Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Closes Forge Creek Road for Winter

The national park service has decided to close Forge Creek Road for the winter until mid-March. This dirt and Gravel road is badly in need of repairs and is located in the back end of the Cades Cove Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains national park near the Cades Cove visitor center.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Closes Forge Creek Road for Winter

As you can see by the picture above this road has deep holes and ruts that fill with water and recent heavy rains has saturated this road connecting the Cades Cove Loop Road to the Gregory Bald Trail Head and Parson Branch Road which is also closed for the winter.

While Alan Sumeriski Park Facility Management Chief stated that "Normally this gravel road opens and closes throughout the winter as snow and other weather conditions permit, but recent heavy rains have left the road so saturated and spongy that allowing traffic on it now would necessitate extensive repairs come spring." It's fairly obvious to anyone driving or hiking on this road it can already use extensive repairs.

The closure of Forge Creek Road will not affect any traffic going around the Cades Cove Loop and it will give hikers the opportunity for a quiet level walk in the park with a good change of seeing the coyote that hand out on this road near the Henry Whitehead Place.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cades Cove closing for insecticide spraying on December 3rd and 4th

If the weather holds up the national park service will be spraying hemlocks trees to fight the woolly adelgid infestation in the Cades Cove Valley so the entire 11 mile Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to traffic an bicycles Wednesday December 3rd and a partial closing on Thursday December 4th.

Hikers can hike the entire 11 mile loop both days of spraying for the hemlock woolly adelgid both days of spraying.

Motor vehicles and bicyclists on the second day of spraying can go as far into Cades Cove as Hyatt Lane and then exit the cove.

Cades Cove closing for insecticide spraying

As seen by the picture above it was cold in Cades Cove today and as long as the weather stays above freezing and there is no rainfall the spraying can commence.

Old NC 284 is closed as well as Newfound Gap Road

Old man winter forces more road closings in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as both old North Carolina 284 as well as US 441 Newfound Gap Road have both been closed again due to snow and ice.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Weather Closes Clingmans Dome Road for the Winter Season Early

It has been more than a week that Clingmans Dome Road has been closed due to dangerous winter conditions even though today is the first day it should have been closed for the winter season.

I just wanted to watch the sun rise and set at Clingmans Dome for the last time of the season without having to walk the 15 miles which I love to do in deep snow.

Clingmans Dome Road has been closed due to dangerous winter conditions

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and the second highest point east of the Mississippi after Mount Mitchell.

The observation tower at its peak is visible for miles if you know where to look and can even been seen year round from the North Carolina side on Newfound Gap Road.

The observation tower can offer a stunning view of the Smokies and beyond depending on weather and atmospheric conditions as well as pollution including ozone levels.

Sadly, as time goes on and pollution levels have been increasing, the long range view from the Clingmans Dome tower has been decreasing.

The tower is only a 1/2 mile from the Clingmans Dome parking area and the path that takes you to the tower is paved but be forewarned, you may wish to take your time and rest at one of the benches as if you are not in top condition you may get winded by this steep walk.

In 1963 Clingmans Dome is where I became the Smokies Hiker, refusing a helping hand and walking up a far more primitive version of the present day hiking path to the top.

Clingmans Dome is where I became the Smokies Hiker

As you can see by the vintage picture of me, I was sporting the gangster wannabe baggy look, rather than one of my present day hiking uniforms. Either way my first hike here in the Smokies was certainly not my last!

Prior to my arrival to the new concrete Clingmans Dome observation tower, the original tower was made of wood and the Fraser Fir along the mountain tops which are now gray skeletons were in far better shape.

Looks like Newfound Gap Road may be closed for quite a while as the snow is falling fast and it is predicted to snow for the next few days. If it opens up soon enough I will hike to Clingmans Dome in the snow for a magical experience in the Smokies.

Newfound Gap Road is closed again in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Once again the main road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is closed due to snow and ice.

Since it is still snowing in the higher elevations in the GSMNP Newfound Gap may not reopen today.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cades Cove white tail bucks rutting but still low key

It's easy to find deer in Cades Cove - they are all over the place especially at sunrise and sunset. Doe are in groups all over the place but the bucks are with groups of does or solitary now that the rut has started.

While I have only caught far away fast glimpses of male deer sparring with one another, this sight will be more common and easier to find as the rut goes on and becomes more intense.

A white tail deer's best weapon is its hooves not it antlers

During the rut male white tail deer herd harems of does for future mating and fight off other bucks - usually without any injury other than their pride.

Deer can be more aggressive so it's a good idea to keep your distance from the deer even though they appear to be very docile. A white tail deer's best weapon is its hooves not it antlers!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Newfound Gap Road Reopens in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After plenty in sanding and plowing along with strong sunlight, Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reopened.

Drivers are cautioned that there is still snow and and ice on the road which may close again if conditions worsen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Newfound Gap Road, Clingmans Dome Road and Old 284 in the GSMNP are closed

Last nights blustery winter weather in the GSMNP closed Newfound Gap road US 441 the roadway connecting the Cherokee North Carolina and the Gatlinburg Tennessee areas of the park, Clingmans Dome road as well as Old 284 in North Carolina connecting Big Creek NC with the Cataloochee Valley just outside Maggie Valley NC.

Expect that even roads that are still open may have patches of ice or snow especially above 3,000 feet.

More snow and rain showers are expected today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hiking the Smoky Mountains national park after a snowfall in late fall and winter

Some of the most magical times to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is just after or during a lights snow in late fall or during the winter.

What is not a good idea is just before or during snow fall to drive up to the upper elevations such as Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome or even to Alum Cave Trailhead as you may find that the roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park will close and you will become trapped forcing you to walk out of the park with no cell service in most cases.

It can even be a mistake to get caught in the Roaring Fork area especially along the Roaring Fork Motor trail. I park at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead or even just outside the park gates and hike my way up to where I need to go.

The best way to enjoy hiking in the snow in the GSMNP is to park at a lower elevation and hike your way up to the snow line or spot you wish to go. I also keep a sleeping bag in my car at all times just in case to stay warm.

Ramsey cascades waterfalls in the winter at Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The picture above was taken yesterday at the Ramsey Cascades Waterfall 4 miles up on the hiking trail in the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Make sure to dress warm and in layers if you want to hike in the colder months and don't let yourself sweat or overheat too much as this can lead to you becoming chilled and increase your chances of hypothermia.

It is crucial you also wear the correct footwear. Sneakers are a poor choice to hike in the snow and even summer weight boots are not a good idea. I suggest hiking with boots 6 to 8 inches or more with thinsulate to keep your feet warm and gortex to which away the moisture to keep your feet dry.

Gloves area also important as holding hiking poles, cameras, tripods and many other items act as a heat conductor rapidly cooling your hands and your whole body so I hike with 2 pair in the winter. The first pair are very lightweight cotton type work gloves which can be used when your hands are moderately cold and the second pair are waterproof heavy winter gloves.

As far as hats go I pack 2 as well, a lightweight stocking cap and a heavy water resistant winter cap with ear flaps and covering my neck and face. If the hat gets wet from sweat I will reverse the cap or change caps in order to keep myself dry.

I would never think if hiking in snow or ice without 2 hiking poles and putting my hands through the straps. This is a great way to help maintain your balance, test the snow to see if it is on ice and how deep it is, and help slow you down going downhill.

A simple rule of thumb for a beginning or moderate hiker is if you are having problems going uphill, stop. Going downhill will be far worse and more dangerous. Simple stream crossings can also spell disaster when you mix in snow and ice on rocks or wooden logs.

Also remember that slush and even mud can freeze up as the day progresses and it get colder turning what was an easy trip up into a dangerous downhill slide or fall.

Another important tip for being in the Smoky Mountains in late fall, winter and early spring when it is cold is to never sit directly on rocks, logs or the ground. Sitting directly on objects rapidly cools your body down so sit on your backpack, a towel or bring along a small inflatable ring to keep yourself warm and dry. Being cold and wet is no fun and can be dangerous.

It is also important to remember when hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park in the winter that even if weather conditions are ideal, it gets dark real early - before 6:00 pm at times in December and January!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cades Cove Paving Options for 2010 presented by the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Long awaited and far overdue it looks like Cades Cove is finally going to get a total overhaul of the 11 mile long Cades Cove Loop Road in early 2010.

The last time this tremendously popular road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park was paved was in 1978 and it has long needed significant repairs for more than 10 years.

First of all this single lane road will not be widened and will continue to have its 11 foot width throughout the entire Cades Cove Loop. There are however discussions to consider to have as many as 12 paved pull offs.

the Cades Cove Loop Road is in such as sad state

The main goal of this paving project is to completely replace the existing roadway since its past the point of repair. In order to do this the contractor must break up the existing road, grind it up, and mix in new concrete creating a new base and then install a new asphalt road surface.

Presently without proper drainage to lead water away from seeping under the road surface, water that does get under the road during the winter is freezing and thawing accelerating the breaking up the roadway.

Besides age and heavy use, the Cades Cove Loop Road is in such as sad state because of this lack of drainage along the roadside which is going to be added during this massive construction project.

national park service proposed 4 options for closing and allowing access to visitors in Cades Cove

What the national park service has proposed in it pubic meeting at the Heritage Center which was attended 2 dozen people, are 4 options for closing and allowing access to visitors in Cades Cove during the road construction process.

Basically the plans range from a complete closure of the Cades Cove Loop Road from April of 2010 to the end of May affecting approximately 250,000 visitors, to closing the road in 2 or more sections which can affect as many as 500,000 visitors and will take far longer.

Beside major traffic hassles and safety issues if the road is closed in sections, it will affect far more visitors and create a far more environmentally detrimental carbon footprint due to longer constriction time and gas used to navigate the tremendous detours that can add as much as 40 miles to this 11 mile auto tour!

If Cades Cove Loop Road is closed in sections, the park service is proposing under some options to send exiting traffic out Parson Branch Road which is an unpaved and dumping drivers onto the dangerous Tail of the Dragon 30 miles out of the way with no facilities, gas or cell phone service.

Extending the Cades Cove construction project with partial closures will also tack on higher costs onto the whole project with increased construction costs, signage costs, more lost business for gateway towns, more lost business to the Cades Cove concessions and a huge cost and manpower issue of traffic management.

The park did a great job working on alternatives and presenting them, but for economic, safety, ecological and negative visitor impact, closing Cades Cove Road and repaving in one shot is the best option.

If Cades Cove Lop Road is closed completely during the repaving project, with the monies saved over the other options the National Park Service may be able to afford paying to have work done 7 days a week and or at night as well which would speed up the whole process.

Snow and winter conditions closed Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Snow and ice on Newfound Gap Road is making driving treacherous so the national park service closed US441 the road connecting the cities of Gatlinburg with Cherokee.

There is presently a winter advisory throughout most of the Smokies with accumulation up to 2 inches or more in the upper elevations and bitter cold temperatures.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cades Cove Deer are starting to rut in the GSMNP

It's that time of the year again for the male deer in the Great Smoky Mountains national park to rut and Cades Cove is the place to see them.

male deer in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Most of the time when you drive around or hike in Cades Cove you can see a few bucks (male deer) carousing around with each other in the company of many Doe (female deer).

Now during rut the males are collecting their harems and sparring with each other which will increase in activity over the next few weeks.

Deer can be dangerous animals if provoked and during the rut male deer are far more aggressive. Contrary to popular belief it is the deer's hoofs that are more dangerous that there antlers.

This is a great time to watch the deer in the GSMNP but bring along binoculars or use a telephoto lens and keep your distance for the deer's safety, your safety and to observe national park regulation in keeping 50 yards away from wildlife.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Newfound Gap Road in the GSMNP is open but Clingmans Dome Road remains closed

The main road running through the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) US 441 Newfound Gap Road has reopened allowing passage from Gatlinburg to Cherokee.

It is common for Newfound Gap Road to close often in cold weather due to snow and ice and can remain closed for days.

Clingmans Dome Road is still closed due to snow and ice and will be closed for the winter season December 1st.

Anyone who wishes to go up to Clingmans Dome or to any of the trailheads along the way up to the dome must park at Newfound Gap Parking area. The Newfound Gap Parking area is 7 miles from the Clingmans Dome parking area.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Newfound Gap Road is closed to all traffic from Gatlinburg TN To Cherokee NC

Road conditions in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are still good on all roads except the Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road which are both closed due to snow and ice.

Between tonight’s 30% chance of snow and bitter cold weather expected for the balance of the week, even when Newfound Gap road reopens it may keep closing for the next few days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Newfound Gap Road (US 441) Closed in the GSMNP due to snow and ice.

Last nights light snow in the upper elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains national park was enough to prompt the closing of Newfound Gap Road (US 441).

Since today more snow is expected throughout the day don't count on this major road connecting Gatlinburg Tennessee with Cherokee N Carolina to open today and if it does reopen, it will close by night when it all refreezes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rough weather for drivers and hikers in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Rain, heavy fog and high winds are creating hazards for drivers and hikers in the Smokies this morning with gusts exceeding 45 miles per hour on some ridgelines.

Since we have been getting light rain on and off for the last 48 hours and the ground is wet, the high winds are creating a major blow down hazard and the high wind advisory which expires in a few hours will still be in effect in some isolated areas.

It is advised to stay off of ridge lines as hikers should avoid hiking in areas of high winds as this may pose and extreme danger.

Drivers must also use extreme caution on less traveled roads that may have a large accumulation of fallen wet leaves that may pose a skidding hazard.

Hikers must also use caution on hiking trails with heavy leaf accumulation as leaves may obstruct tripping hazards such has tree roots and protruding rocks and may be floating on water hiding this hazard as well as slippery rocks underneath.

If unsure of footing hikers should be probing the ground with hiking poles or a walking stick.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Local hiker seriously injured in the Great Smoky Mountain national park.

What should have been and beautiful relaxing fall day in the Great Smoky Mountains national park yesterday turned tragic for 25 year old Jeremy Frye of Sevier County on the Grotto Falls Trillium Gap Trail.

Unfortunately Jeremy decided the he should climb up and around on rocks around the Grotto falls which has a large pool and boulders beneath it.

Park visitors are advised that climbing on waterfalls or rocks is dangerous and forbidden because of some many who have been injured or killed engaging in this behavior.

I can't imagine what was going through Jeremy Frye's head and the pain he felt with his head and back injuries he sustained from a more than 30 foot fall waiting what must have been more than an hour and a half to have rangers carry him out the Mile and a half to the Grotto Falls Trailhead and into an ambulance to be shuttled to Gatlinburg City Hall where he was air lifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Drivers, hikers and bikers need to be cautious today in the Smokies

Colorful fall leaves that were washed down on the Smoky Mountains roadways and hiking trails by the much needed rain we just got is creating hazardous conditions for hikers, bikers and drivers who are not cautious.

While were expecting and needed far more rain than what came, we are thankful what we did get even if it knocked down all the fall leaves that are past peak a little early.

With the increased moisture the small creek and streams though still low have been slightly replenished. If you are planning on coming into the Great Smoky Mountains national park, today should be a waterfall day where you can appreciate the slight gain in water flow over any of the many waterfalls and cascades the national park.

Please make sure that if you are hiking you pay special attention to any wet leaves on rocks and on wet trail floors which could be like skating on ice when you least expect it!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cades Cove Loop Road Public Briefing on Paving

The managers at the Great Smoky Mountains national park will be making a 1 hour presentation on the alternative schedules and construction phases to repave the badly worn Cades Cove Loop Road.

The 11 mile Cades Cove Loop is badly in need of repair and has been for years. The national park plans to repave the road in early 2010 and has worked with engineers at the Federal Highway Administration to formulate various construction scenarios and will be presenting at this meeting that advantages and disadvantages of the various scenarios they have narrowed it down to.

Obviously major construction on the Cades Cove Loop will hamper visitor access to the road as well as connecting hiking trails, Parsons Branch Road, Rich Mountain Road, Forge Creek Road, historic buildings and the Cades Cove Visitor center.

Cades Cove Loop Road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park at dusk

The Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson is welcoming any of the public's "questions about the various alternative concepts and the construction methods under study".

Mr. Ditmanson stressed that this meeting is not to address broader planning of the Cades Cove area transportation alternatives or any potential facility changes. According to Mr. Ditmanson these potential changes and issues will discussed at future public meetings.

While the national park hopes to make changes in Cades Cove in the future, who knows how our present national economic crises as well as lower GSMNP visitation will affect funding for future GSMNP projects.

The surface of the Cades Cove Loop road is deplorable as well as some of the pull offs. This road must be paved to avoid further damage to visitor's vehicles and reduce the obvious hazard to the personal safety of hikers and bikers.

Unfortunately the National Parks track record on the last few construction projects in the GSMNP such as on the Spur, along Little River Road at Indian Rock and Sparks Lane have not been completed on time.

Besides the completion delays, the Spur was resurfaced with materials and a process that was inferior to original specs in an effort to rush completion. Hopefully the Spur project was completed at a far lower price than what the superior process and materials would have cost had they waited until the specialized crews and the equipment were available.

Concerned locals as well as businesses that depend on tourism should attend the Cades Cove paving plans presentation that will take place at the Townsend Heritage Center next Thursday the 13th from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Peak Fall Color Season is here in the Smokies

The colors in the Smoky Mountains is amazing and is right now at peak for this autumn in both Tennessee and North Carolina and all I have been doing the past week has been chasing the best colors and hiking all around the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

The weather here in the Smoky Mountains has been amazing - even the day of light snow we received in the upper elevations was cold enough for some light accumulation but certainly not uncomfortable and the next day it warmed right up, slowly enough to let the snow linger and fast enough to hike dressed lightly.

I have spent only 3 days in the North Carolina side and the other time herein Tennessee where the fall colors are a bit behind.

colors in the Smoky Mountains is amazing and is right now at peak for this autumn in both Tennessee and North Carolina

So far nothing I have examined other than some spots along Newfound Gap Road on the North Carolina side, the tops of Le Conte and the highest points of the Appalachian Trail are in the final days of fall colors. Due to heavy evergreen growth on the tops of Le Conte and the AT they are wonderful year round - maybe even prettier with some light snow.

Most of the snow is now gone except in the shaded areas in higher elevations in the highest parts of the park. On Friday 2 of the walls along Clingmans Dome Road were shrouded in ice for the sunrise and even though the sun was just spreading its warm glow against the rock walls chunks were already breaking off and crashing to the ground below.

walls along Clingmans Dome Road were shrouded in ice for the sunrise

In regard to wildlife sightings in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, it has been anything other than average for me. Plenty of bear in Roaring Fork but outside of Roaring Fork I only saw 3 in a week. I normally see that many a day this time of year.

Speaking of bear I am amazed that in the Sinks parking area which clearly has active bear warnings posted in 2 places that the garbage was overflowing so that the lids in all three containers would not shut.

I found a large stick and mashed down what I could to get the bear proof lids closed. When I returned from hiking the Meigs Creek Trail it was overflowing again. I tracked down a park employee and had them radio it in.

wildlife sightings in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Shame on the irresponsible persons who did this rather than packing out their garbage as they endangered other visitors as well as the bear. The park service has to watch these trash receptacles more carefully while there are such bear problems in the park - even with the lack of funds they have as this is the 4th garbage incident I have seen and reported in the past week.

Beside the most unbelievable hiking and driving in the Smoky Mountains, I had 2 other outstanding experiences, hiking with Smokies Scout and taking the guided hay ride in Cades Cove on the Sunset run.

Hiking with the Smokies Scout was wonderful and for the fist time in my Smoky Mountains hiking career I actually did a shuttle hike. We rode up Newfound Gap Road during sunrise and stopped to take pictures on an overlook on the North Carolina side and the ice along the side of the road in Clingmans Dome Road.

Our hike took us from Clingmans Dome Road where we were bundled up, hat gloves and the like with snow on the ground and ended up eventually in the Lakeshore area - where I was down to a T shirt.

Our hike which was mostly downhill also took us up and back down the Springhouse Branch Trail. They day and the fall colors were amazing. We went from full blown out peak to dark green and light green areas just waiting to change. Sometime hiking up we went back in season - go figure.

The Cades Cove hay ride I took was far better than I would have ever expected and will go into more detail in another post. The hay ride was on the last day it ran this year, and it was the last time the present concessioner who had run this service for the last 40 plus years took visitor around the Cove as a new concessioner takes over in the spring.

Well I am off to chase more color and I think it will be my routine for the next 2 weeks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newfound Gap Reopens in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Newfound Gap Road US 441 is now open again, but the park service warns drivers that is still ice near Newfound Gap.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Current Black Bear Activity on the GSMNP

The Great Smoky Mountains national park is home to more than 2 black bears per square mile and they are still very active, especially now that winter is right around the corner.

Black bear in the GSMNP don't hibernate all winter long but they do become less active and now is the time they need to fatten up for the winter.

While most times I spend a full day in back country I see black bear during their active season, more often than not other than Cades Cove you don't see them by the roadways within the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Right now other than Cades Cove your best chance of see a bear alongside the road in the national park is in the Roaring Fork section of the park just outside the City of Gatlinburg Tennessee. You will find bear often just as you enter on Cherokee Orchard Road and just after the second Rainbow fall parking area where I took this picture of the huge fat bear below.

Current Black Bear Activity on the GSMNP

Bear are sill active throughout the Great Smoky mountains national park and will be until sometime in December. They are still backcountry campsites closed due to agressive bear activities and warning on many hiking trails.

Though they may seem more interested in food than anything else do not approach a bear and keep at least 150 feet between you and them.

If you see wildlife you wish to observe or photograph pull off the road in a designated pull off and shut off your engine.

Main Road in GSMNP Newfound Gap Road Closes again due to snow and ice

As quick as it opened US 441 Newfound Gap Road which runs through the heart of the Smoky Mountains was closed again to day due to icy and snowy conditions.

Do not expect this major artery connecting Cherokee North Carolina with Gatlinburg Tennessee to open early on the morning as more snowfall is expected as it will take a while for the national park service to get the ice and snow under control.Main Road in GSMNP Newfound Gap Road Closes again due to snow and ice

Newfound Gap Road Between Gatlinburg and Cherokee reopened

The national park service was able to plow and sand enough to make Newfound Gap Road US 441 safe for drivers to make it through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Based on the current weather this road may close again as it will ice as the temperature drops in the afternoon.

Newfound Gap Road Closed Due To Snow and Ice

Newfound Gap Road (441) is now closed due to snow and ice and the snow is still falling.

If it warms up and we are lucky Newfound Gap Road may reopen to drivers trying to get back and forth from Gatlinburg Tennessee and Cherokee North Carolina.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Great Smoky Mountains national park will host Halloween Fireside Stories of Ghosts and Witches

The 100 year old buildings at the Oconaluftee farm museum will serve as the perfect backdrop this Halloween to learn about how the people of historic Appalachia far back before the park was even formed celebrated All-Hallows-Eve with scary stories that were meant to entertain and frighten.

Starting a 5:00pm and running for about an hour park employees and volunteers will add to the chills and thrills with some scary old time stories, warm apple cider and homemade molasses taffy.

The Oconaluftee Farm Museum is right by the Cherokee North Carolina entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains national park on Newfound Gap road (US 441).

Smoky Mountains Cruise the Smokies Fall Rod Run

It's time again for hundreds of classic cars to rumble through the Smoky Mountains and end up at the Cherokee North Carolina fairgrounds for the annual Cruise the Smokies Fall Cherokee Rod Run.

From this Friday to Sunday afternoon you can check out classic cars and heavily customized modern cars at the fairground where you can enjoy fun, food and entertainment for only $5 a day per person.

Cruise the Smokies Fall Rod Run in the Smoky Mountains

There are still spaces if you wish to enter you car in the Cruise the Smokies Fall Cherokee Rod Run for $40 which will give you the opportunity to possible win some of the $15,000 in prizes to be awarded!

For those of you looking to see the Cruise the Smokies Fall Cherokee Rod Run show with your kids on Friday, you can bring them over to the Oconaluftee farm museum from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm to check out the free Halloween program at the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Snow! First flakes of the season fall on Gatlinburg

Though the air temperature was in the upper 40s, snow ever so gentle was falling this afternoon on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and later on just above the city of Gatlinburg today melting as soon as it hit the ground.

It is predicted that the higher elevations such as on Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans dome road may see some snow tonight that may even stick for a gentle dusting.

Drivers should use cation in the early morning as we may even see patches of ice in the lower elevations.

This year we have not even hit peak leaf season in the lower elevations and we are already seeing the possibility of snow in the Smoky Mountains in October.

Break out he cameras this could be beautiful!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rain is dampening spirits of leaf peepers and barely helping drought in the Smokies

Today marks the second day of light rain in the Great Smoky Mountains, just in time for one of the heaviest weekends of peak leaf season visitation and damping the spirits of some leaf peepers, but not enough to put a dent in the water shortage caused by 2 years of drought.

The rain though light, is knocking many leaves that turned in the trees onto the ground making hiking and driving on the wet slippery leaves a little more hazardous than normal.

As more and more leaves fall to the ground the threat of wildfires increases especially given the huge numbers of trees that have died in the past 2 years due to the stresses of drought, last years late freeze and the massive hemlock kill off caused by the invasive exotic pest the Hemlock woolly adelgid which is decimating the hemlock trees throughout the Great Smoky Mountains.

All of this excess fuel is creating the potential for a huge wildfire situation and we need to make sure that we clear as much brush as possible from around our homes and make firebreaks.

Last week a cabin rental company America Mountains Rentals had just cleared brush from the sides and behind a cabin for rent on Bluff Mountain in Wears Valley just days before a brush fire broke out threatening the entire mountainside.

A total of 5 local fire departments fought the wildfire day and night and were able to put it out that to the fact that there was a firebreak that slowed the fire down.

Rain is dampening spirits of leaf peepers and barely helping drought in the Smokies

That entire section of Bluff Mountain was evacuated and fortunately American Mountain Rentals had a large enough inventory of cabins that they were able to give the evacuees alternate accommodations for the rest of their vacations.

Another cabin fire a few days ago burnt a large 4 bedroom luxury rental unit to the ground and luckily everyone was able to escape without injuries.

It is also crucial that we don't treat fire carelessly in the backcountry only making a fire when absolutely necessary in within a safe campfire containment area in designated campsites. More than once, I have come across a deserted campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and found a fire still smoldering in a fire pit or ring.

It is also important that if you have been driving for a while that you do not park on top of a pile of leaves as your hot exhaust system can actually cause the leaves to ignite setting the leaves and your car on fire.

Light rain is expected to fall on and off throughout much of the Smokies today, and the weather should return to bright sunny skies by tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cades Cove Heritage Tours shuttle service officially started in Cades Cove

Cades Cove is not on the most loved section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park, it is also the most congested and crowded especially on weekends and holidays and leaf season when there is peak visitation.

To help alleviate some of the traffic congestion as well as being able to offer a professional guided tour of Cades Coves history, natural resources and spin some yarns about some local stories Cades Cove Heritage Tours is now officially offering mini bus tours of the Cove.

Cades Cove Heritage Tours shuttle service officially started in Cades Cove

The 19 passenger white Cades Cove Heritage Tours shuttle busses have already been touring Cades Cove but the official shuttle service stared today after a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The ticket prices for this 3 hour tour is $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for kids from 6-17 and children under 6 are free. Members of the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center get reduced rates and you can get a combo ticket for both the entrance to the heritage center tour and the Cades Cove shuttle.

While some are touting the shuttle tour as an environmental friendly option which will reduce pollution, Cades Cove Heritage Tours which is a non profit organization should have made a far wiser choice in the purchase of their vehicles to reduce their carbon output and reduce engine noise.

While this is a small step that that could slightly help reduce traffic which exceeds 800,000 vehicles a year on the Cades Cove 11 mile loop it is a small half step.

It is a shame this opportunity to make a huge difference in the air pollution output created and the use of resources used by touring the Cove was not tackled in a modern and environmentally friendly manor.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is the Not So Great Train Robbery.

Let me start off to say I have wanted to ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in the fall season for almost 3 years now. I only wish I had still waited to take this train tour out of Bryson City North Carolina than be a victim of the not so great train robbery perpetrated against me.

Watching the local Smoky Mountains weather and the progress of the leaves changing color for fall, I picked this past Wednesday to take the train ride from Bryson City to the Nantahala and back, a 4.5 hour round trip journey including the 1 hour stop off in the Nantahala area.

Based upon the chilly weather expected in the morning we booked tickets on the phone for the coach car with indoor seating - the cheapest indoor seats at $53 a person and parking is $4 extra.

Even though the departure of the Great Smoky Mountains Train was at 9 am I was told that I must be there by 8 am and that tickets were non refundable. Since I live about 2 hours away this meant I had to leave at 6 am to get there by the time I was told to be there by.

Parking for the railroad was a block away and getting the ticket was relatively smooth but I ended up having at least 50 minutes to kill - so much for having to be there that early which was a huge inconvenience.

I decided to go to the railroad museum by the end of the railroad tracks which I was told my train ticket would allow me free entrance. The museum consisted of a retail store in the front and in the back thousands of model trains in cases mounted to the walls and 2 full model train setups.

railroad museum by the end of the railroad tracks

The first model railroad set up was meant for children with a Christmas tree, but the 3 level set up in the back of the museum was actually quite impressive in size. I was told this huge model train set up was built in another facility, disassembled and reassembled here and it carried a $300,000 price tag.

There was a knowledgeable member of staff or volunteer that described some general items of interest but without speaking to this gentlemen one would walk out of the museum learning virtually nothing as none of the displays really educated you on the items but most had price tags.

The whole train museum was worth the ½ hour I spent there but not much longer. Adults without train tickets would normally pay a $9 entrance ticket fee a price at least $5 more than it was worth.

Another 15 minute wait and now it was time to board the coach car on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train. The interior of the train was reasonably well maintained with plenty of ceiling fans inside so I assume it may not be air-conditioned in the summer. My group and I were able to get seats together and within a reasonable time the train departed.

inside shot of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad coach car

We sat on the right hand side of the train in anticipation of getting the best views so we could take some photographs. The idea of taking this train ride in the peak of the fall season was to be able to see the spectacular vistas promised.

A few short prerecorded history lessons were given out on the area over the trains loudspeakers. Unfortunately the group on the train was very load as well as the train "conductor" in our car who talked over every lecture rendering them worthless to us.

A lady walked through the train hawking a book with descriptions that synchronizes with the mileage markers along the way and a Great Smoky Mountains Railroad DVD. I would have bought the set but she didn't take credit cards and didn't bother to make accommodations - fine with me as they are available on EBay.

Simple hamburgers along with potato wedges, hot dogs with slaw on other such foods were available along with drinks for about $10 a person. All edible and priced within the realm of reality but certainly not a great meal or bargain.

We all waited anxiously for the great views about to unfold with the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains in the peak of fall season that was going to take our breath away.

We saw maybe 2 minutes of nice views as we went over the bridge by Fontana and again a few minutes later for around 45 seconds. We passed at total of maybe 4 to 5 minutes of nice views on the entire ride to Nantahala! The rest of what we saw was the inside of ravines covered in kudzo and rundown houses and industrial areas near the tracks.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad view at Fontana Bridge

At Nantahala we were able to disembark where we were able to grab the last picnic table available to kill about an hour. The picnic table was on a bridge 40 or 50 feet from a main road and by the parking lot - far from being secluded or an exceptional natural setting.

We were told before disembarking that everyone riding the train was supposed to switch sides on the train so everyone would have an opportunity to see the views on both sides of the tracks. Upon getting back into the train no one wished to switch sides and we pressed the point and were finally able to.

The ride back was slightly more scenic with river views lasting a little more than 15 minutes but far from the wall of colorful fall foliage we were told to expect.

On the return trip the conductor was so loud when speaking to a few people in the group we were unable to discern anything coming over the loud speakers in the train describing the area. We were also hot up for some cancer donation by sending a lady through the train.

While the bathrooms on the trains generally had lines, they were in acceptable condition.

Loading the train in Bryson City the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad had a golf cart to move people who had minor mobility issues. There were no golf carts available in Nantahala and there were no wheelchair ramps in either train platform. The isles were very narrow and there were no accessible bathrooms.

It is suggested that if you are handicapped you avoid the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad unless you wish to sue them for not being ADA compliant. I have to say shame on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for not at least having ramps.

I would strongly suggest that you do not bring young children along on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad as they would be bored and miserable as this is a very long ride with virtually no pay off.

Of all of the attractions I have visited in the Smokies the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was the worst and offers the least value for the money. I would say in my worldwide travels this is the largest disappointment I have ever had and the most overpriced attraction ever.

One could ride along any interstate in the area or major local road such as 19, 276, 129 or 441 and get spectacular views. This railroad trip in the Smokies was a waste.

Save your money, save your day, do anything in the area other then the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and you will be happy.

Your Smokies is looking for hiking groups with severely visually impaired hikers in the Smoky Mountains.

At Your Smokies we have been working for years to raise awareness by better understanding the needs of persons with disabilities in the Smoky Mountains.

We have educating business owners and the management of public places to special needs and applicable laws in order to make the Smokies a more enjoyable and safe environment for those traveling to or living in the Smoky Mountains.

We have posted information for persons with specials needs on Your Smokes which have been built using a web architecture that does not block access as other sites do to those who are visually impaired and plan to build additional web sites dedicated to improving access to everyone who lives in or visits the Smokies.

If you are a member of a group that has severely visually impaired hikers or are visually impaired and are an experienced hiker please be so kind as to comment to this post. If you wish for your comment to remain anonymous and to not be posted publicly please say so in your comment and we will respect your wish.

Please help us make the Great Smoky Mountains accessible to everyone who wishes to come to this wonderful place.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Cosby Festival for 2008 at the Moonshine Capital of the World

The 11th annual On Cosby festival is being held from October 17th to the 19th in the Moonshine capital of the world: Cosby in Tennessee's Cocke County.

The temperature is perfect and the leaves in the trees are bursting forth with showy fall colors and the best value in family friendly Smoky Mountain entertainment is going to take place against beautiful backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains at the Cosby visitor's center on 321.

On Cosby Festival for 2008 at the Moonshine Capital of the World

With so much to see and do all for the price of parking - which goes to the local fire department the On Cosby Festival is a must for anyone in the Smokies this weekend.

Exhibitors and vendors were setting up today and hopefully the weather will hold out tomorrow as the school kids will flood the festival playing games, watching demonstration and musical entertainment.

Friday October 17th 2008 On Cosby festival schedule

  • 11:00 Pottery with Sandy learn the basics
  • 11:30 Native American musical instruments with Karen Lancaster
  • 11:00 Native American resources (stage)
  • 12:00 Walking sticks with the wood wizard Learn to carve one using a spoon and choreboy
  • 12:00 Cosby show choir (stage)
  • 12:30 Native American musical instruments with Karen Lancaster
  • 12:30 Corn meal grinding - farm machinery
  • 1:00 pottery with Sandy
  • 1:00 David Salyers presents Uncle Sam
  • 1:30 Spinning with Jan Harris
  • 1:30 Meth lab demonstration (stage)
  • 2:00 Walking sticks with the wood wizard
  • 2:30 Rug hooking with Jan Harris How to make your own design
  • 3:00 Pottery with sandy
  • 3:00 Lap looms with Jan Harris
  • 4:00 Walking sticks with the wood wizard
  • 5:00 Cinnamon girls (stage)
  • 5:00-5:30 talent show registration $5
  • 6:00 talent show

Saturday October 18th 2008 On Cosby festival schedule

  • 10:00-10:30 Jane Smith
  • 10:30-11:00 Dietra Green
  • 11:00-11:30 Stoney Creek cloggers
  • 11:30-12:00 Roy Poore and Penny Grooms
  • 12:00-1:00 Steve Brown and Hurricane Ridge
  • 1:00-1:30 Tennessee pride cloggers
  • 1:30-2:00 Macedonia Baptist church choir
  • 2:00-2:30 Dean Haney and Big Creek Gospel Bluegrass
  • 2:30-3:00 Wanda Todd
  • 3:00-3:30 Wild West dance club
  • 3:30-4:00 Crystal Lee
  • 4:00-4:30 Marcie Wilds McMahan
  • 4:30-5:00 Candice Keller
  • 5:00-6:00 Mountain Edge
  • 6:00 sharing stories of the past

Sunday October 19th 2008 On Cosby festival schedule

  • 11:00-12:00 Feed my sheep church service
  • 12:00-12:30 Sheree Ramsey
  • 12:30-1:00 Laurel Dunn
  • 1:00-2:00 Longshot - A new brand of country "Southern Rock"
  • 2:00-2:30 Margie Lee
  • 2:30-3:00 Randall Reece
  • 3:30-4:00 Missy Ellis
  • 4:00-4:30 Hannah Rowland
  • 4:30-5:00 Acoustigals - Tracie Howerton and Mary Beale

See you there at the On Cosby Festival!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unopened Section of Foothills Parkway Open House to Motorists this Weekend for Leaf Peeping

An incomplete section of the Foothills Parkway will be temporarily opened to drivers this weekend so that motorists can tour this road and leaf peep. Drivers can appreciate the fall colors thanks to the people in the park service based out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, volunteers of the Blount County Experience Your Smokies and the Blount County Sheriff's Office.

The road will be open to motorist on October 18th and 19th only from 9 am to 3 pm. While this incomplete section of the Foothills Parkway is safe to drive on, it is not paved and only has a gravel surface, has no guardrails or traffic control stripes and signs.

This section of the Foothills Parkway is accessed via the Foothills Parkway interchange off US 321 about 11 miles south of Maryville and 12 miles from the Townsend National park entrance.

This section of the foothills parkway dead ends at the Missing Link and drivers that reach the end can not stop as they were able to on other open houses and they must turn around a drive back to the US 321 interchange.

Last time the national park service opened this section of the Foothills Parkway to motorists this spring more than 8,000 people showed up to enjoy the views.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Worlds alone can not describe Fall in the GSMNP

The Great Smoky Mountains national park moves millions of visitors a year who come here. I can only imagine what it did for the thousands who lived here before it was a national park.

Though I am as close to living in the Great Smoky Mountains national park that anyone could be based upon how much time I spend in this amazing biosphere, trails that I have hiked on dozens of times continue to move me. The same goes for roads I have driven on in the park hundreds of times.

Sometimes inspiration or enlightenment can come from a wisp of a cloud blowing over a mountain top or being trapped in a valley, the sparkle of sunlight reflecting through a dewdrop on a blade of grass or the various symphonies of sounds in the woods.

picture above was taken today along the Middle Prong River in the Tremont section of the GSMNP

The picture above was taken today along the Middle Prong River in the Tremont section of the GSMNP. No enhancements or Photoshop tricks were done to the photo. It is just a living Monet - beauty in the park that is all around us.

Here in the Smoky Mountains the prelude to fall starts with the random sounds of green acorns falling into the leaves on the ground or striking and bouncing off logs from long fallen trees on the forest floor.

Gradually the green acorns falling from the oaks become yellower and then brown as the frequency of the sound increases as more acorns find their way to forest floor.

Squirrels start to spend more time more jumping around of the branches of trees chattering loudly as they stake out their territory and then rustling through the leaves as they are gathering their fill of acorns.

The trees in the Great Smoky Mountains national park deep green leaves - more than 100 species of trees live here - start to gradually lighten and start to randomly turn to red, light green and yellow.

The air here in the Smokies is no longer as humid as it is during the summer and as the day time temperatures become cooler into the 70s and then the 60s and the visibility keeps on improving.

The cicadas are no longer making a racket and the hummingbirds with their loud aerial acrobatics that were here all summer long are all gone.

Even the deer look different as bucks budding antlers with summer velvet give way to larger more fierce rack. Their golden brown coats have now tuned grayish to better blend in with the trunks of the trees in the park and the fawns are much larger now and will soon lose the spots on their coats.

The days are starting to get shorter and the birds that used to start a racket far before the break of dawn can no longer be heard, although the birds that welcome the day are now kind enough to wait until the day has started before they start singing.

At night the air is crisp and cool and the crickets still chatter calling out to one another but the sound is no longer coming in waves of white noise is it did through out the night in summer.

Day by day the pallet of the forest colors is changing. A random red or yellow leaf gives way to branches of wild colors. The leaves colors ever widen in range and increase in brilliance and luminosity as the leaf season continues through mid November.

When walking along the paths or hiking trails in the park you notice the smells in the park are also gradually changing. Just as the best of the blackberries are ending, some of the ferns in the higher elevations are start to turn yellow and then brown perfuming the air along the trail with a sweet smell.

Along some of the old homesteads a few apple trees have managed to survive all these years. Even though they won't win a county fair prize they can be quite delicious when ripe. Especially at the break of dawn the smell of the apples from these trees hangs in the air.

It will still be a few weeks before the first frost here in the Smoky Mountains and we probably won't see any snow in the lower elevations until at least December. The squirrels, fox and coyote that inhabit the Smokies are all getting fluffier and their tails bushier as their winter coats are growing in and the bears are getting outright fat as they gorge themselves in preparation for the winter.

Even along the higher elevations of the park such as at Clingmans Dome, the Appalachian Trail and the Newfound Gap Parking area we still have a few weeks before we can melt the first snowflakes of the year on the tips of our tongues.

Yes the Great Smoky Mountains national park can be quite inspirational to those who are lucky enough to spend time here. Just make a point to get away form the crowds and just take it all in. With 800 square miles of park it is easy to find a quiet spots even in the busiest of days here. Even the most ordinary place in the park is extraordinary if you just look, listen and observe with an open mind.

Fall brings lots of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains national park to enjoy the autumn colors and along with the increase of visitors there are also more programs that the national park offers to it guests. I strongly recommend taking advantage of as many of these programs you can while they are available.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How to get Your Smokies News updates or add a Smokies News Feed to your web site or MySpace.

At your Smokies News we work hard to bring you the most accurate and up to the moment Smoky Mountains News. You can subscribe for free to get automatic news updates or even add our live news crawl to your own web site for free.

How to get automatic Your Smokies News Updates:

Your Smokies News has RSS (Real Simple Syndication) news feeds which you can either use as a live bookmark or use a RSS feed reader.

The simplest way is to use Live Bookmarks. Simply Subscribe to Your Smokies News and use the "live Bookmarks function". To see if there is an update on our site, just go to the bookmark you just made in your web browser such as Internet Explorer or Safari and it will automatically list all of news stories in descending order - newest first.

The other option is to use a RSS News Feed Reader such as Google Reader. This site has a simple introduction video.

Go to this page and add us in under the section that says "Stay close to friends and family!" and under the username add in "yoursmokies". Add in other sites with feeds that interest you and then when you check your Google news reader page, all of the new updates will be there.

There are many other News Readers so see which one you like best.

How to add your Smokies News Updates to your web site.
Now you can have the latest Smokies News on your web site by adding a free Your Smokies news crawl on your web site, blog or Myspace page.

Listed below is what the news crawl looks like as well as the html code for the link.

The HTML code:
<a href=""><img src="" alt="Your Smokies News"><br />Your Smokies News</a>

Highlight the code above in green, copy (on PCs Control C) and the Paste (on PCs Control V) into the body of your web site.

Plenty of Columbus Day weekend visitors to the Smokies just in time for the start of peak fall season

While regular visitation the Smoky Mountains has been down, the 2008 leaf season and the Columbus Day weekend has offered a real boost of visitors to Smokies.

It was quite apparent that visitation was way up this weekend with far more crowded roads such as the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, the Spur leading to Gatlinburg, Patton Ave and Tunnel Road in Asheville, the Biltmore, Cades Cove and of course the Tail of the Dragon in Deal Gap.

Hiking Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park were also very busy. Even quieter trails such as the midway points of the Old Settlers Trail such as Noisy Falls and the Creek along 321 had 2 or 3 cars throughout the day - very rare for this quiet trail.

Parking for Alum Cave was insane and I can not even imagine what it is like to have hiked up that trail to Le Conte with all those people. The at was also crowded as well even some quieter trails in Deep Creek.

Plenty of Columbus Day weekend visitors to the Smokies just in time for the start of peak fall season

Cades Cove at times was like a parking lot but the weather was so spectacular and the fall foliage is starting to come into beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red contrasting against the dark and light green leaves it was worth the slow drive.

The Blue Ridge Parkway from mile marker 380 to the end at 469 was busy with photographers at most pull offs taking advantage of the stunning fall color coming in with perfect blue skies, then amazing cloud formations which the receded leaving perfect blue skies again.

Local businesses are happy to see the crowds here in the Smoky Mountains, most of which will be leaving today. The best time to come right now is midweek where you can still get lodging discounts and it becomes real quiet in spite of the perfect weather and beautiful fall scenery throughout the Smokies.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Asheville Parks and Greenways Foundation accepts $5,000 grant

The Asheville youth program Teens Outside! run by the Asheville Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Department was just given a $5,000 grant which the Asheville Parks and Greenways Foundation accepted on behalf of the City by outdoor clothing and equipment supplier

The Asheville Teens Outside! program is a fantastic opportunity for kids to be able to experience outdoor recreation activities in the Asheville N Carolina area. This program is presently limited to youth in the 6th to 9th grades and is very affordable.

About REI
REI is a well known name by outdoor sports enthusiasts and they have worked with other educational outreach programs to help encourage our youth to better appreciate and respect nature and enjoy outdoor activities.

Not only are their programs a great way of protecting and promoting local wilderness areas through education, they are building a legacy of future customers who will appreciate the great outdoors and the REI sporting goods company's environmental position.

Beside the grants that REI offers they also offer a line of Eco Sensitive clothing that utilize materials and manufacturing processes that are designed to lessen environmental impact.

REI is planning to open a store by October 17th at 31 Schenck Parkway in South Asheville.

REI ecoSensitive: Take it Easy on Mother Nature

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trail of Tears Memorial Walk in Cherokee North Carolina to Raises Awareness

To Commemorate the Triumphant Spirit of the Cherokee in remembrance of the 1,200 mile forced march in the winter of 1838 on which almost 17,000 Cherokee were made to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma and sadly almost 4,000 Cherokees needlessly died, the Cherokee Historical Association is sponsoring the Trail of Tears Memorial Walk Saturday, October 11th at the Oconaluftee Islands Park at 9:30 am.

So this needles tragedy is never forgotten and so we may honor to loss and suffering of these Native American men, women and children, the trail of tears memorial walk will follow the Cherokee River Trail Loop for approximately 2.5 miles which will end at the Eternal Flame at Mountainside Theater.

Registration is $12 and to register you must go to the Cherokee Historical Association main office located at 564 Tsali Blvd in Cherokee North Carolina or call (828)497-1111.

Registered memorial walkers will get a free breakfast; enjoy traditional Cherokee dancing on the Village Square Grounds and receive a special tour of the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

Starting at 8 am parking and shuttle services will be provided by Cherokee Transit.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Black Bear issues in the GSMNP still creating issues for hikers and campers in the Smokies.

With less than 10 weeks left in the active black bear season in the Great Smoky Mountains National park (GSMNP), heavy black bear activities continues to force closings of backcountry campsites, shelters and the issuing of bear warnings for hikers on various hiking trails and now even parking areas.

Never can I remember such heavy black bear activity in the park, and fellow hikers and campers all agree, black bear activity in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is reaching epidemic proportions.

Mind you I am not complaining. The park is a biosphere and the black bear below here and should be here is numbers as great as possible as long as the park ecosystem is able to sustain their numbers and reasonable contain their population.

As for the numerous closings and warnings in the GSMNP issued by the national park service, they are to be commended by taking extra caution and warning visitors. I am sure they don't want any more repeats of this summers black bear attack in Roaing Fork area of Gatlinburg on a small child.

Sparks Lane in Cades Cove Tennessee will remain closed for most of Leaf Season

Sparks Lane the first gravel road bisecting Cades Cove in the north western Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is going to remain closed to all vehicles, cyclists and hikers until the construction is completed proected now as October 25th.

The construction project on Sparks Lane will improve drainage and allow fish to traverse up and down 2 of the streams which the road crosses. Unfortunately the delay in the delivery of these 2 large concrete culverts need for this project has delayed the whole project.

While Sparks Lanes closure does not make a major impact on traffic in the Cades Cove Loop it does limit a quick access through the lower section for people looking to exit the Cades Cove Loop early or to drive or ride again on the back end of the loop without leaving the Cove.

More information about the Sparks Lane constriction project in Cades Cove.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

2008 Visitation down in Smokies - but for how long?

Higher gas prices and food prices along with other necessities, climbing unemployment, credit problems and now the fiasco in the stock market is making an already soft tourist season even softer here in the Smokies.

Luckily for businesses in the Smoky Mountains, the costs here are lower here than most other vacation destinations and since there is so much to do, tourists don't have to drive far to find something that fits everyone's taste and budget.

With air travel prices sky rocketing, economy class tickets are expected to increase even further with the heavy loss of the more profitable business class travelers (Lehman Brothers alone booked $115 million in air travel last year). Air travel for a family to a vacation destination here in the US may no longer be affordable for many more Americans.

Luckily for the Smokies, most of the population in the US is just a day's drive away so people looking to travel on a tighter budget can still do so by driving to the Smoky Mountains.

One of the most popular Smokies destinations is the Great Smoky Mountains national park which does not charge any entrance fees, exhibit fees, guided tour fees or for parking anywhere inside the 800 square mile large biosphere.

More families are finding out how exciting the national park is where they can picnic, hike, bike or take a guided tour for free. For those who have limited mobility or don't want to get that close to nature, there are hundreds of miles or spectacular roads in and around the park where you can see the beautiful scenery without every leaving your car.

While there are still cheap hotel rooms to be found in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cherokee and the Asheville area, for families it is often far cheaper to spend your vacation in a cabin - it is certainly far more comfortable!

Not only can you prepare and serve your family home cooked meals in your cabin - it's a great way to save gas and avoid paying the high restaurant prices. Most rentals cabins now have amenities such as hot tubs, pool tables, DVD players and some even have media rooms, video game consoles and other ways to keep the clan entertained - for free!

Much of November and some of December is still considered "in season" and is not priced at peak rates so there are still bargains to be found.

2008 Visitation down in Smokies but for how long?

Plenty of the outlet malls and stores here in the Smoky Mountains have been slashing prices to attract the tourists who come here to save some money on their Christmas and holiday shopping.

Just strolling down the street to people watch here in the Smokies or listen to live music is loads of fun. Shorty millions of lights will be sparkling and twinkling away through the night in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville for Winterfest 2008.

Close to Christmas there will also be carolers walking down the streets of Gatlinburg in period costumes from the 1800's entertaining all those that they pass with impromptu performances in local stores. The price? Free and tipping is not allowed!

The Smokies have seen a drop in visitation; but the drop that we have seen is far smaller than most popular tourist destinations in the US. We also see that many who live in and near the Smokies are coming back to explore the Great Smoky Mountains.

Are you changing your vacation and holiday travel plans? How do you save money while you are on vacation? We want to know!

So how long will this drop in visitation in the Smokies last? Crystal balls are for sale in some of the gift shops along the parkway and I bet they are on sale.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Last night was a huge hit for star gazers in Cades Cove area of Great Smoky Mountains national park

Stage gazers in Cades Cove got an eyeful last night at the 3rd annual stargazing even held in the Great Smoky Mountains national park by the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society and the National park service.

The weather was picture perfect; clear cool with low humidity - perfect for star gazing and Cades Cove was the perfect place to enjoy the night sky.

More people showed up than I would have ever expected and young and old alike had a great time in the first field on the right as you enter Cades Cove.

Here we all received a rudimentary education on some of the stars and constellations in the autumn sky along with Native American stories about the night skies.

Once the lecture was over we strolled up to the many high powered telescopes and binoculars the members of the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society brought into Cades Cove.

 Last night was a huge hit for star gazers in Cades Cove

Cades Cove is like a giant bowl with the Smoky Mountains ringing the valley floor shielding all the lights from the cities and towns in the distance. In the deep darkness of Cades Cove when the last of the light from the sunset fell behind the mountains and we can no longer see the bats flying around catching their Saturday evening meal, the faint stars forever hidden by city lights, clearly shown above us.

Don't miss the opportunity next year to join us again on this adventure. Even without any fancy equipment, come into the Cove on a moonless night and look up and be amazed!

Hiking all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

I have been systematically hiking the trails, manways and roadways in the Great Smoky Mountains National park for the past 12 years but last October I started to hike all of the trails again as day hikes in both directions in all 4 seasons and have completed them all this way within a year.

While first I thought this was going to be an easy task, as time went on I began to realize how difficult it would be to hike all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) this way without car shuttles or overnight stays.

First of all the GSMNP is huge - 800 square miles and since there are about 1,000 miles of maintained hiking trails, paved roads, gravel roads and major manways and that's just in 1 direction!

Because of the sheer size of the park, some hiking trails took me 5 hours to get to and from the trailhead parking areas even though my home in the Smoky Mountains is less than 5 miles from the Greenbrier National Park entrance.

Hiking all the trails in the Smokies during different seasons presents hikers with different challenges and rewards. For me, hiking the entire Great Smoky Mountains national park in the summer and winter presented me with the most hiking challenges.

Summers heat meant the constant risk of dehydration or overheating on the more extreme hikes, the extra effort required to carry much larger quantities of water along with more insects, stinging nettles, poisonous snakes and very frequent bear encounters.

While hiking in the summer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park there are also more frequent thunderstorms which increase the risk of a hiker being struck by lightning and river, streams and creeks that previously had little or no water can become filled with swift running water and too dangerous to cross in minutes.

The summer heat can also create and issue where the air quality in the Smokies becomes poor or hazardous due to ozone created by coal burning power plants far away. Hiking when there is excessive ozone levels can be harmful or at least uncomfortable to hike in.

Hiking in winter also presented special challenges such as far shorter days making it impossible to complete some of the longer hikes without the aid of flashlights and headlamps, ice and snow on the trails and stream crossings increasing the chances of an injury from falling, and the risk of hypothermia from allowing my body core to get too cold.

To counter the risk of hypothermia my day pack had to include far more clothing that I could take on and off in layers as well as replacements in case I got wet. I also packed far more extensive overnight gear in case I was stranded for the night so I could survive safely in the GSMNP. All of this extra hiking gear added close to another 20 pounds to my backpack.

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park in the winter I could trekking for a week or more in deep backcountry and never see another hiker. No chance for a swift rescue - especially since cell phones don't work through much of the park!

In the winter fresh snow can completely obliterate any sign of where a trail is making navigating the trails in the national park difficult. The same can happen with fresh fallen leaves in the fall. Some trails which are used rarely can also be difficult to navigate in the winter when leaf litter on the trail floor is not broken down so it may be hard to find your way.

In the Smokies especially in higher elevations in the winter and spring it can be overcast for days on end making the best GPS unit worthless. Being overcast means you may not get a fix on any stars, the moon or the sun for days. A compass when hiking on the Smokies is a must!

The 2 most common questions I get from people about hiking all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains is asking me what my favorite hiking trail in the park is and how they can get my job.

Since I have hiked all the trails in the GSMNP so many times you would think the first question about my favorite trail in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is easy. Well it isn't. Based upon the season, weather, time allotted to hike that day and even the day of the week the answer will change.

As for having my job, between running my business, gathering local information, studying and hiking I work harder than anyone can imagine 7 days a week but the rewards of this journey have been beyond my wildest dreams.

The past 3 years of intent concentration in the Great Smoky Mountains national park have taught me much. My next goal is to take the years of research and thousands upon thousands of photographs and make this available to everyone.

I see and read the hiking "experts" of the Great Smoky Mountains national park everyday. Few of the experts are in fact as really knowledgeable as they present themselves to be and often are just amateurs with an agenda to sell you what ever they can make the most money from.

If someone is trying to push you on a GPS unit to hike in the Smokies or other expensive electronic gadgets beware. The same for some hiking equipment as well. For example my $89 top end hiking boot inserts lasts only a month longer than the $8 inserts I got in Wal-Mart - though I am testing others.

For a casual hiker going up the Alum Cave Trail to Le Conte it might only be that you have wasted money on the wrong, inferior or overpriced equipment. For a camper or an extreme hiker in the real backcountry the wrong equipment or wrong advice can be disastrous - and deadly.

Rest assured that my information is thoroughly researched and accurate. Any personal recommendation of a product or service is because I am willing to trust my life with it. Hiking solo as I do for as much as 30 miles or more a day you better believe I have to trust my equipment - my life depends on it!

As the owner of the Your Smokies Information web site about the Great Smoky Mountains I will start adding more and more hiking and trails information as well as historical, biological and environmental information to this web site that already has 400 pages of Smokies Information.

My primary concerns are the protection of the Smoky Mountains and the education of those looking to experience the Smokies. Read my blogs and web sites and you will see what I mean. Join my adventure and please feel free to comment and contribute.

Nothing has ever been as difficult, gratifying, strengthening, exciting and informative to my mind, body and soul as hiking all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dolly Parton is the Great Smoky Mountains national parks 75th Anniversary Ambassador

The Great Smoky Mountains national park could not have picked a better ambassador for their 75th anniversary than local celebrity and philanthropist Sevierville Tennessee's own Dolly Parton.

Most anyone who thinks about the Smoky Mountains thinks about Dolly Parton as the face of the Smokies and as the official Park's 75th Anniversary Ambassador, Dolly's name and her image will be used at a variety of GSM National Park events, activities and on informational media.

Dolly Parton announced as the Great Smoky Mountains national park 75th Anniversary Ambassador

According to Dolly Parton "The Smokies are part of my DNA...I have always been an Ambassador, but I am particularly honored to become "official" for this special 75th Anniversary."

Getting Dolly Parton to be the Ambassador was an obvious choice and the announcement of Dolly Parton being the ambassador for the Great Smoky Mountains national park was made by the superintendent Dale Ditmanson who stated "When we first sat down with our park partners and began brainstorming about how the Park's anniversary could best gain national stature we asked ourselves: ’If we could pick one person who is the most recognized and personifies the love of the Smokies, who would it be?’ The answer was a resounding ’Dolly Parton!’ But she's so much in demand; do you think she'll do it?"

In order to get Dolly Parton on board the Dollywood Foundation was contacted by Friends of the Smokies and the rest is history.

If Dolly's participation was not enough, Dolly Parton has graciously written an entire album entitled "Sha-Kon-O-Hey" and the rights of this album are being donated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park through the Friends of the Smokies during the 75th anniversary year. Bravo!

"Sha-Kon-O-Hey" is the phonetic spelling for the Cherokee word, "Shaconage" which is how the Cherokee described the Great Smoky Mountains translated as "Land of the Blue Smoke". Shaconage is also the name of the Friends of the Smokies publication.

Another great organization which Your Smokies supports which helps the park: The Great Smoky Mountains Association will be offering a 125 page souvenir 75th Anniversary edition of Smokies Life magazine will find a personal message from Dolly Parton that reads "The Smoky Mountains have inspired me and my music since I was a little girl. They touch my soul and lift my spirits. Let's celebrate America's most popular national park, but most especially, join me in making sure its magnificent beauty thrives for generations to come."

Bravo on the choice Dale, bravo on bringing it together Friends of the Smokies, and Dolly - no one will ever be more Sweetheart of the Smokies than you are!

Don’t miss Ranger Guided Hike: Little Cataloochee area Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ok I am admit I am a sucker for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park of all of the guided hikes I had taken this historical hike through Little Cataloochee with National park Ranger Brad Free is tops and a do not miss Smokies experience.

Little Cataloochee and Big Cataloochee were both thriving communities when the park came into existence. Ranger Brad Free will take you on a moderate 5 mile hike with some small steep sections where you will step back in time with the help of a fantastic narrative and historical photographs along with some Smoky Mountains magic.

The hike will start along the old North Carolina Turnpike with a history lesson on this road onto a gravel trail where you will have the opportunity to experience the history of the park at the Hannah Cabin and the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church and cemetery (pictured below). You will walk by and see the site of other historical building and farms and where on of the mills was located where you can see historical artifacts and evidence of the Little Cataloochee Community.

the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church and cemetery

The hike will then continue where you will stop where you can enjoy your lunch or snack that you have brought along at one of the most inspiring parts of the Great Smoky Mountains national park: the beautiful Dan and Rachel Cook Cabin on Coggins Branch.

The Dan and Rachel Cook Cabin pictured below was destroyed by vandals with a chainsaw. The loss of this beautiful structure was devastating but thanks to the help of the Friends of the Smokies, this outstanding example of Smoky Mountains architecture was restored to its original beauty. This is just one of many examples of why we should all support this incredible organization.

The Dan and Rachel Cook Cabin

Cataloochee valley is right next to Maggie Valley and road to take you to the valley is near the intersection of 276 and I40. Meet just before 10 am at the first parking lot when you pull into the GSMNP Cataloochee Valley where you will see a bulletin board and literature. The hike starts at 10 am and the return time is approximately 3 pm but you can stay longer if you wish.

It can be very cool in the Cataloochee Valley in the mornings so dress warm in layers and pack a picnic lunch or snack along with any water you may need. While the trail is not particularly steep or rocky it is best to wear hiking shoes or at the least sneakers.

Not only will you be able to experience the best guided hike that Great Smoky Mountains national park has to offer with an excellent veteran Ranger, the elk are in rut right now so you should stick around until sunset to listen to and watch them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Construction on Foothills Parkway Spur extended by the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The Foothills Parkway construction project in the Great Smoky Mountains national park on the section knows as the Spur which connects Gatlinburg with Pigeon Forge Tennessee will be extended 2 more days to Friday, October 10th due to equipment issues created by Hurricane Ike.

Originally the Great Smoky Mountains national park was going to be be able to greatly improve the safety of the Spur portion of the Foothills Parkway by resurfacing the road with a special high-performance paving material that requires specialized skills and equipment to apply it.

Since the crew and the equipment needed for this special paving operation was delayed due to Hurricane Ike, the park service has decided to not wait until leaf season is over to finish resurfacing the Spur and will instead use the local Pigeon Forge construction contractor Charles Blalock and Sons to come up with an alternative paving mixture that the park service announced "will provide good winter and wet weather traction".

Is "good" good enough based upon how much better then other special surface was going to be? How much are we going to save now that we are using a local contractor using basically normally material rather than a specialized contractor using special materials, labor and equipment. let's hope that it is plenty based upon the inferior product we will end up with.

It is our opinion that the long term driver safety on this heavily used section of roadway which can be a dangerous in bad weather is far more important that a rush to complete this portion of the project on a road which is already is in a condition good enough for the rush of visitors expected in the next month.

Other construction on the Spur section of the Foothills Parkway will begin again after the peak visitation for the leaf season is over on November 3.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cades Cove will be a amateur astronomer’s paradise for star gazing on October 4th in the GSMNP

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society will offer a free 2 hour stargazing program beginning at 7:30 pm Saturday October 4th - far away from the light pollution of any of the towns and cities of the Smokies.

This is the third years that this exciting program is being held in the GSMNP in Cades Cove where visitors will find several telescopes set up in order to observe the stars, galaxies and constellations in the autumn sky on what will be a moonless night.

Along with the telescopes provided by the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society, members of the group will be providing their in-depth astronomy knowledge to visitors as well.

Cades Cove will be a star gazing amateur astronomer’s paradise on October 4th

The Great Smoky Mountains national park has had 75 years to return back to a more natural state since the park was created. Not only does the inside of the park offer the chance to leave the visual pollution of billboards and neon signs of outside the park behind, much of the park is devoid of noise pollution and at night huge areas of the park are absent of light pollution created by the street lights, lighted structures and lights from cars in the outside world.

Without the light pollution, you have far better night vision so you are able to see far fainter objects in the night sky - even without the aid of a telescope or binoculars. Cades Cove is an ideal location to get away from the light pollution and a perfect place to observe the night skies.

If you are planning on coming to this GSMNP event, be sure to dress warmly, bring either a blanket or lawn chair to sit on and a flashlight - preferably with a red cover. If you have binoculars, bring them along as well as you can use them for stargazing.

Park your car near the exhibit shelter at the entrance to the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop Road where you will be escorted to a nearby filed where the group will be.

So far the weather looks good for Saturday, unfortunately if there is bad weather the program will be canceled.