Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fire Burns in Townsend TN so National Park Service says no to Cataloochee fire.

Today's prescribed burn which was to take place in Cataloochee valley in the Great Smoky Mountains national park has been postponed again.

With relative humilities for too low for a safe burn, the fire management staff decided at 2:00 pm to call off today prescribed burn.

According to the national park service a high fire danger exists right now in both Tennessee as well as North Carolina and there is even a reported wildfire burning just north of the national park boundaries in Townsend TN.

Weaverville North Carolina emergency call system launching in March 2007

The township of Weaverville North Carolina located near Asheville in the Smoky Mountains is about to launch their CodeRED emergency notification system so that town officials can contact Weaverville resident in case of an emergency.

The CodeRED automated emergency notification system would call up to 60,000 residents an hour and warm them if there is a potential danger and can be used by the police, fire and public works officials. The system is capable of contacting residents on a specific street, neighborhood or the entire town of Weaverville NC and the Weaverville fire district.

At Your Smokies we encourage all residents of Weaverville North Carolina to log onto the Weaverville town web site and fill out the free CodeRED emergency notification registration and make sure that your home, cell and work numbers are listed. The town of Weaverville is still updating its database of emergency contact phone numbers in anticipation of the system launch in March.

According to Town Council member Don Hallingse “Whether it’s a waterline break, a missing child, we can get a hold of the people we need to instantly." He went on to say "It’s definitely important for us to have this, so, in case of an emergency, we can get a hold of the folks that are affected by what’s going on".

Burn Baby Burn - so says the National Park Service in the Smoky Mountains.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was expecting to conduct a prescribed burn in the Cataloochee Valley North Carolina last Saturday but due to the weather in the Smokies creating an unsafe condition, the burn has been rescheduled for today February 28th.

Last Saturday in Cataloochee Valley both the humidity was too low and the forecasted winds would have been too high to have allowed a safe burn. The idea of a safe prescribed burn is to have the condition as such that the fire would do its job but not get out of control and spread throughout the Smoky Mountains National park.

Again I suggest that you stay away from the area and let the national park service do their job.

Friday, February 23, 2007

National Park Service will start a prescribed burn in Cataloochee North Carolina section of the National Park February 24th 2007

I would suggest if you are visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend that you avoid the Cataloochee NC area because of the smoke, partial road closures, fire fighting equipment and fire personal needed to help restore both pine and Oak woodlands.

Fire can pose a huge danger to the parks inhabitants, historical building, neighboring farms and homes because an uncontrolled fire in the wild can spread like - well - wildfire. Because of this National Parks and state parks and forests have been suppressing forest fires for years.

Unfortunately a natural environment needs fires to maintain a healthy balance and the forests, valleys, fields and woodlands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is no exception.

Fires can clear old vegetation, open tree canopies to allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor allowing more bio diversity. Some plants such as some pine trees have seeds that won't germinate unless exposed to heat created by fire. Different species of trees and bushes have different flammability factors and thus a fast burning fire may burn and kill some plants while other plants which are more fire tolerant may not be affected.

Since natural and accidental forest fires have been suppressed for more than 60 years in the Smoky Mountains, some species of tress such as maple trees which have a low fire tolerance, have spread quickly, dominated habitats and have taken over what was traditionally a xeric oak forest community in the Smokies. Along with the black oak, scarlet oak, and chestnut oaks a fire tolerant xeric oak forest community also has hickory trees a staple wood of locally made Smoky Mountains furniture.

The national park service is planning to burn a 530 acre area in the forest of the Cataloochee Valley this weekend in an effort to help in the restoration of both pine and oak woodlands. Oak woodlands are crucial to the survival of black bears in the Smokies as their diet largely consists of acorns and bears commonly use oak trees in order to den. The new habitat and additional forage created by this prescribed burn will also benefit the Elk that have been introduced into the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Surprisingly this is not the first time that this area has been intentionally burned by the NPS. The same area had a prescribed burn treatment in April of 2004 and more treatments will be needed in order to completely restore the xeric oak forest habitat.

In order to help keep the fire under control that area where the prescribed burn is to take place is bordered an established fire control line, 2 wet drainages, a road, and grassy meadowland all of which borders the open meadows of Cataloochee at the western end of the Cataloochee Valley.

You will also find up to 25 Park firefighters and 2 fire engines will be in the area to keep the fire under control with some fire personnel helping to escort hikers to trails that remain open.

Still insist on going to Cataloochee NC this weekend?

The following areas will be closed:

  • The road from Shanty Branch to the Rough Fork Trailhead in Cataloochee Valley
  • The Hiram Caldwell Cemetery

The following will remain open:

  • Rough Fork Trail
  • Big Fork Ridge Trail
  • Dock Caldwell Cemetery (E of Shanty Branch)

My suggestion is stay away from this section of the GSMNP and let the National Park Service do their job. There is plenty to see and do in other sections of the park.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Smoky Mountains National Park grows in popularity but is that a good thing?

The figures are in. America's most popular national park the Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to grow in popularity with 9,416,734 visitors in 2006 - a 2% increase over 2005 but is this good news for the most loved national park?

This is the largest increase in visitors to the GSMNP in 5 years. Even higher gas prices didn't drive away tourists and locals from coming. Even the off season months are seeing huge gains some of which have broken previous national park visitor records but summer peak season was off compared to previous years. Leaf season which runs from September to November picked up the slack for the lower summer visitation numbers.

Camping within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also on the increase with approximately 351,000 campers staying in both the frontcountry and backcountry areas of the National Park. Backcountry camping has seen only a negligible increase of a few hundred campers and frontcountry camping has seen an increase of almost 2 percent increase of approximately 6,000 additional visitors.

Visitation increases in 2006 to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park did not increase evenly across all of the park entrances. Where the Gatlinburg TN entrance to the park has seen almost flat increases visitation figures, outlying areas such as Cosby TN, Big Creek TN, Cataloochee NC and the like have seen visitor increases of 5%.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Visitation by Park Entrance for 2006
Outlying Areas (TN and NC)2,211,186+ 5%
Townsend Tennessee1,482,059+ 3%
Cherokee N Carolina2,321,471+ 2%
Gatlinburg Tennessee3,402,018< +1%
Total9,416,734+ 2%

So what does all mean to the park, the visitors and outlying businesses in and around the Smoky Mountains?

The park is already stressed. The entire park staff and volunteers are doing an exceptional job with extremely limited resources which are already stretched to the breaking point.

Some of the roads, facilities and trails are badly in need of repair and show signs of overuse or abuse. Where 1 person carelessly tossing a tissue on a trail is bad, dozen or hundreds dropping even small pieces of litter or even organic matter such as apple cores or orange peels in quite another thing.

Walking or hiking off of designated trails is not illegal, but can do serious damage to environmentally sensitive areas. One person who is careful may not do significant damage but again, in numbers many people wondering around off of designated hiking trails can do serious damage to plants as well as the habitats of sensitive insects, aquatic life and animals.

What goes for staying on the "beaten path" also goes for walking through streams and moving rocks and aquatic plants. It is best to cross streams at regular crossings and not to disturb what is in the stream bed.

The areas in and around the Smoky Mountains are growing by leaps and bounds making the top Real Estate agents and real estate brokers and well as mortgage companies and banks in the Smokies quite happy.

Cabin companies, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions are also seeing increased revenue due to the many people who fall in love with the Smokies many of which come back again and again.

What these 2006 park visitation figures are showing is that more and more people are looking to experience the lesser known and lesser visited parts of the Smoky Mountains National Park. Is this phenomenon because the same visitors have seen the more popular areas of the park and are looking for some place new or are they trying to avoid the crowds of the most visited parts of this national park? I would be interested to know and I am conducting my own straw poll in regard to this.

Since so many businesses in the Smokies benefit because of tourism to the park, I make this plea to donate to organizations such as Friends of the Smokies or have a company picnic in the park after you have everyone spend an hour or two picking up litter in the park. Not only will the visitors who come to the park - your customers - appreciate it, you will feel better doing something good for the environment.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hiking Clubs in the Smokies...where are you?

Hiking clubs that go for day hikes or overnight hikes on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding National Forests, State Parks, and local parks in the Smokies - we want to hear from you!

Not only do we want to hear from hiking clubs in the North Carolina and Tennessee Smoky Mountains but also local historical societies, bird watching groups, conservation groups and animal rescue groups.

In the past month and a half I have had the honor on hiking with a local hiking group as well as working with a conservation group in the Smokies. It is always interesting to meet and enjoy the company of like minded people and I want more people to enjoy these outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains as I do.

We are looking to add your non profit wildlife group or organization for free in our listings of local resources order to promote your activities and fund raising efforts in the Your Smokies Smoky Mountain directory.

With so many people who are interested in the enjoyment and preservation of the Smoky Mountains moving into the area everyday, we want to be able to match these great potential volunteers, members and contributors to your Smoky Mountain group.

Thousands of people visit Your Smokies everyday actively looking for wildlife, hiking and conservation information. Locals and tourist alike use our resources so this is a fantastic way to promote your Smoky Mountains organization or club for free.

Hiking, historical and conservation groups in any area of the Smokies email us at: SmokiesClubs2 (at)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The new Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping reservation system.

Campground reservations in the Smoky Mountains National Park can now be made on the new reservation system on the new web site: www.Recreation.Gov.

Not only can campground reservations in the Smokies can be made on this web site, it takes reservations for other federal recreation areas and offers information of tours and various facilities as well as intergraded Google maps.

The new Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping reservation system

This new interagency recreation portal site is filled with information and links to other government and public information and scientific sites. is a consolidation of,, and and offers a far more user friendly option for people researching natural and historic sites.

I immediately signed up for the site and joined the mailing list and did in depth research on the site and found while there is a long way to go before I consider the site complete, this is the best government recreational site by far. More pretravel research can be done from the comfort of your armchair than ever before and you can now book your campsite up to 6 months in advance.

You can even reserve group campsites and picnic pavilions in the Great Smoky Mountains national park up to 12 months in advance.

If you want, there is a toll free number (877) 444-6777 which is open from 10 am to midnight (EST).

Your Smokies is looking for a few good men and women for advertising sales

The fastest growing Smoky Mountain Directory is looking for professional sales associates throughout the entire Smoky Mountain Region. Areas of key interest are Asheville North Carolina, Knoxville Tennessee and the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville TN area. We need dozens more sales people to cover the tens of thousands of potential advertisers in the Smoky Mountains.

help wanted for advertising sales

We are looking for honest, professional, self motivated salespersons with good communications skills and a high level of computer literacy. Marketing and advertising experience a big plus.

This is a high commission opportunity paying comsssions starting at 20% with an unlimited income potential. The only limits to your income potentials are your sales skills and effort. We even pay commissions on advertising renewals and for recruiting high performing salespersons into our sales program.

Full Time or Part time the choice is your as well as your hours. Work harder and smarter and we both make more.

Interested in working for the best internet site for the Smokies?

More information can be found at our Help Wanted for Internet Advertising Account Executive page.

National Parks benefit from Digital Cameras.

When talking with a National Park official of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park almost 2 weeks ago I suddenly had a realization about how much the proliferation of digital photography has helped the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and for that mater all national parks in the United States.

The funny thing is that all these years traveling in national and state parks around the country hiking trails, fishing, boating, and horseback riding in all the nooks and crannies of these parks that it took until now to realize how tremendous the positive effect of this new technology.

As you can see by yesterday's article on littering in the Smokies, I hate litter bugs. Whether I am hiking on a trail or snorkeling on a reef, I clean up trash when I see it. Over the years I have picked up trash of all sorts from beer cans to old shoes and hundreds and hundreds of 35mm film canisters, empty Kodak and Fuji film boxes and my fair share of used flash bulbs, flash cubes and flash sticks.

Film in the Smoky Mountains

While most serious nature photographers that visit our national parks are great protectors of the environment, many amateur and professional photographers have been careless over the years and tossed or lost photographic trash on and around trails and waterways within our national and state parks and forests.

I also gave great thought to all the chemicals used in the manufacturer of the film itself and as well as the processing and the printing let alone the plastics, metal film and cardboard used in the packaging of 35mm or other size photographic film.

All is not golden however with digital outdoor photography. The excessive use and improper disposal of batteries can be a huge environmental disadvantage of digital cameras. The chemicals and the heavy metals inside the common household battery can do far more damage to the environment and its inhabitants than the cardboard and plastic packaging ever could.

The environmental damage of the batteries from digital camera could very easily be avoided by simply having enough rechargeable batteries on hand. Not only would this save any photographer a bundle over the lifetime of the camera, it would greatly reduce the environmental impact of digital photography to virtually zero.

I close with a quick outdoor digital photography tip for those photographing the great outdoors in the Smoky Mountains. Turn your flash off when taking pictures during a snow fall or foggy weather. Both snow and fog reflect your flash making for very poor pictures.

Here's to taking great pictures in one of the most beautiful places in the world - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding areas in the Smoky Mountains!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Help stop litter in the Tennessee Smokies!

Someone listened about one of my biggest pet peeves -litter - and now there is something you can do about it as the state of Tennessee now gives you the power to report litter bugs in the Smokies and all over the state!

Littering is not only filthy, selfish behavior, it is a crime. The penalties might not be monetarily as stiff as I wish they would be, but the community service for even first time offenders is fitting to the crime.

Tennessee law states that first time offenders will have to pay a $500 fine and are required to pick up the mess they made as well as other litterbugs in public places for anywhere between 40 hours on up to 6 months. Get caught littering again and your fine is $1,500 and you may also be ordered to clean up wherever you littered and spend up to 6 months cleaning up of the offensive litter or work in a recycling center.

So what can you do as the law abiding no littering Good Samaritan in Tennessee? Now if you see some offensive jerk throw something out the window of their car or litter in any way the highways or byways of Tennessee call (877)-8-LITTER (877) 854-8837 and provide the required information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the offender and you can earn as much as $250!

The information you need to supply is:

  • Make, model and license plate of the vehicle
  • Location, time and date of the littering incident
  • What type of litter the offender tossed from the vehicle or dumped

What happens next is the new StopLitter statewide anti-litter campaign takes over and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) sends a letter to the registered owner of the offending vehicle reminding them of the severity offender of the law and warning them of the consequence of future offenses and provides the offender with a portable ashtray or trash bag.

Personally I feel as though they should save the money rather than sending these trinkets to offenders or they should be billed for these souvenirs that they earned for such disgusting and offense behavior.

The director of the StopLitter campaign Allison Teeters has been quoted as saying that it is more effective deterrent that the sate is contacting the litterbugs rather than local entities. She goes on to say "If churches, businesses, and schools would get together to pick up litter, they can make a positive impact." and that "We provide gloves, bags, and litter pickers for free. ... We are about enabling citizens to take action, and for them to decide a clean community is important."

I strongly agree that if an area is clean and litter free, often it is a deterrent to people who may litter not to do it. If an area is riddled with trash or graffiti for that matter people often don't care as much.

Please help keep the Smokies and all communities clean and put this phone number into your cell phones speed dial today - I bet you will use it within months! The Smokies and I thank you for doing you part in keeping this beautiful area clean of litter and trash.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Newfound Gap (441) Road Reopened

Finally after days of opening and closing of Newfound Gap Road (441) was reopened to all vehicles but icy conditions are still possible and drivers should still drive with extra caution.

The past few days have seen numerous closings and restrictions to 4 wheel drive vehicles on this main road going through the Smoky Mountain National Park due to mother nature and old man winter.

Drivers should also pay special care on the North Carolina side as there has been continuing road construction and repair and with the additional danger of possible ice.

Sunday, February 04, 2007