Thursday, December 28, 2006

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopens Newfound Gap Road (US 441)

Drivers can now use the popular Newfound Gap Road (US 441) that runs through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park from North Carolina to Tennessee without 4 wheel drive or snow chains restrictions.

It is strongly advised that drivers still remain extremely cautious especially on the Tennessee side and in shadier areas as there are still some icy spots on the road which should melt by later today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Road closure due to Ice in the Smoky Mountain National Park

Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) which runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has just been closed by park officials for the night.

Too many areas of the road started freezing again make driving on this major park road hazardous. Park officials hope to reopen the road weather permitting by 9:00 tomorrow but have advised us that there may be restrictions again allowing only vehicles with 4 wheel-drive or tire chains when the road reopens.

Newfound Gap Road opens to 4 wheel drive vehicles

The Great Smoky Mountains National Parks major thoroughfare Newfound Gap Road has just been opened between Cherokee North Carolina and Gatlinburg Tennessee - but only to 4 wheel drive vehicles or vehicles with tire chains.

Yesterday's stormy weather closed the road to all traffic but as long as the Smokies weather permits and the snow and ice on the road keep melting Newfound Gap Road (441) will remain open.

Drivers are cautioned that there are still some icy stretches on the Tennessee side of the road mostly in shaded areas.

Before driving late in the day or this evening you may wish to call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park automated information telephone number at (865) 436-1200 as the road may close again as lower temperatures may cause further freezing and hazardous conditions even for vehicles that are driving with snow chains or 4 wheel drive.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2 horseback trails still closed in the Smoky Mountain National Park

A strong windstorm in October closed most of the roads, hiking trails and horseback riding trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The roads were all opened rather quickly as well as the hiking trails but 2 trails are still closed to horseback riding.

Enough of the 2 closed trails are still damaged from uprooted tress that riding horses on these trails would pose a hazard to riders so the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail and the Gregory Bald Trail from campsite #13 to Parsons Branch Road in the Cades Cove area of the National Park remain closed and will hopefully be able to reopen some time in the spring.

Grotto Falls Trail Closed in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Hazardous conditions caused by hillside erosion prompted the national park service to close the Popular Grotto Falls hiking trail in the Roaring Fork area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near Gatlinburg Tennessee.

The hillside above the trail has been made unstable due to 3 large hemlock trees that fell down a steep slope by the trail. Even though the trees have been removed by the national parks trail crew, rock and mud will continue to slide down causing an unsafe condition for hikers.

The normal freeze and thaw cycle and rain will further loosen the rock and losses vegetation which is expected to fall before the hiking trail is reopened hopefully sometime in the spring of 2007. Since these trees originally kept the hillside reinforced, the National park service has to now let nature take its course.

Grotto Falls Trail Closed in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The actual slide area pictured above (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service) closure takes place approximately 1/4 mile from the trailhead which is located right next to the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. The closure affects a 1.3 mile section of the Trillium Gap Trail between the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the Grotto Falls.

Hikers who come from Cherokee Orchard Road will still be able to trek for a little less than 2-1/2 miles before they reach the closure which will keep hikers form reaching Mt. LeConte from the Trillium Gap Trail. Hikers have a choice of 4 other trails such as Alum Cave that will take them to the summit of Mount Le Conte.

Snow Closes National Park Newfound Gap Road today

A mess rainy and snow mixture in the higher elevations of the Smoky Mountain National Park made for dangerous traveling and prompted a road closure on Newfound Gap Road (US 441) a major through road.

The rangers made decision at 10:00 am this morning to close the roads as the conditions are worsening. What started out a rain became slush and then eventually icy conditions on the road as the temperatures dropped throughout the national park.

Sand trucks were at first effective in the Smoky Mountain National Park but with 30 mph plus wind gusts and heavy snow, the park service realized that it wasn't going to get any better so they closed the road.

An effort is on right now with the sand trucks trying to help cars already on the roads to get down the mountains safely and help them out of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

While sudden extreme blizzards are rare in the Smoky Mountain National Park, it is always best to check the local Smoky Mountain Weather this time of year before venturing into high altitudes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Merry Christmas from Your Smokies

One crisp morning last January a light snow started falling in Gatlinburg before dawn broke. I walked out on the deck of my cabin near the Roaring Fork and decided to hike up to Mount Le Conte in the fresh snow.

I bundled up and drove to the Roaring Fork motor trail expecting to park near the Rainbow Falls parking area, but enough snow feel that the gates were closed. The road ahead of me was dusted with snow and besides foot prints from white tail deer and small animals the snow was pristine.

I grabbed my camera and hiking poles and headed up hill through the virgin snow. The peace and beauty were over whelming. Every few minutes I could hear the sound of snow falling from the rhododendron leaves because it piled to high for them to hold another single flake.

I reached the trailhead for Rainbow falls which would take me past the falls all the way to Le Conte. The snow was already past my ankles but I knew this hike would be worth the effort. Hiking parallel to the creek which was to my right I kept stopping to catch my breath - not from exertion but just the sheer beauty of the Smokies in winter.

The roar of the ice cold creek in the ravine was strong, but not so much that I couldn't hear the deer to my left bolt into the woods in a flash - too fast for me to take a picture but long enough for me to enjoy. I turned to continue up the trail and saw some ferns peeking through some snow in an area where some large pine tress sheltered them from the brunt of the snow.

Even though it was mid January all I could think was Christmas and click - here it is!

Christmas in the Smokies

Hundreds of pictures that day - some spectacular - some inspirational - this one, simple and plain speaks to me about Christmas and peace.

Wishing a very Merry Christmas with a happy and healthy New Year to all of our visitors, customers, sales persons and vendors. I could not have the best job in the world without each and every one of you. May all of you find the peace and joy in the Smokies that I have.

Christopher Hibbard - President of Your Smokies