Monday, April 23, 2007

Knoxville TN Brushfire Visable for miles

Fire crews are working feverishly with bulldozers to keep a wildfire burning on Sharp's Ridge in north Knoxville Tennessee contained.

The fire which has been burning for hours is off of Bruhin Road and is visible from both I-75 and I-640. At this time it is believed that homes or structures are in danger of being damaged by the fire.

Tennessee is not the only state in the Smoky Mountains region having to deal with wildfires; Western North Carolina has had more than their share of fires this year with more than 2,406 wildfires which have burned no less than 10,000 acres. Last year by March only 1,300 wildfires were reported across the entire state of North Carolina. Statewide the average is 20,000 acres a year in less than 5,000 fires.

This years peak wildfire season runs is from March through May has been exacerbated by low humidity, higher than normal winds and rainfall for the year is 5 - 6 inches less than an average rainfall.

Yesterday in the Cedar Creek area of Jackson County NC there was a. 200-acre wildfire and in Haywood County NC a smaller 75-acre fire in the Cruso community which may have been started by burning debris on a legal burn day.

In Canton NC a smaller wildfire was reported by Haywood County emergency officials on Newfound Gap Road.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alcoa Highway bypass re-opens

As fast as the Alcoa Hwy Bypass was closed due to a gas leak repairs are complete so the Alcoa Highway is now open.

Alcoa Highway section closed due to gas leak

The Alcoa Highway Bypass from the Alcoa Highway and Hall Road split to the Louisville Road intersection was just closed by officials while the Alcoa Fire and Rescue Department and Atmos Energy are working together to repair the leak.

While new street lighting was being installed along the bypass by Alcoa Electric crews the accidentally cut into a gas line.

Officials have stated that at this time there is no estimated times the bypass will be reopened but there is no danger to anyone in the area.

Music Graces Cades Cove in Tennessee

April 28th at 8 pm Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the place to be thanks to the Great Smoky Mountains Association to see singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ellie Grace perform.

This Smoky Mountains music performance is not just for Ellie Grace to perform her compelling mix of music and dance; the audience should bring two soup spoons per person so that you can enjoy her hands-on demonstration and you can join along with her. The audience is also invited to bring their tapping shoes and their stringed instruments to join her performance for a jam session.

According to Cades Cove Supervisory Park Ranger Mike Maslona "Grace's resume is impressive and her experiences have led her to performances at prestigious venues including the Lincoln Center in New York City. Grace has over 20 years of experience performing. She plays the mandolin, fiddle, and guitar and has recorded three albums with The Grace Family. She has recently joined The Dirk Powell Band on several national and international tours. Dirk Powell has an esteemed reputation as one of his generation's most highly regarded traditional American musicians and is widely known for creating and performing music for the movie Cold Mountain,"

Music and fun in the Smokies in the most beautiful valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove - you couldn't get a better Saturday night!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gregory Ride Burn in the Smoky Mountains National Park

Another prescribed burn near Cades Cove Tennessee is scheduled for this Friday April 20th in the Gregory ridge area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help allow yellow pine reclaim where maples and other hardwoods are dominating what was historically a yellow pine forest.

The prescribed burn of 850 acres will close the Gregory Ridge Hiking Trail from Forge Creek Road trailhead to the intersection with the Gregory Bald Trail as well as backcountry Campsite 12. Bower Creek, Forge Creek, and a small fireline across Gregory Ridge will form the boundaries of this burn south of Cades Cove in Blount County, Tennessee.

21 firefighters will be used for containment of the controlled burn and both ground and aerial ignition methods will be used to start the fire. Since it will take several days for the firefighters and park service personnel to be sure that there are no hazards hot spots or dead snags left in the burn area, the area will be closed to hikers for a few days.

Drivers and nearby residents will be able to see smoke in Townsend, Happy Valley, the Foothills Parkway West, and Walland.

Unlike the prescribed burn to take place in Cades Cove used to keep fields form being reclaimed by forest, this burn is meant to open up part of the canopy in the forest which is now crowding out the original dominating species of yellow pine.

In the past naturally occurring forest fires opened the canopy and allowed this species to thrive here but since man intervened and suppressed fires which "cleansed" the forest of more evasive species, the delicate ecological balance was upset. Southern pine beetles that feed on yellow pines further decreased the yellow pine population.

Cades Cove TN controlled burn set for April 19 in GSMNP

The help maintain interior fields in the Cades Cove Valley in the Tennessee sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the national park service is planning to execute a number of controlled burns if the weather cooperates.

The national parks plan is to burn 300-400 acres, a few grassy parcels at a time stretching out over the next few weeks in order to prevent the open fields from being taken over by forest growth. These interior areas of Cades Cove to be burned encompass approximately 1,000 acres and are on a 3 year rotation of either mowing or burning. This years rotation calls for burning which is more cost effective than mowing.

Visitors to Cades Cove should not be significantly affected and most will be able to drive, bike or hike the entire 11 mile Cades Cove Loop without being interfered with other than smelling smoke from the controlled burn however rangers may have to briefly close the small side road to the Primitive Baptist Church or the access road to Abrams Creek Trail.

In order to ignite the fires and make sure that the fire stays within the prescribed boundaries National Park firefighters and a Park engine will be in the Cove. Containment lines have already been made by mowing the areas sounding each field that is destined to be burned.

Newfound Gap road is reopened in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The Smoky Mountains National Park road Newfound Gap Road (US 441) running from Cherokee NC to Gatlinburg TN through has just reopened after being closed due to downed trees and ice.

Clingmans Dome road still remains closed due to dangerous icy road conditions snow and downed trees.

All of North Carolina 284 still remains closed.

8k (5 miles) Run for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Help the Great Smoky Mountains National Park through Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by participating in a 8K Run for the Park on Saturday May 5, 2007 which starts and ends at Tanger Five Oaks in Sevierville Tennessee.

Registration for this exciting event is only $12 before May 2, 2007 and $15 after May 2nd and all proceeds benefit Friends of the Smokies who help raise funds and provide volunteers for the Smoky Mountains national park.

Whether you come to help out the park, get some exercise and fresh air or have your eye on one of the Trophies, free tee shirts or door prizes you are sure to have a good time.

Trophies will be given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in:

  • Overall male and female
  • Sevier County male and female
  • Grand Masters (50+) male and female
  • All age categories male and female

The race will be run rain or shine on a level course - the Parkway to Tanger outlet mall in Pigeon Forge, and then ends back at Tanger Five Oaks. Traffic will be held back by both the Pigeon Forge and Sevierville police

Register early to make sure you get your size Tee Shirt and help the Fiends of the Smokies get a fairly accurate count of who is going to show. The registration for can be downloaded at

If you can’t or don’t want to run, come down and cheer us on!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

UT Campus gas leak evacuation may have been caused by leaking hydraulic fluid

The University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville TN was the scene of an evacuation prompted by a mysterious leak first thought to be a gas leak at a construction site.

A coordinated effort between the Knoxville Fire Department and UT Police Department cleared the construction area and a sidewalk on Andy Holt Drive all later to be open when first responders gave the all clear.

It was first believed by emergency services that the leak was gas in nature but it is now believed to have been possibly leaking hydraulic fluid for construction equipment.

GSMNP Closes Trillium Gap to Grotto Falls Hiking Trail Again

Reports from the Great Smoky Mountains national park keep coming in of widespread damage throughout the national park from damage sustained from this weekend's major wind rains and snow storms.

There are trees and large limbs down on roads and hiking trails throughout the park so drivers, hikers and people on horseback have to use extreme caution. Heavy rains and falling trees have also cause some small landslides with trees, branches, rocks and mud blocking some trails.

On the very popular Trillium Gap Trail located in the Roaring Fork area of the national park near Gatlinburg Tennessee which takes hikers to the Grotto Falls, a stone retaining wall collapsed.

Officials in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to closed the Trillium Gap Trail from the trailhead on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to its junction with the Brushy Mountain Trail 2.7 miles away.

The officials are hoping that the repairs being made to the 25 foot damaged section located on extremely steep side slope just below Grotto Falls will be repaired this week so that the hiking trail can be reopened this Friday, April 20th. The repair work is requiring the use of jack hammers that will be used to install steel reinforcing rods into the bedrock.

This is one of the 2 popular trails to a waterfall in the Roaring fork area of the park and at only a 3 miles round trip is a more moderate hike than the Rainbow Falls trail which will remain open.

Death in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The peace of the Smoky Mountains was shattered Sunday afternoon with the death Terry L Fox of Gatlinburg Tennessee when while driving Northbound on the Spur towards Pigeon Forge his 2005 Dodge Caravan struck a guard rail.

The fatal accident occurred on the Spur in the turning lane on the left hand exit to Flat Branch Road just north of the tunnel.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rangers initially responded and were then joined by Gatlinburg EMS who had to break into the vehicle in order to extricate Mr. Fox who was later transported by Gatlinburg Ambulance to the Ft. Sanders Sevier Medical Center.

The Sevier County Medical Examiner has requested an autopsy since there was very minor damage to the vehicle there is a possibility that Mr. Fox may have had a medical condition may have caused the accident and been the cause of death.

Even if it is medical condition that ultimately caused the accident we wish to warn our readers that the number one cause for death in the Smoky Mountains national park is not due to bear attack, avalanche, drowning or falls but are caused by vehicle accidents.

Waterfalls in the park are also a source of fatal injuries when people attempt the climb on the slippery rocks or get to close to the edge of a drop.

There has also been numerous drownings in the National Park caused by swift moving water and submerged rocks such as in the Sinks area of the park in Tennessee.

We ask all visitors that come to the Smoky Mountains national park to drive safely, act responsibly an keep small children under their control. We don't want what could be the best vacation of a life time to one that ends you life.

Blue Ridge Parkway still closed due to storm

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina will remain closed until at least Wednesday from Cherokee to Mount Mitchell due to Sundays major storm that slammed the area.

Crews are doing what they can to remove all of the numerous downed trees and ice still remaining on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today's warming temperatures will help melt the last of the remaining ice.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Newfound Gap Road Closed

Newfound Gap Road (441) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed from Gatlinburg Tennessee through to Cherokee North Carolina while crews clean up after more than 200 trees that fell from yesterday's storm. The majority of downed tress on 441 are in North Carolina just south of Newfound Gap.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is also closed today in some sections in North Carolina.

We suggest taking I40 as an alternate to Newfound Gap Road.

Smoky Mountains Spring Snow Storm Packs Punch

Downed trees throughout the North Carolina and Tennessee Smoky Mountains cause significant property damage and power outages as the winds roared through the mountains and valleys yesterday.

More than 110,000 lost power - 80,000 in North Carlina alone before midnight and more than 15,000 have already been restored as crews are working around the clock clearing downed trees, replacing broken poles and restringing lines.

Be prepared for continuing high winds and possible freezing in high elevations and when driving watch for fallen branches.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weather Damaged Smoky Mountain Plants

Easter weekend unseasonable cold weather in the Smoky Mountains especially in the higher altitudes of North Carolina has damaged plants and crops but will they recover?

The answer for most part is yes although some food crops will have a diminished if any crop this year as a result of the unseasonable late deep freeze for no less than 3 nights in a row.

The severity of the damage is dependent on the species, as well as the extreme in temperate, durations and the preexisting health of the plants. For example the trees in the Smoky Mountains such as poplar and gum will replace damaged foliage rather quickly possibly this season whereas oak and hickories will take as long as a year to replace leaves damaged in the freeze.

Weather damage to foliage can be identified by the condition of the leaves for example if the leaves are purple or blacked they are most likely dead from ice crystals forming inside the leaves that have punctured cell membranes in the leaf. This will cause the leaf to lose its natural turgidity (stiffness) and lead to the leafs eventual demise.

Plants that are affected in this manner with enough leaves that die become stressed which is exacerbated id the plant attempts to re-flush (grow) new foliage as to do so the plant will have to draw upon already depleted starch reserves. If there any significant additional stresses to the plant during this growing season such as drought, insects or diseases there is a high probability the plant will die.

Less detrimental to the plants of the Smoky Mountains who weathered the last strong frost this year are those that exhibit is a rolled or drooping appearance to the leaves called "epinasty" which is caused by the loss of hydration in the leaves.

Gradual warming and plenty or rain are the best cures for both conditions. Today's snow in the Smoky Mountains is helping with the rehydration the plants require, but the cold weather may be producing further damages especially ion the colder higher elevations. If we are lucky tomorrow warming temperatures and rain will help.

If plants in your Smokies garden were damaged by the heavy freezes the best course of action is a heavy soaking twice a weekend refrain from fertilizing this calendar year.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Elk need your help!

The Great Smoky Mountains national parks largest resident is the Elk who were reintroduced in 2001 after being extinct in the wilds of the North Carolina and Tennessee Smoky Mountains due to over hunting for more than a century.

Elk in The Great Smoky Mountains national park

The National Parks Park Volunteers-in-Parks program is now seeking volunteers who are able to assist the staff by helping provide visitors to the park with information, help in traffic control of tourists coming to see the elk and making sure that visitors coming to the park are not antagonizing the elk by approaching them too closely, shining lights at them or using bugles to simulate their mating call all prohibited activities.

This new Great Smoky Mountains National Park Volunteer program is going by the name Elk Bugle Corps referring to the sound the elk mate during rutting when the male bull elk bugle and spar in dominance battles with one another.

The elk are primarily in project in the North Carolina Cataloochee Valley section although strays wander to as far as the Oconaluftee visitor center and further. The Volunteers are needed for the Cataloochee Valley from May 25th through November 19th which are peak elk viewing times and see the most visitors to this section of the National Park looking for Elk.

Late springtime mean calving for the elk where new mother at times leave their calves alone in fields which can be an invitation to disaster if curious person comes along and an irate mother elk returns to her young to see humans close by.

The rutting season is a fantastic time to watch and listen to the elk, but it is also a time when this huge potentially dangerous animal is more agitated.

The park needs volunteers who can help from 5:45 pm - 8:45 pm who can sign up for either a particular day of the week or a whole week at a time. The most help is needed on weekends.

If you are interested in helping the magnificent creatures call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Volunteer Coordinator at (865) 436-1265 by May 7 to receive an information packet and on May 17 and 19 there will be a Bugle Corps volunteer training session.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Closures on Newfound Gap Road in National Park to begin

To allow for repaving on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park most popular road starting April 16th there will be temporary lane closures on the North Carolina side of Newfound Gap Road also know as US 441.

The work being done to the national parks major thoroughfare is the repaving of a 10 mile stretch of Newfound Gap Road from the Gap to the Collins Creek Picnic Area in North Carolina and the completion of this $15,316,340 contract is expected in October 2007.

The Great Smoky Mountains national park is going to use the same lane closure schedule as last season which had very little impact on park visitors.

April 16 2007 through June 14 2007

  • Sunday night 10:00 pm until noon on Fridays Lane closures will be permitted.
  • Fridays from noon to 10:00 pm no lane closures will be allowed.
  • Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm No lane closures will be allowed.

June 15 2007 through August 15 2007

  • No day time lane closures will be allowed only night closures permitted to close lanes at night.
  • Monday through Thursday from 9:00 pm to 8:00 am night closures can be imposed.
  • Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 pm until 8:00 am night closures may occur.

August 16 2007 through September 30 2007

  • Fridays from noon to 10:00 pm no lane closures will be allowed
  • Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm no lane closures will be allowed
  • Monday 8:00 am until noon on Fridays lane closures will be permitted

All September 2007

  • Weekends - day or night - No lane closures will be allowed

Smoky Mountains Tourism for summer of 2007

Soaring gas prices across the nation and now more terrorism concerns for Americans traveling oversea spell good news for business that depend on tourism in the NC and TN Smoky Mountains.

Even though local Smokies businesses were worried lasts year that their summer season could be a bust because of the huge post Katrina gas price increases, they found their fears were unfounded.

Higher occupancies in and hotels and motels and vacation rental properties in the Smokies showed that tourists still wanted to get away and the higher gas prices were a small price to pay to enjoy the Smokies.

Many who we asked who normally would have gone cross country or taken longer trips were very satisfied to stay closer to home and explore the Smoky Mountains.

Since the devastation of 9-11 many travelers have also decide to stay at home in the continental US where they feel safer and especially with the recent arrest of an Ohio terrorist who was working to plot attacks against American tourists in Europe this thinking is here to stay.

To combat the higher prices of gas when driving in the Smokies remember these tips:

  1. Don't use premium gas unless your car or truck requires it. Yep this was a shocker to me that you don't get better mileage but using premium gas!
  2. Keep your tires inflated and check them before and during your trip at least once. You can lose a significant amount of gas mileage (about 5%) for every pound of under inflation. Steel belted radial tires increase mileage by around 10%.
  3. Change your oil and air filter if needed before a long trip. High quality synthetic oil can also make a difference.
  4. Tune up your car when needed. Although cars require less maintenance than when they did in the past, you can still waste 25% of your gas with a car that needs a significant tune up.
  5. Avoiding jack rabbit acceleration and driving at a reasonable speed will also make a huge difference to your gas mileage and pocketbook.
  6. Don't let your car sit and idle for long periods if you can avoid it. Expect to waste at least a quart of gas every 15 minutes - more with air-conditioning on!
  7. If you have cruise control on a highway and conditions permit use it. Maintaining an even speed a not having to slow down and speed up to pass slower cars will save plenty of gas.
  8. Coast when you can to save gas if you see a red light or traffic up ahead. Resuming a normal driving speed from 5 MPH rather than a dead stop reduces gas consumption by 20%.

Lastly this won't save you much gas if any but will save your brakes when driving in the mountains. Check your owners manual for details but when driving downhill in the Smoky Mountains use a lower gear rather than just riding your brakes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

National Parks America Tour Earth Day in GSMNP

Volunteers around the country will be helping clean, maintain and build in the nations national parks for America Tour Earth Day on Saturday April 21st but we need your help right here in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

We need your help so that we may perform trail maintenance, perform litter patrols, riverbank cleanup, help with park landscaping and other park beautification projects that all the visitors who come here can enjoy.

If you want to join us you must register by calling the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Volunteer Office at (865) 436-1265.

For those who are registered we will meet at 8:30 am at the Sugarlands Visitor Center located near the Gatlinburg, Tennessee park entrance where there will be breakfast which is sponsored by Unilever and Wal-Mart Stores and check in for volunteers from 8:30 am to 9:00 am. We will only work until 12:00 noon at which time a free Great American Picnic Lunch will be served to all volunteers.

We are expecting more than 200 volunteers to participate and we ask everyone who is attending the America Tour Earth Day event to dress properly with sturdy shoes and long pants. You may get dirty so I would suggest you wear old clothes.

Among pride in a job well done all participants will receive a free t-shirt!

Monday, April 09, 2007

West of Cades Cove Prescribed Burn in National Park will cause trail and parking area closings

The Smoke you will be seeing tomorrow in Cades Cove, Townsend, Happy Valley, Walland and Highway 129 will be from 30 firefighters who will employ both ground and aerial ignition methods to ignite and manage a burn within an established fire containment line in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Of course the Smokies weather conditions must be right in order for the park service to ignite and careful burn approximately 1,500 acres of forest west of the Cades Cove Loop Road in Blount County in Stony Ridge and Arbutus Ridge Tennessee.

Cooper Road Trail

Due to being crowded out by oak trees and other hardwoods as well as southern pine beetle infestations, yellow pine trees which were the predominate species in Stony Ridge and Arbutus Ridge have been steadily on the decline. By carefully burning some of these areas of the park, openings in the tree canopy will allow more sunlight encouraging pine tree growth.

Expect closures and smoke to affect the following trails and parking areas:

  • Rabbit Creek Trail
  • Abrams Falls Trail
  • Abrams Falls parking area
  • Cooper Road Trail
  • Wet Bottom Trail
  • Elijah Oliver Place Trail

While parts of some of these trails will remain open we strongly urge you to avoid them entirely until the weekend as it may take a few days to be sure that any rouge hot spots as well as any dead snags that can effect hikers on the trails have been taken car of.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Smokies North Shore "Road to Nowhere" may be a dead issue

Congressional members from both North Carolina and Tennessee have asked to end the long dispute over the building of a road promised to Swain County North Carolina in 1943.

For the most part, only local Smoky mountain residents are aware of this controversial issue that has divided resident for years. If this road was constructed it would have cost at least $600 million of federal monies and its continued upkeep and negative environmental impacts would have been a never ending burden to the National Park Service as well as the flora and fauna of the Great Smoky Mountains National park.

Fontana Dam

When the Fontana Dam was built in the 1940s the existing road in the area was flooded and in 1943 the federal government made a commitment to Swain County to replace the flooded road. In 1946 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could in fact satisfy the commitment to Swain County North Carolina in ways other than the replacement of the road.

In 1972 the construction of the road was halted even though Congress provided the funding as the excessive construction costs, environment concerns in regard to the roads construction as well as the continued impact of the additional traffic to the area were clearly not in the best interests of US citizens, local and federal government, and the environmental and cultural resources of the national park.

When the damn was built, access other than by boat was cut off to certain areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Families who historically lived in area that became part of the national park no longer were able to visit their ancestors in the 26 cemeteries that became landlocked. To compensate for this Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials would ferry approximately 1,200 residents a year across Fontana Lake in order to these visit cemeteries on designated days.

Fontana Dam Top

Now Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has been approached by no less than 17 members of congress from North Carolina and Tennessee to agree to a cash settlement of $52 million within 90 days for Swain County and end the longtime dispute over whether the road should be finished. It is expected that Secretary Dirk Kempthorne will respond to the members of Congress before June.

The congressional members are only echoing the vast majority of opinions and the National parks department has received more than 75,000 comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed road.

Don Barger, Southeast regional director of National Parks Conservation Association commented "This is the first time we've had this level of support for this decision...This part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the wrong place for development"

What will Swain County do with the settlement? The officials would save the principal and use the estimated $2.5 million in interest it would generate each year to help improve both the Swain County's schools and public safety.

We feel as though this is a strong win for everyone. This is the most pristine area of the national park and this hidden jewel offers benefits for the occupants of the park as well as the few lucky visitors who know about and visit this area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Motorcycles and scooters in the Smoky Mountains

The Smoky Mountains offer some of the best places to ride a motorcycle east of the Mississippi.

deals gap rider

Both North Carolina and Tennessee have fantastic roads to take a cruise on such as the Tail of the Dragon (129), the Foothill Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Newfound Gap Road (441) and hundreds of back country roads and winding mountain lanes.

scooter fun!

Since motorcycle riding is so popular you can find plenty of motorcycle dealers, service and repair centers, place to get parts for your motorcycle or scooter and of course motorcycle and scooter rentals.

Your Smokies has just listed in their directory over 400 businesses that cater to motorcycle riders in the Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas of Tennessee and North Carolina.

NC Cycle Sales - Rentals - Repair

TN Cycle Sales - Rentals - Repair