Friday, March 30, 2007

Western North Carolina wildfires burn larger area in 2007

Dry and windy conditions this year has made Western NC a tinderbox as more than 350 wildfires has already burned more than 2,600 acres and between continued dry weather and record breaking temperatures the end is not in site.

Fires have already claimed 125% more area than the same time last year and according to forest supervisor Ted Duncan "They're burning more intense and spreading quicker".

What can you do to reduce the risk of wildfires? Here are a few tips that a to how to prevent wildfires:

  • Do not toss cigarettes or cigars out of a car or along a trail.
  • Do not ever park a vehicle on dry grass as hot parts such as the exhaust system in a car can start a fire.
  • If you are using a off-road vehicle or internal combustion equipment make sure you are using a spark arrester.
  • Not only is unlawful trash burning is a punishable offense; burning trash can easily get out of control.
  • If you are camping never use stoves, lanterns or heaters inside a tent
  • Make sure that a fire is completely out before you leave the area.
  • Never take sticks out of a burning campfire.
  • Always store any flammable liquid containers in a safe place.
  • At the first sign of a wildfire always leave area immediately using established trails or roads. If a trail or road is blocked go to the nearest stream or lake. Contact a ranger or call 911 as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tourists Flock to NC Smoky Mountains and spend more than ever.

The North Carolina Smoky Mountains have experienced a huge increase in tourism seeing some 45 million visitors last year who have spent an excess of 15 billion dollars making North Carolina rank 6th in the nation for tourism.

Tourists are finding that the Smokies offer an exceptional value close to home and more and more affluent people who normally vacationed far away from home are opting to enjoy their vacations closer to home in the Smokies.

Tourists Flock to NC Smoky Mountains

North Carolina is benefiting in a big way bringing in $1.3 billion in local and state taxes as tourism has increased more than 50% in the past 10 years alone. Last years 8.3% increase in tourist dollars spent in NC was also a huge benefit to a myriad of local business from North Carolina cabin companies, hotels, restaurants, gift shops and more.

North Carolina hotels in Asheville occupancy rates have gone from 64% in 2005 to $66% in 2006 brining in sales of $156 million - $18 million more than the prior year. Vacation and cabin rentals companies in North Carolina have also seen significant increases in the number of visitors and the lengths of stay.

Can over development in the Smokies deplete ground water?

The answer is a resounding yes - over development does deplete ground water especially on the fragile ecosystems of mountains slopes such as those found in the Smoky Mountains.

Many homeowners who live in the Smoky Mountains that depend on well water for their drinking supply have found that that the drilling contractors they hire need to dig deeper and deeper to reach the water table as development continues.

Can over development in the Smokies deplete ground water?

Step ridges and mountainous areas have thinner soil which inhibits absorption of rain water and steep grades also allow of the much needed rainfall to run off to the valleys bellow. Steeper slopes most often have lower storage capacity aquifers that those in valleys.

Reducing ground surface are that can absorb water by building paved roads, sidewalks, patios and the footprint of a home foundation further reduce the natural percolation effect that soil has.

Of course more people drawing more water from the same source increases the depletion of ground water. Obviously more people dumping more waste into the same area further concentrate household toxins and harmful bacteria which can infiltrate the ground water.

During seasons of drought homeowners will find that shallower wells will dry up first as the water tables level drops. This is a serious issue in the Smokies as for example 56 percent of the 103,000 households in North Carolinas Buncombe County get their drinking and household water from wells.

Limiting excessive development especially in areas with steeper grades should help reduce the depletion of ground water. It is also advisable to bring municipal water into new areas being developed.

No only is bringing in municipal water when feasible a huge advantage to home owners in the Smoky Mountains as well as the environment, sending waste water out through a municipal sewer system rather than letting it back into the ground untreated just makes good sense.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Smoky Mountains Spring Photo Workshop

If you love photography and the Smoky Mountains you won't want to miss this special treat this April for the 19th annual spring photography workshop for digital and film photographers.

The workshops are running from April 11th to the 15th and are lead by Tom and Pat Cory who will take no more than 12 photographers at a time to their favorite places in the Smokies.

Photographers of all skill levels will enjoy and benefit from the one on one instructions they will offer each photographer attending the outdoor workshop in the Smoky Mountains.

For information contact Cory Photography at (423)886-1004 or by email

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Meeting on Foothills Parkway Section 8b

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is going to conduct 2 meetings 1 on March 19 and the other on March 20th in regard to a 14 mile stretch of parkway to run from Pittman Center to Cosby, Tennessee in Sevier and Cocke Counties referred to as Section 8B.

The Foothill Parkway Master Plan was prepared in 1968 as a 72-mile scenic parkway traversing the northern and western perimeters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Foothills Parkway was designed as a 2 lane moderate speed road with scenic pull offs as it winds its way through the mountains and foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Meeting on Foothills Parkway Section 8b

As of today the 23 miles of The Foothills Parkway which is complete is one of the nicest roads in the Smoky Mountains and includes a 6 mile section running from I40 to Cosby TN and another 17 miles section connects Chilhowee Lake to Walland, Tennessee.

Presently 15 more miles of the parkway are under construction from Walland to Wears Valley, Tennessee.

One of the 3 remaining sections left to be built is section 8B (see map of the Foothills Parkway below) and in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently being prepared to document all of the anticipated impacts that may occur to both the natural and human environments during the development of section 8B.

Beginning this spring a study team is going to be deployed so that they can conduct fieldwork in the proposed 8B section of the Foothills Parkway right-of-way to access and gather information on community and visual resources, natural resources, geologic resources and historic and archaeological resources.

The goal of these studies is when a new EIS is developed it can be determined what course of action can be recommended:

  • No construction to occur in the whole stretch
  • Construction of a 2 lane roadway through the entire 14-mile section
  • Construction of a trail instead of a roadway through the entire section
  • Construction of a combination of both a 2 lane roadway and trail

The 2 public meetings are so that the general public can learn more about the project and be bale to make comments about the project as well as discuss the project with the study team.

Both public meetings will present the same information and are scheduled to occur from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

The first meeting on March 19th, 2007 will be held at:
Cosby High School, 3318 Cosby Highway in Cosby, Tennessee

The 2nd meeting on March 20th, 2007 will be held at:
Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, 150 Proffitt Road in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

According to Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson "These public workshops will provide the opportunity to review various concepts that have surfaced regarding this section of the Foothills Parkway. We want the public to tell us what other concepts they think need to be considered and what concerns they may have about the possible natural, cultural, economic and other impacts."

This is only the first phase of the entire the EIS process which will take 3 years and by late 2008 a Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected by The National Park Service. It should also be noted that funding must be appropriated in order to implement any selected alternative.

Want to learn more? You can contact the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at (865) 436-1207 or check out the Foothills Parkway Section 8B Project at the national park web site at The national park service is waiting to hear from you!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

RV Campers Sales, Service and Parts in NC and TN in Your Smokies Smoky Mountains Directory

Your Smokies camping directory is already one of the most popular on line campsite directory for those who camp with a tent or go RV Camping.

RC Campers Sales, Service and Parts in NC and TN in Your Smokies Smoky Mountains Directory

Now Your Smokies is listing Recreational Vehicles, trailers and mobile homes dealers, authorized repair centers, RV Emergency repair services and stores and dealers that handle parts for your RV or trailer in their huge NC and TN Smoky Mountain Directory with listings in the following popular cities and towns in North Carolina and Tennessee:

NC RV Sales - Repair

TN RV Sales - Repair

Your Smokies is also proud to announce a new sponsor of the Your Smokies site the Good Sam Club (Good Samaritan) where members can enjoy the following benefits:

  • 10% discounts on more than 1,700 campgrounds in the USA and Canada
  • Tips, help and guidance from members only online forums
  • RV trip routing specially designed for RVs so there are no unpleasant surprises with bridge and tunnel restrictions etc.
  • 10% discounts on RV Repairs, parts and accessories at hundreds of dealers.
  • Club activities with more than 2,000 local chapters.
  • FREE Subscription to their special RV magazine: Highways
  • FREE Consumer Advocacy Assistance to resolve RV related service or product problems on your behalf.
  • Special low rates on RV and Auto Insurance, RV financing, and Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service Enrollment.
Join the Good Sam Club!

Happy Motoring!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Music of the Mountains Concert

The Sugarlands visitor Center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which sits right outside Gatlinburg Tennessee is the place to be April 6 if you want to see Williams and the Victory Trio and April 13 for The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers who will perform their mountain music to a crowd of up to 160 appreciative fans.

Your Smokies would like to express a huge thanks to the Great Smoky Mountains Association for sponsoring these concerts. The concerts are not just so that you can tap your feet and enjoys the sounds of the mountains but the mountain music is also bringing the history of the Smoky Mountains to you.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Parks concert program

Long before TV, Ripley's or Dollywood found their ways to the culture of the Smoky Mountains the settlers here had to find ways to entertain themselves. While you can visit Cades Cove and Cataloochee to see the homesteads, barns, churches, grist mills and schools of this bygone era, or walk though the woods and hear the music that nature herself provides, the part of the Smokies experience you are still missing is the music of the people.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Parks concert program kicks off April 6th with Paul Williams who plays the mandolin and other acoustic instruments with the Victory Trio. Paul Williams is from East Tennessee and his music carrier began in the 50's playing bluegrass music with "The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers" and has even been nominated for a Grammy in 2000 in the Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album category.

On April 13th listen to the Country Music Hall of Fame honorees The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. This wonderful group was started by 2 brothers Joe and Creed Birchfield who learned Appalachian string music from their parents and neighbors in the early 1900s in the tradition of Roan Mountain in upper East Tennessee. There is even a album of theirs in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress.

You can buy tickets for both concerts which start at 7:00 pm online or by phone for only $10 each. The web site to book tickets with any major credit card for the concert is . While you can call (865) 436-7318 ext. 222 to purchase tickets, the Great Smoky Mountains Association asks that you book online and only call if you don't have access to the internet.

3 more fires in the Shields Mountain area of TN Smoky Mountains.

Fire officials just don't get why people aren't heading their warnings about the growing fire danger but at least all 3 wild fires in Sevier County were only minor.

The latest 3 fires reported to us Smokies didn't damage any homes large wilderness areas and fortunately there were no injuries but if it were not for the hard work and fast response of the fire department, this story could have had a far more depressing ending.

The last batch of Smokies fires were due to a smoldering stump from last weeks fire burn area in Shields Mountain that burst into flames, a brush fire on Upper Middlecreek that burned approximately 9 acres, and on Pine Mountain Road a less than a quarter of an acre was burned near the roadside.

Let's hope that everyone pays special attention and that some real soaking rains come soon to reduce the danger of fire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring wildflower pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

April in the Smokies is the real beginning of spring in the Smoky Mountains where green is rapidly replacing the browns and grays of winter. Wildflowers and trees start blooming in lower elevations and by the end of April springs newly awakened colors can be found all throughout the Smoky Mountains.

During the heart of all of this excitement, the 57th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage takes place April 23rd through the 29th and registration has already begun. The wildflower pilgrimage is for both tourists as well as residents of the Smokies and features activities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are educational or just plain fun for the whole family.

wildflower pilgrimage

The week long event is based at the Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and kicks off with an opening luncheon on Monday, April 23rd.

A wildflower plant display is open through Saturday afternoon to the public where you will also find arts and craft vendors, and an exhibit of 85 paintings of native wildflowers.

Those who attend will not only get to enjoy the great outdoors in on of the most exciting and biologically diverse national parks, you will also get to enjoy walks, talks and activities that celebrate the parks history, diversity and importance today and for future generations.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Activities such as the hikes in the national park are varied so that hikers of various abilities and experience can participate in these exciting events. Those who participate will walk away with a better knowledge and appreciation of the GSMNP plants, animals and the smoky mountains culture and history.

Not all of the events of the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage take place outdoors as there are indoor programs led by the park staff and both professional and amateur naturalists. The programs will take place rain or shine every day of the week and cover a variety of topics.

During the evenings enjoy the free art exhibit, have the opportunity to learn about creating a wildlife habitat in your own backyard, an introduction or orchids, and learn about fish restoration in the Great Smoky Mountains national parks Abrams Creek.

The event ends on Saturday, April 28th where after the buffet a play will be performed by award-winning actress Kaiulani Lee. The play titled A Sense of Wonder highlights environmentalist Rachel Carson's love for the natural world and her fight to defend it. The book "Silent Spring" which alerted everyone to the dangers of pesticides was written by Carson.

We at your Smokies would like to personally thank the sponsors of the 2007 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage:

Register for the week long event either online at or by phone (865) 436-7318 Extension 222 and ask for Judy.

Beaverdam NC Developer to comply with Buncombe County Planning Board

North of Asheville North Carolina is the Beaverdam community and this is where developers plan to divide almost 180 acres and the end of Wolfe Cove Road into lots where homes are going to be built. Last year residents opposed the plans for development and now Buncombe County Zoning Administrator Jim Coman notified the developers that the plans that they submitted don't comply with tougher zoning regulations.

An attorney for the developers Brian Gulden has responded that his client to Beaverdam Land Conservancy who is planning to develop this area commonly called Bartram's Walk plan to comply with the tougher new restrictions that went into effect July 1st 2006 and will be submitting new plans by April of 2007.

The new rules in question that affect the original 117 home sites that are planned to be built call for changes in how storm water is handled as well as having lowered density development on the sloops that have a steeper grade. The number of homes that can be built must be reduced in order to comply with the new county development rules.

Monday, March 12, 2007

NPS hosts First Centennial Listening Session in Gatlinburg Tennessee

Even though the National Park services 100th birthday is 9 years away, the park service is going to receive significant public and private investments in order to strengthen and reinvigorate the national parks across the United States in time for the Centennial.

In the next 3 weeks a series of 14 conferences will be held across the country where Interior Secretary Kempthorne, National Park Service (NPS) Director Mary Bomar and NPS Southeast Regional Director Patricia Hooks will ask for citizens' ideas and visions for the Centennial and the park service. The ultimate goal is to find ways to restore and better protect the national parks natural, cultural and historic resources which are under attack by man and nature and whose programs are presently under funded.

New and improved national park visitor centers, campgrounds, trails and other national park facilities along with more programs led by rangers are being proposed as well as stimulating both greater volunteerism and philanthropy.

This opening session is going to be held this Tuesday, March 13, 2007 from 6 pm to 8 pm at the W L Mills Conference Center located at 234 Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738.

People who attend this public meeting should focus their questions and comments on the following questions:

  1. Think of your children and grandchildren enjoying national parks in 2016 and beyond. How do you imagine their visit? What are your hopes and expectations?
  2. What role do you think national parks should play in the lives of Americans and visitors from around the world?
  3. What are the signature projects and programs that you think should be highlighted for completion over the next 10 years?

I find it fitting that the who tour starts at the Great Smoky Mountains National park the most popular national park in the National park system.

Bryson City NC Fire: 9 homes and 200 acres destroyed

Bryson City North Carolina: Yet another Smoky Mountains fire is brining in the Grassy Ridge community claiming several mountain ridges in the Pelohi Cove. Dry weather and high winds drove a fire which stared in a valley up ridges devouring everything in its path.

The fires cause is still unknown and under investigation so far has kept more than 100 firefighters busy and prompted a small evacuation Pelohi Cove and several neighboring roads were blocked. Even the Forest Service has been helping contain the blaze by flying in water from Lake Fontana NC.

Not only has Swain County had to deal with wild fires this weekend, brush fires have been reported near the French Broad River, Fairview, and Riceville.

With increased fire danger all throughout the Smokies we ask everyone pay special care with any activity that could spark a wild fire.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Seen an Eastern Puma in the Smokies?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating the endangered status of the Eastern Puma a wild cat which was placed on the Endangered and Threatened Wildlife list in 1973. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is now performing its first review of sightings in the wild of these magnificent feline predators since 1982.

The Eastern pumas are also known as catamount, panther, cougar or mountain lion are reddish brown-tan in color with white fur on their belly and under their chin and black markings are found on the Pumas face, behind the ears and on the tip of its tail. Eastern Pumas grow up to 6 feet in length and range in weight between 65 to 130 pounds far less than the western Pumas which can reach 170 pounds.

Puma cubs are even harder to spot and are pale with spots and have rings around the tail. At approximately 6 months of age the cubs lose their spots and rings.

Other distinctive features of the eastern Puma is the appearance of a cow lick or swirl in the fur in the middle of their back and a noticeable upward turn or kink at the end of the wild cats tail.

The Eastern Cougars were immediately hunted and slaughtered as soon as the white settlers came to the new world and have virtually disappeared from the wild in the late 1800's.

The USFWS state that some of that the following wildlife refuges are know to have eastern puma: Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge but some may be hiding in the Tennessee or North Carolina Smokies.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Campgrounds opening in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After hiking, camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the second most popular pastime for the outdoorsmen who flock to this most popular national park and now that the worst of winter is now over, the campgrounds in the park will start opening as of tomorrow March 9th.

From May 15 until October 31 the Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds can be reserved online at www.Recreation.Gov or you can call (877) 444-6777 toll free. The fee schedule varies by site as the more primitive campgrounds which are smaller are $14 per night and the more developed campgrounds are $17 per night. In the same period reservation campgrounds are $20 per night. If you are looking to take advantage of the riverside camping in Elkmont Tennessee the fee is $23 per night.

The chart below show opening dates for the campgrounds in the national park as well as the fee structure.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Campground opening dates and fee schedule
CampgroundsNightly FeeOpening DateGroup Sites
Abrams Creek TN$14March 9 
Balsam Mountain NC$14May 11 
Big Creek NC$14March 9March 9
Cades Cove TN *$17, $20Year-roundMarch 9
Cataloochee NC$17March 9March 9
Cosby TN$14March 9March 9
Deep Creek NC$17April 1April 1
Elkmont TN *$17, $20March 9March 9
Look Rock TN$14May 11 
Smokemont NC *$17, $20Year-roundMarch 9
*during the reservation period May 15-October 31 fee is $20 per site.
Riverside sites at Elkmont are $23 during reservation period only.

For those who don't want to camp in the backcountry but want to experience peace and quiet while camping, 3 campgrounds in the national park: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont have "generator free" campsites.

To go generator-free in the Cades Cove TN campground there is are generator-free loop sections. In the Elkmont campgrounds there are generator free sites but there is no generator free loop. Over in Smokemont on the North Carolina side of the park loops A, B, and C are "tent only" so there are no generators. If you have an RV but wish to go generator free you may reserve in the tent only area.

If group camping is more your style then you can choose from Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, or Smokemont. The cost ranges from $26 to $65 per site per night and reservations must be made online at www.Recreation.Gov.

Smoky Mountains National Park Horse Camping

Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fun for the whole family, but camping with your own horse in the national park is an unforgettable experience.

Spring time in the Smokies means the opening of campgrounds where you can go camping with your horse in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and most of the campgrounds will be opening on April 1st.

Horse camping in thw Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The horse camps scheduled to open on April 1st are Anthony Creek NC, Big Creek, Cataloochee NC, and Towstring NC.

Unfortunately they are sill doing construction on the Straight Fork/Balsam Mountain Road so the Round Bottom campgrounds will remain closed until the construction is complete.

Reservations for horse camps can be made online at www.Recreation.Gov. The fee for your Horse is $20 per night except for Big Creek where it is $25 per night.

Horse camping information, rules and regulations for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Time for a picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains national Park

With the warming Smokies weather, the Great Smoky Mountains national park is about to open some of its picnic areas and starting its spring schedule. While some of the picnic areas such as Cades Cove, Metcalf Bottoms, Chimney Tops, Cosby, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Big Creek are open year round, others will be opening on a staggered schedule.

Friday March 9th will see the opening of the Collins Creek Picnic Area and on Sunday March 11th both Heintooga and Look Rock are scheduled to open. If you are looking to use the national parks largest pavilion located in Twin Creeks, you will have to wait until May 1st.

While there are 10 first come first served picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, some picnic pavilions can be reserved online. The picnic areas with pavilions that can be reserved are located in Twin Creeks (fee range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people in your party), Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms (all at $20 per pavilion) or Greenbrier (only $10).

To reserve a picnic pavilion on line visit www.Recreation.Gov.

LeConte Lodge in GSMNP set to open for 2007

No more heavy winter storms with snow and ice are expected so LeConte Lodge high atop Mount LeConte and various picnic areas throughout the North Carolina and Tennessee sections of the Great Smoky Mountains national park are set to open for the 2007 tourist season.

There is no more spectacular place to stay the Smoky Mountains national park than the LeConte Lodge. The lodge sits at 6,593 feet of elevation and can only accessed by hiking up one of the three major trails leading to the summit of Mt Le Conte - the 2nd highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. The shortest trail to get to the summit is at Newfound Road at the Alum Cave trailhead. This trail is still a 10 mile round trip hike and is rather strenuous.

LeConte Lodge

LeConte Lodge will be opening on March 19th and reservations are required and often the lodge can be booked many months in advance. Stays at the Le Conte Lodge include breakfast and dinner and the price is $93 per night. Children 10 and under can stay with an adult for $72.50 a night.

To make a reservation for Le Conte lodge you can call (865) 429-5704 or fax (865) 774-0045 their email address is

Horse rentals and visitor center spring schedule for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Now that the days are getting longer and the weather on the Smokies is milder the Great Smoky Mountains national park will be opening up some facilities and switching over to its spring schedule starting March 9th.

Spring mean wildflowers in the GSMNP as well as the opening of horseback riding concessions in the park and longer visitor center hours.

The Spring Great Smoky Mountains Park Visitor Center Schedule:

  • Sugarlands Visitor Center Gatlinburg, TN Open 8:00am-5:00pm
  • Cades Cove Visitor Center Townsend, TN Open 9:00 am-5:00pm
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center Cherokee, NC Open 8:00am-4:30pm

Now that winter is leaving the Smoky Mountains you can now start to rent horses again in the National Park. The horse rental concessions open in a staggered schedule starting with the Smoky Mountain Riding Stable near Gatlinburg Tennessee which will open this Saturday the 10th.

The Cades Cove Riding Stables in Cades Cove near Townsend TN opens next Thursday March 25th and the Sugarlands Riding Stable near the Gatlinburg TN entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains national park will open March 17th.

The last riding stable to open is the North Carolina Smokemont Riding Stable starts up April 1. Smokemont near the Cherokee entrance and has a wonderful waterfall tour you can take by horseback.

All openings days of the riding stables in the national park are based upon the weather cooperating. The rate for riding a horse in the Smoky Mountains national park is $20 per rider per hour.

For those who don't care to ride their own horse, you can enjoy either a boggy ride for ($7.50 per person or a hayride for $6 per person in the Cades Cove Riding Stables. There are also limited ranger led hayrides for $8 per person.

More horseback riding information, locations and rules.

Controlled burn in NC goes out of control

A controlled burn that was being conducted by a local resident trying to reduce some overgrowth on his property located at High Rock Mountain Road on Walnut Mountain in Madison County North Carolina quickly got out of control and engulfed 50 acres with flames as high as 50 feet.

The wildfire required the combined cooperation between multiple local fire departments and the forest service. Eight local fire departments sent more than 24 firefighters to fight the fire as well as protecting neighboring homes from being damaged or destroyed by the wildfire.

The North Carolina Forest Service sent ground support to help fight the blaze as well as utilizing a forest service helicopter which scooped up water from a pond close to the blaze and made repeated dumps to suppress the fire. Fortunately the helicopter was stationed close by at the Asheville NC Regional Airport.

As of last night the fire departments still have vehicles parked in local residents' driveways and have been able to contain almost half the fire. The firefighters feel as though no more structures are under serious threat but they will continue to work throughout today.

Because of continued dry conditions and relatively high winds the National Weather Service's Greer, South Carolina had to issue a fire danger statement for most of Western NC.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Roads Open: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Due to potential hazardous condition on some of the roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, some of the roads within the park closed for the winter season. These roads will start opening as of this Friday March 9th. Please note some of these roads in the National park will be opening as late as June.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail near Gatlinburg Tennessee, Rich Mountain road which runs from Cades Cove to Townsend TN and Little Greenbrier between Metcalf Bottoms and the Wear Valley park entrance as well as Straight Fork/Round Bottom will all be opening March 9th.

The road leading up to Clingmans Dome is set to open on April 1. This is a great opportunity now to park your car at Newfound Gap and hike the 7 miles up to the top on the paved road. Wonderful vistas await you and in weeks this area will see considerable traffic when it opens.

May 11th will see both the Heintooga Ridge and the Balsam Mountain Roads opening to vehicles.

Parson Branch Road in the tail end of Cades Cove has been closed since 2003 as it sustained considerable flood damage. When it opens in mid June of this year you will be able to drive from Cades Cove all the way to North Carolina and end up on US 129 - right in the heart of the Tail of the Dragon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Wall of thanks and public awareness to be unveiled at the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Rotary Club of Knoxville, a special exhibit honoring individuals and businesses that have donated gifts valued between $10,000 and $50,000 to the national park through Friends of the Smokies as well as park education and awareness was unveiled today at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Plaza of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg Tennessee.

This permanent display is at of the Smoky Mountains parks busiest entrances and the visitor center presently see more than 800,000 visitors a years who will be able to enjoy this illustrate exhibit which is comprised of three panels which measure 7 feet by 14 feet.

The weather for today's unveiling in the park couldn't have been nicer and gave many who took time off today to come to the celebration to spend some quality time in the park today.

While it is wonderful to see you name on a wall, we want all donors of any size who help the Friends of the Smokies to understand we appreciate all donations to help this worth cause.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Huge 4 day hiking festival in North Carolina this May

The American Hiking Society will be hosting from May 3rd to the 6th a huge gathering at the Great Southeastern Hiking Festival with more than 20 scheduled hikes, seminars for hikers and trail organizations, regional entertainment, and inspirational lectures along with the opportunity to meet with members of trail clubs and hikers from all throughout the southeastern United States.

Along with some fine entertainment and information, meet with the folks from the Carolina Mountain Club, Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina Bartram Trail Society, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Nantahala Hiking Club and the Montreat Trail Club at the Great Southeastern Hiking Festival in the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina.

Great Southeastern Hiking Festival

This conference dedicated to hikers includes all 9 meals (dinner Thursday May 3rd through lunch Sunday May 6th) and participation in all of the events and seminars. The registration for the full conference is only $175 ($150 for early registration) which does not include lodging. For those who can stay only Friday through Sunday you only pay $115. If you can't make either of these options you can register for either the whole day Friday or the whole day Saturday for only $65. For those who have the time I would suggest that you sign up for the American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation which runs from April 29 - May 5.

There will also be a large, free public festival which will include outdoor information and education, arts and crafts, entertainers, and of course plenty of food vendors on May 3rd in historic, downtown Black Mountain North Carolina.

Come one, come all, learn, share and enjoy the great outdoors!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Smoky Mountain Riddle about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What do Restaurants in the Smoky Mountains, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the North Carolina and Tennessee department of motor vehicles, and the Friends of the Smokies organization all have in common? Biodiesel.

Thanks to the generous support of drivers of NC and TN who were kind enough to purchase the beautiful Friends of the Smokies specialty license plates as well as a Clean Fuel Advanced Technology grant The Smoky Mountains National Park will soon be able to fuel their diesel fleet of almost 2 dozen vehicles on the North Carolina side with a biodiesel blended fuel.

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative to petroleum diesel and is produced domestically from renewable sources such as used cooking oils, soybeans, corn and various other organic oil sources. Since it is produced domestically, it reduces our dependence on foreign petroleum and production of biodiesel creates virtually no polluting byproducts.

Biodiesel in its purest form is from 100% "organic" sources but is often blended with petroleum diesel. The National Park service will be using B-50 which means it is a 50 - 50 mixture. Regardless of the blend as long as the "bio" part f the blend is clean and pure, diesel engines usually don't require any modifications. While 100% bio is preferred this is a huge step in the right direction.

According to Dale Ditmanson the Park Superintendent "This biodiesel refueling project will help us achieve our long-term goal of stabilizing or improving air quality in the park...We also see it as a great opportunity to lead by example as we host local school groups and millions of visitors from all across the country and world."

Just having the Great Smoky Mountains National Park committed to using Biodiesel is not enough. Two distribution centers are going to be set up on the North Carolina side of the national park. The first larger Biodiesel station will be a 4,000-gallon tank at the Oconaluftee Maintenance Yard in Swain County, and the second smaller 1,000 gallon tank will be located to fill park vehicles in Cataloochee Valley. Combined these distribution points will dispense and estimated 12,000 gallons a year reducing the national parks annual consumption of petroleum diesel by 6,000 gallons a year.

Friends of the Smokies

In order the finance this incredible project, the Friends of the Smokies is donating more than $8,000 which was raised from the sales of specialty license plates in NC and TN. $20 of the $30 charged for these special plates ends up with Friends of the Smokies.

The Friends of the Smokies also secured grant that exceeded $33,000 from the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology Project, which is managed in North Carolina by the North Carolina Solar Center and NC State University. Help from the project was also received from the NC Department of Transportation, the State Energy Office of the NC Department of Administration, and the NC Division of Air Quality.

If you don't have a Friends of the Smokies license plate to help support the Great Smoky Mountains National Park order your Friends of the Smokies plate on your next Tennessee or North Carolina license plate on your next renewal!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Wilderness 911 training North Carolina being offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Medical Institute

When accidents or a medical emergency occurs in the wilderness, being cool and collected and having proper emergency medical training can mean the difference between life and death.

So far more than 8,000 students in about 350 courses have been trained by the renowned National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Medical Institute. They are taught not only how to lower their risk for accident in the backcountry, but how to perform emergency triage and determine the course of action during a medical emergency, field dressing and cleansing of wounds, caring for sprains and broken bones by making splints with available natural materials.

You don't have to go all the way to Wyoming to receive this valuable training from the NOLS, you can go to Landmark Learning based in Cullowhee North Carolina who has been offering this valuable backcountry emergency training for more than 10 years now and now that they are teaming up with NOLS for this win win opportunity for lovers of the great outdoors.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wildfire in Cove Mountain TN chars 500 acres and destroys 6 vacation rental cabins.

High winds, dead tress and the right conditions for a fire spelled disaster for the Cove Mountain area of Wears Valley in Sevier County Tennessee where flames as high as 50 feet tall have kept crews busy to suppress this untamed beast.

Firefighters have even contemplated using a helicopter if necessary to dump water on the fire. Presently crews have already been using bulldozers to create a fire break to keep the fire contained. Another firefighting tactic that is going to be deployed is to set smaller "back fires" in order to keep the fire from spreading along the fire break the firefighters created with the bulldozers.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, since there has been an infestation of pine beetles in the trees in the Cove Mountain area, the fire has been using the abundance of dead and damaged trees as a fuel source further accelerating the growth and speed of the wild fire.

Nathan Waters the Assistant Director of Forestry for the Tennessee Division of Forestry was quoted as saying "It's the high winds that are hurting us the most even though we got some rain the winds keep it dry and keeps the fire moving".

Local residents close to the blaze as well as cabin rental companies managing property for absentee owners are keeping a close eye on the situation.

This wildfires damage has been exacerbated by the fact that an insect infestation killed or damaged trees in the area. This further demonstrates the fact that that the Hemlock woolly adelgid that is infesting and destroying many of the hemlock trees throughout the entire Smoky Mountain region must be brought under control. Please support the Friends of Smokies page in their battle for this important cause.