Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Rangers Rescue Overdue Hikers in Big South Fork

On Sunday January 14, 2018, park rangers were notified of a lost elderly couple when the couple's daughter called 9-1-1 to report them missing near Sheep Ranch in the southern area of the park.

Search efforts were conducted throughout the day in steep wooded terrain. The missing persons were spotted in the late afternoon by a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter, which was able to guide ground searchers to their location.

The couple had reportedly gotten disoriented the previous day while hiking off trail and unintentionally stayed the night out in single-digit temperatures.

The lost party were both hypothermic. The female was transported to Big South Fork Medical Center, where she was treated and released the next day. The male was flown to the University of Tennessee Hospital, where he is currently in intensive care.

Scott County Rescue Squad, Scott County Sheriff's Office Deputies, Tennessee Highway Patrol Air Operations, Scott County EMS, and local landowners participated in the search.

No additional information is available at this time.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Monday, January 29, 2018

Smokies Welcomes Record Number of Visitors in 2017

For the second year in a row, Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed over eleven million visitors. In 2017, a record 11,338,894 people visited the national park, which is a slight increase, 0.2%, over 2016. The park continued to see the highest visitation in July which was followed by October and June. Monthly visitation records were set during the shoulder season months of January, February, April, September, and November in 2017 which follows a pattern of the park seeing increased year-round visitation.

“We strive each year to provide exceptional services to the visitors who come to enjoy the Smokies,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With increasing visitation across seasons, this does not come without challenges. I am proud of the employees who work hard each day to meet these challenges, along with the support of our volunteers and partners who collectively help us care for this incredibly special place.”

In 2017, over 2,800 park volunteers donated over 115,000 hours of service. These volunteers provided much needed help across the park including trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, and providing visitor information along trails, at visitor centers, and in campgrounds. Visitors spent nearly 400,000 nights camping in the park which was slightly down from 2016, but above the 5-year average. The park offers 9 front country campgrounds and 100 backcountry campsites for visitors to enjoy across the park.

Notably in 2017, the park hosted the largest special event in park history. The western half of the park provided prime viewing to experience totality for approximately 2 minutes during the Great American Total Solar Eclipse. Thousands of visitors participated in ranger-led events on the weekend leading up to the eclipse on Monday, August 21. Over 15,600 people attended eclipse events offered at Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Sugarlands Visitor Center. Over 47,000 visitors entered the park from the four main entrances to view the eclipse on August 21, marking a 64% increase in visitation for that day over 2016. Another 26,000 people watched the live broadcast of the Clingmans Dome event in partnership with NASA and another 6 million people watched the event online from across the world via the NASA 360 broadcast.

For more information about visitation, please go to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics web page at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/. For more information about hiking in the Smokies, please click here



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Smokies Announces Frontcountry Camping Fee Increase

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a fee increase for frontcounty campgrounds and picnic pavilions effective March 1, 2018. Over the past year, officials reviewed public comments, operating costs, and projected budget levels to determine the rate increases which range from 10% to 25%.

The rate increases are necessary to meet the rising costs of operations, reduce a backlog of maintenance requirements on park facilities, and initiate needed improvements. Park officials are also improving the efficiency of campground management by adding three campgrounds to the national reservation system through Recreation.gov.

“Park visitors have long enjoyed camping and picnicking across the park in spectacular settings that offer space for relaxation and renewal,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Maintaining and servicing these facilities in the mountains presents a unique set of challenges and, with increasing costs, these fee increases are necessary to ensure the continual care and operation of these special places.”

The park operates nine open campgrounds, seven group campgrounds, six picnic pavilions, and five horse campgrounds. The current fees have not been increased since 2006 or earlier at any facility aside from Cataloochee Campground which had an increase in camping fees in 2011 when it was added to the reservation system.

In addition to fee increases, the park is also adding Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain and Big Creek campgrounds to the National Recreation Reservation System to improve operational efficiency. Beginning in early March of 2018, all sites will require advanced reservation and payment prior to arrival in the park through Recreation.gov either online or by phone. By placing these three geographically remote campgrounds on the reservation system, the park can reduce campground operation costs by eliminating the need for staff time for the collection of fees. The reservation system also provides a more efficient process for visitors to secure an overnight stay without traveling to the remote locations to check for vacancies.

By law, the park retains 100 percent of the camping and pavilion fees. The fees are used primarily to operate these facilities. This includes maintaining buildings, grounds, and utilities, providing visitor services, and funding rehabilitation projects, such as road resurfacing and replacing picnic tables and grills. Some revenues are also used to maintain park infrastructure and other special projects beyond these sites. Over the years, the park has had to compensate for rising costs from inflation by reducing visitor services, delaying maintenance repairs and improvements, and, at many sites, shortening the length of the season when facilities are open, having a particularly adverse impact on visitors during the shoulder seasons.

The park completed a 2016 comparability study with campgrounds in the surrounding communities and the study revealed that, while park camping fees in the park have remained mostly constant since 2006, campgrounds in the surrounding communities have continued to rise. Even with the fee increase, park campgrounds will remain among the least expensive in the area.

For more information about campground facilities in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/carcamping.htm. For details on the increased fees, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Glacier National Park: A Day Hikers Overview

"Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven."

- John Muir on his visit to Glacier National Park in the early-1890s
Encompassing more than a million acres, Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana is home to some of the most beautiful alpine meadows, lakes, pristine forests, rugged peaks and glacially-carved valleys in the world. Its diverse habitats support nearly 70 species of mammals, including grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, gray wolves and mountain lions. With more than 740 miles of trails leading to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, Glacier is also a hiker's paradise.

Considering its massive size, most people divide the park into sections in order to focus on one or two areas at a time. The four most popular areas in the park are West Glacier and Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, Logan Pass, and Many Glacier. The following are a few suggestions for day hikes in each of these areas.

Two Medicine

Although not quite as popular as some of the other areas in Glacier, the Two Medicine Valley in the southeast corner of the park still offers some incredibly beautiful scenery. One of the best hikes in this area leads to Scenic Point. This rock outcropping, which sits above an alpine tundra meadow, offers panoramic views of much of the entire Two Medicine Valley. On a clear day you can even see the Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains roughly 90 miles away!

The most well-known backcountry hike in the Two Medicine area is Dawson Pass. Although this route usually gets most of the attention, I think the views from Pitamakan Pass are much more dramatic. From the knife-edge ridge you can see five cobalt-blue lakes on either side of you. Can’t decide on which one to hike? The two passes can be combined to create one epic day on the trail.

Many Glacier

One of the most popular destinations in the park is Many Glacier. Classic hikes such as Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier get most of the attention; however, there are two other destinations that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re seeking a degree of solitude in this stunning valley.

One of these is Ptarmigan Tunnel. The highlight of this hike is passing through a 240-foot tunnel that was cut through Ptarmigan Wall. The tunnel was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's so that visitors on horseback could pass over into the remote Belly River area. After hiking all day in the Many Glacier Valley, walking to the other side of the tunnel is like walking into another world. The views from the other side are simply stunning.

The other destination, Cracker Lake, has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It has the most beautiful turquoise color you could ever imagine. If it were possible to ignore the magnificent scenery of the surrounding mountains, it would still be well worth the 12.6-mile roundtrip hike, just to see the amazing color of this lake. Cracker Lake’s deep shade of turquoise is the result of light refraction through its suspended load of glacial silt.

West Glacier / Lake McDonald

For more than a century one of the things that has made hiking in Glacier unique are its two Swiss-style backcountry chalets: Granite Park and Sperry. The Granite Park Chalet can be reached by taking the epic Highline Trail from Logan Pass, or by taking the 4.2-mile climb from The Loop area on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Unfortunately the historic Sperry Chalet dormitory building was severely burned during the summer of 2017. Fortunately the outer stone structure survived, and as of right now, the park is moving forward with the possibility of rebuilding the lodge. Moreover, the historic dining room survived, although it’s not clear as to whether that will reopen for lunch to day hikers in 2018, nor is it clear as to how far hikers will be able to travel along the Sperry Trail. If open, the 6.1-mile hike from the Lake McDonald Lodge passes through Glacier Basin where hikers will enjoy views of several waterfalls flowing hundreds of feet down the cliff walls that surround the alpine meadow.

From the same trailhead is the hike that leads to the historic Mt. Brown Fire Lookout. The trail climbs 4250 feet in only 5 miles, making it one of the toughest day hikes in the park. The elevation gain is similar to the amount gained on many of the trails leading to the summits of 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. However, at a much lower elevation, hikers will have far more oxygen to breathe. From the lookout the views into the heart of Glacier are simply amazing.

For a much easier hike, but one that still includes stunning scenery that Glacier is famous for, be sure to check out Avalanche Lake.

Logan Pass

To see the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer you have to go deep into the high country. One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Highline Trail. In fact, this world famous hike should be on the bucket list of every self-respecting hiker! The views, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life. From Logan Pass, high adventure awaits from the start. Just beyond the trailhead hikers are forced to pass
over a six-foot wide ledge for roughly one-quarter of a mile. One false move and your next stop will be on the pavement of the Going-To-The-Sun Road - more than one hundred feet below. Fortunately the park has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the trail. My advice is to not let this deter you, as this is one of the most scenic trails in America. Almost 99% of the Highline passes through open country, so there's never any dull scenery on this hike. The trail is also famous for wildlife, especially bighorn sheep and mountain goats, which are frequently seen just off the side of the trail. Hikers will have the choice of taking the moderate hike to Haystack Pass, or the extremely strenuous hike up to an overlook along the crest of the Continental Divide which offers stunning views of Grinnell Glacier some one thousand feet below. This just might be the best view in the park.

Just a notch below the Highline Trail on the “awesome meter”, but far less crowded, is Piegan Pass. The trail offers mind-blowing views of mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and an up-close view of the Garden Wall, a glacially-carved arĂȘte that marks the Continental Divide. Near Piegan Pass, and one of my absolute favorite areas in Glacier, is Preston Park. In the early summer, after the snow finally melts, this incredibly beautiful alpine meadow becomes a carpet of wildflowers.

For more information on all these hikes, and many others throughout the park, please visit HikinginGlacier.com.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com