Wednesday, November 22, 2006

2 day Cades Cove Loop partial closure in the National Park

Due to ongoing efforts by the park department to eradicate the exotic Hemlock Woolly Adelgid from infested hemlock trees, the Cades Cove loop road will be partially closed to bike and vehicular traffic from November 28th through November 29th 2006 – weather permitting.

Fortunately the closure will not shut down the entire loop on Wednesday the 29th and this interruption is after the Thanksgiving peak traffic expected in the 11 mile Cades cove loop. On Wednesday only the far western end of the loop will be closed so vehicles and bikes must exit the back end of the loop at the Hyatt Lane bypass. Those looking to hike the Cooper Road trail, Abrams Falls trail, Rabbit Creek trail, Wet Bottom Trails, and Gregory Ridge trailhead must walk to the trailhead, same if you wish to visit the Cable Mill area.

If the weather conditions in the Smoky Mountain National Park do not permit spraying due to heavy rain or freezing temperatures the closure will be rescheduled. I have also been advised that if all goes well that the road may be reopened during the latter part of November 29th. The Cades Cove Visitor Center will be closed on both the 28th and the 29th, but the restroom facilities will remain open. You may call the national park at (865) 436-1200 to find out the days status of the road closure.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park with have forestry technicians spray infected hemlock tress in Cades Cove with a soap/oil solution sprayed from large truck-mounted units that should help control this pest. According to Tom Remaley, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project Coordinator "This is one of three treatment methods that we employ throughout the Park. The hemlock trees that have been treated along the Loop Road over the past several years appear to be strong and healthy. Just beyond the reach of the roadside spraying equipment, there is a noticeable decline of hemlock trees showing signs of branch mortality, twig dieback, and foliage discoloration."

spray head

This is not the only way the national park service employs to control the pesky Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. The park service also uses systemic insecticides and biocontrol insects in an effort to eradicate the pest which was discovered in the Smokies in 2002.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Sugarlands Visitor Center comes alive December 6th with a celebration.

A special event sponsored by Discover Life in America Inc will honor those have participated for the past 10 years in the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory.

Reservations are required for this event which will pay homage to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff, scientists, volunteers, and educators who have helped survey all species of plant and animal life in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Because of the immense bio diversity of the park all of the hard work done, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) has been able to find more than 650 new species in the National Park that have been previously unidentified to science!

This monumental event will take place from 6 to 8 pm and will include such entertainment as live Celtic tunes on banjo, fiddles, and guitar performed by the Mumbillies band, and stories being told by renowned storyteller Charles Maynard in the Sugarlands Visitor Center Theater. Expect some fine food from the Walters State Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts.

Want to join us? Contact Jeanie Hilten at 865/430-4752 by December 4 to reserve your spot. A $10 donation is suggested to help support the ATBI project, but please give what you can. Please send your donation to:

Discover Life in America
314 Cherokee Orchard Road,
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738

I would also like to extend a special thanks to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona for their generous donations.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Visitor Center, Camping, Picnicking and Road Closures Winter Schedule for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Winter in the Smoky Mountains National Park means far fewer visitors to the park and can bring on rough road conditions due to the weather. Be advised that while there is snow on the ground roads may be closed to all traffic or may be only open to vehicles with 4 wheel drive or chains.

Weather permitting the visitor centers will remain open during the winter in the National Park. The following are the visitor centers that will be open as well as their winter schedule hours:

  • Cades Cove Visitor Center 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Sugarlands Visitor Center 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Driving the mountains roads of the Smoky Mountain National Park can be challenging in good weather and dangerous in snow or ice.

Parson Branch Road is still closed due to pervious storm damage and both Balsam Mountain/Heintooga and Roundbottom Roads are already closed for the winter season.

The next scheduled closures are:

  • November 10: Rich Mountain Road
  • November 13: Straight Fork Road
  • December 1: Clingmans Dome Road and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

All other roads including the Cades Cove Loop Road, Cosby Road, Greenbrier Road, Upper Tremont, Little Greenbrier, Forge Creek, Lakeview Drive, Newfound Gap (U.S. 441), Little River, The Gatlinburg Bypass and Foothills Parkway will remain open during the winter as long as weather and safe driving conditions permit.

As of November 22nd the LeConte Lodge will be closed and the campgrounds in Elkmont will close December 1st.

The Cades Cove campgrounds and the Smokemont campgrounds will remain open all winter long but all of the other remain campgrounds will be closed for the winter season.

Well you want have to swat flies when picnicking in the winter but you can enjoy a family picknic in the following open picnic areas:

  • Big Creek
  • Cades Cove
  • Chimney Tops
  • Cosby
  • Deep Creek
  • Greenbrier
  • Metcalf Bottoms

Enjoy all the peace and solitude the Smokies have to offer all winter long!

Bike Rental and Equestrian Winter Schedule for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to bike, camp, hike and go horseback riding in during the winter but be advised that not all facilities will be open or are on a limited schedule.

My favorite month to enjoy the national park is May, but I love the peace and solitude of hiking in the park in the winter. Although some of the wildlife you will see in the spring, summer and fall such as bear is almost impossible to see in the winter, you will have greater visibility in the woods and less of the Smokies natural haze that surrounds the mountains which can make for spectacular views.

Biking in Cades Cove is popular year round and bikes can be rented in the Cades Cove campground store. The Cades Cove campgrounds store will close for the winter starting November 6th. Unfortunately there are no other facilities in the park which rent bikes so if you wish to bike the Cades Cove loop in the next few months you will have to bring your own bicycles. The vending machines outside the store will remain stocked and in service throughout the winter.

Renting and riding horses in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a vacation highlight for many of those who visit the park, but the stable where you can rent the horses close for the winter.

The Smokemont Riding Stable is already closed and on November 6th the Cades Cove Riding Stables will close for the season. Horse can still be rented in both the Sugarlands Horseback Riding Stables and the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables until November 27th.

If you are planning to bring your own horse and camp in the park, do so before November 13th as all five of the camp ground that accept horses Big Creek, Tow String, Round Bottom, Cataloochee, and Anthony Creek will be closed by then.

If you plan on riding the trails, be sure to check with the ranger station before doing so as some of the trails are still impacted by last months wind storm and although these trails are safe for hiking, they are still dangerous for horseback riders.