Friday, January 30, 2015

What's It Like To Climb Mt. Rainier?

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an RMI Expeditions seminar at a local outdoor shop. The folks at Rainier Mountaineering Inc. gave us (mostly hikers and backpackers) an in-depth explanation on what it's like to climb Mt. Rainier, the highest mountain in the state of Washington. RMI also described to us on what prospective climbers can expect on the two-day expedition to the 14,410-foot summit - including several hours of training, such as self-arrest techniques on snow. Ever since attending that seminar this "little adventure" has simmered on the back burner of my bucket list.

Below is short video from Backpacker Magazine that provides a quick overview of what it's like to climb Mt. Rainier:

Back in 2013 Kathy and I had the opportunity to visit Mt. Rainier National Park for the first time. Although we didn't climb the mountain, we did hike the famous Skyline Trail in the Paradise Valley, just below the southern slopes of Rainier. We have a trip report with several photos posted here.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

National Parks To Be Theme Of 2016 Rose Bowl Parade

The National Park Service and Tournament of Roses Association have recently announced that they will be partnering to kick off the National Park Service centennial during the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

The theme for the January 1st parade, “Find Your Adventure,” is a nod to “Find Your Park,” the two-year public engagement campaign aimed to increase awareness and excitement about the National Park Service centennial.

This collaboration showcases the common interests of the National Park Service and the Tournament of Roses Association – to engage America’s youth, support an ethic of volunteerism, and embrace the diversity of American culture. The Rose Parade is a great opportunity to introduce the National Park Service and its programs to a broad, and large audience of participants, attendees, and viewers (80 million watched on television internationally and 700,000 watched in person in 2014).

Parade entrants (floats, marching bands, and equestrian units) will take inspiration for “Find Your Adventure” from the work and mission (i.e., parks and programs) of the National Park Service. But, the opportunities extend well beyond the two-hour parade. Over the course of 2015, the National Park Service and the Tournament of Roses Association will create opportunities for parks and programs to engage with communities across the country to help achieve the centennial goal, such as connecting with each of the marching bands representing high schools across the nation with their nearest national park units and/or programs.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Grand Teton National Park From The Air

Below is some absolutely stunning aerial video footage of Grand Teton National Park, Mount Moran and Jenny Lake. The footage was taken by Skyworks during recent filming of the state of Wyoming. Enjoy:

If this film has inspired you to visit this wonderful park this summer, be sure to visit our newest hiking trail website first to find out what the best hikes are - in order to get the most out of your visit. Simply click here.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Coastal Crescent Trail: North Carolina's Newest Long-Distant Trail

This past Friday the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation and the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST) jointly announced the naming of the Coastal Crescent Trail, an additional option for hikers seeking to walk across North Carolina.

The Coastal Crescent Trail, a new hiking option developed by FMST, will serve as an option in eastern North Carolina until the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST) is completed along the planned route, which connects Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston and New Bern, following the path of the Neuse River. The newly named trail provides a guided way for hikers to explore communities and natural and historic sites in the ecologically unique and scenic lower coastal plain in Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland, Bladen, Pender and Onslow counties.

In addition to the Coastal Crescent Trail, other alternatives include N.C. Department of Transportation bicycle routes, as well as a paddle trail along the Neuse River through Johnston, Wayne, Lenoir and Craven counties.

FMST will be releasing trail guides for both the Neuse River paddle trail and the Coastal Crescent Trail in 2015. They will be available online at FMST’s website. The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, with the support of the FMST, remains committed to helping communities along the planned route of the MST to further develop the trail. The division is also committed to exploring additional community interest in trail development, including trails that connect to the MST, at both regional and local scales across the state. As part of that effort, the division, with input from the FMST, local government agencies, other partners and the public, is in the process of writing its master plan for the MST. As part of the planning process, a meeting will be held with communities along the new Coastal Crescent Trail to assess their interest in the trail. To learn about or provide input into the master planning process, please click here.

The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail links Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. A project of the North Carolina State Parks System, there are 608 designated off-road miles of the 1,000+mile route. The trail is envisioned as the backbone of a network of hiking, paddling and multi-use trails which easily connect to local and regional trails and greenways. Eventually, the trail will link 33 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and offer local access to 40 percent of the state’s population.

For more information on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please click here. The 58-mile route through the park has changed over the last several months, and this page on reflects the updated route.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Smokies Completes Comprehensive Stream Mapping Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park geographic information system specialists and scientists in collaboration with scientists from Tennessee, North Carolina, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), completed a three-year stream mapping project. Park scientists used a combination of aircraft-mounted scanners and a Global Positioning System verification system to re-inventory streams throughout the park.

Using this modern mapping technology, scientists determined the park contains 2,900 miles of streams. Of these, 1,073 miles of streams are large enough to support fish. Previously, using topographic maps, the scientists estimated there to be approximately 2,000 miles of streams in the park. A water features is considered a stream if it exhibits the hydrologic, geomorphologic, and biologic characteristics of moving water at least part of the year.

Working with the USGS, the park incorporated the new stream data into the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) which allows the researchers and the public real-time access to detailed information about streams across the nation. Park staff and research partners rely heavily upon the accurate information in the NHD to manage park water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. The NHD data is accessible via The National Map, and re-mapped streams within the park can be seen here.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

10 Ways to Use Duct Tape

Everyone knows that duct tape is a miracle tool/product. It can be used for a multitude of purposes to help out in a variety of jams. In this short video Backpacker Magazine shows 10 creative ways to use duct tape while out on the trail. These are just a few examples of how this product can be used in the field. Don't like the idea of carrying a role in your backpack? My wife solved this issue by wrapping a couple yards of tape around her trekking pole (just below the handle). If ever in need, she can quickly and conveniently cut-off a strip.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Glacier National Park: The Official Trailer

If you haven't been yet, Glacier National Park is an absolute must visit for every hiker out there. No place else is like it! Finley-Holiday Films has recently completed a four-year filming project on this very special place. Below is a trailer from that film to wet your appetite.

If this video inspires you to visit Glacier this upcoming season, the best way to explore this wonderful park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park.

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Official Re-measurements Increase Appalachian Trail By 3.9 Miles

Re-measurements and relocations of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) have brought the total mileage of the footpath to 2,189.2 miles, an increase of 3.9 miles from last year’s mileage of 2,185.3. This mileage is carefully documented in the Trail’s official guidebooks, which include the Appalachian Trail Data Book and the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion. Both books are published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Every year, the latest mileage and shelter information is updated from volunteers who are constantly improving the Trail, with volunteer Daniel D. Chazin of Teaneck, N.J. leading the efforts since 1983. This year, more than half of the changes in the mileage are in southwest Virginia, with 2 miles added to the total following a re-measurement by volunteers.

Increases were also reported in New York-New Jersey (0.1 mile); central Virginia (0.1 mile); Tennessee-North Carolina (1.5 miles); and North Carolina-Georgia (0.2 mile).

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s guidebooks are invaluable planning resources for any Appalachian Trail hiker, whether they are out for a day hike or hiking the entire length from Maine to Georgia,” said Laurie Potteiger, information services manager for the ATC. “These guides contain the latest information from volunteers who measure, maintain and manage the Trail and those who hike it regularly.”

Current editions of official A.T. guidebooks, maps and travelogues are available here. For more information on hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, please click here.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Backcountry Overnight Stays Up 37% in Smokies

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "the reports of the death of backpacking in the Smokies have been greatly exaggerated".

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, the number of backcountry overnight stays in the Smokies jumped by 37% in 2014, when compared to the prior year. Moreover, the 86,153 backcountry overnight stays recorded in 2014 ranks as the second highest count in the last 15 years.

Some people in the backpacking community thought that the sharp drop-off recorded in 2013 was a direct result of the backcountry fees that were implemented in February of that year. Although that may be true, that some backpackers were essentially boycotting the park in protest to the fees, that trend appears to have been reversed.

Here's a graphical look at backcountry overnight stay counts over the last 15 years:


Friday, January 9, 2015

Visitation up 8% in the Smokies in 2014

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park increased by 8% in 2014, when compared to the prior year. In total, the park recorded 10,099,275 visitors in 2014, versus 9,040,430 in 2013.

Readers should note that visitation figures for 2013 were negatively impacted by the washout on Newfound Gap Road, as well as the Government Shutdown in October of that year, which occurred during one of the peak tourist seasons.

However, 2014 ranks as the fourth highest visitation count on record, and is only the fourth time visitation has ever exceeded the 10 million mark. 1999 still ranks as the highest when 10,283,598 people visited the park.

Here's a graphical look at visitation counts since the Smokies became a national park:

If you plan to visit the Smokies this upcoming year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your trip planning.

Hiking in the Smokies

Volunteers Donate More than 200,000 Hours in 2014 to Maintaining the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2014, 5,617 volunteers reported 241,936 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T., resulting in a volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.

The number of hours reported, which is the second highest since 1983, reveals a loyal commitment to the Trail despite a government shutdown in October 2013 that resulted in volunteers being unable to work on National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service lands. Despite this sequestration, volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 116 full-time workers and contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor, monitoring and removing invasive species, supporting teachers in the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program and assisting A.T. Communities near the Trail.

ATC volunteers represent 31 A.T. Maintaining Clubs and Trail Crews; Visitor Center and regional office volunteers; and participants in additional ATC programs, such as TTEC and the Appalachian Trail Community™ program. Though Trail maintainers are perhaps the most visible, volunteers also participate in many other activities, from community outreach to local, regional and Trail-wide management efforts.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy exists because of the generosity, talents and support of our volunteers – they are the very soul of the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, executive director of the ATC. “The impressive number of volunteer hours reported for fiscal year 2014 illustrates a continued dedication to the preservation and management of the Trail.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Smokies Changes Firewood Regulations to Protect Forests

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced regulation changes that will help protect park forests by limiting the type of firewood brought into the park. Beginning in March 2015, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds.

Heat-treated firewood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. Certified heat-treated firewood is packaged in 0.75 cu-ft. bundles clearly displaying a certification stamp. The wood is a high-quality hardwood product that has been heated for 60 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The wood lights easily, burns well for campfires, is safe to cook over, and is already available at over 85 locations near the park that can be viewed on an interactive map. In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.

“The threat of these new pests coming into our forests, both in the park and regionally, compels us to do all we can to reduce the risk to our forests,” said Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan. “While a ban on the importation of non-treated firewood will not entirely halt the spread of destructive forest pests and diseases, it will greatly slow it down. This allows time to develop and implement new treatment strategies to help control the impacts from these non-native pests and diseases.”

Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the park. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.

National parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign with campground programs and regionally placed billboards. The park also hosted public meetings and developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer inviting public comments.

For more information about firewood and forest and insect pests in the park, please visit the park website.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Big South Fork Announces First Annual Photo Contest

The National Park Service (NPS) invites photographers to submit entries for an exhibit at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The NPS is looking for striking digital images highlighting the spectacular views, historic sites, recreational opportunities, and diversity of life in the park. Images may show wildlife, plant life, natural landscapes, historic areas, weather, or people interacting with nature within the boundaries of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. All photographs, except those submitted in the artistic category, should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared.

Photographs may be submitted into one of seven categories: Action/Adventure (photographs of people participating in recreational activities), Artistic (artistic compositions in nature both natural and manipulated in post processing); Cultural (photographs that illustrate historic or culturally significant structures); Flora &Fauna (animals in their natural habitat, including close-ups of invertebrates, or plants in their natural habitat, including close-ups of flowers, fungi, lichen, and algae); Kentucky Landscapes (expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Kentucky park boundaries), Tennessee Landscapes (expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Tennessee park boundaries); and Youth (entries in any category by photographers under 18 years of age).

Entries will be judged on technical excellence, originality, creativity, visual impact, and artistic merit. Judges' decisions are final. Selected images will be printed for an exhibition at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center that will open on Saturday, September 5, 2015. Selected images may also be displayed on the internet and other venues.

Contest is open to all photographers except NPS employees and their immediate families and household members. Each person can only submit three photos into the competition. All photos must be in a digital format. Entries must be received no later than Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Each entry must be accompanied by a completed entry form with all information clearly filled out. Entry forms may be downloaded from here. Entries may be emailed to or dropped off at or mailed to the park headquarters at Big South Fork NRRA (Photo Exhibit), 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, Tennessee 37841.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

DIY: Waterproof a Rain Jacket

In this short video Backpacker Magazine shows how to waterproof a rain jacket. This is a very simple process for an older jacket that's lost some of its repellent over the years:


Monday, January 5, 2015

25th Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week in the Smokies

The dates have been set for one of the premier annual events in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 25th annual Wilderness Wildlife Week, an eight-day event that focuses on the Great Smoky Mountains and the outdoors in general, will take place January 24th thru January 31st. Many of this year's programs, all of which are free, will be held at the LeConte Center At Pigeon Forge, the City of Pigeon Forge’s new state-of-the-art events center.

Throughout the event’s history people have traveled from as far away as Australia, Canada, China, England and New Zealand to take part in the eight-day extravaganza of honoring and celebrating the great outdoors

On tap this year are several hundred workshops, lectures, panel discussions, mini-concerts, hikes and excursions to America’s most visited national park.

While the vast majority of Wilderness Wildlife Week programs are indoors, there are more than 65 hikes and excursions on this year's calendar. They range from a heritage tour in Cades Cove, to a 3.5-mile walk through the Elkmont Historic District, to a strenuous 13.5-mile hike in the Mt. Collins / Chimney Tops area. Round trip transportation to the trailheads will be provided for each hike.

Many of the programs are brand new for 2015, and the lineup is different each day. Multiple hiking presentations will be included on this year's agenda.

Wilderness Wildlife Week, named 10 times as a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event, is part of Pigeon Forge Winterfest, which starts in November and continues through February.

Details on Wilderness Wildlife Week, including the program schedule and hike information can be found by clicking here.

For more detailed information on many of the hikes included on this year's schedule, please click here. For accommodations in the Pigeon Forge area, please click here.