Saturday, February 29, 2020

TN State Parks Seeks Volunteers For Annual Weed Wrangle March 7

Tennessee State Parks and community partners are seeking volunteers to help rid the parks and State Natural Areas of invasive species with the annual Weed Wrangle on Saturday, March 7.

Most of the state parks and the Sequatchie Cave State Natural Area are participating. The Weed Wrangle is part of a national effort to remove invasive plants from public spaces. State and community experts in invasive weed management will supervise the removal of trees, vines, and flowering plants while volunteers learn ways to address their own green spaces to combat invasive species.

Examples of the efforts in the Weed Wrangle at state parks this year include removing privet at Fort Loudon State Historic Park; weeding and grooming flower beds at Frozen Head State Park; eradicating Ailanthus, better known as tree of heaven, at Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park; removing garlic mustard at Warriors’ Path State Park; removing invasive plant species from the Millennium Trail at Edgar Evins State Park; removing bush honeysuckle from Henry Horton State Park; removing privet at Paris Landing State Park, and removing autumn olive and privet at Panther Creek State Park.

Radnor Lake State Park will hold its Weed Wrangle on Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7.

Workers are encouraged to wear appropriate work attire, including closed-toe shoes, and bring water and sunscreen. The Weed Wrangle can be used by Tennessee Promise students for community service credit.

Further information can be found at https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/weed-wrangle/.



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

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Cades Cove Reopens Following Tunnel Work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Cades Cove will reopen on Saturday, February 29, following a two-month closure for tunnel repairs. Bryant’s Land and Development Industries Inc. of Burnsville, NC finished the $950,000 Bote Mountain Tunnel repair along Laurel Creek Road ahead of schedule, allowing the popular area to reopen in time for the first full weekend of the Spring Break season. The Cades Cove Campground will reopen on March 5, 2020.

“Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the park and we are pleased that visitors will have the chance to enjoy it this weekend,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We appreciate the special efforts of the contractor to complete the job safely and ahead of schedule.”

Intermittent, single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to re-pave the tunnel area. Motorists should expect weekday delays during the paving operations. This work will not occur on weekends, federal holidays, or the week before and after Easter.

The 121-foot long tunnel, constructed in 1948, had not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews replaced nine drainage chases using track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel were also sealed and repaired. Crews enclosed and heated the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is traditionally lower.



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

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

National Park Visitation Tops 327 Million in 2019

America’s national parks continue to be popular destinations. Visitation to national parks in 2019 exceeded 300 million recreation visits for the fifth consecutive year. The 327.5 million total is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904.

“The numbers once again affirm that Americans and visitors from around the world love the natural, cultural and historic experience provided by our nation’s national parks,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

“The 419 parks in the national park system provide a vast array of opportunities for recreation and inspiration for visitors of all ages,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “With at least one located in every state, national parks offer nearby history, culture and adventure.”

Under President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership, the National Park Service continues to expand recreational opportunities and accessibility for park visitors. During the prior year two new national parks were designated: White Sands in New Mexico, and Indiana Dunes in Indiana. In 2018 Gateway Arch in St. Louis was also designated as a national park. These three parks combined reported almost 4.8 million visitors in 2019.

Additional highlights from the 2019 visitation report include:

* Visitation in 2019 surpassed 2018 by more than 9 million recreation visits, a 2.9 percent increase.

* Recreation visitor hours have remained above 1.4 billion over the past four years.

* In the past five years there have been nearly two billion recreation visits to national parks.

* Thirty-three parks set a new recreation visitation record in 2019.

* Fourteen parks broke a record they set in 2018.

* There were two longstanding records broken in 2019: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with 432,818 recreation visits, broke a record they set in 1976 and Capulin Volcano National Monument broke a 1968 record with 81,617 recreation visits in 2019.

* Golden Gate National Recreation Area remained the most-visited site in the National Park System ahead of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12.5 million) and Grand Canyon National Park (5.97 million) continue to hold the first and second most-visited national parks in the United States.

* Rocky Mountain National Park held on to third place and set a new visitation record at 4.67 million.

* Yosemite National Park recovered from a drop in 2018 visitation attributed to wildland fires and moved past Yellowstone National Park for fifth place.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) allows the NPS to collect and retain revenue and requires that fee revenue be used to enhance the visitor experience. At least 80 percent of the money stays in the park where it is collected, and the other 20 percent is used to benefit parks that do not collect fees. For information about your fee dollars at work, visit www.nps.gov/aboutus/fees-at-work.htm.

Last year national park visitor spending contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy. The 2019 report on the economic benefits from visitor spending is expected later this spring.

For an in-depth look at 2019 visitation statistics, including individual park figures, please visit the National Park Service Social Science website.


2019 by the numbers:
* 327,516,619 recreation visits
* 1,429,969,885 recreation visitor hours
* 13,860,047 overnight stays (recreation + non-recreation)
* Three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
* 11 parks had more than five million recreation visits
* 80 parks had more than one million recreation visits (21% of reporting parks)
* 25 national parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (40% of National Parks)
* 50% of total recreation visits occurred in 27 parks (7% of all parks in the National Park System)


Top Ten Most Visited National Parks:
1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 12.5 million
2) Grand Canyon National Park: 5.97 million
3) Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.7 million
4) Zion National Park: 4.5 million
5) Yosemite National Park: 4.4 million
6) Yellowstone National Park: 4 million
7) Acadia National Park: 3.4 million
8) Grand Teton National Park: 3.4 million
9) Olympic National Park 3.2 million
10) Glacier National Park: 3 million



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

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Historic Circle Tours of Glacier National Park

The following is an adaptation from my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking:

Almost immediately after Glacier was established as a national park, Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, began building a series of hotels, chalets and tent camps throughout the park. The buildings were modeled on traditional Swiss architecture, and were part of Hill's strategy to portray Glacier as the "American Alps" or "America's Switzerland." The accommodations would in-turn help the railway promote tourism to the new national park, while at the same time promote their rail line as the primary mode of travel to the park. This would also allow them to compete against their chief rivals; the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway, who were already transporting tourists to Banff and Yellowstone.


The Belton Chalet in West Glacier, and the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park were the first two hotels to be constructed by Great Northern. Both acted as gateways from railroad depots to the interior of the park. Between 1910 and 1915 the railway also constructed eight Swiss-style backcountry chalet complexes, each connected by a network of trails. The complexes were strategically located at Two Medicine Lake, Cut Bank, St. Mary, Sun Point, Granite Park, Many Glacier, Gunsight Lake and Sperry Glacier. Tent camps were also established at Red Eagle Lake, Cosley Lake, Fifty Mountain and Goat Haunt. The chalet and tent camps were located roughly 10-18 miles apart. During their prime most of the chalet camps could host between 100 and 150 guests per night. Hill would explain to newspaper reporters that the “lodges would be located only far enough apart so that the man on foot even could make the trip and obtain sleeping accommodations,” and that “hotel accommodations of a more prestigious type or tents for the most modest could also be furnished.”


As construction on the new chalets progressed through the early 1910s, the railway also constructed the trails that would connect each of them by foot or horse travel. Because of a lack of federal funds, the Great Northern Railway assumed financial responsibility for all trail construction during this time period, but was eventually reimbursed as funding became available. Some of the earliest trails developed by the railway included Swiftcurrent Pass, Gunsight Pass, Mt. Henry, Red Gap Pass, Gable Pass, Triple Divide Pass, Piegan Pass, Pitamakan Pass and the St. Mary Lake trails. Many of these early trails were routed along Indian paths, prospector trails or old game trails. Great Northern would continue to improve or construct new trails within the park into the early 1920s. As the network of trails expanded, organized tours by horse concessionaires began to emerge. In 1915 the Park Saddle Horse Company became the sole concessionaire for the park, and began organizing a series of guided tours that utilized the existing network of chalets and trails. This included the North Circle, South Circle and Inside Trail trips, which encompassed roughly 163 miles of trails, each of which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The company also offered the Logan Pass Triangle Trail trip, which traversed across the heart of the park utilizing routes from the other tours, as well as the now abandoned Logan Pass Trail, which I discussed in detail yesterday. The concessionaire offered a variety of options, from half-day excursions to extended trips lasting up to two weeks. Most of the so-called circle tours, however, lasted between three and five days. During the 1920 season the company charged roughly $4.00 per person, per day to take one of its saddle-horse tours.


Although there were several variations of each of these trips, depending on the number of days tourists chose, the direction they wanted to take, as well as the evolution of routes over time, these are the routes described on the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and various park brochures:

The North Circle: Connects Many Glacier with Cosley (aka Crossley) Lake; Cosley Lake with Goathaunt; Goathaunt with Fifty Mountain; Fifty Mountain with Granite Park; Granite Park with Many Glacier.

The South Circle: Connects Lake McDonald Lodge with Sperry Chalets; Sperry Chalets with Sun Point via Gunsight Pass; Sun Point with Many Glacier via Piegan Pass; Many Glacier with Granite Park via Swiftcurrent Pass; Granite Park with Going-to-the-Sun Road at Packer's Roost.

Logan Pass Triangle trip: Three-day trip made as follows: Many Glacier Hotel to Granite Park Chalets via Swiftcurrent Pass, thence along the west side of the Garden Wall through Logan Pass to Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, thence back to Many Glacier Hotel via Glacial Meadows and Piegan Pass. Rate for guide and horses, $12.50 per person. Going-to-the-Sun Chalets is also a point of departure for this trip.

Inside Trail: Guide and horses may be obtained for a five-day trip over the inside trail from Glacier Park Hotel, via Two Medicine Chalets, thence via Mount Morgan Pass (now known as Pitamakan Pass) to Cut Bank Chalets, thence via Triple Divide, Red Eagle Lake, to St. Mary Chalets, thence via boat across St. Mary Lake to Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, thence via Piegan Pass to Many Glacier Hotel, at the rate of $18 for each person, including boat fare, if five or more make the trip. This trip may be made in either direction.


The park visitors that took these tours were “guided by ‘cowboys,’ lunched near glacial lakes and then dined in comfort on Chinese linen and blue willow china”. Park rules dictated that the Park Saddle Horse Company had to furnish at least one guide for each ten tourists on a trip. Parties could reach as large as 180 people and 200 horses. It’s estimated that the concessionaire used more than 1000 horses during its peak, with at least one source estimating as many as 1500 head of horses. The 1922 park brochure bragged that there were "more saddle horses used in Glacier than in any other similar recreational area in the world". From everything I’ve read that record has never been surpassed.

The saddle-horse tours were the dominant method of seeing the park until the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1933. Although the tours continued for another ten seasons, they came to a permanent end after the 1942 season when America became fully involved in World War II.



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

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What happened to the old Logan Pass Trail?

I recently finished reading Switchback, a book by William Yenne that chronicles his time working as a packer in Glacier National Park and the surrounding national forests during the 1920s and 30s. In the book he mentioned the Logan Pass Trail a couple of times, which piqued my curiosity as to where the old route tracked, and why it faded from existence.

During the early years of the park the trail played an important role in the Great Northern Railway’s growing system of trails, which allowed tourists to travel between their network of hotels, chalets and tent camps. The Logan Pass Trail became part of a tour known as the “Triangle Trip”, one of four tourist trails, or circle tours, which we will discuss a little more in-depth tomorrow (link here). Though many visitors hiked these trails on foot, most traveled them on horseback prior to World War II. Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, explained to newspaper reporters that the “lodges would be located only far enough apart so that the man on foot even could make the trip and obtain sleeping accommodations,” and that “hotel accommodations of a more prestigious type or tents for the most modest could also be furnished.”

Construction on the Logan Pass Trail began in 1917, and was completed during the summer of 1918. The 16.4-mile trail, named for William Logan, the first superintendent of Glacier National Park, connected the Going-to-the-Sun Chalets with Granite Park Chalets. In all likelihood the construction efforts were bankrolled by the Great Northern Railway, who built most of the trails during the early years of the park in order to connect their network of overnight facilities. Construction of the Granite Park Chalets was completed by the railway in 1915, and was already accessible to tourists via the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, a route that was originally used by Native Americans. By 1915 the Great Northern had also completed construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalet complex at Sun Point. The complex, which remained in operation until 1942, included two large dormitories that could sleep up to 200 people, a large dining room, as well as laundry facilities. Until the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1933, the only way to reach the chalets was by boat or pack horse. The chalets were closed during World War II, fell into disrepair, and were eventually torn down in 1948. However, during their heyday, they were second only to the Many Glacier Hotel in terms of visitor traffic and as a hub of outdoor activities. To underscore their importance, serious consideration was given at one point for building a hotel on the site on the scale of the Many Glacier Hotel, which would’ve accommodated up to 500 guests.


In a letter to the Director of the National Park Service, dated September 24, 1917, a park civil engineer provided an update on new trail construction efforts within the park during the previous summer. Here’s are his comments with regards to the Logan Pass Trail:
“Logan Pass Trail: This trail, which extends from Granite Park along the west side of the Continental Divide through Logan Pass, thence down Reynolds Creek to a junction with the Plegan Trail, is under construction, about 12 miles of which is practically completed and about 4 miles more will be roughed out so that it can be used for travel. The grading on this trail varies from about 3 ft. in dirt to 6 or 8 ft. in the heavier rock work, quite a good deal of which was encountered. When completed the trail will be about 16 miles long and will be the most scenic trail and the trail of highest average elevation of any in the Park. It will also open to tourist travel the Twin Lakes and Hidden Lake regions which have heretofore been practically inaccessible except to foot tourists that were good climbers.”
A snippet in a pamphlet published by the United States Railroad Administration in 1919 provides a slightly more detailed description of the trail one year after its completion:
“Leaving Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, this trail branches to the left four miles out on the Piegan Pass trail and strikes up Reynolds Creek, past the shelf glacier which sprinkles its waters on a narrow fertile bench called the Hanging Gardens, on the east side of Mt. Reynolds, to a little plateau between Pollock and Oberlin Mountains. The summit of the pass and the approaches to it are literally covered with wild flowers. From the western slope the trail continues along the Garden Wall—a high, thin, saw-tooth ridge—to Granite Park Chalets.“
Below is a section of a park map from 1927 showing the new route (link to entire map). You should note that the red box above St. Mary Lake represents the location of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalets. You may also notice a red line extending up to Logan Pass from the west side of the park – this represents the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that had been completed by that time. It would be another five years before the eastern segment of the road would be completed:


Though this map isn’t as precise as modern maps, the new trail appears to split-off from the Piegan Pass Trail just west of today’s Jackson Glacier Overlook along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and just east of the confluence of Reynolds Creek and Siyeh Creek. A map from the 1949 park brochure, however, shows a different route. The 1927 map clearly shows the trail ascending towards Logan Pass along Reynolds Creek, south of the present-day Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, the 1949 map shows it tracking north of the road:


It’s possible that the trail was rerouted between those two dates, but seems highly unlikely. Moreover, William Yenne confirms in his book that the trail tracked above the road when he relayed an incident that took place in 1932 “directly above the east side tunnel of the new road”. The photo below, published by the U.S. Railroad Administration in a pamphlet from 1919, also testifies to the trail passing along the steep slopes of Piegan Mountain, well above the east side tunnel, and the Reynolds Creek valley:


As mentioned throughout the pages of View With A Room, Louis W. Hill was very demanding and meticulous on how his chalets and hotels were to be built and designed. These traits obviously carried over to the trail system as well. In a letter dated July 21, 1923, Hill made these interesting, and rather pointed comments to J. R. Eakin, the Superintendent of Glacier National Park:
“After a few days' trip in Glacier Park, I feel I should write you very frankly my observations and impressions, I cannot help but be greatly interested in the development of the Park as we have a very large investment there - about $1,500,000 - in the hotels, camps, cost of roads, bridges, etc.

The Logan Pass Trail is not as wide nor in as good condition as when originally constructed. Certainly the two or three years’ maintenance, if properly maintained, would make it a better trail than when originally constructed. The only trail crew I saw consisted of three men on the west side of Logan Pass. The east side of Logan Pass needs cleaning out, which would widen the trail and, of course, the loose rocks would be removed. This is a very inexpensive piece of work. I would also suggest that this being a precipitous country for a trail, it would be in the interest of safety to put up a sign and instruct guides that all parties should arrive at Logan Pass summit before 12:00 o'clock noon and not leave before 1:00 PM. This would give an hour's leeway and permit stragglers to come in and prevent parties meeting and passing on the narrow dangerous portions of the trail. It will always be dangerous to pass horses on some parts of this trail. This should be a simple remedy, particularly if it were understood that guides or tourists who do not observe the regulations - should you put them in – might be asked to leave the Park. This precaution, I am sure, would be appreciated by the tourists as they are all fearful of meeting horses in the narrow places.”
The ultimate demise of the Logan Pass Trail came about for several reasons. Chief among them was the completion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which allowed visitors to easily drive to Logan Pass, rather than spend a day or more on horseback to reach the higher elevations of the park. Moreover, visitation to the park plummeted during World War II. By 1945 nearly all of the tent camps and chalets had been abandoned, and were ultimately torn down. As result, the National Park Service cancelled the Park Saddle Horse Company concessionaire contract that year due to lack of support. By this time the eastern portion of the trail had become more or less obsolete.

There’s no record online of what eventually became of the Logan Pass Trail. It seems to have simply faded from memory. 1932 was the last year that the park brochure mentioned the Logan Pass Trail by name. The park continued to mention the route through 1939, but the trail was not named. In some cases it was referred to as the Garden Wall Trail, at least the western portion of the trail. The last reference to the “Logan Pass Trail” that I could find was made in a 1945 issue of National Parks Magazine. The last time the trail appeared on a map was in the 1960 park brochure. It appears that the trail was at last gone and forgotten with the onset of the new decade.

Although the eastern portion of the trail has long been abandoned, the western leg continues to live today, and is now known as the Highline Trail. The first segment of the Highline runs 7.6 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet. It’s now connected with the “newer” section of the Highline, which was constructed between 1928 and 1929. This leg travels 14 miles from the chalet to Fifty Mountain, an expansive alpine meadow near the junction of the Highline, Flattop Mountain and Waterton Valley trails.



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

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Smokies is Recruiting Volunteers for Mingus Mill

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to provide orientation and historic information to visitors at Mingus Mill, located one half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Volunteers will work alongside millers to help educate visitors about the general role of milling in the Smokies, including the unique turbine wheel at Mingus Mill.

Mingus Mill, built in 1886, offers visitors a unique look into the inner workings of a mill that custom ground everything from corn to wheat or rye. The intricacy of the turbine-driven mill provided local patrons with custom ground cornmeal or flour in a fraction of the time needed by other types of mills.

Volunteers will work alongside Great Smoky Mountains Association employees. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one, four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the peak visitation season from April through the November.

New volunteers are required to attend training on Friday, March 6, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The training will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building near Cherokee, NC. Volunteers should bring a bag lunch.

If interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please call Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at 828-497-1906 or by email at florie_takaki@nps.gov to reserve a space for training.



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

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Big South Fork Recording a 2020 Rain Event to Remember with Stream Gauges

The unusual weather event that occurred between February 4-6, 2020, left roughly seven inches of rain on Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, and the park’s four stream gauges were working hard to record the flow resulting from the precipitation.

The gauge on the South Fork Cumberland River at Leatherwood Ford, Tennessee recorded a peak flow at 1:00 PM on 2/06/2020 at 74,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) and a stage height of 39.44 feet. This was an increase in flow of 73,120 cfs and 32.16 foot increase in stage height over the base flow on 2/04/2020. This event is the highest streamflow to be recorded at the South Fork Cumberland at Leatherwood Ford location since the stream gauge was established in 1985.

The stream gauge on the New River near the Highway 27 Bridge rose over 28.5 feet during the event. Peak flow occurred at 8:00 PM on 2/6/2020 at 47,900 cfs and a stage height of 32.35 feet. Since the gauge’s establishment in 1934, peak flows have exceeded 40,000 cfs on only 9 occasions. This peak streamflow was the fourth greatest streamflow rate since the gauge became fully operational.

To put those numbers in context, it has been estimated that one cubic feet per second is equal to approximately 450 gallons of water flowing in one minute. The cfs that is considered safe for a body of water varies depending on where you are. The average paddler runs the park’s waterways between 1,000-5,000 cfs.

“Stream gauges provide valuable information on the flow of rivers and streams. That information helps park management make sound decisions to effectively manage natural resources, ensure visitor safety, and protect property,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.



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

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Smokies Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and changes in tree canopy foliage.

Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, February 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, March 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations across the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall, though bimonthly monitoring is less critical in June and July at most plots. The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Israel Golden at israel_golden@partner.nps.gov to register for the training. For more information about phenology research efforts across the country, visit the National Phenology Network at https://www.usanpn.org/.



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

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

New eBook provides hikers with trail information while hiking in Glacier National Park

Are you planning to visit Glacier 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 detailed trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Glacier National Park is the mobile version of HikinginGlacier.com, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Glacier National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on HikinginGlacier.com while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely not available. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Glacier National Park covers 68 hikes. 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 Glacier'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 on Amazon.



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

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Smokies Recruits Volunteers for Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to help provide visitor information at Clingmans Dome. The information center sits at 6,300 feet in elevation, providing a unique opportunity for park volunteers to assist in educating visitors about high-elevation, spruce-fir forests, while also providing recreational, trip planning, and directional information.

The information center, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, originally served as a comfort station, but was converted into a seasonal information center in 2010. The center also includes a bookstore area managed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) offering visitors the opportunity to purchase guides and maps, outdoor apparel, and other GSMA products. Volunteers will work alongside GSMA employees. Each volunteer is asked to work one four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., April 1 through November 30.

At this time, new volunteers are needed on each day of the week, except Tuesdays and Thursdays. New volunteers must attend an orientation session on Monday, March 9, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.to help learn more about the Clingmans Dome area. At each training, guest speakers will share unique biological and historical information about high-elevation forests and Clingmans Dome. The training will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building near Cherokee, NC. Volunteers should bring a bag lunch.

To sign up for this volunteer program or receive more information, please contact Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at 828-497-1906 or by email at florie_takaki@nps.gov.






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

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

USDA Forest Service seeks help to expand access to national forests and grassland areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the agency can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.

The agency today posted a draft list of about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.

The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.

“National forests and grasslands play host to some 300 million hunters, anglers, and other recreationists each year,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The input we receive will go a long way toward helping the Forest Service provide even greater access and opportunity for the people we serve.”

The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12, 2020. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.

To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email SM.FS.nominations@usda.gov or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.

Background

The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 is a broad-based law that sets provisions for various programs, projects, activities, and studies in the management and conservation of federally managed natural resources. The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.






Jeff
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Funding Needed for McAfee Knob Trailhead Project to Improve Public Safety and Visitor Experience

One of the most iconic locations along the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.), McAfee Knob has become one of Central Virginia’s most defining — and most visited — landmarks. Approximately 45,000 people visit McAfee Knob each year, often overflowing the trailhead’s small parking lot on the opposite side of the heavily trafficked Route 311.

In order to address parking difficulties and minimize risks for both pedestrians and motorists, a coalition of partners is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to construct a pedestrian bridge over Route 311, redesign the McAfee Knob parking area and install informational signage to help guide hikers to the trailhead. Spearheaded by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the National Park Service (NPS), the VDOT and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), this project will significantly improve safety and the overall visitor experience.

“Visitor safety is one of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s highest priorities,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director of the ATC. “This project will help pedestrians easily and safely cross over to the Appalachian Trail leading to McAfee Knob’s summit, and additional parking areas will minimize the number of people who choose to park on the side of Route 311. However, we’ll need everyone’s help to make this project a reality.”

Construction of the pedestrian bridge is currently scheduled to begin in 2025. However, a small-yet-critical part of the project has not yet been finalized: funding is still needed to purchase a 7-acre parcel of land adjacent to the existing parking area. This land will allow NPS to consider a wider variety of improvements including bathrooms, safer entrances and exits to the parking area, and more orderly parking. The ATC and RATC are currently raising the $200,000 needed to acquire this parcel and remove existing structures before transferring ownership to NPS.

Significant donations to this project have already been made by RATC and 2019 Cox Conserves Hero National Winner Diana Christopulos. The ATC invites supporters of McAfee Knob and the A.T. to help complete this project by making a donation at appalachiantrail.org/mcafee.

A public information meeting on the pedestrian bridge project is being scheduled for this summer. The final date for this meeting and more information about this project will be posted at appalachiantrail.org/mcafeeknobproject.



Jeff
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen emphasized the need to find innovative ideas to tackle the nearly $300 million maintenance backlog on the nation’s largest public trail system. Christiansen called on individuals and organizations to work with the agency to address trail maintenance and sustainability to improve access, keep people safe, and support local economies.

“In 2019, organizations and individuals contributed more than 1.5 million hours on the maintenance and repair of more than 28,000 miles of trail, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and hard work,” Christiansen told trail advocates during a meeting at Forest Service Headquarters. “However, we must find more ways to erase the backlog. We still have much more work to do, and this is our call to organizations and individuals to share with us innovative ideas and boots-on-the-ground help.”

The agency hopes to expand its employee, grassroots, nonprofit and corporate support as part of a 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge. Roughly 120,000 miles of the 159,000 miles of trails are in need of some form of maintenance or repair. Working within current appropriations, the agency has strategically focused its approach to trail maintenance, increasing trail miles improved from 48,800 miles in 2013 to 58,300 miles in 2019.

Christiansen shared the multi-layered challenge with agency partners visiting Washington, D.C., to attend the weeklong 23rd annual Hike the Hill, a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trail System and the American Hiking Society. Hike the Hill helps to increase awareness and highlight other needs of the National Trails System. The National Trails System consists of 30 national scenic and historic trails, such as the Appalachian National Trail and the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, both of which pass through lands managed by the Forest Service.

The agency manages about 10,000 miles of national scenic and historic trails that cross forests and grasslands. More than 32,000 miles of trail are in wilderness areas. The remainder range from simple footpaths to those that allow horses, off-highway vehicles, cross-country skiing and other types of recreation.

The trail maintenance backlog limits access to public lands, causes environmental damage, and affects public safety in some places. Deferred maintenance also increases the costs of trail repair. When members of the public stop using trails, there could be a residual effect on the economics of nearby communities. Recreation activities on national forests and grasslands support 148,000 jobs annually and contribute more than $11 billion in annual visitor spending.

In addition to trails, the agency is working to address more than $5.2 billion in infrastructure repairs and maintenance on such things as forest roads, bridges, and other structures that are critical to the management of agency lands and that benefit visitors and communities. The backlog on forest roads and bridges alone is $3.4 billion.

To get involved with the Trail Challenge you may:

* Contact the nearest forest or grassland office to get more information on what they are doing locally.
* Join or organize a coalition of citizens and work with the agency to address the issues.
* Be mindful of how you use the trails by using Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly outdoor ethics standards.

For more information, email fstrailmanagement@usda.gov. National organizations or corporations can get more information about becoming a Forest Service partner by contacting Marlee Ostheimer, National Forest Foundation Conservation Partnership Manager, at 406-542-2805 or mostheimer@nationalforests.org.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Smokies Announces Paving Project in Deep Creek Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a $1.15 million pavement preservation project will begin on Monday, March 2 in the Deep Creek area near Bryson City, NC. Paving will occur along 2.5 miles of area roadways including West Deep Creek Road, East Deep Creek Road, campground and picnic area roads, and day-use parking areas. Work is expected to be completed by Friday, May 15, weather depending.

The Deep Creek picnic pavilion, parking areas, roadways, and trails will remain accessible throughout the project, although visitors should expect delays due to single-lane closures. 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 weekends or holidays including the week before and after Easter from April 5 through April 19. The campground and picnic area are expected to open for the 2020 season on Thursday, May 21.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $1.15 million paving contract to Estes Brothers Construction Inc. of Jonesville, VA. Crews will repair and seal pavement cracks before applying the thin, asphalt overlay. This pavement preservation project will extend the life of the 20-year old asphalt surface.

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



Jeff
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Crews Begin Clearing Mudslide on Spur

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Federal Highways Administration staff assessed the mudslide on the Spur this morning and began clearing operations. The mudslide contains an estimated 500 cubic yards of material in a pile approximately 100 feet in length and 70 feet high covering both lanes of the northbound Spur between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Staff estimate that the removal will require at least 45 dump truck loads of material to be hauled from the site. Currently, operators are using two excavators and seven dump trucks to clear the area. Weather depending, the removal is expected to be complete by this evening.

The slide is located just past Westgate Resorts Road along the northbound lanes of the Spur. Northbound traffic is detoured for approximately one mile at Westgate Resorts Road to Little Smoky Road before reentering the Spur from Beech Branch Road just before the tunnel. Large trucks and over-sized vehicles are being detoured east of Gatlinburg to Highway 321 to use alternate routes such as Highway 416.

National Park Service rangers have received assistance with traffic management by the Gatlinburg Police Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, and Sevier County Emergency Management Agency.

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



Jeff
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President Proposes $2.8 Billion FY21 Budget for National Park Service

President Trump has proposed a $2.8 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the National Park Service (NPS) prioritizing core mission capacity, increasing recreational and public access and infrastructure improvement.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would help address billions of dollars’ worth of backlogged maintenance, including structures, trails, roads, and utility systems across the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The proposal would allocate $6.5 billion over five years, supported by the deposit of 50 percent of all Federal energy development revenue that would otherwise be credited or deposited as miscellaneous receipts to the Treasury over the 2020–2024 period.

"President Trump’s budget supports our ongoing efforts to rebuild, restore, and reinvigorate park facilities and infrastructure for this and future generations,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “The President’s request provides funding to modernize our aging facilities, increase accessibility to our public lands for all visitors, and improve our resilience and response to fires and natural disasters.”

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee stated yesterday, “I am also glad to see the budget continues to include the president’s proposal to rebuild our national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that I introduced with Senators Portman, Warner, and King, is based on the president’s proposal and will cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks. This legislation is the only way to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our 419 national parks, and the Trump Administration agrees."


Budget Highlights

Infrastructure
The President’s budget continues to emphasize infrastructure and asset management. The NPS asset portfolio includes more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 21,000 miles of trails and 25,000 buildings that serve more than 300 million annual national park visitors. To manage NPS assets, the budget proposes $844.2 million for facility operations and maintenance. Aging facilities and high visitation have created a significant need for infrastructure and facility recapitalization and modernization. To address those needs, the facility operations and maintenance funding includes $188.2 million for cyclic maintenance projects and $121.1 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

In addition to operations funding, the President’s budget provides $192.6 million for the construction appropriation, which funds construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $127.8 million for line-item construction projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the significant maintenance requirements across the NPS. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2019, NPS leveraged $175 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in FY 2020 and FY 2021, $200 and $205 million in fee revenues respectively will be utilized for similar facility and infrastructure projects.

Park Operations
The FY 2021 NPS budget requests $2.5 billion for park operations. The budget proposes $44.2 million to support and enhance diverse public access and recreational opportunities, including $1 million for the Veterans Trades Apprentice Corps, $7.5 million for trail rehabilitation and $1.2 million for family camping experiences and education. The budget also proposes $7 million for increases in operational funding for new and critical responsibilities, including $223,000 for the life home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and $300 thousand for Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site.

To mitigate wildfire risk to visitors, staff and park infrastructure, the budget proposes an increase of $3 million ($4 million in total) for infrastructure resiliency projects at the most urgent sites.

The President’s budget also proposes $11 million to support large-scale wildlife conservation efforts focused on leveraging collaboration between parks and neighboring communities, tribes and states with the goal of implementing all state and local conservation Action Plans.



Jeff
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Friday, February 7, 2020

Mount LeConte Records 7 Inches of Rain Yesterday!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park posted this on their Facebook page a short while ago:
As these photos show, weather in the Smokies can be extreme and fast-changing! Yesterday, we saw rainfall totals ranging from 5.09 inches at Park Headquarters to 7.04 inches at Mount LeConte. Today, snow has been softly falling all morning at Park Headquarters, and Mount LeConte had around 4 inches of snow as of 9:00 a.m.

Please remember when traveling in the park to check weather forecasts and come prepared. Road closure information can be viewed on Twitter at @SmokiesRoadsNPS; no Twitter account is necessary to see this page.
The park and the region isn't quite out of the woods just yet. Here's the forecast from the National Weather Service:
This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...Today and Tonight

Accumulating snowfall expected across the northern Plateau and higher elevations of East Tennessee and southwest Virginia early this morning and into the afternoon as cold air continues to spill into the region, changing rain to snow. Widespread precipitation will end later this morning and become more isolated by the afternoon.

Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are expected with locally higher amounts up to 5 inches possible across the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains within advisory areas.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible today across the eastern TN Mountains above 3500/4000 feet due to a tightening pressure gradient. Downed trees are possible due to saturated soils.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Saturday through Thursday

The wet pattern will continue into next week with several rounds of rainfall expected, mainly Monday and Monday night, and again next Thursday. Given the saturated soils and high stream levels, any additional rainfall may cause flooding issues.


For updates on park road closures, please visit: https://twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps



Jeff
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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Park Facilities Closed Due to Inclement Weather

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Elkmont Campground will be closed for the remainder of today, February 6, 2020, due to inclement weather throughout the region.

At this time, the following park roads are closed due to high waters and debris along the roadways: Little River Road from Laurel Falls Trail to the Townsend Wye, Wear Cove Gap Road, Greenbrier Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Lakeview Drive, and Upper Tremont Road. Backcountry trails remain open throughout the park, but trailhead access is limited due to road closures. Hikers are advised to alter their routes to avoid trails with river crossings or to wait until the rivers recede.

For the most up to date information about road closures, follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter. Visitors may also call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Flash Flood Watch Issued for Smoky Mountains Region

If you're in the Smokies, or planning to visit over the next few days, please be aware of the following bulletins from the National Weather Service. Also keep in mind that streams throughout the park will be well above average flows for the next several days. In additions to the flash flood warnings, the National Weather Service is also warning about the possibility of tornadoes tomorrow, and snow on Friday:
Heavy rainfall with potential for flooding tonight through Thursday evening...

.A slow-moving frontal system will bring periods of heavy rain through Thursday. Today`s rainfall has created favorable conditions for flash flooding with another round of showers and thunderstorms tonight and Thursday. Heavy showers and thunderstorms that repeatedly track over the same areas could result in flash flooding of creeks and streams tonight and Thursday.

...FLASH FLOOD WATCH NOW IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE THURSDAY NIGHT...

The Flash Flood Watch is now in effect for

* Portions of southwest North Carolina, east Tennessee, and southwest Virginia, including the following areas, in southwest North Carolina, Cherokee and Clay. In east Tennessee, Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount Smoky Mountains, Bradley, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke Smoky Mountains, East Polk, Grainger, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Morgan, North Sevier, Northwest Blount, Northwest Carter, Northwest Cocke, Northwest Greene, Northwest Monroe, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier Smoky Mountains, Southeast Carter, Southeast Greene, Southeast Monroe, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Washington, and West Polk. In southwest Virginia, Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington, and Wise.

* Through late Thursday night

* Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected with isolated higher amounts.

* Heavy rain with showers and thunderstorms could cause flash flooding. People in the watch area should be aware of the possibility of rapidly rising creeks and streams. Avoid low lying areas...and be careful when approaching highway dips and underpasses. Never attempt to drive across a flooded road.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation.

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take quick action if flooding is observed or a Flash Flood Warning is issued. If you come to a closed or flooded road...turn around! Don`t drown!

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...This Afternoon and Tonight

Periods of heavy rain are expected through Thursday. Today`s rainfall will create favorable conditions for flash flooding with another round of heavy rain tonight through Thursday morning. Showers and thunderstorms that repeatedly track over the same areas could result in flash flooding of creeks and streams tonight and Thursday. Rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches are expected across the area with locally higher amounts possible. Isolated strong to severe storms with damaging wind gusts the primary threat later this evening and overnight into Thursday morning. A few tornadoes could occur as well.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Thursday through Tuesday

The potential for heavy rain and flooding will continue through Thursday evening. Isolated strong to severe storms may affect southeast Tennessee mountains and southwest North Carolina early Thursday morning.

Thursday night rain will change to snow across the higher elevations. The eastern TN mountains could see 1 to 2 inches of snow by Friday afternoon above 3500 feet.

.SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT...

Spotter activation may be needed tonight.




Jeff
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Construction Begins on Appalachian Trail Center in Downtown Damascus

Yesterday morning, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and its partners broke ground on the construction of a new Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Center in Damascus, Virginia. This Center will introduce visitors to a variety of helpful information about the A.T. and outdoor recreation in the area, including suggestions for planning hikes and ways to get involved in conservation.

“Damascus has long been a destination for outdoor recreation in southwest Virginia, with the Appalachian Trail bringing tens of thousands of people to Damascus alone every year,” said Andrew Downs, ATC senior regional director. “This new Trail center will help us prepare both new and experienced hikers to enjoy and protect the Trail and its surrounding lands for future generations of outdoor adventurers and nature lovers.”

Located on West Laurel Avenue — just a few steps from the A.T. as it passes through downtown Damascus — the 2,300-square-foot center will be staffed by ATC and support visitor information, educational exhibits and details about neighboring trails. The Center will also serve as a volunteer training hub, providing classes for range of groups who help maintain and protect the A.T.

“The center plays a key role in Damascus as the centerpoint for our downtown — a gravitational core,” noted Gavin Blevins, town manager of Damascus and senior planner for the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission. “It will build upon long-standing partnerships with the ATC, U.S. Forest Service and many other regional entities and partners who have either shown support already or with whom we are currently and continuing to work.”

A joint project of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Town of Damascus and the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the visitor center is currently scheduled to complete construction in late May or early June this year. For the latest updates on the progression of the Trail Center’s construction, keep an eye on www.appalachiantrail.org.

Damascus is also a gateway community for Grayson Highland State Park, which is famous for its wild ponies, as well as its access to Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. This hike is arguably one of the best hikes in the eastern U.S.



Jeff
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Big South Fork Fire Crews Prepare for 2020 Prescribed Fire Season

During the spring months of 2020, fire crews will conduct prescribed fire operations, located along Darrow Ridge Road, in the Tennessee district of the Big South Fork. Prescribed fire, as defined in the approved Fire Management Plan, will be located within the boundaries of the park.

Approximately 800 acres are scheduled to be burned, on the west side to Proctor Ridge Horse Trail on the east side down to the creek. During the burns, some park roads and trails may be closed temporarily for visitor safety.

As priority, fire crews are now working on prepping these units to burn safely and effectively. The expectation is and will be to initiate the prescribed fire as soon as possible. Local communities can expect minimal smoke and visibility impacts.

Implementation of burn operations is dependent upon a variety of conditions. Prescribed fires are conducted within specific parameters including temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture, and wind speed to name a few.

Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients tied up in vegetation, duff, and organic soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals. During the planning of these prescribed burn units, areas of historical, cultural, and ecological importance are protected.



Jeff
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