Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who was Grandma Gatewood?

In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - at the tender age of 67!  In September of that year, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again, becoming the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail twice. And, just to prove those first two weren't a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 - at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the 2,179-mile trail on three different occasions.

So who exactly was Grandma Gatewood? This short video, a trailer from a documentary film project called "Trail Magic", gives a few insights into Emma Gatewood's life, tribulations & achievements:


Monday, August 25, 2014

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 27, 2014. 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 Oscar Blevins Farm located off West Bandy Creek Loop Road by 9:00 a.m. ET. A safety briefing will be conducted prior to beginning work. Work will start at 9:00 a.m. and end by 2:00 p.m.. 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 here, or you may call Effie Houston, Volunteer Coordinator, at (423) 569-9778.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, August 23, 2014

One Man's Perspective on Solitude and Wilderness

Every couple of months 68-year-old Ed Zevely rides into the Colorado high country to camp for weeks at a time, and does it completely alone. Through thunderstorms, open meadows and treacherous passes, he finds his own patch of serenity. Ed provides an interesting perspective, perhaps one that all of us should consider as we go through life.

Open Door to Solitude from Filson on Vimeo.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Big South Fork Offers Guided Hikes at Historic Rugby

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area rangers invite everyone to join them on two very enjoyable walks in the park adjoining Historic Rugby. The Big South Fork, in partnership with Historic Rugby, is staffing a visitor contact station in the Board of Aid to Land Ownership building at Rugby this summer. In addition to providing information and orientation to Big South Fork visitors, rangers are providing guided hikes into the Big South Fork every Saturday and Sunday through the end of September.

The Meeting of the Waters hike on Saturday is a moderately difficult 2.3 mile loop. The trail begins by descending into the Clear Fork River gorge to the historic Gentlemen's Swimming Hole. It continues along the Clear Fork River to the Meeting of the Waters where the Clear Fork is joined by White Oak Creek. Along the way hikers can view some of the prettiest forest to be found on the Cumberland Plateau. From the Meeting of the Waters, the trail begins a short, steep climb back to the ridge top where it follows an easy path back to the trailhead. The entire hike takes about two and one half hours.

The Gentleman's Swimming Hole Trail hike on Sunday is a moderately difficult, .8 mile round trip into and out of the Clear Fork gorge to the swimming spot once favored by early Rugby colonists. This one hour walk provides a journey through a pretty hemlock and rhododendron forest and offers a chance to sit for a few minutes alongside the beautiful Clear Fork River. Both hikes begin at 1:00 p.m. (ET) from the Rugby Trailhead located next to the Laurel Dale Cemetery in Historic Rugby. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

For more information, call park headquarters at (423) 569-9778. You may reach the Big South Fork Rugby Contact Station at (423) 628-2991.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Townsend Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day

Next month is the 22nd Annual Townsend Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day event.

Highlights for this year's festival include bluegrass music, mountain music jam sessions, storytelling, family activities, crafts by local artisans, great food, and demonstrations of a variety of traditional skills such as basketry, quilting, weaving, sorghum molasses, apple butter making, apple cider, beekeeping, and blacksmithing.

The event will take place on Friday, September 26th and Saturday, September 27th at the Townsend Visitors Center. For more information, please click here.

If planning to attend the event, be sure to make plans to stay in Townsend. If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, also known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Time to Make Plans for Your Fall Hiking trip to 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 few moments to check out our Accomodations 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.

Finally, if you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at my fall hiking page.

As always, thank you very much!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Youth Conservation Corps Completes Trail Work in Big South Fork

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area announced yesterday that high school students from Tennessee and Kentucky have recently completed volunteer work while working with one of two Youth Conservation Corps teams.

Eight high school students from Fentress and Scott counties in Tennessee, as well as eight students from McCreary County, spent the summer working on a number of projects, which included more than 20 miles of trail rehabilitation, clearing brush from the area around an old Civilian Conservation Corps cabin, repairing retaining walls and steps, cleaning up picnic areas, and repainting numerous park directional signs. Their work also focused on rehabilitating sections of the popular Yahoo Falls Trail.

The Youth Conservation Corps is a summer employment program for young men and women, ages 15 through18, to work on projects to protect public lands. The Youth Conservation Corps program is one that trains young people and provides outdoor work that is supervised by a trained crew leader. Participants gain valuable professional experience working on National Park Service lands, and get to learn how to use tools, safe work habits, team work, and how conservation projects benefit the environment, and protect cultural and historical resources.

For further information about this program and its accomplishments, please call Dave Carney at (423) 569-9778.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Programming Note: Friends Across the Mountains Telethon is Thursday Night

This Thursday, August 14th, is the 20th 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, and has raised over $2.9 million dollars in total over the last 19 year.

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

If you wish, you can make a donation right now by clicking here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, August 9, 2014

TN Governor Awards $1.2 Million in Recreational Trails Program Grants

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced over $1.2 million in Recreational Trails Program grants to recipients across Tennessee yesterday.

The Recreational Trails Program is a federally funded program established to distribute funding for diverse recreation trail projects. The funds are available to federal, state and local government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations that have obtained IRS 501 (c)(3) status and have a written trail management agreement with the agency that owns the property where the trail project is located.

Recreational Trails Program grants may be used for non-routine maintenance and restoration of existing trails, development and rehabilitation, trailside or trailhead facilities such as restrooms, kiosks and parking lots, construction of new trails and land acquisition for recreational trails or corridors.

Included in the awards announced yesterday was a $200,000 grant to the Tellico District of the Cherokee National Forest to develop trails, four trailhead parking areas, trail signs, and a trail bridge.

Grant recipients were selected through a scoring process with careful consideration given to the projects that met the selection criteria and expressed the greatest local recreational need.

A complete list of the grants can be found here.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

Tomorrow marks the 70th birthday of one of the most recognizable characters in American history. On August 9, 1944, the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign published the very first Smokey Bear poster (photo below).

The Ad campaign came about as a result of World War II. Thinking that wildfires could be used as a weapon, the Japanese military in 1942 began making attempts at starting wildfires along the coastal forests of southwest Oregon. Between November of 1944 and April of 1945 the Japanese began a campaign of launching more than 9000 "fusen bakudan", or fire balloons, into the jet stream. The balloons were equipped with a 15 kilogram antipersonnel bomb and two incendiary devices, which were designed to explode upon impact. It's estimated that 300 to 1000 of the balloons made it to the United States, including as far inland as Iowa and Michigan.

Fortunately the strategy had very little impact, though six people were tragically killed. On May 5, 1945, a teacher and her school children were on an outing near Lakeview, Oregon when they found one of the balloons in the woods. While dragging it out of the forest the bomb exploded and killed the teacher, Elsie Mitchell, as well as five of the children, all between the ages of 11 and 13.

Though not successful in starting any major wildfires, the potential for mass destruction was still present. Since most able-bodied men were serving in the military at that time, none could be spared to help fight forest fires. The goal of the Smokey Bear Ad campaign was to educate the public about the danger of forest fires in the hope that local communities would prevent them from being started. Although the message has changed, that campaign continues to this day.

According to a 2009 report by the Ad Council, Smokey Bear and his message are recognized by 95% of adults and 77% of children.

To help celebrate his 70th birthday, here's a video montage of Smokey Bear Ads throughout the years:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Leave Your Firewood at Home!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is asking all visitors to leave their firewood at home. Here's why:


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nantahala Outdoor Center To Host 2014 Whitewater Junior Olympics

Whitewater paddlers ages 18 and under will converge on the Nantahala River for three exciting days of paddling and racing August 9 – 11. Hosted by Nantahala Racing Club (NRC), the non-profit partner of Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the event features competitions in all three whitewater disciplines (freestyle, slalom and downriver). The elite athletes participating in the Junior Olympics will be aspiring to the junior national team with trials being held in September in Washington DC. For these athletes, the event is an opportunity to practice racing under pressure, to explore other disciplines, and to expand upon what they have already achieved. Some of these promising young competitors may one day grace the Olympic podium.

An all-inclusive experience, the Junior Olympics is the largest event being hosted by NRC this year, with children gathering together from across the United States. It will include a fun Ducky Cross through the 2013 Wave, a Stand up Paddle Giant Slalom, and off-the-water community events such as a run and other social activities to encourage camaraderie among participants, families and the broader community.

While NOC offers daily a wide-range of activities such as rafting, kayaking, zip lining, hiking, stand-up paddling, and much more, the organization also partners with NRC to involve young paddlers in casual weekend paddling sessions run by professional instructors and coaches, whitewater races and clinics, and high-level competitions. All activities support the mission to get youth outdoors, promote healthy alternatives for children, and engage families in outdoor recreation.

The Junior Olympics is the ideal setting to achieve this mission. Kids meet other outdoor-oriented youth who are inspired by whitewater; they build lasting relationships with peers who have similar interests and goals; and they become part of the movement to broaden the sport of whitewater. Fourteen year-old Miller Kaderabek of Fairview, North Carolina, is competing this year and shares his thoughts on training and even making his own boat:

The 2014 Whitewater Junior Olympics is sponsored by USA Canoe/Kayak, a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The registration fee is $40.

For the detailed event schedule and more information, please click here.