announce the first annual Plates for the Parkway event benefitting the Blue Ridge Parkway. Set in Asheville, NC, Blowing Rock, Waynesboro, Roanoke and other communities along the Parkway, Plates for the Parkway links dozens of unique restaurants in one event to benefit the Parkway.

Set for September 18th, participating restaurants agree to donate a minimum of 10% of a meal or the day’s sales to benefit the Foundation’s efforts to protect the Parkway. Restaurants from communities along the 469 miles of the Parkway are invited to participate, and current participants stretch from the top of the Parkway in Waynesboro, VA to Asheville, NC, NC.

According to Christy Bell, Development Director for the Foundation, “There are so many wonderful restaurants in the communities along the Parkway. For visitors, this event highlights some of these unique places and gives them the opportunity to benefit what brings many of them here in the first place: the Parkway. For those of us lucky enough to live near the Parkway, it’s a fun way to support this amazing place while dining out at a favorite restaurant.”

To date, participating restaurants include:

• Stella, Bella and Lucy's - Waynesboro, VA
• Pomegranate Restaurant & Gathering Place - Troutville, VA
• Martins Downtown - Roanoke, VA
• Freeborne's -Laurel Springs, NC
• Mellow Mushroom – Boone, NC
• Mellow Mushroom - Blowing Rock, NC
• Mountain Aire Seafood & Steaks -West Jefferson, NC
• The Blowing Rock Grill - Blowing Rock, NC
• Woodlands Barbecue - Blowing Rock, NC
• Baja Cafe - Asheville, NC
• Cafe Azalea - Asheville, NC
• Chai Pani - Asheville, NC
• Chef Mo's Restaurant and Bar - Asheville, NC
• Early Girl Eatery – Asheville, NC
• The Local Joint – Fairview, NC
• The Morning Glory Café – Black Mountain, NC
• Plant - Asheville, NC
• Pomodoro’s Cafe East- Asheville, NC
• Salsa's - Asheville, NC
• Filo Pastries - Asheville, NC
• Tomato Jam Café – Asheville, NC

Plates for the Parkway is sponsored by Sir Speedy, Charter Media and Cox Communications.

Restaurants may sign up to participate through September 14th. Interested restaurants can contact Christy Bell at for more information. For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cades Cove Loop Road to Open Late Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Officials announced this afternoon that the Cades Cove Loop Road will open later than usual tomorrow, August 28th. A delay in opening the road is necessary to transport heavy equipment to the Cable Mill area. The road is expected to reopen by 8:30 a.m.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smokies to Complete Road Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced plans today to complete road projects on the Gatlinburg Bypass and a section of Newfound Gap Road near the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Work will begin on August 29th and is expected to be completed by September 1st. Weather delays, however, could extend the project into the Labor Day weekend.

To minimize impact to visitors, all work will be completed at night. The bypass will close each evening at 7 pm and reopen at 7 am the following morning. Newfound Gap Road will not close completely, but will be restricted to one-lane traffic from 7 pm to 7 am. For additional information call 865-436-1207

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway to Step-Up Radio Telemetry Enforcement

Earlier this week Blue Ridge Parkway officials announced that they will be increasing enforcement efforts against the illegal use of radio tracking equipment. The only legitimate use of radio telemetry on the Blue Ridge Parkway is to assist hunters in retrieving dogs that are no longer actively engaged in a hunt. Using telemetry or other tracking devices to track dogs that are actively hunting, or to monitor the progress of a hunt, is considered a hunting activity and prohibited on Blue Ridge Parkway lands.

Blue Ridge Parkway regulations state:

The open display and/or use of radio telemetry equipment or similar electronic tracking devices¸ e.g. that commonly is used to track wildlife and hunting dogs, is prohibited in the park without the prior permission of the Blue Ridge Parkway Communications Center (828-298-2491 or 1-800- PARKWATCH) and may only be used to expedite the retrieval of a dog that is believed to be running loose in the park.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Star Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a star gazing event on Friday, September 7th at one of Haywood County's clearest views of the sky - Purchase Knob, home to the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260 degree unobstructed view of the sky. Visitors can expect to see the planets Neptune and Uranus; the wonderful starry glow of our Milky Way Galaxy stretching across Purchase Knob's dark skies; the beautiful spiral disk of the Andromeda Galaxy; the numerous star clusters of late summer and early fall; as well as several binary star systems.

National Park areas often offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze, says park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson. Visitors are often amazed at the amount of stars that can be seen simply by venturing out of the well-lit communities and into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. National Parks across the country have begun to monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we would to protect our air and water.

The event starts at 7:30 pm with an indoor orientation, which will be held rain or shine. The Learning Center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so please bring warm layers. The program is limited to 60 people so reservations are required and can be made by calling the park directly at (828) 926-6251.

Purchase Knob is located off US 276 near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. It is not recommended to use a GPS or an internet map service to find Purchase Knob, but the park staff can provide reliable directions.

Hiking in the Smokies

National Trails Fund Grant Recipients Announced for 2012

The American Hiking Society recently announced the recipients of National Trails Fund grants in 2012. Thanks to the generous support of Charter Sponsors, L.L.Bean and Cascade Designs (Therm-a-Rest and MSR), the National Trails Fund (NTF) awarded a total of $26,000 in grants this year. A cumulative total of $540,500 has been awarded to trail clubs over the life of the program, since its inception in 1998.

American Hiking Society received 104 applications from organizations in 36 states, seeking funding from the NTF in 2012. Of these, eleven outstanding projects were chosen.

The following organizations have been awarded grants ranging between $500 and $5,000 to support trail projects:

• Appalachian Mountain Club, NH
• Butler Outdoor Club, PA
• Colorado Mountain Club, CO
• Florida Trail Association, FL
• Friends of Lake Barkley, KY
• Newton Marasco Foundation, VA
• Pine Mountain Trail Conference, KY
• Starflower Experiences, NY
• Trails4All, CA
• Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, NY
• Wilderness International, ID

The funds will allow recipients to create, expand and renovate hiking trails throughout the country. This year, several grant winners will be using their funds to implement better erosion controls on their favorite trails. Depending on the project, this will involve the installation of water bars and fortified embankments. Proper drainage systems ensure the long-term sustainability of trails, circumventing damage done by severe weather.

Winners are also using their funds to improve hiking experiences by removing graffiti and installing new, updated signage. The Butler Outdoor Club and Colorado Mountain Club will be improving signage at each of their respective trails. Directional signage enables hikers to feel safe, as well as preserving sensitive natural spaces by keeping hikers on the trail. A few of the winners are also improving accessibility by constructing new trails, connecting existing trails and providing new walkways.

“L.L.Bean recognizes the important role that outdoor recreationalists have in being good stewards of the resource. We applaud American Hiking Society's efforts to establish, protect, and maintain America's foot trails. We are proud to sponsor the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund to support the critical role the volunteer stewards play at the local level,” stated Janet Wyper, L.L.Bean’s Manager of Community Relations.

Even as great work is accomplished for America’s trails this year by these grant recipients, there will always be more work to be done to protect our trails. Applications will be accepted beginning in early November 2012 for the 2013 NTF grants.

To learn more about American Hiking Society and its mission and programs, visit or call (301) 565-6704.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Week Temporary Closure of Trails in Big South Fork

The National Park Service is in the process of installing stream crossing protection on trails in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. During this process, trails will need to be closed while the work is being performed. These projects will improve water quality, ensure better protection to a variety of species that live in the areas streams, and also improve visitor safety.

Beginning August 27, 2012, the Yellow Cliff Horse Trail that goes from the Yellow Cliff Trailhead off of Obey Blevins Road to the Fork Ridge Multiple Use Trail, and the Salt Pine Trail that goes from Fork Ridge Multiple Use Trail back to the Yellow Cliff Trailhead will be closed while the stream bed approaches are being installed. These trails will be closed to public travel from Monday, August 27, through Friday, August 31, 2012.

For further information, or if you have any questions about temporary trail closures related to these activities, please contact Wally Linder at (423) 569-2404, ext. 321.

Hiking in the Smokies

The Shuckstack Fire Tower

Have you ever been to the Shuckstack Fire Tower in the southwestern portion of the Smokies? If not, here's what you're missing:

For more information on the hike to Shuckstack, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Foliage forecaster for WCU predicts good fall colors in WNC

Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster, is predicting a good display of color this autumn in Western North Carolina’s mountains. However, leaf peepers should be aware that some areas will enjoy brighter hues than others.

Due to local rainfall amounts across the region this past spring and summer, the intensity of the fall colors will vary. Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, bases her annual prediction in part on weather conditions during the spring and summer growing season.

Mathews also states:

“Look for some of the best colors on Grandfather Mountain, the Graveyard Fields area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Nantahala National Forest along U.S. Highway 64 between Macon and Clay counties. These and other ridgetop areas show colors in all hues of red, orange and yellow. The forested areas will have a lot of yellow tulip poplars, red maple, and orange and red oak. Graveyard Fields also has a lot of shrubs that turn red.”

To read the entire article in the Reporter that details her forecast, please click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

New Design, Expanded Content for Recreation.Gov

A new website design was announced earlier this week that will improve navigation tools and provide expanded content for Recreation.Gov, the interagency website that guides visitors to 90,000 sites on federal lands such as national parks, wildlife refuges, waterways, forests and recreation areas.

The redesign of is an initial step in a multi-year strategy to engage visitors with enhanced interactive content and more multimedia, mobile, trip-planning tools. The seven million visitors who use the website every year will be able to make reservations, see ready-made itineraries for destination cities, and search for activities on an interactive map.

“ is a perfect example of interagency cooperation to leverage resources and provide recreational opportunities for all Americans, as well as international visitors to American public lands and waters,” Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Outdoor activities contribute an estimated $646 billion to the U.S. economy, according to independent estimates, and this enhanced website will provide a gateway for Americans to enjoy their great outdoors.”

Highlights of the updated site include:

Explore Trip Ideas: now features Explore Trip Ideas with interactive maps to help visitors discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.

Go Lists: Created to encourage more people to get active outdoors, Go Lists provide highlights of places to go, events, and activities at federal sites across the country with topics including “Day Hikes for Weekend Warriors” and “Civil War 150th Anniversary: Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation.”

Discover Great American Adventures: More in-depth articles and destination spotlights can be found in Discover Great American Adventures which feature a wide variety of experiences and adventures found only in America.

The website update is a joint initiative between federal agency partners – including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 2012 the Departments of Commerce and the Interior have outlined a long term strategy for increasing both domestic and international tourism to the United States. The strategy provides a blueprint for the federal government to reach a goal of attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. International spending on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services set an all-time record of $153 billion in 2011, an 8.1 percent increase from 2010, and supported an additional 103,000 jobs for a total of 7.6 million industry jobs.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Human Remains May be Linked to Missing Person Case in Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced new developments yesterday in the case of Michael Giovanni Cocchini, a man thought to be missing in the Park since March.

On Friday, park employees discovered items thought to belong to Cocchini near the area where his vehicle was originally found parked along Newfound Gap Road. On Saturday and Sunday searchers combed the area where clothing and other items consistent with those last seen on Cocchini were located.

On Monday human remains were discovered in the area, but have not yet been positively identified. Cocchini’s family has been notified of the new developments.

The remains are being sent to the medical examiner for analysis and possible identification.

A search for Cocchini began on March 20th when rangers became suspicious after noticing that his vehicle had been parked for several days at a quiet walkway along Newfound Gap Road - approximately 1 mile south of the Park's Sugarlands Visitor Center. The walkway does not connect to the Park's trail system, so there would be no reason for backpackers to leave vehicles there overnight. The walkway is a short, easy, trail that extends into the woods a short distance off the road and then dead-ends at the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

Hiking in the Smokies

Stabbing Victim Found on Blue Ridge Parkway

NPS Digest is reporting that rangers received a report on Monday of a man walking down the parkway covered in blood. Rangers David Hynes and Dan Vrchota responded and found a 41-year-old man with stab wounds to his arm, abdomen and neck. Although the victim was upright and walking, he did not acknowledge the rangers’ presence. The man was taken into custody and treated by the rangers. A local ambulance transported him to a helispot, where he was airlifted to Charlotte Medical Center. He underwent surgery to repair his wounds there and is now in stable condition. His vehicle was found a short distance away in a parkway parking area.

Hiking in the Smokies

NPS Academy Students Report On Summer Experiences

Earlier in the week NPS Digest published this report on the NPS Academy in the Smokies:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently celebrated ten students within the region who participated in the NPS Academy, a program designed to introduce diverse college students to career opportunities within the NPS. The park served as the Southeast Region’s host park for the program.

During spring break 2012, 30 diverse Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns spent a week in the park participating in seminars, workshops, field trips and recreational activities which focused on the importance of culture, diversity, NPS career options as well as the legacy of conservation within the NPS. These interns were then placed in summer internships at a number of NPS sites across the country.

Great Smoky Mountains received eight student interns who worked in various career fields, including resource management, resource protection, resource education, facilities management and administration. The program was intended to expose diverse students to areas of the NPS that were within their fields of study, but most students were also given opportunities to work outside of their normal scope of work.

“It was a great opportunity to be around people who love their jobs and their careers,” said Ta’Lisa Neloms, who worked with the facilities management division. “This experience made a big difference in how I see work and career opportunities.”

The eight Smoky Mountain students, as well as students from Stones River National Battlefield and Blue Ridge Parkway, presented their summer experience to park staff, supervisors, SCA staff, including Flip Hagood, SCA vice president for strategic initiatives, and Regional Director David Vela on July 27th. The students reported that they had positive experiences and were exposed to new challenges and ideas outside of their usual environment. Many students stated they will consider the NPS for possible career paths.

While in their internship, students were assigned an NPS mentor who met regularly with them to offer advice regarding their assigned projects, presentations and experiences.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for Great Smoky Mountains National Park to be actively involved in the development of our next generation of Park Service employees,” said Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson. “The experiences these students have shared are an inspiration for all employees who had an opportunity to interact with the students throughout the summer.”

Each student was given an America the Beautiful annual park pass that will allow them to explore the national parks for one year as well as a 2013 national parks calendar to remind them of their experience.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Volunteers Needed for Bike Patrol in Cataloochee Valley

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking volunteers to assist rangers during the increased fall visitation period in Cataloochee Valley, N.C. from mid-September until October 31st. Volunteers will work as a part of a bike patrol program within the Valley and will assist the park by providing traffic control, and visitor information and other assistance as needed.

Cataloochee Valley is a remote mountain valley on the eastern edge of the Park where remnants of early settlements are preserved. It is surrounded by picturesque mountains and natural beauty, and is a popular destination during the fall season due to the beautiful array of tree color and ability to view elk in rut. The increased vehicle traffic to this area makes bike travel an ideal way for park volunteers to assist visitors during this time.

The bike patrol volunteers will rove along the floor of the Valley which is mostly flat with very little change in elevation. The surface of the road is a mix of chip-and-seal and dirt sections. Volunteers will be required to bring their own bicycle and protective riding gear. Interested individuals need to have a reasonable level of fitness and riding experience, and may be offered an opportunity to be trained in CPR/First Aid.

Rovers are needed during the hours of highest visitation on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for 4 hour shifts. Typical hours will be from 4:00 pm until just before dark.

If you're interested in volunteering or would like more information about the program, please contact Park Ranger Pete Walker, at (828) 506-1739.


Classic Hikes of the Smokies: September

The Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes of the Smokies series continues next month with a hike along Big Creek.

Thursday, Sept. 20: Big Creek
9.0 miles, 1,100 ft. ascent

We'll walk along Big Creek seeing rivulets, waterfalls, cascades and every other synonym for falling water that you can think of. This gradual walk will be a reward for all those hearty hikers who climbed up Mt. Cammerer (the prior month).

To register call Holly at (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.

For more information on the hike along Big Creek, please click here.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Backpacking Basics Class

Next month REI in Asheville will be taking the mystery out of backpacking as they share their knowledge in a show and tell session. REI will cover backpacking essentials such as: choosing a pack; selecting proper clothing; and the right footwear; and understanding the basic gear you need to reach your destination.

The free event will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on September 9th. For more information and to register, please click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Myth Busted: Women aren't more prone to bear attacks due to menstruation odors

Ever since the night of August 13, 1967, when two women were attacked and killed by grizzly bears in two separate incidents in Glacier National Park (which was later chronicled in Night of the Grizzlies), a myth has persisted that women may be more prone to bear attacks as a result of odors associated with menstruation.

However, according to a paper recently published by the National Park Service, "there is no statistical evidence that known bear attacks have been related to menstruation".

The report pointed towards evidence from previous studies:

* Stephen Herrero (1985) analyzed the circumstances of hundreds of grizzly bear attacks on humans, including the attacks on the two women in Glacier, and concluded that there was no evidence linking menstruation to any of the attacks. The responses of grizzly bears to menstrual odors has not been studied experimentally.

* Lynn Rogers et al. (1991) recorded the responses of 26 free-ranging black bears (Ursus americanus) to used tampons from 26 women and the responses of 20 free ranging black bears to four menstruating women at different days of their flow. Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all sex and age classes. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, no instances of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women was found (Cramond 1981, Herrero 1985, Rogers et al. 1991).

The paper also mentions that between 1980 and 2011, 43 people have been injured by bears in Yellowstone National Park. 79% of those attacks occurred on men. Of the 9 incidents involving women, 6 were surprise encounters with bears while the women were hiking, and were therefore probably unrelated to menstruation.

The paper also notes that your risk of bear attack is highest while hiking in the backcountry. You can reduce the risks by:

1) hiking in groups of 3 or more people
2) staying alert
3) making noise in areas of poor visibility
4) carrying bear spray
5) not running during encounters with bears

To read the full report, please click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Smokies a Big Winner with 18th Annual Telethon

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park raised $192,157 Thursday night through its 18th annual “Friends Across the Mountains” telethon with help from event sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Mountain Laurel Chalets, and Pilot Corporation. The cumulative total for all Friends of the Smokies’ telethons since 1995 is now nearly $2.7 million.

“As far as I am aware, the Smokies is the only national park that is fortunate enough to have its own two-state telethon. Over the years telethon funding has helped us to significantly increase our ability to protect the Park's flora and fauna and to improve services and facilities for our millions of visitors,” said Dale Ditmanson, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

During the broadcast, Sugarland Cellars owner Don Collier presented a $5,000 check to the organization. This spring the Gatlinburg winery debuted a limited edition 100% East Tennessee Muscadine wine with a custom label by local artist Robert A. Tino. Along with 1,000 bottles of the wine, named ‘Dance of the Firefly’, artistic tiles featuring the label were also sold. Each sale generated a $5 donation to help Friends of the Smokies continue to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“This year’s event was a real team effort between our corporate partners, people who love the park in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky, and all of our wonderful volunteers from both sides of the mountains who took hundreds of pledges during our one-hour broadcast,” says Friends of the Smokies President Jim Hart.

Telethon donations can still be made online at to support more than $1 million of Park needs this year, including black bear, elk, and brook trout conservation, and historic preservation projects in Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Greenbrier.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Within the Shadows of Cumberland Gap

As the days slowly grow shorter and the heat of summer begins to fade in anticipation of autumn, the stories of the Wilderness Road at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will come alive in a special program conducted on the evening of August 25th.

Visitors participating in the program, a 1.5 mile walk through the historic Cumberland Gap, can expect to encounter a special cast of historical characters. A British prisoner of war from the Revolutionary War, a professor from the Harvard School of Geology camped near the gap, a family who left their home when the national park was established… historic figures which will bring the colorful history of the Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness Road to life. "The cast of characters is based on actual people that were here at Cumberland Gap," says park historian Martha Wiley, "They will showcase the various time periods. It's going to be a really special evening."

The program, a series of guided hikes, will take place along the historic Wilderness Road beginning at 5:00 pm and departing every 30 minutes. The program will begin at the Daniel Boone parking lot in Virginia and end at the Thomas Walker parking lot in Kentucky. Complimentary shuttles will be available. The program is free, but reservations are strongly recommended as each group is limited to 30 people.

Sturdy shoes are encouraged as the hike through the Gap is approximately 1.5 miles and is moderately strenuous.

For more information and to make reservations please call the park visitor center at (606) 248-2817, extension 1075.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Friday, August 17, 2012

YCC Crew Finishes Their 2012 Assignment in BSF

This past summer, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) received funding for a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew to help with performing trail maintenance activities within the Big South Fork area. A crew of eight students from one of the local high schools (Alvin C. York Agriculture Institute) was selected for the project.

The project was set up to perform a wide range of trail maintenance activities such as repair and replacement of water bars to prevent soil loss and erosion along trail routes; repair, painting and installation of trail signs; and rehabilitation and leveling of trail tread to make smooth, sure footing for trail users. Clearing of overhanging limbs and overgrown vegetation along the trails was also accomplished.

The YCC crew was also responsible for cleaning and repainting the Honey Creek Overlook which had been recently vandalized. Their efforts helped support a quality visitor experience at this popular location.

"We at Big South Fork NRRA are very happy to have had such a hard working crew of young people to help with all these projects, and the accomplishments they completed are something to be proud of," said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.

Hiking in the Smokies


In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses signaling for help in the backcountry:


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Five Suicides Reported on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Recent Weeks

On Monday afternoon a trail runner found a 52-year-old Asheville man with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, only a few feet off the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was the 5th suicide in the park in just three weeks.

On Thursday, August 9th, rangers located the body of a 25-year-old Asheville woman with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head at the Rough Butt Bald Overlook.

On August 7th NPS Digest reported that Blue Ridge Parkway rangers investigated two separate suicides in the park on August 2nd and 3rd. On Thursday, Shenandoah dispatch notified Blue Ridge rangers that a bicyclist had seen a vehicle in a small gravel pullout off the parkway with an unresponsive woman inside who had a gun in her hand. They found the body of a 53-year-old North Carolina woman with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head. A note to her family was found in which she said that she’d been depressed and suffering from dependency on prescription drugs. On Friday, visitors found the body of a 43-year-old North Carolina man at a parkway overlook. Evidence indicated that he’d died from a drug overdose. The vehicle had been stolen from an acquaintance in Virginia and driven to the parkway, where it was found later that evening by some visitors who’d seen him at that same location earlier in the morning.

July 25th rangers and county officers found the body of a 41-year-old Georgia woman with a gunshot wound to the head at the Devil’s Courthouse Overlook.

A couple years ago Shenandoah National Park experienced a slew of suicides. In doing a little research at that time I found that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with the National Park Service, conducted a study on suicide events (suicides and attempted suicides) in national parks between 2003 and 2009. During that time period 286 suicide events were reported from a total of 84 parks. 194 (68%) were completed suicides, and 92 (32%) were attempted suicides. Interestingly, the Blue Ridge Parkway had the highest number of deaths, as well as the highest number of total suicide events, according to that study.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Reminder: Permits Required to Harvest Ginseng in September

Yesterday the U.S. Forest Service reminded visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that permits are required to collect ginseng during the designated harvest season, which runs September 1-30.

The Nantahala Ranger District will begin selling permits on Aug. 27. The office address is 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, N.C. 28734.

The following ranger districts will sell permits beginning Aug. 31:
* Appalachian Ranger District, 30 East Hwy., 19 Bypass, Burnsville, N.C. 28714
* Grandfather Ranger District, 109 Lawing Drive, Nebo, N.C. 28761
* Pisgah Ranger District, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, N.C. 28768
* Tusquitee Ranger District, 123 Woodland Drive, Murphy, N.C. 28906
* Cheoah Ranger District, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville, N.C. 28771

Permits are sold from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; however, the Pisgah Ranger District is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during September. A valid photo ID is required to purchase a permit. Ginseng permits cost $40 per wet pound. An individual may purchase up to 3 wet pounds annually. Harvest is prohibited in Wilderness and Natural Areas.

Ginseng root has been favored as a tonic with exports to East Asia for the past two-and-a-half centuries. In North Carolina, the plant primarily occurs in the mountains and is sparse in the piedmont.

The Forest Service continues to monitor the harvest in the national forests in North Carolina to ensure the future viability of the plant. Conservationists, botanists and others are concerned over the decline of ginseng populations over the years. The species is considered to be vulnerable.

For more information on harvesting ginseng in the national forests in North Carolina, please click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Volunteer Rovers Needed at Oconaluftee

The Great Smoky Mountains Association posted this request on their Facebook page for anyone that might be interested:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting for volunteers to help the park staff by roving the River Trail, Mountain Farm Museum and fields along Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). This position will be available from late August until November 10, 2012. Volunteers will be asked to rove four hours prior to sunset on the same day each week.

Volunteer rovers provide great assistance during the evening hours in the Oconaluftee area by providing visitors with useful park information regarding regulations such as littering, disturbing wildlife, and approaching wildlife. They also informally present important information the Park’s history, wildflowers and the best areas for viewing fall leaf colors.

In the presence of elk in the fields along Newfound Gap Road, volunteers will aid Visitor Use Assistants and Rangers in traffic management as well as provide visitors with information on viewing the elk and their role in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Interested persons will be required to attend one, 5-hour orientation and training session on Tuesday, August 28 at the Oconaluftee Multi-purpose Room near Cherokee, N.C. To register for the training, or for more information, please contact the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 828/497-1904.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Outdoor KnoxFest 2012

Next weekend is Outdoor KnoxFest 2012, a three-day urban adventure weekend packed with events and activities for the avid adventurer, weekend warrior, the novice outdoor enthusiast, and everyone who loves the outdoors.

Some of the events in this year's event include:

* An Urban Adventure Race that offers a 6-8 hour challenging course for teams of three who will bike, run, paddle, swim, orienteer and face a few surprises as they maneuver a unique course in and around downtown Knoxville and the Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

* A scenic 40-mile ride designed by the Smoky Mountain Wheelmen Bicycle Club will highlight East Knox County. The route skirts the French Broad River as it winds past pastoral farmland and tranquil woods.

* Former Olympian Missy Kane, along with a prominent local historian, will be leading a 3-mile hike on the trails at Fort Dickerson Park. Missy also leads several hikes in the Smokies in association with Friends of the Smokies.

There will also be mountain bike races, trail running races, a climbing wall, fishing, and several other events.

Proceeds from the event benefit Legacy Parks Foundation, a Knoxville-based non-profit working to expand and promote outdoor recreational venues and opportunities throughout east Tennessee.

For more information, please click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Visitor Dies of Injuries Sustained in 70-Foot Fall

NPS Digest is reporting this morning that a man has died as a result of a fall in Shenandoah National Park.

On Thursday, August 2nd, park dispatch received a report that a man had fallen about 70 feet near Overall Run Falls, the highest waterfall in Shenandoah. Park personnel from all divisions geared up for a technical rescue and carryout of the 41-year-old Ohio man. Ranger Stuart Curtin was first on scene and worked to secure the unconscious man’s airway and treat his life threatening injuries, including an obvious open skull fracture. Eagle One, the United States Park Police Helicopter, responded and hoisted the man after he was packaged by park personnel. He was then flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, where he succumbed to his injuries three days later.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Monday, August 13, 2012

Frozen Head hosts Volunteer Trail Day This Weekend

Frozen Head State Park will be hosting a Volunteer Trail Day this Saturday, August 18th. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET.

The public is invited to join the park in helping to maintain the park's trails. Tools will be provided. Volunteers should be prepared for a variety of weather conditions including rain. You should bring food, water and a daypack. Some areas require hiking one to two miles in rugged terrain. First time volunteers must complete a liability form. Located in the beautiful Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee, Frozen Head State Park is easy to find. From the Interstate 40 exit 347 at Harriman take Hwy. 27 North to Wartburg. Turn right (East) on Hwy. 62. Travel two miles and turn left on Flat Fork Road. Travel 4 miles to the park entrance. For more information please contact Ranger Michael Hodge at 423-346-3318 or email at

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Friday, August 10, 2012

Map & Compass

In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses the use of maps and compass in the field:


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Public Invited to Meeting to Discuss Transportation and Recreational Access in Big South Fork

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will host a meeting with park managers, transportation experts and the public to discuss opportunities for improving all forms of access in the park. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (EDT), at the park headquarters building, 4564 Leatherwood Road in Oneida, TN.

Transportation experts from the National Park Service's Alternative Transportation Program will be in the park throughout the last week of August to assess the park's transportation infrastructure and provide recommendations on how to improve transportation connections between the historic train, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, horseback rides, hiking, and private automobiles. The meeting will provide the opportunity for the public to share their ideas for improving recreational access in the park.

Superintendent Niki S. Nicholas said, "I am pleased we have the occasion to bring together community members and transportation experts for an informal discussion on ways to improve transportation in the park. The best ideas always come from this kind of exchange, and I am looking forward to the conversation. There are so many wonderful places to explore in the Big South Fork and it is important that the National Park Service provides safe, environmental responsible access to these treasured spots."

There is no charge for this event.

Hiking Trails in Smoky Mountains National Park

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Peaks of Otter Maintenance staff looking for volunteers

Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway posted this information yesterday:

Donnie Parker and the Peaks of Otter Maintenance staff are looking for volunteers to assist them in re-pouring the cement observation platform on the summit of Sharp Top Mountain.

The project is scheduled for August 13th and 14th, but could be completed on the 13th depending on staffing availability.

Meeting time is 8:00 AM at the foot of the Motor Road / Sharp Top Trailhead on Monday, Aug 13th, near Milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Donnie Parker is the team leader / project coordinator and will make both personnel transportation arrangements and assignments to the bus turn around below the mountain

The plan is to pump water to the mixing and pouring point adjacent to the observation platform.

Volunteers will need sturdy foot wear, gloves, insect repellent, sunscreen, lunch and plenty of drinking water.

Please direct vip coordination efforts to Donnie at 540-586-4358 or better by email at

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Radical Reels Tour visits Asheville

Faster, Steeper, Higher, Deeper! This is the Radical Reels Tour.

Every year the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival presents the wildly popular Radical Reels night – a presentation of the best high-adrenaline films entered into the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival competition. Inspired by the excitement of the Festival event, the Radical Reels Tour has been travelling with a selection of the hottest action sports films since 2004.

The Radical Reels program is made up of short, action-packed climbing, paddling, mountain biking, BASE jumping, skiing, snowboarding, and other adrenaline sport films.

This year the Tour will visit more than 50 locations across the US and Canada, including Asheville. The event will take place at the Carolina Cinemas on September 10th.

To get you stoked for the festival, here is a trailer:

For more information on the event in Asheville, please click here. Although there are no dates in Tennessee, there are a couple of other tour stops in NC. For a list of the films that are on tour, click here.

Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Monday, August 6, 2012

Should we be concerned about the decline in backpacking?

The other day I stumbled upon a posting in a blog called Early Warning, which lamented the decline of backpacking. In the posting the author, Stuart Staniford, created a graph of "Back Country Overnights" using data from the National Park Service (from 1979 to 2011). Staniford states that this data "seems likely to be a decent proxy for overall backpacking levels". Here's a look at his graph:

Staniford makes an interesting observation about the data:

"backpacking is a very cheap way to vacation, and it appears that there is something of a tendency for it to increase during and following recessions (grey boxes), and decline during booms."

However, it was Staniford's conclusion that caught my attention: "Whatever the cause, it's a worrying trend for those of us who care about the natural world".

My first problem with the analysis was that he was using data only from the National Park Service, which only covers National Park units, but doesn't include Wilderness Areas, National Forests, National Monuments, BLM lands, State Parks, and other forested areas. My thought was that this slice of data was too narrow to get a true representative picture of backpacking. So I turned to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) which publishes the Outdoor Recreation Participation Study on an annual basis. The study looks at participation rates among a variety of outdoor pursuits. Unfortunately the study only goes back to 2006. Moreover, the trends for that time period are very similar to what the NPS is reporting.

According to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Study, participation in backpacking was virtually flat when comparing 2011 to 2006. Camping in general fell roughly 7.6% during that same time period.

However, I don't think Mr. Staniford has much to worry about in terms of people enjoying the great outdoors. Participation in day hiking has jumped 15.5% over the last 5 years. Moreover, there are almost 5 times as many people that report participation in hiking as compared to backpacking. All this bodes extremely well for those of us that wish to see continuing support for our wilderness areas.

The latest OIA report also shows that participation in canoeing has increased 6.9% between 2006 and 2011. Trail running increased by 23%, mountaineering increased by 2%, rafting increased by 5.9%, and recreational kayaking actually doubled in that same time frame.

Maybe the takeaway from all this data is that people are enjoying the outdoors more, and are enjoying it in a broader array of recreational pursuits, but prefer the creature comforts of civilization at the end of the day.

To read the entire Early Warning posting, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Horace Kephart Days

Next month is the annual Horace Kephart Days in Bryson City and Cullowhee, NC. This year marks Horace Kephart's 150th Birthday. The schedule of events for the four-day celebration are as follows:

Thursday, September 6, 2012
4-7pm Mountain Heritage Museum, WCU, Opening Reception for year-long Horace Kephart exhibit. Open to the public.

7:30pm Opening night performance of play, "Horace Kephart, His Life ~ His Words",

Friday, September 7, 2012
All Day Hike to Kephart's Hazel Creek cabin site in the Smokies. The hike departs and returns at the Fontana Marina. Registration is required.

10am-1pm "Horace Kephart in Bryson City", visit site of the old Cooper House, highway marker, Hillside Cemetery, picnic lunch at Deep Creek Pavilion and short hike in Deep Creek for those who want to hike. Participants bring their own lunch, e-mail.

7:30pm Performance of play followed by a reception. Meet cast, crew, and special guest, Susan Shumaker (producer-researcher with Ken Burns film company, Florentine Films)

Saturday, September 8: Horace Kephart's 150th Birthday
8:30am Breakfast at the Calhoun, $10, reservations required

9:45am Ceremony at Hillside Cemetery where Kephart is buried, special guest speakers, bagpipes, singers

Starting at 1pm Afternoon programs, NCCAT:
Speakers include: Susan Shumaker, George Ellison (Kephart scholar)
George Frizzell (WCU, Kephart Scholar), Dennis Stephens (Kephart scholar from Alaska), Janet McCue (Cornell U., Kephart scholar), Dale Ditmanson, Superintendent GSMNP, Terry Maddox (Exec. Dir. GSMA)

Book Signings: Walt Larimore, Lance Holland, Susan Shumaker, George Ellison, Janet McCue, Bill Alexander, members of Kephart family

Art exhibits/Sales: Joanne Bleichner, Elizabeth Ellison

Demonstrations: Bill Alexander, bark baskets (available for sale)
GSMA will have a booth
Cherokee will have an exhibit on the Trail of Tears
WCU Special Collections will have an exhibit
Schiele Museum Camping re-enactors, Kephart-style

7:30pm Performance of play followed by Meet & Greet

Sunday, September 9
8:30am Breakfast at the Calhoun. Guest speaker, Thomas Rain Crowe

2pm Matinee performance of play (NCCAT) followed by reception

For any questions, e-mail:

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hemorrhagic disease is suspected cause of deer fatalities at Stone Mountain State Park

At least 20 white-tailed deer have died in the area of Stone Mountain State Park in a suspected outbreak of hemorrhagic disease, the result of a virus that does not pose a danger to humans, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

State park rangers and natural resource managers and officials with the N.C Wildlife Resources Commission are working to confirm the outbreak through testing. Dead white-tailed deer have been discovered on private property near the state park, and hemorrhagic disease was confirmed in the death of a deer in Surry County, according to wildlife officials.

Hemorrhagic disease results from an infectious virus transmitted by tiny biting flies or gnats known as midges, sand gnats, sand flies or no-see-ums. It is a fairly common disease of white-tailed deer in the southeastern United States, with outbreaks reported more frequently from August until October, when freezing weather dampens the midge population. The disease cannot be transmitted to humans, and its effect on livestock is usually minimal.

Staff members at Stone Mountain State Park, near Roaring Gap, NC (just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway), are removing deer carcasses from trails, water sources and areas near visitor facilities when they are discovered or reported. Visitors should not feed or interact with the park’s deer herd and should report any animals that show obvious signs of sickness to rangers or at the park’s office.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, August 3, 2012

Exploring Balsam Mountain

Explore the Balsam Mountain area, including the panoramic views from Heintooga Overlook, with the Great Smoky Mountains Association. This fairly remote section of the Smokies lies in the southeastern portion of the park, and is an oustanding summertime refuge from the heat and crowds:

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Games Celebration in Honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) with a summer games competition on August 14, 2012 at the Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. The event will run from 5 to 9 p.m.

Participants will compete for a variety of outdoor gear prizes by playing classic activities like a water balloon toss, watermelon seed spitting contest and a cupcake walk. Prizes have been generously donated by Mountain Khaki, Gregory, and ENO.

The event will also feature Jay Leutze, noted national conservation spokesperson and author, who will read from his new book, Stand Up That Mountain. Musicians are welcome to come and perform during the competition. The Highland Brewing Company will also feature beer specials throughout the event.

“This year marks a milestone for the Appalachian Trail,” said Mark Wenger, Executive Director and CEO 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 A.T. was completed 75 years ago on August 14, 1937. This task took over 15 years to complete, and involved thousands of volunteers, agency partners, local Trail maintaining clubs and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The A.T. is one of the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.

It has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Big South Fork Announces Lifting of Restrictions on Backcountry Fires

Due to the recent rains, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area has lifted the recent temporary restriction on backcountry fires within the Big South Fork. Visitors are reminded that fireworks are always prohibited within the Big South Fork.

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

Hiking in the Smokies

Programming Note: Friends Across the Mountains Telethon

In just two weeks, on Thursday, August 16th, is the 18th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. The event will be broadcast on WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville, TN and WLOS-TV Channel 13 in Asheville, NC from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.

The broadcast will highlight projects and programs that Friends of the Smokies has funded over the years. It's a fun event that raises awareness of both the Park's needs (as the only major national park without an entrance fee) and the ways that Friends of the Smokies helps to fulfill some of those needs every year. The telethon raises roughly $200,000 each year.

Volunteers will be on hand to help answer phones and keep running totals of the money raised throughout the evening.

This year the Friends group has introduced social media into the event for the first time. This year will become the 1st Annual Click-A-Thon for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Friends of the Smokies has made it easy for you to create your own fundraising page using a customizable template. This is a great way of getting your family and friends involved in helping to raise funds for the Great Smoky Mountains. For more information on the Click-A-Thon, please click here.

You can also make a donation right now by clicking here.

Hiking in the Smokies