Thursday, February 28, 2019

Cherokee Orchard Road Loop to Close Temporarily for Tree Removal Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Cherokee Orchard Road Loop will be closed for tree-removal work beginning Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 15. This 1-mile, single-lane loop section of Cherokee Orchard Road begins just past the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin. The cabin and parking area will remain accessible to visitors.

The loop will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists throughout the closure period to allow for the safe removal of damaged trees along the narrow road corridor. Hikers are encouraged to use one of the other trails to access Mt. Le Conte and to enjoy other areas of the park during this temporary closure.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Don’t Miss Out on One of the Northeast’s Most Epic Hikes: Franconia Ridge

The following is a guest blog from Max Desmarais, founder of Hiking and Fishing:

New England has some pretty incredible hiking between New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, but there are a few in particular that stand out from the rest. Franconia Ridge is one of those. It features gorgeous waterfalls at the base, easy access from the highway, over 3,700 feet of elevation gain, and 360 degree ridgeline views into the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The few mountains that make up the ridge are among the most hiked mountains in the northeast, making avoiding the weekend crowds a good idea.

Hikers can take a clockwise, or counter-clockwise approach to the ridge hike, and can make the trip 8.5 to 15 miles, depending on how many mountains you would like to summit.

The trail begins relatively flat during the first quarter mile where hikers make the choice to climb the largest mountain first, or view the gorgeous waterfalls (lets take on the bigger mountain first).

Ascending the Old Bridal Path for just under 3 miles, hikers will experience steep and rugged terrain that ascends to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. This steep terrain goes by quick, taking care of heavy elevation gain in a relatively short amount of mileage.

The views become rewarding around 2.5 miles into the hike along the Old Bridal Path where a spur ridge of Lafayette creates beautiful views into the valley below, and towards the ridgeline you're heading towards.

The AMC hut provides food, water, and camping options for backpackers. Hikers will pass right by the hut and descend to a small mountain pond, where you begin the last heavy 1 mile, 1,500-foot ascent to the Mount Lafayette Summit.

Quickly above treeline, hikers are exposed to incredible views of Franconia Notch, but also the weather, which in winter months, or storms, can be brutal. The climb passes over a well traveled rocky path to the summit.

The summit features incredible views year round of the Pemi Wilderness, Mount Washington, Franconia Ridge, and a vast portion of the White Mountains. Here you will begin your exposed ridge walk for 1.6 miles - ascending and descending Mount Lincoln, and heading over to Little Haystack Mountain. You will not want to leave this ridge, it is stunning from all angles.

Finally reaching Little Haystack Mountain, hikers can choose to further their hike, or head back down via the Falling Waters Trail (rightfully named so).

The trail descending Lincoln is technical, steep, a little dangerous on the legs and knees, but an absolute blast. Descending quickly, hikers begin to parallel streams that create gorgeous waterfalls, and eventually encounter the largest of the waterfalls near the base, which attracts large amounts of visitors on warm days.

From here, it's only a short trip back out to the parking lot, where you can quickly access the highway, and on to your next trek.

If you are headed to the northeast, and looking for all the information you need to hike Franconia Ridge, simply click this link.

For another outstanding hike option in NH, you may also want to check out this video of the popular Mt. Lincoln / Mt. Lafayette loop:

Author Bio:

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking and Fishing, a website aimed to provide individuals with useful information to enjoy outdoor experiences in New Hampshire and beyond.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Environmental analysis completed for Southside Project on Nantahala National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has completed an environmental analysis for the Southside project which will improve forest health, diversity, and wildlife habitat in southeastern Macon County and southern Jackson County.

"I thank the public for participating in the process. I am disappointed we could not make everyone happy but we tried to strike a balance so we have a forest that is resilient and sustainable for all the public's plants and animals," said Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins.

Changes to the proposed project based on public engagement and interagency coordination include dropping two stands from the initial proposal, including additional buffers around documented locations of green salamanders, and conducting thinning and burning treatments to improve species composition in the Whitewater River Falls and Gorge Natural Heritage Natural Area.

Among the public comments was concern for old growth. The Forest Service is committed to following an old growth strategy and carefully considers forest age classes.

About 33 percent of national forest in the project area is over 100 years old. Across the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, the trend towards older trees is increasing such that in 50 years nearly half of the forest will be comprised of trees older than 130 years. Only about 1 percent of the project area is young forest, defined as trees up to 10 years old.

"In the management of national forests there are trade-offs. We make decisions based on the best available science that lead us to cut some trees to make room for others," said Wilkins. "Forests need diversity and all ages of trees. What's missing from the Southside area is young forest."

Removing patches of older trees gives young trees access to sunlight and water allowing them to sprout and grow. Small and medium sized forest openings provide fruit and nutritious foliage and flowers that attract pollinators and other insects and support populations of small mammals that, in turn, are prey for larger animals. Openings can be created by natural processes such as storms or intense wildfires, but in their absence need to be created through active management.

The Southside project will create 317 acres of young forest in 23 separate stands across the 19,000 acres of the project area. Over one-third of the openings will be one acre or less. In the remaining stands, the average opening created will be 22 acres. Additionally, 37 percent (6,944 acres) of the project area is designated to preserve and produce old growth conditions, and will continue to be managed as such into the future.

The project will also rehabilitate existing wildlife openings; establish native nectar and pollen producing species in wildlife openings, log landings, and roadsides to benefit native pollinators; and improve fisheries habitat in Scotsman Creek.

Work in the project area is expected to begin next year though timber management activities will not likely occur until 2021.

More information is available at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, February 25, 2019

Smokies Visitation Rises in 2018 with New Foothills Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record 11,421,203 visitors in 2018. The 0.7% increase over 2017 is due to the opening of the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley in November. In just two months, nearly 200,000 visitors experienced this new park opportunity which resulted in record-setting visitation in both November and December.

“The new section of the Foothills Parkway is a spectacular scenic driving destination and we’re pleased that so many people have already enjoyed it,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We hope that people take the time to explore it across the seasons.”

Park visitation across the park remained relatively stable as compared to 2017 with the highest visitation in July, followed by June and then October. Monthly visitation records were set during June, September, November, and December. Visitors spent nearly 400,000 nights camping in the park which was down 3% from 2017, but within the 5-year average. The park offers 9 front country campgrounds and 100 backcountry campsites for visitors to enjoy across the park.

For more information about visitation, please go to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics web page at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Park Plans Prescribed Burn in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Zone fire management staff plan to burn approximately 500 acres of fields within Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur Monday, February 25 through Tuesday, February, 26.

Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted these burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats, and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

“The selected fields will be burned to restore meadow species, prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest, and to reduce hazardous fuels,” said Fire Management Officer Greg Salansky.

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Sparks Lane and the western end of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.

Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, but refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, February 22, 2019


Several months ago I published a short film by Christopher R. Abbey on what it's like to climb 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. Roughly two weeks ago Mr. Abbey published another excellent film that chronicles his three-day backpacking trip in the Mt. Sterling area of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hope you enjoy:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Senate Moves to Protect More than 2 Million Acres of National Parks and Public Lands

More than two million acres of public lands are poised to receive new or enhanced protection with last week's Senate passage of the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47). National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) led outreach efforts for years in support of many of the bill’s provisions and commends the bipartisan Congressional leadership who worked to strengthen protections for national parks, wilderness areas, waterways and wildlife across the country.

The legislative package authorizes designation of two new national park sites and six National Heritage Areas to tell new American stories; permanent protection against new mining claims on lands including the doorstep of Yellowstone and North Cascades national parks; permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); and directives for the Department of Interior to study sites that could further enhance and diversify the national park system.

“The Senate’s action today, including protecting two million acres of national park and other public lands, is further proof that these issues can, and should, be bipartisan,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “NPCA has worked alongside communities, businesses and elected officials for years to protect Yellowstone’s doorstep from industrial mining, connect parks and wild lands in the California desert and increase preservation of centuries-old Native American structures in Georgia. We commend the many members of Congress who were champions for their constituents and the places and issues that they, and all Americans, care so deeply about.”

The Natural Resources Management Act includes permanent mineral withdrawals to approximately 30,000 acres of National Forest System lands, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. This landscape has been targeted by two proposed industrial-scale gold mines. NPCA worked more than three years alongside the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition to defend their communities and garnered support for the withdrawal from tens of thousands of members and supporters.

In the California desert, lawmakers approved the long-awaited expansion of Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks, new wilderness designations that promote landscape connectivity, protections for fragile waterways and increased habitat for wildlife including desert tortoise, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep. NPCA worked in partnership with local communities, elected officials, and stakeholders on California desert legislation since 2009 and will continue efforts to connect, protect and enhance this vital landscape and tourism economy.

Ocmulgee National Monument will also be re-designated as Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, quadrupling the national park site from 700 to nearly 3,000 acres. The Department of Interior will also be authorized to explore options for preserving additional historic, cultural and recreation sites of the Ocmulgee River corridor between Macon and Hawkinsville. NPCA worked for years in support of the opportunity, including the development of a 2017 study on the significant increase in economic activity that the expanded park would bring to middle Georgia communities.

“This area is recognized as one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the country,” said Chris Watson, NPCA’s Senior Southeast Program Manager. “This expanded national park designation recognizes Ocmulgee’s exceptional characteristics, such as its documented human presence that dates back nearly 17,000 years and preserves the regions treasured wildlife, history and culture. Already one of the most visited attractions in Central Georgia, the enlarged park will serve as a significant economic engine, bringing increased visibility to the region. The park also holds strong ancestral connection for the Muskogee Nation of Oklahoma, and we are honored to be working with them to help preserve these lands.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Indiana Dunes becomes the 61st National Park

The spending bill signed by President Trump on February 15, 2019 included a provision that changed the name of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. This change takes place immediately. The bill also changes the name of the Miller Woods Trail to the Paul H. Douglas Trail in honor of the late Illinois Senator who helped lead the fight along with Save the Dunes and other citizen groups to create the national lakeshore in 1966.

Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz commented, "103 years in the making, what a terrific tribute to the neighbors, partners, visitors and National PARK staff. We are so appreciative to the entire Indiana delegation for their recognition and support of this national treasure."

The park staff looks forward to celebrating this name change in the near future and to working with local communities and partners on spreading the word about the nation’s 61st national park. The work will continue to protect this very special place in Northwest Indiana and to provide outstanding service to the visiting public.

My new book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, includes a passage on how the Prairie Club, a hiking club based out of Chicago, fought to protect the dunes which were being industrially mined for sand, which was used to make concrete. Among an array of actions and tactics, the club even hosted the “Pageant of the Dunes” in 1917, a massive outdoor play that helped to raise awareness of the issue.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 Adds Four New Hikes to Website

A couple of weeks ago Kathy and I paid a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains to take advantage of some nice spring-like weather, and to do a little hiking. As a result, we were able to do a couple of new hikes, which have just been added to our website. Here's a quick rundown of the new hikes:

Spruce Flats Falls - This hike has been on my radar for several years now, and I finally got a chance to check it out. It didn't disappoint - in fact, I would say it has to be one of the most scenic waterfalls in the park. Though it isn't marked on the official park map, the trail is well defined and very easy to follow.

Avent Cabin - This is another destination that isn't marked on the official park map. This hike visits the former art studio of Mayna Treanor Avent, who was a nationally renowned artist. Her works have been exhibited across America, including the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery.

Ogle Place - This short loop hike along Cherokee Orchard Road visits the Ogle Farmstead. Along the route you'll visit the cabin that was built by Noah “Bud” Ogle in the 1880s, his barn, as well as his "tub" mill.

Gatlinburg Trail - If you're looking for an easy hike just outside of Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Trail is a great choice. The trail follows along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River for a large portion of the hike. It also visits the remnants of an old homestead.

During our visit we also took the opportunity to hike the Bullhead Trail, which was heavily damaged during the November 2016 wildfire. As a result of many downed trees the park was forced to close the trail for almost two years. After removing enough of the deadfall to make the route safe, the park finally reopened the trail to the public in late-October of 2018. Although there are several burn scars along the route, the wildfire has created huge panoramic vistas in several places. As a result of all the changes, we have updated the two hikes on our website that utilize the Bullhead Trail. The shorter hike ends at a large cairn built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930's, now known as "The Pulpit". The longer hike goes all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte. As you can see from the new photos on these pages, I have to think that this trail might become the most popular route to the summit in the coming years.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, February 18, 2019

Today is the Final Day to Take Advantage of a 70% Discount On "Ramble On: A History of Hiking"

Today is the final day of the limited time sale on the eBook version of my new book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking. As mentioned on Friday, the eBook version of my book can be purchased for only $2.99 on Amazon, a 70% discount off the regular price of $9.95. This limited time offer ends tonight. For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Additionally, if you like the book, I would really appreciate if you could provide a review on my Amazon page.

Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

TN State Parks Seeks Volunteers for Weed Wrangle on Saturday, March 2

Tennessee State Parks and community partners are seeking volunteers for the annual Weed Wrangle, a nationwide effort to fight invasive plant species in public parks on Saturday, March 2.

Tennessee State Parks and State Natural Areas have partnered with The Garden Club of Nashville and Invasive Plant Control Inc. for this year’s statewide event, with 35 state parks and two state natural areas participating. The event is designed to help rid Tennessee of non-native plant species. Volunteers from across the state are invited to participate.

State and community experts in invasive weed management will supervise the hands-on removal of trees, vines and flowering plants while volunteers learn ways to address their own green spaces to combat invasive species.

Examples of efforts in the Weed Wrangle include protecting rivercane at David Crockett Birthplace State Park, removing garlic mustard at Warriors’ Path State Park, removing autumn olive at Panther Creek State park, and removing privet at several parks. For more information on specific parks and plans for the Weed Wrangle, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Smokies Announces Paving Project on Little River Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a pavement preservation project will begin Tuesday, February 19 on Little River Road. A thin pavement overlay will be applied to the entire length of the 16.5-mile roadway between Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Townsend Wye along with associated pull-offs and parking lots and the 1.5-mile Elkmont Road leading to the campground. The project should be completed by September 20, 2019, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling on Little River Road should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays from February 19 through June 14 and again from August 19 through September 20. Single-lane closures are permitted from 7:00 a.m. on Mondays through 12:00 p.m. on Fridays. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations. Parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently for pavement application. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no lane closures will be allowed during peak summer months, weekends, or holidays including the week before and after Easter from April 12 through April 26.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $6.5 million paving contract to GC Works, Inc. Road work will include the application of a thin lift overlay to preserve the life of the pavement. Potholes will be patched before application of the pavement overlay.

In addition to this work, the park is also overseeing tree removal work along various roadways in the park including Little River Road between Sugarlands Visitor Center and Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, Elkmont Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and the Gatlinburg Bypass. Motorists should expect delays due to single-lane closures associated with this work through April.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, February 15, 2019

Annoucement: 70% Discount On "Ramble On: A History of Hiking"

A few weeks ago I announced that my new book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, would be published in eBook format. Today I wanted to announce that for a very limited time the eBook version of the book will be on sale. Beginning right now you can purchase the eBook version for only $2.99 on Amazon, a 70% discount off the regular price of $9.95. You can take advantage of this limited time offer through the weekend. For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Additionally, if you like the book, I would really appreciate if you could provide a review on my Amazon page.

Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Key Milestones in Hiking

The following timeline was adapted from my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking (through Monday, 2/18/19, the eBook version of the book is being offered at a 70% discount):

Over the last several decades the sport of hiking has become one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world. According to the latest National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, 33.9% of all Americans above the age of 15 participated in hiking during the period between 2005 and 2009. This trend, however, leads to the burning question; when did people begin taking to the trail for pleasure? Since the dawn of humankind men and women have walked the earth to hunt, gather wild edible plants, explore, trade goods with neighboring communities, and migrate to other regions. At some point in our long evolution we as humans realized that there doesn’t have to be a utilitarian reason for walking. Somewhere along the line we discovered the joy of traipsing through the woods, observing the beauty of a wildflower, seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, marveling at the roar of a waterfall, or contemplating the awe-inspiring views from the top of a mountain. Is this a recent phenomenon, or is this an innate characteristic of human beings? No matter the answer to that question, here are the key milestones in the history of hiking that has led to its popularity today:

~3300 BCE: In 1991 two German tourists found the mummified remains of “Otzi the Iceman” in the Ă–tztal Alps along the Austrian–Italian border. Although scientists aren’t entirely sure what this late-Neolithic man was doing at an elevation hovering just over 10,500 feet, there are some that speculate that he may have been an early mountaineer. More importantly, the remnants of the rucksack that he carried on his back is the oldest rucksack ever found.

125: The 2nd century Roman Emperor, Hadrian, hiked to the summit of Mt. Etna on Sicily to see the sunrise, making this earliest recorded hike for pleasure.

1642: Darby Field makes the first recorded ascent of Mt. Washington, which would become the focus of the first tourist destination in the United States in the late 1700s.

1760: The Industrial Revolution begins in Great Britain, and is generally recognized as lasting until the start of World War I. The Industrial Revolution gave rise to the labor movement, automobiles, environmentalism, club culture, and even art. As a result, it is arguably the single most important event to spur the development of hiking and walking for pleasure.

1778: Thomas West, an English priest, publishes A Guide to the Lakes, a detailed account of the scenery and landscape of the Lake District in northwestern England. The guide helped to popularize the idea of walking for pleasure, and is credited as being one of the first travel guides.

1786: The modern era of mountaineering is marked by the first ascent of 15,771-foot Mont Blanc in France, the tallest peak in the Alps.

1799: Williams College (of Massachusetts) President Ebenezer Fitch ascends Mt. Greylock with two other companions.

1819: Abel Crawford, along with his son Ethan, blaze an 8.25-mile trail to the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The path is recognized as the oldest continually used hiking trail in the United States, and is likely the first footpath in the entire world to be built specifically for recreational hiking.

1830: A crew of 100 students and professors from Williams College blaze the Hopper Trail to the summit of Mt. Greylock. Later that same year students constructed a 37-foot wooden tower atop the mountain. This tower, and its replacement, were maintained into the 1850s, and were used for sightseeing and scientific observations.

1850: The Exploring Circle is founded by Cyrus M. Tracey and three other men from Lynn, Massachusetts. The National Park Service recognizes the club as being “the first hiking club in New England", thus, in all likelihood, making it the first hiking club in the world.

1854: The beginning of the systematic sport of modern mountaineering as we essentially know it today is marked by the ascent of the Wetterhorn in the Swiss Alps by Sir Alfred Wills. His book, Wanderings Among the High Alps, published two years later, helped make mountaineering fashionable in Britain, and ushered in the systematic exploration of the Alps by British mountaineers. These events also marked the beginning of the so-called “Golden Age of Alpinism”.

1857: The world's first mountaineering club, the Alpine Club, was founded in London.

1863: Professor Albert Hopkins of Williams College founds the Alpine Club of Williamstown, whose stated mission was “to explore the interesting places in the vicinity, to become acquainted, to some extent at least, with the natural history of the localities, and also to improve the pedestrian powers of the members”. It was the first hiking club to accept women as members, which likely provided an important template for future hiking clubs.

1867: John Muir begins a 1000-mile walk from Indiana to Florida, which was recounted in his book, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. The trek launched a lifetime career of hiking and wilderness advocacy. His conservation efforts, articles and books would help to establish several national parks during and after his lifetime.

1872: Yellowstone becomes the world’s first national park after legislation is signed by President U.S. Grant.

1876: The Appalachian Mountain Club, America’s oldest recreational organization, is founded to explore and protect the trails and mountains of New England.

1876: Newtown, England entrepreneur Pryce Pryce-Jones designs the "Euklisia Rug", considered by many to be the forerunner of the modern sleeping bag. The rug included a wool blanket with a pocket at the top for a sewn-in, inflatable, rubber pillow. Once inside, the camper (or soldier) folded the blanket over and fastened it together, thus keeping themselves “snug in a rug”.

1877: English writer Louis Jennings publishes Field Paths and Green Lanes: Being Country Walks, Chiefly in Surrey and Sussex, which is likely the first trail guide to be published anywhere in the world.

1879: One of the first hiking clubs in England, the "Sunday Tramps", was founded by Leslie White. These early “rambling” (the English word for hiking or walking) clubs sprang up in the northern areas of England as part of a campaign for the legal "right to roam", a response to the fact that much of the land in England was privately owned.

1887: The first external frame rucksack is patented by Colonel Henry C. Merriam.

1922: Australian climber George Finch designs and wears a knee-length eiderdown parka during the 1922 British Everest Expedition. The shell of the coat was made from the waterproofed-cotton fabric of a hot-air balloon, which was filled with duck down. During the expedition Finch and climbing partner Geoffrey Bruce reached a height of 27,300 feet during their summit attempt, which set the record for the highest altitude attained by any human up to that point.

1922: Lloyd F. Nelson submits his application to the U.S. Patent Office for his "Trapper Nelson's Indian Pack Board", which is acknowledged to be the first commercially successful external-frame backpack to be sold in the U.S. The "Trapper Nelson" featured a wooden "pack board" as its frame. Attached to the frame was a canvas sack that contained the hiker's gear, which rested on the hiker's body by two canvas shoulder-straps. Prior to his invention most hikers used a rucksack, which was essentially a loose sack with shoulder straps.

1930: The Green Mountain Club completes construction of the Long Trail, making it the first long-distance hiking trail in the United States.

1937: Italian climber and mountaineering guide, Vitale Bramani, invents Carrarmato, or “tank tread". This new rubber lug pattern provides mountaineering boots with outstanding traction, and allows them to be used on a variety of surfaces. The product is launched under the brand name "Vibram".

1937: America's first “grand” trail, the Appalachian Trail, was completed in August of 1937. A forester by the name of Benton MacKaye conceived the idea in 1921.

1948: Earl Shaffer becomes the first person to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

1967: Climber Greg Lowe invents the internal frame backpack. The “Expedition Pack” also featured the first adjustable back system, first side compressors, first sternum strap and the first load stabilizers.

1968: The National Trails System Act is passed by Congress, resulting in thousands of miles of trails being designated as National Scenic Trails, National Historic Trails and National Recreation Trails.

1969: Bob Gore accidentally stretches a heated rod of polytetrafluoroethylene by almost 800%, which forms a microporous structure that was roughly 70% air. The discovery was introduced to the public under the trademark of "Gore-Tex", which became the first breathable, waterproof, and windproof fabric.

1992: Ray Jardine introduces the concept of ultralight backpacking with the release of his book, The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook. During his first PCT thru-hike Jardine’s pack weighed just 25 pounds. By his third hike it weighed less than 9 pounds. “Ray’s Way” of thinking has led to several innovations that have benefitted both backpackers and hikers.

This timeline is only a brief overview of the people, events, inventions and social trends that have helped to shape the sport of hiking as we know it today. If you enjoyed this short snippet of hiking history, please check out my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, which provides a much more in-depth narrative on the history of hiking.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, February 11, 2019

Big South Fork NRRA Announces 2019 GO BIG Challenge

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is excited to announce the fourth challenge designed to engage the public in health and fitness while exploring everything our national park has to offer. This year's theme is Dark Skies, and visitors will be challenged to explore one of our most valuable resources -- the night sky.

Until December 14, participants will earn points based on the honor system by answering questions about the nature and history of the park that will require exploration in search of site-specific information. Points will also be given for miles hiked, biked, paddled, or equestrian-ridden. Visitors can collect a total of 100 points to earn a GO Big 2019 patch.

The GO BIG 2019 Challenge is a year-long, self-paced, all-inclusive event designed to help all our visitors connect and experience the many diverse activities and areas along with the natural, historical, and cultural resources of Big South Fork NRRA.

This year’s challenge encompasses six different categories:

2.cemetery media
4.trail and trails after dark
5.birding and birding after dark
6.wayside and wayside after dark

Pick and choose the challenges that are right for you, or choose to do them all. Download your GO BIG 2019 Challenge booklet at:, or pick it up at Bandy Creek Visitor Center and get started today.

Remember, half the park is after dark so get ready to see some of your favorite places…at night.

The challenge will wrap up on December 14, at 10:00 AM (ET) with a GO BIG celebration. All visitors that participate in the challenge and are present will be recognized for their accomplishments in various categories.

For more information, please call Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Panel to Discuss Smokies 900-Miler Trail Challenge

One of the best ways to explore a national park is on foot, and few parks offer a trail system as extensive as Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s nearly 900 miles. On Tuesday, February 19 at 7:00pm, Friends of the Smokies and Nantahala Brewing’s Asheville Outpost will host a panel discussion featuring three individuals who have completed every single trail in the park – also known at the ‘Smokies 900-Miler Challenge.’

The panel will be moderated by outdoor writer and hiking leader Danny Bernstein. Attendees will hear the stories of how each panelist succeeded at the Smokies 900-Miler Challenge, and gain insight into how people from all walks of life and all ability levels can tackle the trails of America’s most-visited national park.

Proceeds from Nantahala Brewing’s Dirty Girl Blonde for the entire month of February, including the evening of the panel, will benefit Friends of the Smokies. Nantahala Brewing’s Asheville Outpost is located at 747 Haywood Road. Parking is available behind the brewery and along Haywood Road.

Panelist Bios:

Steve Pierce: Steve is a retired teacher from Marion, NC. He is an avid hiker and leads hikes for the Friends of the Smokies and the Carolina Mountain Club. He has hiked all the trails in the Smokies once and is closing in on finishing hiking the trails for a second map. In addition to hiking in the Smokies, Steve has completed the South Beyond 6000 challenge—summiting 40 peaks of 6000 ft.—reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu, and walked the Camino Portuguese.

JP Smith: JP is a retired law enforcement officer from Maggie Valley, NC. She holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice and M.A. in Education, and was an Army Medic for six years. Besides completing the Smokies 900, she walked the Camino de Santiago and cycled from Boone to Wilmington.

Dave Worth: A former National Park Service Ranger in the Smokies, Dave completed all the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2018. He thru hiked the A.T. in 2008, and currently holds the fastest known time for running the stretch of the A.T. passing through the Smokies, as well as the record for running all the trails leading to the summit of Mt. Le Conte.

Moderator Bio:

Danny Bernstein: Danny is a is a hiker, hike leader, and outdoor writer. She completed the Appalachian Trail, Smokies 900, South Beyond 6000, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and three Caminos de Santiago. She currently leads hikes from the Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Smokies, and the Asheville Camino Group. She has written two hiking guides for the Southern Appalachians, a travel narrative on hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. In her previous life, she worked in computer science.

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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 Cumberland Trail Work Day

Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP) and Obed Wild and Scenic River will be hosting the annual Cumberland Trail work day on Saturday, February 16.

Volunteers should meet at Rock Creek Campground at 10:00 AM (ET). Trail maintenance will be performed on the 2.5-mile section of the Cumberland Trail between Rock Creek Campground and Alley Ford. This section was adopted by TCWP in 1998.

Participants should wear sturdy shoes or boots and bring work gloves, shovels, loppers, clippers, and small bow saws or folding saws (NO CHAINSAWS). Some hand tools will be available at the event. Volunteers should bring clothing appropriate for weather conditions, and plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch. Also sunscreen and bug spray may be needed.

The work day should finish at the Rock Creek Campground trailhead at 3:00 PM (ET).

In the event of inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled for Saturday, February 23

Ramble On: A History of Hiking