Monday, September 30, 2013

Walkabout in the Smokies

In early October of 2012, Chris Gallaway spent two weeks hiking a circuitous route through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Part of his motivation for this hike was to test his backpacking and camera setup in preparation for a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail that he was planning for during the following spring. Here are some of the sights, sounds and people he encountered during his hike:

Walkabout in the Smokies (filmed with the Nikon d800) from Horizonline Pictures on Vimeo.

Hiking in the Smokies

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Forest Service decides on management for Cave Run trails

U.S. Forest Service officials have announced new management direction for trails in the Cave Run Lake area of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Under the new direction, horse and mountain bike users will each have their own designated trail system. All of these trails will be open to hikers. The separated use is intended to enhance the quality of experience for all users. Equestrian use will be designated near existing horse camps and trails. Bike use will be zoned where trails, both existing and newly constructed, can access nearby campgrounds.

“In an effort to meet recreational demand and enhance tourism in our local communities, we are striving to provide a sustainable trail system that all visitors can enjoy,” said District Ranger Dave Manner.

Much of the existing trail system was originally designed for hiking over 40 years ago. Since that time, equestrian and mountain bike use in the area has steadily increased. The additional use has impacted the trail surface, vegetation, water quality and soil conditions in the area. As a result, the recreation experience of trail users has suffered.

Forest managers began working with trail users several years ago to look for alternative ways to manage the system. The complex geology, highly erodible soils, year-round precipitation and mixed ownership have made trail development and maintenance challenging.

A large portion of the area west and south of Cave Run Lake, including the Caney Loop Trail and Murder Branch, will be designated for horseback riding and hiking only. A portion of the area west of Cave Run Lake will be designated for mountain biking and hiking.

In addition, new mountain bike loop trails are planned for construction north of the lake and 28 miles of currently closed Forest Service roads will be opened to connect loop trails and expand horseback and mountain bike riding opportunities.

Amenities such as signs, horse resting areas, and trail head and parking areas will be improved and/or constructed.

The new management direction will be implemented over several years. The first priority will be to designate the trails for mountain biking and horseback riding. Trail and trailhead signs will be installed, and maps and web page information will be updated.

During the second phase of implementation, seasonal and cross-country horse travel will be restricted to minimize impacts and reduce maintenance. Implementation of the new trails and improvements will occur as necessary resources become available, including funding and volunteers.

Further information regarding the trail management decision can be found on the Daniel Boone National Forest website.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Injured Climber Medevaced To Area Hospital

Earlier this week NPS Digest reported that rangers at New River Gorge National River responded to a call reporting that a climber had fallen at the popular Endless Wall climbing area on Monday afternoon.

The accident occurred on a wall known as Star Trek, located along Fern Buttress near Fern Creek. The area is popular with novice climbers and has several established routes rated between 5.6 and 5.11.

The climber, who was from Vienna, West Virginia, rappelled off the end of his rope and fell about 35 feet, sustaining lower limb and back injuries in the fall.

Rangers and personnel from Fayette County Rope Rescue, Fayetteville Fire Department, Ansted Fire Department, General Ambulance, and Health Net Air Ambulance responded to assist in the mile-plus carryout over rough terrain. The injured climber was then medevaced by Health Net to the Charleston Area Medical Center.

The incident is under investigation by the NPS. The climber is expected to make a full recovery.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall color season launched in NC State Parks & Blue Ridge Parkway

Abundant summer rainfall and cool September nights have already launched the fall foliage season in high elevations of western North Carolina state parks. For the first time, travelers can keep track of peak color as it makes its way across the state through park ranger reports available online at, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Regular updates will keep visitors posted on how fall color is progressing through the different types of forests in North Carolina, from the brilliant red of mountain sourwood to the rust-colored cedar in eastern wetlands. The fall season in the state truly lasts from late September into December.

“State parks, with their convenient access and miles of hiking trails, are natural destinations for people who want to get up close and personal with fall color. And, the 42 state park units present the fall foliage experience in every corner of the state,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director.

Western state parks will immediately join a list of sites reporting peak color to the N.C. Division of Tourism, which prominently features a fall foliage travel section on As the season progresses, rangers in other regions of the state will submit similar reports.

Here are a few of the most popular state parks for enjoying fall color include:

* Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes and Alleghany counties, where fall color is peaking just as leaves begin to fall in the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park offers more than 18 miles of hiking trails.

* Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County, named in 2012 as one of the 10 best spots for viewing fall color in the South by Southern Living magazine. The park offers trails across nine named peaks.

* Raven Rock State Park in Harnett County, where beech groves and hardwood forests mix with eastern evergreens. The park offers surprisingly challenging terrain in the piedmont.

* Merchants Millpond State Park in Gates County, where swamp cedars and stands of hardwood alternate color palettes. Canoes can be rented for waterborne leaf watching.

Travelers and leaf peepers in the western part of the state may also want to note a new fall color tracking tool for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The folks at Blue Ridge Parkway Daily are providing a unique color-coded map of the BRP which shows the progress of fall colors along the entire route. Here's what the latest update looks like, but to check out updates as the fall season progresses, you should click here:


Get on the Trail with Friends of the Smokies and Missy

Join Friends of the Smokies and fitness expert Missy Kane for another series of hikes next month. Each Wednesday throughout the month of October, Missy and Friends will be hiking a different trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.

"Get on the Trail" is a great opportunity for people who are new to the area, new to hiking, or for those who just want to know more about the Park.

The dates for the hikes this fall are as follow:

October 2: Old Sugarlands Trail

October 9: Little River Trail to Campsite #24

October 16: Middle Prong to Lynn Camp Prong

October 23: Mt. Cammerer via Low Gap + the A.T.

October 30: Spence Field via Anthony Creek and Bote Mountain

Cost for each hike is $20, with proceeds going to the Friends of the Smokies.

Since the series started, Get on the Trail with Friends, and Missy Kane, an Olympic runner and a Pan American Games medalist, has raised more than $110,000 for the preservation and protection of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Please click here or send an e-mail to Friends of the Smokies to receive more information about the upcoming series, and to register. You can also call the Covenant Health Call Center at 865-541-4500 to register. Over the years these hikes have grown in popularity, so early registration is advised.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Project to Help Restore Courthouse Creek Area of Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina yesterday unveiled the final decision for the Courthouse Creek project in the Pisgah National Forest.

“The Forest Service designed the Courthouse Creek project to fulfill management objectives in the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan,” said Derek Ibarguen, Pisgah District ranger. “During the 4-5-year project, the agency will implement a variety of management activities to improve ecological diversity, as well as promote forest health and sustainability.

The Forest Service’s management practices will help:

* Restore brook trout habitat by replacing culverts that restrict movement of aquatic life;

* Improve habitat for wildlife, including game species such as turkeys and non-game species, as well as a forest concern species, the golden winged warbler;

* Maintain a variety of hardwood tree species;

* Remove non-native invasive species;

* Protect water quality by addressing sedimentation and maintenance issues such as replacing bridges and culverts;

* Plant hybrid American Chestnut trees as a first step toward restoring them to Southern Appalachian forests; and

* Designate an additional 127 acres of old growth forest areas.

For more information, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Packing for the Smoky Mountains

The following is a guest blog by e-outdoor:

A late summer or fall trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great way to end your summer or ease into fall at a less hectic pace. Soon enough the cold temperatures will have everyone spending more time inside than out, and the winter holidays will have you running in all directions and busy with family. Taking a few days for some quiet time to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer is a great way to charge the internal batteries before it's too late in the year.

Late summer and fall brings cooler temperatures to the mountains, and the night and early morning air can have a little bite to it as autumn comes in, especially at the higher elevations. To stay comfortable and safe a look at the packing list is in order to make sure your gear has adapted to the changing season.

Packing for the Smoky Mountains is less about fashion and more about function. If you were not wise enough to trade in the sneakers for actual hiking boots earlier in the year, it's certainly time to do so now. In hiking boots the keys are support, weight, waterproof (in this season), and breathability. A boot that offers good arch and ankle support will be a blessing and a few less ounces in weight make a big difference at the end of the day. If you have a pair of favorite boots already some leather dressing or mink oil will help restore the water repellant properties. If you don't have the synthetic breathable fiber boots a pair of Gore-Tex socks or foot liners will help prevent your feet from getting wet from perspiration.

Cotton clothing is comfortable in the summer seasons but as fall approaches a wool or wool blend will be more suitable. Wool retains its heat insulating properties - even when wet, and since an afternoon shower is more apt to turn into a cold evening or night, the extra warmth is a good idea. Vests for the early fall and well lined waterproof coats for anything after the start of October make sense. If you have a wool or wool blend outerwear, buying new will not make you any warmer - there is not much need for high fashion in the GSMNP. If you need to get more suitable outerwear a place like e-outdoor is a good place for ideas of what might be available.

As it turns into full fall a hat and gloves will help keep you more comfortable, and as hunting season begins adding a hunter safety vest is always a good idea when plying through the wilderness outside of the park.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Open House in North Carolina for New Smokies Deputy Superintendent

On Thursday, October 3, Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to an open house to welcome new Deputy Superintendent, Patricia Wissinger, to the Smokies. The event will be held at the Calhoun House in Bryson City, NC from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Wissinger most recently served as Superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta where she developed many partnerships with the surrounding community. This will be the first opportunity for the public to meet the newest addition to the Park Management Team.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a tradition of working cooperatively with local communities on many park issues,” said Wissinger. “I look forward to meeting our community members and begin building on the important relationships which have developed with our supporters throughout the years.”

A native of North Carolina, Wissinger received both a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Public Administration Degree from Western Carolina University. She spent many years in Asheville, NC where she volunteered extensively for the Buncombe County School system, and served on the Boards of the Appalachian Consortium, the Haw Creek Neighborhood Association and the East Asheville Recreation Association.

The reception is hosted by the Calhoun House which is located at 110 Bryson Ave, Bryson City, NC 28713.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Appalachian Impressions

Throughout the month of October the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will be showcasing the film Appalachian Impressions in 15 cities nationwide, as part of their 2013 membership drive, called A Journey of 2,000 Miles: the Appalachian Trail. The organization has set a goal to gain the support of 2,180 new members, one new member for each mile of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

Appalachian Impressions is an epic story about hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The program takes viewers on a six-month, 2,180-mile journey along the famous long-distance hiking trail in the world. Participants will hear the stories from hikers who have embarked on this trek and experience the thrills and challenges of daily life on the Trail. The film covers all fourteen states, the changing of the seasons, footwear, food, shelters, volunteer trail crews, and Leave No Trace Ethics. It captures the true essence of this historic pathway, its interesting characters, beautiful scenery and the generous spirit found in small town America.

Each city will feature several guest speakers including authors, volunteers, key members of the A.T. community, and 2,000-milers (those who have hiked the entire A.T.). Some guest speakers include Richard Judy, thru-hiker and author of THRU – A Love Story; Susan Letcher, 2,000-miler and author of The Barefoot Sisters: Southbound; Captain Sean Gobin, co-founder of Warrior Hike & the Walk off the War Program; Michelle Pugh, thru-hiker and author of Love at First Hike: A Memoir about Love & Triumph on the Appalachian Trail; and Ron Tipton executive director/CEO of the ATC.

Included on the tour is Cincinnati, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Hot Springs and Franklin NC, and Erwin, TN, among other towns along the east coast.

Show participants will receive a one-year membership to the ATC. They will also have the chance to win cool prizes such as an ATC ENOTM Hammock and a Gregory Backpack.

For more information, as well as a full list of dates, locations and times, please click here.

Here's the trailer from the film:

Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, September 23, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains Signs Sister Agreement with Khao Yai

Great Smoky Mountains National Park established its first Sister Park Arrangement with Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Smokies Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and Khao Yai National Park Superintendent Krissada Homsud signed the Arrangement today at a ceremony at Park Headquarters.

Although not exactly twins, the two parks share a number of similar resources and protected area management and operational concerns. The significant biodiversity of both Khao Yai and Great Smoky Mountains is at the center of their mission, significance, and challenges. Both parks are the most visited National Parks within their country presenting similar challenges associated with high visitor use along with potential impacts due to adjacent land use and development. Both parks are popular for spectacular wildlife viewing, streams and waterfalls, and lush mountain forests.

“We are honored to form this unique partnership with Khao Yai National Park which shares so many similarities with the Smokies,” said Park Superintendent Ditmanson. “There has already been an incredible exchange of information among our staff and Superintendent Homsud over the past couple of days and we look forward to continued sharing and learning through this relationship.”

Currently, Superintendent Homsud is traveling in the United States with a group of nine park managers from Thailand through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) which is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. The participants met this week with Park managers, biologists, entomologists, educators, historians, and facility managers offering the opportunity to learn about resources in the field and to cultivate relationships for future information exchange.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park shares many similarities with Khao Yai, but the Smokies are one step ahead in public involvement in caring for the Park and we look forward to learning from their staff,” said Khao Yai Park Superintendent Homsud. “In Khao Yai, we still have problems with encroachment and poaching. We are impressed by how well the Park here works with the public and neighboring communities.”

Several National Park Service sites have established "sister park" relationships with national parks in other countries. These partnerships increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts to address common issues.

For more information on the National Park Sister program, please click here or for information about Khao Yai National Park, click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

The Crew from the Mt. LeConte Lodge Says Hello to Ellen DeGeneres

A couple weeks ago two crew members from the Mt. LeConte Lodge decided it would be fun to make a short video and send it to Ellen DeGeneres - in order to share what their day looks like 5000 feet above and several miles from civilization. This humorous video gives Ellen (and you) a glimpse of this beautiful mountain top.

Thanks to Allyson Virden, the Resident Manager at the LeConte Lodge, for sending this to me. Hopefully the crew will be able to get Ellen's attention with this:

Hiking in the Smokies

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Smoky Mountain Vacations on a Budget

The following is a guest blog by Regatta Ltd:

A vacation at Great Smoky Mountain National Park is not only a great place for memories and photos, it's a very affordable vacation and recreation spot as well. There are many reasons for this that are self-evident such as the nature of the activities - fresh air and beautiful scenery are free. In addition, GSMNP is one of the very few national parks that do not charge an entrance fee at all – it's completely free access and simple day use thanks to an agreement between Tennessee, North Carolina and the Federal Government.

Activity fees are very reasonable for camping and use of the facilities - like picnic pavilions for a larger get-together - than what is found in commercial places around parks and what many would consider traditional resorts areas. Since the majority of the actual activities enjoyed are things like hiking and watching wildlife, most of the daily activities to be enjoyed have no additional cost. If camping you will likely be cooking your own food or making sandwiches most of the time, so exorbitant food prices that are the norm at resort style vacations will be eliminated.

What is left to budget for a vacation in the Smokies? If you don't want to camp there are many cabins and houses for rent available throughout the area. Your budget for these is discretionary with many 2-4 bedroom cabins routinely available for under $150 per night. This can also go considerably higher based on your tastes, but you cannot get a 1 bedroom suite in a resort for near the 3 bedroom budget cabin price. Everybody enjoys a little luxury, so if cooking over a campfire for every meal gets old, there are numerous restaurants and diners available with affordable and quality dining in nearby towns.

Some additional activities are available that do have fees. A very popular activity for those tired of hiking themselves, but still wanting to see the sights, is horseback riding. Carriage tours and hay wagon rides are also available. For those who want to combine other activities there is whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River near Gatlinburg.

The largest expense in an outdoor vacation for the inexperienced is in purchasing appropriate gear, like hiking boots, camping equipment, and suitable clothing. This need not be a huge investment. While it's easy to spend a lot of money on top end gear, for basic camping and hiking you won't need a $300 tent or a $180 backpack. Shopping more economical places like box stores and online vendors like Regatta Ltd will allow you to find good quality gear and clothing affordably. You can upgrade if you choose to make these things a regular activity, and you will also have a better idea where to put the emphasis on your next trip once you have a week of experience.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Volunteers Needed for Big South Fork National Public Lands Day

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will be celebrating National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 28, 2013. National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event in which eight federal agencies as well as other groups partner together to maintain and protect the environment.

Anyone wishing to volunteer should be at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center by 9:00 a.m. EDT. A safety briefing will be conducted prior to beginning work. Work will start at 9:30 a.m. and end by 1:00 p.m. EDT. Volunteers are needed for trail clearing and trash pickup. Everyone should wear sturdy shoes and bring bug spray and drinking water.

More information can be found at, or you may call Effie Houston, Volunteer Coordinator, (423) 569-9778.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tennessee State Parks Celebrate National Public Lands Day Sept. 28

In recognition of National Public Lands Day, Tennessee State Parks and State Natural Areas invite the public to take part in hikes and volunteer activities across the state on Saturday, Sept. 28.

This year’s theme is Helping Hands for America’s Land. Each of the 54 Tennessee State Parks will have scheduled hikes and volunteer opportunities. For each park’s schedule, please click here.

A Tennessee State Parks/National Public Lands Day 2013 commemorative hiking stick medallion will be given to the first 1,000 participants across the state.

National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest one-day, volunteer stewardship event. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers across the country built trails, planted trees and removed litter to improve America’s shared lands for all who visit them.

“National Public Lands Day is a wonderful tradition that combines the opportunity to get outdoors with the spirit of volunteerism,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Tennessee is the Volunteer State and we encourage everyone to join us in this statewide effort, helping us preserve and protect our great state parks and natural areas.”

National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with just three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Today, this annual program of the National Environmental Education Foundation has grown to involve more than 105,000 volunteers at over 2,000 locations in every state across the nation. Those interested in organizing a National Public Lands Day project or volunteering can call (202) 833-2933, or go to

For more information about Tennessee State Parks, please visit For more information, including descriptions, maps and directions, for Tennessee’s state natural areas, click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Open House Planned for New Deputy Superintendent Wissinger

Next Tuesday, September 24, Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to an open house to welcome new Deputy Superintendent, Patricia Wissinger to East Tennessee. The event will be held at the Calhoun’s Banquet Room in Gatlinburg, TN from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Wissinger most recently served as Superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta where she developed many partnerships with the surrounding community. This will be the first opportunity for the public to meet the newest addition to the Park Management Team.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a tradition of working cooperatively with local communities on many park issues,” said Wissinger. “I look forward to meeting our community members and begin building on the important relationships which have developed with our supporters throughout the years.”

The open house is hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is planning a separate open house to be held in North Carolina at a later date.

Is this possibly an indication that Ms. Wissinger will become the next Superintendent - given that current Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson recently announced that he will be resigning after the new year?

Hiking in the Smokies

Forest Service Offers Planning Tools for Fall Colors Viewing

The U.S. Forest Service is urging people to get outdoors, spend time in rural communities and urban forests, and enjoy one of nature's most spectacular seasons with its Fall Colors 2013 campaign.

"America's public lands, particularly our national forests, are among the most spectacular venues to view the changes in fall colors," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "The Forest Service offers numerous resources to help you plan your experience. Nature is closer than you may think."

The Forest Service has launched an online map to help visitors see if trees are peaking in their state. The map will be shaded in green (not peaking) to bright red (peaking) to brown (past peak). Another map will help visitors find a national forest nearest them to enjoy the colors of fall.

For a more analogue approach to trip planning, the Forest Service is once again offering its Fall Colors Hotline – 1-800-354-4595. The hotline provides audio updates on the best places, dates and routes to take for peak viewing of fall colors on national forests.

Fall colors provide an economic boost to communities across the United States. The New England area alone receives an estimated $8 billion annually in local revenues from fall visitors. In the Midwest, millions of visitors hit the road to enjoy the sights, and in the West, the mountains offer destinations filled with tourists seeking views of shimmering gold aspens.

To visit the new USFS fall color map page, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Planning a Hike? An Important Reminder

The following is a guest blog by RVOPS:

So much planning goes into even a day trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park that it's easy to forget a very important piece of the planning and preparation. Hiking means walking, and the most important piece of equipment a hiker has are the boots that are on their feet. Boots that fit well, are broken in, and in a good state of repair will go a long way towards ensuring your comfort and ability to complete the planned hike. You'll also need boots suitable to the terrain you intend to be hiking.

The sneaker-like-hikers that are gaining popularity as walk around town shoes work fine for easier terrain, and have a good grip to prevent slips on the occasional wet rock, but offer little true support for more rugged terrain to protect from a twisted ankle (or to even make it possible to get back if you do get a mild sprain). They also typically have little insulation for cold weather. The many ventilation holes that make for comfortable wear around town let in freezing cold water during a stream crossing, and can lead to frost bite if they are substituted for insulated wear in higher elevations in the winter.

Getting brand new boots and wearing them for the first time on a 7 mile hike is a recipe for a painful experience. Spend at least a week or two wearing new boots around the house or town to break them in before you attempt hiking in them. Carrying a set of old standby footwear in your pack is a good idea if the initiation of the new pair is going to be more than a mile or so.

For the experienced hikers with well broken in and comfortable boots there are still considerations. The water proofing on leather boots deteriorates over time. Take a few minutes to take care of the boots that have taken you so many miles. Apply a liberal coating of leather conditioning wax, mink oil, or leather conditioner every month or two. As well as keeping the boot waterproof, it will keep the leather supple and comfortable. The aerosol sprays make for a fast job but typically it is not as long lasting or beneficial to the leather. Remember to pay particular attention the stitching on the leather as this is where leaks begin and where deterioration or dry rot tends to make a good boot wear beyond use. New laces each season are a good idea as well. For other boot care ideas RVOps has some simple solutions to keep your favorite boots serviceable for years.

Hiking in the Smokies

Teenager Dies in Fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway

NPS Digest is reporting this morning that the Blue Ridge Parkway dispatch center and the Humpback Rocks visitor center received multiple reports of a young woman who had fallen approximately 50 feet down a cliff onto the parkway this past Sunday evening, September 15th.

There was a rapid response from park rangers and interpretive staff, Wanynesboro and Wintergreen rescue squads, and medically trained visitors who witnessed the accident. The patient, a 13-year-old girl, was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center in Charlottesville, but succumbed to her injuries. She had been picnicking with family and friends at Humpback Rocks picnic area and had hiked out to an overlook to view the sunset. She and another youngster had scrambled down from the overlook and were climbing along the top of the cliff when she fell.

Hiking in the Smokies

Living Archaeology Weekend at Red River Gorge

The 25th anniversary of the Living Archaeology Weekend is set to celebrate Kentucky’s historic and prehistoric past. Since 1989, this annual event has illustrated the cultural practices of Native Americans and early pioneers.

This two-day event will take place at the Gladie Learning Center in the Red River Gorge.

Specialists at the event demonstrate how to make stone tools, tan animal hides and throw spears with an atlatl. Pottery, basketry and native cooking are also featured. Spinning, quilting and corn grinding are displayed at the nearby Gladie cabin.

Representatives from the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee will be among the program participants. The Absentee Shawnee will exhibit current items that represent their culture and perform a traditional stomp dance. The United Keetoowah Band will demonstrate their traditional games of stickball and marbles.

On Friday, September 20 the program demonstrations are for fifth-grade students only from school groups that are pre-registered to attend. During this time, the event serves as an outdoor classroom to help students better understand their textbook studies concerning Native Americans, pioneers and cultural heritage.

On Saturday, September 21 the event is open to the general public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The Daniel Boone National Forest presents this special event in cooperation with the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. Other sponsors of the event include the Red River Historical Society, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission, Kentucky Heritage Council, University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology, Western Kentucky University, Weisenberger Mills, Frenchburg Job Corps, and the Red River Historical Society and Museum.

For more information, visit the Daniel Boone National Forest website or contact the Gladie Center at (606) 663-8100.

Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, September 16, 2013

October Classic Hikes of the Smokies: Bradley-Chasteen Creekside Hike

On the third Tuesday of each month this year, Friends of the Smokies will be offering guided hikes as part of their Classic Hikes of the Smokies series. To celebrate the Friends’ 20th anniversary this year, each hike will honor an achievement or cause that the Friends organization has supported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park since its establishment in 1993.

The hike for next month will honor water quality:

October 15: Bradley-Chasteen Creekside Hike
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
Trails – Bradley Fork and Chasteen Creek

To help support the Smokies Trails Forever program, a donation of $10 for members and $35 for non-members is requested. Non-members receive a complimentary membership to Friends of the Smokies. Members who bring a friend hike for free. You can pre-register for this through Friends of the Smokies at or 828-452-0720.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Iceland - what a beautiful country! Watching this short timelapse video, I was amazed by how much of the terrain looked like some of the scenery you would see in the Rocky Mountain west. This video was shot by Eric Hines during a 17-day, 4000-mile adventure around the country this past June during the midnight sun.

I would absolutely love to visit this country someday:

Expedition Iceland from Eric Hines on Vimeo.

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Smokies Park Superintendent Announces Retirement

Dale Ditmanson, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, announced his decision to retire on January 3, 2014 from 36 years with the National Park Service. He has served in the Smokies as Superintendent since May of 2004 and led the park through a variety of challenging projects along with celebrations including the Park’s 75th Anniversary in 2009.

“Working in the Smokies has been an honor and I look forward to continuing that work over the next 4 months,” said Ditmanson. “Our new Deputy Superintendent, Patty Wissinger, came on board this week and I have every confidence that our staff will continue to provide excellence in service as they care for this special place.”

No other information has been announced by the park at this time.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mountain Life Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum

Join park staff and volunteers as they celebrate the fall harvest. The Mountain Farm Museum will be alive with history as demonstrators provide visitors with a glimpse into the past as they make soap, apple cider, sorghum molasses, hominy, music and more.

This year's Mountain Life Festival will be held on September 21st at the Mountain Farm Museum next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC from 10 am - 4 pm.

The centerpiece of the event is the sorghum syrup demonstration, which the national park has provided each fall for nearly 40 years. The syrup is made much the same way it was produced a hundred or more years ago using a horse-powered cane mill and wood-fired cooker. The syrup making demonstration is provided by students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Tools, farm implements, and historic photographs from the national park's archives and artifact collection will also be on display.

The purpose of the Mountain Life Festival is to share with park visitors some of the traditional fall activities that were an important part of rural life in the southern mountains. The spirit of cooperation that existed among families and neighbors is reflected in this event.

Hiking in the Smokies

Monday, September 9, 2013

What are the Best Fall Hikes in the Smokies?

Fall hiking season is rapidly approaching, and soon leaf peepers will be out in full force in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The beauty of the Smokies is always spectacular, but never more so than during the autumn when the mountains are ablaze with the colors of fall.

The timing of the fall color season depends upon many variables, making it virtually impossible to predict the exact date of "peak" colors in advance.

One of the most important variables is elevation. At the higher elevations in the Smokies, fall color displays begin as early as mid-September when yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush, and pin cherry begin to show their autumn colors. If you’re looking for good fall foliage hikes during this time period, you’ll want to be at the highest elevations in the park; however, you’ll also want to avoid hiking in areas that are predominantly spruce-fir forests.

Suggested mid-late September hikes: Andrews Bald, Mt. LeConte, the Jump-off or Rocky Top.

From early to mid-October, during most years, fall colors begin to reach their peak above elevations of 4,500 feet. Trees such as the American beech and yellow birch begin to turn bright yellow, while mountain ash, pin cherry and mountain maple show-off brilliant shades of red.

In the lower elevations you may notice a few dogwoods and maples that are just beginning to turn. You may also see a few scattered sourwood and sumac turning to bright reds as well.

Suggested early-mid October hikes: You’ll still want to hike in the higher elevations. In addition to the suggestions above, check out Gregory Bald, Mt. Cammerer, Spence Field, Albright Grove or the Sugerland Mountain Trail starting from Clingmans Dome Road.

Autumn colors usually reach their peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. This is usually the best time to be in the park as you'll see the spectacular displays of color from sugar maples, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and hickories. Your hiking choices will have greatly expanded during this time period as well. You can continue to hike at elevation to take in the fall colors from above, or you can walk among the autumn colored trees.

Suggested mid-late October hikes: If you wish to hike at elevation for spectacular fall views try exploring the Rich Mountain Loop, Alum Cave, Hemphill Bald, Shuckstack, Bullhead, Charlies Bunion or Mt. Sterling trails. If you wish to hike among the trees, check out Baskins Creek Falls, Little River, Old Settlers or the Porters Creek Trail.

As the fall color season begins to wind down in early November, you’ll want to hike at the lowest elevations in the park. Check out the Meigs Mountain Trail, Schoolhouse Gap, Abrams Falls, Oconaluftee River Trail, Indian Falls, or the Deep Creek Loop.

Monitoring Fall Color Progress:

* To get a general idea of when leaves are approaching peak colors you can follow the fall foliage map on the Weather Channel site.

* To get a birds-eye view on changes in fall colors, you can periodically check out the four Smoky Mountain web cams.

* To get periodic on-the-ground reports, visit the Fall Leaf Color page on the GSMA website.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Free Entrance to all National Parks on September 28th

All 397 national parks will offer free entrance on Saturday, September 28th for National Public Lands Day. The 20th annual event encourages everyone to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Visit for a list of parks and information to help plan your park adventure.

“National Public Lands Day reminds all of us of the vast and diverse nature of America’s open spaces, from small neighborhood parks to large national parks, and the importance of each one,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are fortunate that more than 600 million acres of public land, including national parks, provide all of us with cherished places where we can go to unwind, recreate, or learn.”

Many people will lend a hand to help the land and spend part of National Public Lands Day volunteering on work projects. More than 170,000 people are expected to plant trees, clean watersheds, remove invasive plants, replace signs, and otherwise beautify 2,000 public sites throughout the country. Visit for more information.

Other Federal agencies offering free admittance on September 28th include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Video: The Rut

With the annual "rut" rapidly approaching, I thought you might enjoy a little preview of what to expect over the next several weeks. The film below was produced by Aaron Morrell from Grae Skye Studio in Waynesville. The footage was taken in the Cataloochee Valley in 2010:

The Rut, GSMNP- September 2010 from Aaron Morrell on Vimeo.

Hiking in the Smokies

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Plans for Fall Hiking in the Smokies

For anyone considering a trip to see the beautiful fall colors of the Great Smoky Mountains, now is the time to make plans and have your reservations in place. October in the Smokies is the second most popular month in terms of park visitation. And with the awesome beauty the autumn season provides, it's really no wonder.

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

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

As always, thank you very much!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Tennessee Adventure Challenge Comes to Knoxville

Outdoor enthusiasts can experience a day of adventure and ultimately compete for a statewide title in the Tennessee Adventure Challenge that will be launching in Knoxville next month. The Challenge will make its debut on October 12, 2013 in conjunction with the Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Racing National Championship, which will see up to 200 of the best adventure racers in North America converge on Knoxville from October 10-12 to compete for the national title.

The Tennessee Adventure Challenge is designed to offer an entry-level experience for those just starting out with adventure sports. The Challenge will expand to other cities within Tennessee in 2014 and 2015, with the goal of a five-to-seven city statewide series that culminates with a Championship race every fall in Knoxville.

Paul Angell, president of event producer, Checkpoint Zero, said Knoxville was the perfect pick for the National Championship and for the launch of the Tennessee Challenge. "Knoxville's Urban Wilderness drew us to the city for our first-ever urban national championship venue. The enthusiasm we've seen for outdoor recreation — and the incredible topography and amenities found in and around Knoxville — made us excited about launching the Tennessee Adventure Challenge in conjunction with the national championship."

Checkpoint Tracker is a national competitive adventure racing series with its own rankings and championship race. It is also the largest online community of adventure racers in North America with over 10,000 active members.

The Tennessee Adventure Challenge offers a unique format open to both novice and experienced athletes. Scheduled activities for the Challenge will include trail running, mountain biking and paddling (boat or SUP) on a set course with no navigation skills or GPS required. The 4-6 hour endurance race will feature solo and two person teams who will traverse an unmarked course using printed trail maps as they transition between 3-5 outdoor disciplines. Manned checkpoints along the course will provide water, first aid and other support for all racers. The course for both events is kept secret and closely guarded, though event producers have revealed that both finish lines will be on Market Square.

Registration and information is available at

For more information, contact: Carol Evans at 865.525.2585 or

Hiking in the Smokies