Thursday, January 30, 2020

Outdoor Foundation Study: Half of the US population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all

The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), released the latest Outdoor Participation Report this week, showing about half the U.S. population participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2018, including hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and biking among many more outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the report highlights an alarming trend that just under half the U.S. population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all.

The report, available here, also highlighted the following troubling trends:

* Less than 20 percent of Americans recreated outside at least once a week.

* Americans went on one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008.

* Kids went on 15 percent fewer annual outings in 2018 than they did in 2012.

Additionally, the report shows a continued gap between the diversity of outdoor participants and the diversity of the U.S. population, specifically where non-Caucasian ethnic groups reported going on far fewer outings in 2018 than they did just five years ago.

Interestingly, there is a strong trend toward close-to-home recreation. The report indicates that of the people who report they participate in outdoor activity, 63 percent report they go outside within 10 miles of their home. Some bright spots from the report showed that female outdoor participation increased by an average of 1.7 percent over the last three years and Hispanic participation in the outdoors was the strongest among ethnic groups.

“We know from study after study that recreating outside, even at minimal levels, greatly benefits an individual’s physical and mental health and also increases academic outcomes and community connections. But unfortunately, the barriers to getting outside are greater for Americans living in cities or in areas with fewer transportation options,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director at Outdoor Foundation. “This is why Outdoor Foundation, along with OIA and other like-minded organizations, is working to reach new populations of Americans who don’t get outdoors often or at all or don’t see themselves in the outdoors and encouraging them to get – and thrive – outside.”

OIA and its member companies have been concerned about the growing trends and gaps in outdoor recreation for some time, and the report confirmed those worries. That is why OIA and Outdoor Foundation have committed to getting all of America outside more often through a two-pronged approach that includes community-based initiatives and local, state and federal policy work.

In 2019, Outdoor Foundation shifted its focus to underserved communities and now provides larger multi-year grants to build lasting change at the community level. Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Community grants bring together partners such as The Trust for Public Land, community organizations, environmental organizations, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club and local leaders in Oklahoma City, Atlanta, San Diego and Grand Rapids.

“Currently, 90 cents of every health care dollar is spent on treating people with chronic disease,” said Jeff Bellows, vice president, corporate citizenship + public affairs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “We need to attack the root causes of these diseases, for example, by helping people adopt healthier lifestyles to make sure they are giving themselves and their families the best chance at a healthy life. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies have programs around the country that are addressing social determinants of health and are providing people and communities with resources to improve their health and prevent diseases.”

OIA is working with Congress, state and local governments, community leaders and businesses to get people and their communities better access to the outdoors and instill a habit of getting outside regularly. For example, at the federal level, OIA, along with other outdoor groups, is pushing for the full $900 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (HR. 3195/S. 1081). Over 90 percent of LWCF funding is used to increase recreation access to the public. OIA is also pressing Congress to approve the Transit to Trails Act (H.R. 4273/S. 2467) that would support connector transit options in underserved communities to and from public lands. Closer to home, OIA has long supported state and local programs like Colorado’s Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program, which helps to conserve land and provide increased opportunities for outdoor recreation. The key to GOCO’s success so far has been its ability to balance protection of iconic awe-inspiring lands as well as open spaces within or adjacent to communities so that more people have more options to get outside.

Outdoor Foundation has developed the Outdoor Participation Report for over 10 years. The survey reflects data gathered during the 2018 calendar year and garnered a total of 20,069 online interviews consisting of people ages six and older.

Hikers may want to note that this report continues to show a steady and significant increase in hiking. My book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, includes a long discussion on the exponential growth rates of hiking since the 1950s as shown in this study, as well as in studies conducted by the U.S. Government through the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. My book also discusses the ramifications this growth is already having on our parks, trails and wildlife, and what trends government officials are predicting for the future.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Smokies Comments on Record Visitation

Yesterday I posted a blog with regards to the Great Smoky Mountains smashing the annual visitation record in 2019. The post included a graph that showed the incredible visitation growth the park has experienced over the last several years. I wanted to follow-up that post with comments from the park regarding the visitation numbers published yesterday:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record 12,547,743 visitors in 2019, which is 1,126,540 more visitors than in 2018. The park’s three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee all had increased use, accounting for about two-thirds of the total park visitation. Secondary park entrances experienced tremendous growth, due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley. Over one million visitors enjoyed this new scenic driving experience.

“I am very proud of our employees who work hard each day, along with our volunteers and partners, to help provide outstanding visitor experiences and to protect the resources that people come here to enjoy,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With growing visitation, this has become more challenging. In 2020, we’ll be inviting people to help us thoughtfully look at how we can improve access and continue caring for this very special place.”

Monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, May, June, and December. In both April and May, approximately one million people visited. Before 2015, park visitation had not exceeded one million visitors per month until the summer and fall months. Another traditional shoulder season month, September, has now exceeded one million visitors since 2015. Visitors are more consistently reporting traffic congestion, busy restrooms, and over-full parking areas throughout the year. These are some of the issues the park will be exploring over the next year in an effort to provide better access, experiences, and stewardship of the park.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, January 27, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Smashes Visitation Record in 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park set another visitation record in 2019, and in the process, smashed the previous record set during the prior year. The park counted 12,547,743 visits last year, a 9.9% increase over the prior year. 2019 also marked the 4th year in a row that the Smokies surpassed 11 million visits, and the 6th year in a row in which it exceeded 10 million visits.

Below is a graph showing total visitor counts since the park's inception:

The ramification to the park, the wildlife and visitor enjoyment will be profound if this growth isn't checked at some point.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, January 24, 2020

Smokies Announces Temporary Cataloochee Area Road Closures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the main access road into the Cataloochee area, Cove Creek Road, will be closed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to conduct road repairs from February 10 through May 20.

The county roadway will be closed to stabilize a hillside just outside the park. The secondary access road into the area, Highway 284, will also be closed in the park throughout the duration of the construction project. Both roadways will be closed to all vehicles, cyclists, and horseback riders.

The secondary access road into the Cataloochee area, Highway 284, is a narrow, winding gravel road leading from the Big Creek area of the park into Cataloochee Valley. This gravel route is often seasonally closed during the winter months due to hazardous conditions and is not recommended for low clearance vehicles or trailers. This road will be closed throughout the closure period at the park boundary, approximately 2 miles north of Mt. Sterling Gap. During the closure, there will not be any potable water, restrooms, trash removal, or camping provided in the Cataloochee area.

Backcountry trails and campgrounds will remain open throughout the closure, but there will be no access to trailhead parking beyond the Big Creek area. Hikers and horseback riders should plan to start their itineraries from the Big Creek area or other areas across the park. The Cataloochee Campground, Group Camp, Horse Camp, and all services are expected to be operational by Memorial Day weekend.

For more information about the Cove Creek Road repair, please visit the North Carolina Department of Transportation website at For more information about road closures, please follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on twitter or visit the park website at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 Cumberland Trail Work Day

Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and Obed Wild and Scenic River will be hosting the annual Cumberland Trail work day on Saturday, February 15.

Volunteers should meet at the Rock Creek Campground, located just off of Catoosa Road in Morgan County, 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. Work will concentrate on routine trail maintenance such as cleaning out clogged water bars, removing down logs and limbs, cutting back brush along the trail and establishing the original trail base in some areas. The event is expected to conclude around 3:00 PM (ET).

Participants should wear sturdy shoes or boots and bring work gloves, shovels, loppers, clippers, and small bow saws or folding saws (NO CHAINSAWS).

Volunteers should bring clothing appropriate for weather conditions, and plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch. Also sunscreen and bug spray may be needed. In the event of bad weather this work day will be rescheduled.

For updates call the park visitor center at (423) 346-6294.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

National Park Service Announces Fiscal Year 2019 Accomplishments to Reduce Wildfire Risks

National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director David Vela recently announced that the NPS successfully treated 230,308 acres of public land in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, helping to reduce wildfire risks in America’s national parks and safeguarding nearby communities, natural resources and infrastructure.

Prescribed fire was used to treat nearly 207,000 acres, and an additional 24,000 acres were treated by mechanical and other methods. In support of recently issued Executive and Secretary’s Orders calling for an increase in active management, 17,000 acres were treated through active vegetation treatments. A robust vegetation management program improves the resiliency of landscapes to wildfires and preserves public lands for a variety of uses and enjoyment by the public.

“The accomplishments of our fire and aviation programs are vital to meeting our mission as well as the Secretary’s priorities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We are proud of the dedication and hard work completed over the past year by the men and women of the aviation, structural and wildland fire programs.”

In FY 2019, the bureau reached a milestone with over 90% of the 31,339 structures listed in the NPS Wildland Fire Geodatabase now surveyed for threats from wildland fire. Also in 2019, the areas adjacent to more than 6,000 structures were treated and the potential of risk from wildfire was reduced.

Research in wildland fire to better inform and fuels management is another high priority for the NPS. In 2019, the following five research projects were funded totaling $157,000:

• Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California: Effectiveness of Fuel treatments on Wildfire in a Chaparral Community

• Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico: Identifying Activity Periods of an Endangered Salamander to Facilitate Fuels Treatments

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: Changes in Woody Fuel Loading and Ericaceous Shrub Cover from 2003 to 2019 in Great Smoky Mountains NP

• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska: Fire and Ice – integrated fire research to inform managers on the short and long term impacts of fire and climate on ice-rich permafrost soils, water resources, vegetation and wildlife habitat

• Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier national parks, Wyoming and Montana: Drivers of Early Postfire Tree Regeneration and Indicators of Forest Resilience in National Parks of the Northern Rocky Mountains

Within the NPS Structural Fire Program, NPS revised and updated all structural fire classes and added a hazardous materials class; this provides bureau structural firefighters with all the multi-faceted training needed for certification. More than 150 NPS employees were trained in structural firefighting, including 41 new firefighters, 26 new driver operators and 92 at firefighter refresher classes. In addition, 34 new park structural fire coordinators were trained during 2019. The program has also developed cancer awareness and prevention procedures and a grant to support structural firefighter gear cleaning for cancer prevention in parks.

Aviation continues to be an important multidisciplinary program for the NPS. In 2019, aviation resources supported wildland fire, search and rescue, law enforcement, and natural resources studies, surveys, and research missions. Approximately 11,000 hours of flight time, from 7,400 flights were conducted in 2019.

In addition to treatment projects conducted domestically, the DOI and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, continue to support ongoing efforts to combat the wildfires in Australia. At the request of the Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, DOI and the USFS have deployed 150 firefighters thus far, 10 total from the NPS.

“The loss of life, property and environment are devastating in Australia,” said U.S. Secretary David Bernhardt. “The United States stands with our partners, and we will continue to support Australia in sending our world class personnel to contain these blazes and help protect Australian communities and wildlife.”

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging fire assistance for more than 15 years as the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during peak wildfire season in the United States. The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Division of NC Parks and Recreation Seeks Public Input on Wilderness Gateway State Trail Plan

The Division of Parks and Recreation is seeking public input on the Wilderness Gateway State Trail plan. When finalized, it will guide project stakeholders as they refine the planned corridor and build the trail.

The trail will connect Chimney Rock State Park to locations in Catawba County as well as the Overmountain Victory State Trail, the Town of Valdese, and South Mountain game lands and state park. When complete, the trail will traverse Rutherford, McDowell, Burke and Catawba counties.

The plan is being developed by the division with input from officials from the four counties, major towns in the corridor, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Conserving Carolinas Land Conservancy, among others. It will identify opportunities, challenges, trail section sponsors and stakeholders along the trail corridor.

Drop-in style open house meetings to receive public input will be held on Jan. 14, 15 and 16 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

Jan. 14 
Rutherfordton County Administration Office
289 N. Main St.
Rutherfordton, N.C. 28139

Jan. 15
South Mountains State Park
3001 South Mountains Park Ave
Connelly Springs, N.C. 28612

Jan. 16 
Catawba County Government Center
25 Government Drive
Newton, N.C. 28658

Members of the public are encouraged to attend and can expect to spend about 20 minutes to review, discuss, and comment on the planned trail corridor.

If inclement weather is anticipated for any of the meetings, a weather-related notice will be posted on the Wilderness Gateway State Trail planning webpage at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Lane Closures Continue on Smokies Roads for Tree Removal Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind visitors that single-lane and area closures will continue to affect several park roads through Friday, March 27 for tree removal work. Closures are necessary to ensure the safety of motorists and tree-removal crews along the park’s narrow roadways during the work.

Single-lane closures will be implemented on the Spur through January 24. Wears Cove Gap Road will be fully closed from January 29 through January 30. Single-lane closures will be implemented for short durations on Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Gatlinburg Bypass, Little River Road, Foothills Parkway West, and Lakeview Drive as well as the developed areas in Deep Creek, Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont through March 27. All tree removal work involving single-lane closures will occur from 6:00 a.m. on Mondays to noon on Fridays throughout the work period, excluding federal holidays. The work schedule is subject to change due to weather or other unplanned delays.

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


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Headed to Grand Teton National Park?

Are you planning to visit Grand Teton National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know that I just published a new eBook that provides hikers with access to trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park is the mobile version of, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Grand Teton National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely unavailable. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park covers 44 hikes. This includes 41 hikes within Grand Teton National Park, as well as 3 hikes in the Teton Pass area, located just south of the park boundary. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Grand Teton's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available at Amazon.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Smokies Clarifies Cades Cove Access During the Winter Closure

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials closed Laurel Creek Road, as scheduled, on Sunday, January 5 through Saturday, February 29 to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel. The seven-mile access road leading from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove, is closed to all motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Trails remain open throughout the closure, although access to trailheads is limited due to the road closure. Trail access into the Cades Cove area requires at least a 14-mile, roundtrip hike to the Cades Cove Loop Road from any of the boundary trailheads. During the short days of the winter months, this leaves limited time to explore the Loop Road for most hikers.

The one-way, seven-mile Rich Mountain Road, seasonally closed in the winter, can be used by hikers only to walk in and out of the area. This roadway will also be utilized by park vehicles throughout the closure to access the Loop Road. Hikers should be prepared to encounter employee vehicles traveling in both directions along the roadway. Due to the increased employee traffic, cyclists and horseback riders are prohibited from using the narrow, gravel roadway during closure period.

The one-way, eight-mile Parson Branch Road, which has been closed to all public vehicle use since 2016, can be used by hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders to access Cades Cove throughout the closure by the public. Users should be prepared to encounter downed trees or park employee vehicles along this roadway as well.

The Laurel Creek Road closure, beginning just past Tremont Road, is necessary to allow equipment set-up for the repair of the internal drainage system in the walls and ceiling of the 121-foot long tunnel. Crews will enclose and heat the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is lower. Intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave the tunnel area.

The Cades Cove Campground, normally open during the winter months, is closed through March 5, 2020. To accommodate winter campers, Elkmont Campground will remain open year round along with Smokemont Campground in NC.

The Bote Mountain Tunnel, constructed in 1948, has not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel would also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months. For more information on road and trail closures, please visit the park website at For more information about road closures, please follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on twitter or visit the park website at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Shenandoah National Park Programs Will Thrive in 2020 Due To Generous Support from The Shenandoah National Park Trust

In 2020, The Shenandoah National Park Trust aims to raise funds to support programs and projects in Shenandoah National Park totaling nearly $1 million. Their generous support will make an enormous positive impact on the park for years to come. The programs for 2020 include:

* Play, Learn, Serve - introduces children through young adults to the outdoors in a fun and engaging way by combining outdoor play with education and public service. It begins with ranger activities in their neighborhoods and schools and progresses to hiking, camping and educational opportunities in their “backyard” national park. In 2019, this program brought over 7400 students to the park!

* Shenandoah Youth Corps - provides an opportunity for youth to immerse themselves in the park and through the experience gain a greater understanding of our public lands. This is a summer job opportunity where they earn a salary while working on various projects that will have a lasting benefit to the park; such as, trail maintenance, monitoring sensitive species, weed elimination, archeology and rehabilitation of historic structures.

* Internships - provides training, work experience and professional development opportunities for young adults to acquire skills necessary to become competitive for future jobs. In 2020, interns will work in the Interpretation and Education, Cultural Resources and Maintenance Divisions.

* Exotic Plants and Trail Maintenance Volunteer Coordinators – helps fight the spread of invasive plants and maintains park trails using the power of volunteers. The coordinators organize volunteer work crews to cut invasive vines, map invasive plants, collect native seeds, salvage native plants, plant native plants in restoration areas, and tackle resource damage along park trails and in campgrounds. In 2019 this program treated invasive plants on over 727 acres, planted over 4000 native plants, and completed 116 trail maintenance projects.

* Invasive Insects - strengthens our park's resilience to forest health threats by helping to control invasive, non-native insects and protecting the park's native plants and other species from decline.

* Managing Human-Bear Interactions - reduces negative human-bear interactions at park campgrounds, picnic areas and popular visitor locations through education, prevention, and safety measures to minimize trash problems, assist with food storage, provide public education on proper wildlife viewing practices, and work to prevent illegal wildlife feeding.

* Trail Maintenance - helps maintain and improve the park’s five hundred miles of trails, ensuring it remains a hiker's paradise for generations to come. Research Grant –provides funding for research studies on relevant issues that are critical to preserving and protecting the park’s natural and cultural resources.

* Artist-in-Residence –supports artists during a short-term residence in the park where they create and showcase works of art, often inviting the public to participate alongside them.

* Electric Vehicle Charging Station – allows visitors to charge their vehicles at the electric vehicle charging station at Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 Skyline Drive).

* Robert Jacobsen Employee Development –enables our employees to attend training courses and conferences to enhance their existing job skills and learn new skills that will help them in their future careers.

* Expert-in-Residence –allows park managers to engage outside experts in natural resource protection, cultural resource preservation, and other park-related goals for short- to mid-term projects.

* Boulder Cabin – the Trust will be raising funds for the renovation and maintenance of Boulder Cabin, a 1911 historic cabin at Skyland Resort that is a contributing feature of the Skyline Drive National Historic Landmark District. It is an excellent example of a cabin from the rustic resort period (1887-1930) of architecture and will be used as a residence and studio space for the Artist-in-Residence program.

Superintendent Jennifer Flynn said “We are sincerely grateful and extend our heartfelt thanks to the Trust and its donors for providing these funds to support essential programs and projects.”

Executive Director Susan Sherman added "The Shenandoah National Park Trust is proud to partner with our park to help ensure its health and vitality. And we're grateful that our donors recognize the value of this work."

Ramble On: A History of Hiking