Thursday, October 31, 2019

Smokies Roadways Closed Due to High Winds and Downed Trees - Park Advises Hikers to Stay Off Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is experiencing high winds ahead of a cold front that is expected to move through the area later today. Newfound Gap Road (Hwy 441 from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC), Little River Road from the Townsend Wye to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Wears Gap and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are currently closed. Winds are expected to grow stronger this evening with gusts up to 45 mph across the higher elevations. The current road closures will remain in effect until the High Wind Warning has expired. At that time, crews will reassess conditions and begin clearing roads for reopening.

Hikers are advised to avoid hiking during this time period across the park, particularly in areas with standing dead trees. Park visitor centers and the Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open at this time. Visitors should exercise extreme caution when making travel plans.

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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Hazardous Weather Warning for Smokies Today

High winds and flash flooding are expected today across the Smoky Mountains. You may want to monitor the Smokies Twitter account for road closure updates if you plan to visit the park today: As what happened last week, high winds will probably result in falling trees in the park - especially in areas impacted by the 2017 wildfire. Here's the forecast from the National Weather Service for today:
This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...Today and Tonight

Severe storms will be possible early Thursday morning into early Thursday afternoon ahead of a cold front with strong winds being the primary hazard. A brief weak isolated tornado or two will also be possible. Best chances for severe storms will be to the north and east of Knoxville during the morning and early afternoon hours.

Periods of locally heavy rainfall are possible Thursday morning and afternoon which may cause localized flooding, especially across the Smoky Mountains, southeast Tennessee, and southwest North Carolina.

Strong winds will continue across the higher elevations into the early afternoon with gusts as high as 45 mph possible.

Freeze temperatures along with patchy to widespread frost are expected late tonight.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Friday through Wednesday

Freeze temperatures along with patchy to widespread frost will continue into Friday morning.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Smokies Roadways Closed Due to High Winds and Downed Trees

Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced high winds this morning with sustained winds of approximately 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph across the Tennessee side of the mountains. Newfound Gap Road, Laurel Creek Road, Little River Road and Cades Cove Loop Road are all currently closed due to downed trees. Winds are expected to grow stronger this evening with a High Wind Warning in effect until 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. All roadways will remain closed until the warning has expired. At that time, crews will assess damage and begin clearing roads for reopening.

Hikers are advised to avoid hiking during this time period across the park, particularly in areas with standing dead trees. Park visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas remain open at this time. Visitors should exercise extreme caution when making travel plans.

Please visit to view images from webcams across the park including Newfound Gap. For the most up to date information about road closures, follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Fire Restrictions on Open Fires in the Backcountry Lifted at Big South Fork NRRA

Due to recent precipitation, Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas announced the removal of restrictions on open fires within the backcountry of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Drought conditions for the area prompted the campfire restrictions on September 20.

Fire management staff stress that weather conditions can change rapidly. Both visitors and residents are asked to stay informed of fire danger and conditions.

Use caution when building fires. They must be completely extinguished with water, and cold to the touch before leaving them unattended. Fire must be used in accordance with state, local and park regulations.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 25, 2019

Smokies Adopts New Regulation for E-Bike Use

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the adoption of a new regulation to allow the use of low-speed electric bikes (e-bikes) in the park at all locations where bicycles are currently allowed. Both Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, which can provide electronic assistance until the rider reaches a speed of 20 mph, are allowed under the new regulation.

Commentary: I have no problem with the park allowing e-bikes on all park roads. However, I think this is an absolutely horrible decision for them to allow these "low-speed motorcycles" on the hiking trails listed below. This is simply asking for trouble, and predict there will be many user conflicts in the years to come in this park, and the other national parks who have adopted this rule.

Park specific regulations, as described in the Superintendent’s Compendium or Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, have been amended to record this change in Chapters 1. 4 and 4.3. Bicycles and e-bikes are allowed on any park road where motor vehicles are allowed; seasonally closed roads; and the Gatlinburg Trail between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Gatlinburg (1.9 miles), the Oconaluftee River Trail between the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the town of Cherokee (1.6 miles), Indian Creek Trail (2.9 miles), and Deep Creek Trail (1.4 miles).

E-bikes enable more people to enjoy a cycling experience in the park in a manner that is consistent with conventional bicycle use. Cyclists may only use the small electric motor to assist pedal propulsion. The motor may not be used to propel an e-bike without the rider also pedaling, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic. More people, especially those with physical limitations, will now have the opportunity to explore the park in a unique way.

For more information about biking inside the park, please visit the park’s website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 Adds 5 New Hikes to Online Trail Guide

This past September Kathy and I had the opportunity to visit Glacier National Park for almost three weeks. During our visit we hiked more than 140 miles throughout the Two Medicine, St. Mary Lake, Many Glacier, Logan Pass and Lake McDonald areas. Many of these hikes were on trails we've already covered on our website,, but felt they were important in order to provide improved photographs of the iconic scenery hikers will see along those routes. These photos have now been published throughout the site. In some cases we re-hiked trails to update the information previously published on the website. For example, we hiked up to Sperry Chalet to document the damage from the Sprague Fire of 2017 - not only the reconstruction of the historic Sperry Chalet dormitory, but also the damage to the forest you'll encounter as you proceed along the route to the chalet.

During our visit we were also able to hike a few new trails, which have just been added to the site. These are listed below.

All in all, our trip effectively resulted in a minor overhaul of the website. Roughly half the 68 hikes we cover on our site now have new and improved photos, as well updated information pertinent to hikers. Our online guide remains the most comprehensive resource for travelers as they plan their hiking itineraries for their visits to Glacier National Park. The hikes covered on our site are listed in alphabetical order, by difficulty level, by key trail feature, as well as by location within the park. We also provide lists of our top 10 hikes, and the best easy hikes to also help with all your planning needs.

Here are the new hikes we've added to the site:

Belly River Ranger Station - This hike visits the historic Belly River Ranger Station in the northeast sector of the park - just north of Many Glacier. The district contains several historic buildings, including the original ranger cabin constructed in 1912, making it one of the oldest continually manned ranger stations in Glacier National Park. The station also has the distinction of being the only ranger station in the park to be accessible only by trail. It's assumed that it was at least partially built by Joe Cosley, who was among the first six rangers to be hired by the new park. Cosley, a poacher, eventually resorted back to his hunting and trapping ways while working as a ranger. The description for this hike contains a few more details about this legendary figure from the early years of the park.

The Dragon's Tail - This is a great alternative if you're looking to avoid the extreme crowds at Hidden Lake Overlook. Although you'll start-off using the same trail, the "climbers route" to Mt. Reynolds and the Dragon's Tail splits off from the main trail after roughly a mile. Hikers will enjoy sweeping views of Hidden Lake and the surrounding mountains from the east and southeast side of the lake. I loved this hike so much that it now ranks 4th on my list of the top hikes in Glacier National Park.

Upper McDonald Creek Trail - This relaxing hike travels through a lush, old-growth forest more normally found along the Pacific Northwest Coast. Along this route you'll visit Sacred Dancing Cascade and McDonald Falls, and end with a spectacular view of Mount Cannon rising almost 5600 feet above the valley floor. This is a great alternative if you wish to avoid the crowds along the Trail of the Cedars.

Sun Point Nature Trail - This is another pleasant hike that offers outstanding views of St. Mary Lake. It also visits Baring Falls and St. Mary Falls.

S. Shore St. Mary Lake - After visiting St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls the trail continues to a rock outcropping that overlooks St. Mary Lake from its southern shore. From this vantage point, roughly one hundred feet above the lake, you’ll enjoy a commanding view of the peninsula that juts out into the lake across from Sun Point, as well as the mountains rising above the north and northwest side of the lake.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 18, 2019

Roadwork Near Cataloochee Area Postponed

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that the expected closure of the main access road into Cataloochee has been postponed. The county road just outside the park, Cove Creek Road, was expected to be closed November 1 through February 29 for a road slide repair by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The roadwork has been postponed and the Cataloochee area will remain open and accessible throughout the fall and early winter, aside from weather-related closures. For more information about the roadwork schedule, please contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Science at Sugarlands / Mount LeConte Shelter

Join Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Science at Sugarlands tomorrow from 1:00-3:00 p.m. for "Lichens of the Smokies, Revealed" with James Lendemer from the New York Botanical Garden. All visitors are welcome to join the park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room, near the Gatlinburg entrance to the park.

Also, backpackers, and even day hikers, may want to note that the Mount LeConte Shelter has been closed due to aggressive bear activity.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, October 14, 2019

Roadside parking - be a hero not a hazard

Fall weekends are especially busy on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Beautiful views are unlimited but parking is not. Once a trailhead parking lot is full, many drivers park on roadsides. While parking is permitted on the shoulder of some roads, vehicles must not obstruct traffic. Blocked roadways can lead to accidents and delay emergency responders.

Follow these tips to be a hero and not a hazard:

* Know before you go as cell service is limited.
* Watch for pedestrians as you approach areas with parked cars.
* Check for signs that restrict roadside parking.
* Choose a spot that will not be damaged by tires on soft ground.
* Do not park on a narrow shoulder with a steep drop off.
* Park vehicles with all wheels off the road.
* Check for oncoming traffic before exiting your vehicle.

Some areas are so popular that it can be difficult to find legal parking. This is especially true during peak leaf season. High volume times are typically on the weekends during midday but well-known sites are busy from dawn to dusk. Plan several alternate locations and arrive in the early morning or late afternoon or visit on weekdays.

Popular locations with limited parking include:

* Black Balsam
* Dry Falls
* Graveyard Fields
* Max Patch
* Roan Highlands/Carvers Gap
* Any place you've seen on social media!

Explore our website to find new places to visit:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wildfire Risk Continues in Cherokee National Forest (and region)

Although light rain fell in some areas of the Cherokee National Forest, USDA Forest Service officials say much more moisture is needed in the days to come to significantly slow or put an end to the fall fire season.

Extended periods of hot weather and little to no rain has increased the risk of wildfires throughout the Cherokee National Forest. Wildfires are not only a threat to wildlife and the natural resources, but also to life and property.

"Without a doubt we were pleased to see the rain and cooler temperatures. It helped slow things down in some areas. We aren't letting our guard down. It doesn't take long for things to dry out and the fire hazard to rise," said Cherokee National Forest Fire Management Officer Trent Girard. "A few days of dry and windy conditions that are typical this time of year can have the woods dry and susceptible to fire in a hurry. We don't want folks to be fooled by the recent moisture we received. We still need to be very careful with fire and be aware of how quickly conditions can change."

The U.S. Forest Service reminds campers to be cautious when burning campfires. Use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 15 feet. Dig a pit in the soil to about a foot deep. Circle fire pit with rocks. Build a campfire away from overhanging branches, logs/stumps, steep slopes, dry grass and leaves/pine needles. Never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

The following guidelines are for safely extinguishing campfires and helping to prevent wildfires:

 Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
 Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
 Pour water until the hissing sound stops.
 Stir campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
 Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
 Stir and make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Living Step By Step on The Colorado Trail

Have you ever wondered what it's like to hike the entire Colorado Trail - from Denver to Durango? This video from Keith ("Spreadsheet") and Gina ("Mulch") do an excellent job of showing what to expect, what you'll see, and what it takes to tackle the 485-mile Colorado Trail. This, their second attempt. was completed in 33 days. On their first try, in 2015, they ran out of time just 75 miles short of the finish. Hope you enjoy:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Senate bill increases funding for the National Park Service by $133 million

Last week the United States Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. If enacted, it would increase National Park Service funding by $133 million and improve funding for other federal agencies that support our parks’ wildlife, clean air and water. The increased funding commitment will better protect park resources, support jobs, address overdue park maintenance needs and enhance the experience for 330 million annual park visitors.

Statement by John Garder, Senior Director for Budget and Appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association:
“Our national parks continue to face significant funding challenges for everyday operations and maintenance needs that help keep our most treasured places up and running safely for all to enjoy. This bi-partisan bill, through the leadership of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and support of the committee, provides additional resources for rangers whose numbers have been on the decline for years, and helps fix crumbling park roads and aging facilities. The bill also shows strong oversight of the administration’s damaging effort to reorganize the Department of the Interior, in part by defunding it.”
Key provisions that benefit our parks include:

• Provides a $62 million, 2% increase for the operation of national parks, supporting park stewardship, overdue park repairs, visitor programs and park rangers.

• Restricts new funding for the reorganization of the Department of the Interior, which threatens the management of our parks, their resources, the employees of the National Park Service, and its partner land management agencies.

• Increases funding for Park Service federal land acquisition, better protecting Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Cumberland Island National Seashore and many other parks.

• Provides needed support for National Heritage Areas, supporting historic preservation and interpretation at communities throughout the country.

• Provides increases to address the Park Service’s nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, helping to fix our park roadways and aging infrastructure.

• Urges protections for Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas development on adjacent federal public lands.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking