Friday, January 23, 2009

Newfound Gap Road and Cherokee Orchard Road reopen in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Newfound Gap Road (US 441) in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as well as Cherokee Orchard Road in Gatlinburg Tennessee have both been reopened by the park service.

The park service is warning drivers that slick slippery areas still exist and drivers must use caution.

Great Smoky Mountains national park opens more roads to vehicles.

Yesterday's warmer temperature in the Smokies and aggressive sanding by the national park service has allowed numerous roads that were closed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park to reopen.

The following are the only roads still closed in the GSMNP:

  • Newfound Gap Road (US 441) Between Cherokee NC and Gatlinburg TN
  • Old 284 between Big Creek NC and Cataloochee NC
  • Entrance road to the Cataloochee NC section of the GSMNP
  • Foothills Parkway East from I-40 to State Road 321 in Cosby NC
  • Greenbrier Road in the Greenbrier TN section of the GSMNP past the Ranger Station
  • Cherokee Orchard Road in Roaring Fork section of the GSMNP outside Gatlinburg TN past the Twin Creeks Science Center

With temperatures expected to climb high into the 50s in Gatlinburg Tennessee and the surrounding area, most of these roads with the including Newfound Gap Road should be open by tomorrow.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A few roads in the Great Smoky Mountains Nat Park

A few roads just opened in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but a still considered treacherous.

The newly opened roads are:

  • Little River Road from the Sugarlands to the Townsend Wye.
  • Laurel Creek Road to Tremont and Cades Cove
  • The Spur from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge
  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • The Gatlinburg Bypass section of the Spur
  • Entrance Road to Cosby

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Smoky Mountains roads still treacherous with ice and snow

    Though some major roads have been cleared of ice and snow in the Smokies, most back roads are too dangerous to drive on even with 4 wheel drive SUVs as seen in the picture below.

    Smoky Mountains roads still treacherous with ice and snow

    As melting roads refreeze conditions are expected to worsen in roads around the Smoky Mountains.

    Smokies see significant snow throughout region with more on the way today.

    More than 7 inches of snow fell yesterday in some areas of the Smoky Mountains wile other areas woke to less than 2 inches. Regardless of how much snow accumulation there is, drivers must be extremely cautious on secondary roads many of which have a layer of crusty ice underneath the fresh fallen snow.

    Virtually all roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are closed due to snow and ice by the national park service.

    Smokies see significant snow throughout region with more on the way today.

    Schools and some businesses will be closed and meetings canceled for at least today and some into tomorrow as more snow is expected to fall in trace amounts today and cold temperatures will hinder any significant melting.

    Great Smoky Mountains national park closes virtually all roads due to snow and ice

    Presently the following roads closed today in The Great Smoky Mountains national park due to yesterdays freezing rain and snow:

    • Newfound Gap Road US 441 Connecting Gatlinburg with Pigeon Forge
    • Foothills Parkway East connecting I-40 with State Road 321 in Cosby.
    • Foothills Parkway W Connecting State Road 321 with 129 (The Dragon)
    • Little River Road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Townsend Wye
    • Wear Cove Road connection Wears Valley to Metcalf Bottoms on Little River Road
    • Laurel Creek Road from the Townsend Wye providing access Tremont and Cades Cove
    • The Gatlinburg Bypass connecting the park with the Spur portion of the Foothills Parkway
    • Old 284 Connecting Big Creek with Cataloochee
    • Cherokee Orchard Road the entrance to the Roaring Fork section of the GSMNP
    • The entrance to the Greenbrier section of the GSMNP
    • The entrance to the Cataloochee section of the GSMNP
    • The entrance to the Cosby section of the GSMNP
    Great Smoky Mountains national park closes virtually all roads due to snow and ice

    While some roads in lower elevations may reopen quickly expect Newfound Gap Road, Old 284 and the closed sections of the Foothills Parkway to remain closed for a while.

    Due to environmental restrictions the national park service can plow and sand the roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, but they can not use salt on roadways to melt ice.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    More Road Closures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Besides Newfound Gap Road US 441 and Foothills Parkway East being closed, Little River Road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Townsend Wye, Wears Valley to Metcalf bottoms, Roaring Fork / Cherokee Orchard Road, the entrance to Greenbrier, the entrance to Catalooche and old 284 have all be closed by the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

    Bottom line: stay of the park except for the edges!

    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Freezing rain and snow closes roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

    While today's slightly warmer temperatures in the Smoky Mountains may be a welcome relief to some, the light freezing rain and snow is making local roads treacherous stranding motorists and closing US 441 - Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and The Foothills Parkway East which connects I-40 and State Road 321 in Cosby Tennessee.

    Road conditions were so bad today a stretches of I-40 and I-81 were closed and yesterday a section of I-75 was closed due to icy conditions which caused numerous vehicular accidents.

    Drivers must remain cautious on roads that are open as dangerous icy conditions can appear suddenly on bridges and overpasses. Bridges and overpasses tend to be become slippery far sooner than surrounding sections of roadways as the cold air underneath the roadway can cause these areas to freeze rapidly.

    Snow and freezing roan is predicted today as well as on Monday and Tuesday which could keep Newfound Gap Road and the Foothills Parkway closed for the next few days or subject to closing daily.

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Brutal cold still grips the Smoky Mountains – Hikers beware!

    No it's not as cold as it gets in Alaska but the Smokies are really feeling the arctic blast the blew in here 2 days ago and tonight even low elevations in the Smoky mountains are expecting temperatures of 0 degrees. The next few days will see continuing brutal temperatures and more snow in the Smokies.

    For hikers, this weather can present a real challenge. It's not just stream crossings that can be frozen, but even gravel roads, rocks and hiking trails and even tree roots can be slick with ice and these extreme low temperatures.

    These extended low temperatures can spell disaster for anyone spending and extended time outside who is not dressed appropriately in layers or who overheats and then get chilled from cooling action of wet clothes which then lowers their body temperature.

    When the weather gets more extreme, many hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park become deserted making a swift rescue by some kind passerby virtually impossible.

    Hikers should always keep extra clothing in their pack during very cold weather in case they need more layers or if they just need to keep fresh dry clothes next to their body to properly maintain body temperatures.

    Water can also be an issue as my water bottles froze today and eating snow can dangerously lower your body temperature although when you are exerting yourself heavily it may help cool you down and keep you from overheating.

    In extreme weather such as this, an emergency foil blanket as well as an emergency foil "bag" is a must. Both are very cheap and weigh virtually nothing. While you may not plan on spending the night or a very long time in back country when hiking, if an injury occurs that slows you down or keep you from being able to move at all the last thing you want to add to your list of problems is hypothermia.

    If you are not and experienced hiker or well equipment, stay on more traveled shorter trails and stay away from the higher elevations which exacerbate the problems of extreme temperatures and chance for injury.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Tribute to AT Ridge Runnner Jim Mowbray

    After we did our article on Great Smoky Mountains National park volunteer Tom Harrington we have been flooded with stories and pictures about other outstanding volunteers in the park. Below is one of the emails we just received:

    i was just going through some of my pics from 2007 when my wife and i attempted a thruhike on the at...

    i think it was april 22, 2007 when we began our day from newfound gap behind the awful storm that left soooooo many trees down..

    somewhere before pecks corner we ran into a ridgerunner alone with his saw.....cutting a HUGE tree that had fallen across the trail...

    it was jim mowbray ...i stopped and helped him cut the tree...and his astonishment that a thruhiker would do that was noticeable....

    after we finished, we took this pic...and you can see how happy he was for the help....

    peace to you jim....and may the rest of the blowdowns be small trees....

    mowbray is an asset to your are lucky to have him...

    it would be great to get this pic to him...
    ken roberson (whitebear and cujo)
    loganville, ga

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    Report from Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge

    Wow is Wilderness Week at Winterfest amazing! Day 2 is just starting and day 1 was unbelievable.

    The photography classes were world class, the wildlife classes were exciting and informative and the musical classes and demonstrations were world class.

    I was just describing while I was on my way to the convention center to a friend on the phone that the photography classes I attended yesterday alone I would have gladly paid $300 and everything all week long is free!

    Question I have had for years about cougars in the Smokies were years were answered by a world class expert Dr Don Linzey yesterday along with footage I have never seen before of cougars in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

    Are you in the Smokies or can get here in the next few days? Run (don't walk) to Pigeon Forge to enjoy this fantastic set of programs.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    What is the most valuable resource of the Great Smoky Mountains national park?

    I spend more time in the Great Smoky Mountains national park than most people spend in an office in a 9-5 job and I often ponder what the most valuable resource in the GSMNP is.

    Is the most valuable resource the natural beauty of the mountains and the stunning views that stretch for miles or in the hollows where you can only see for a few hundred feet?

    Is the most valuable resource the overwhelming biodiversity of the park harboring animals as large as the Black bear and North American Elk and as small as the many uncounted and undiscovered micro and macroscopic creatures that inhabit the park?

    Is the most valuable resource the protected cultural artifacts and historical buildings some of which stretch all the way back to Paleo Indians that date back some 13,000 years ago?

    Or is the most valuable resource the almost 1,000 miles of hiking trails, manways, and gravel roads that are perfect for hiking year round and which attract millions of visitors a year who get to see the beauty of nature up close?

    Or could it be the amazing peace and quiet that can be found in the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains national park?

    While all of these resources are important and they can potentially last eons or at least many lifetimes, after much contemplation on my part, I have come to the conclusion that none of them are as important as the people who work to protect this incredible biospheres valuable resources and educate the public about them inspiring further generations to appreciate and protect these natural and cultural wonders.

    While I have tremendous respect for the people employed by the national park service who often work far harder and for less than what they could make in the private sector, the real unsung heroes are the more than 2,000 locals who volunteer their time rain or shine out all out of the love for the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

    While there are so many of these volunteers that are such exceptional stewards and representatives of the GSMNP, none stands out in my mind as much as Tom Harrington.

    For years I have seen Tom out in the park every day hiking the trails for trail reports, conducting tours in the Primitive Baptist Church or at the Cable Mill, at the visitor shelter in the Cades Cove parking area or greeting hikers at trailheads.

    It is inspiring to watch him at work and listen to him interact with the parks visitors while he is enthusiastically greeting people into his home away from home. His love of the park and the people who come here to enjoy it is infectious and it's easy to see that Tom Harrington has dedicated his life to his true calling.

    In one of the conversations he has had with park visitors he gently explained why visitors can't take home souvenirs from the park other from the gift shops. It all started when a park visitor asked if they could bring home some pine cones.

    Most valuable resource of the Great Smoky Mountains national park?

    Tom described to the park visitor how the Great Smoky Mountains national park receives approximately 10,000,000 visitors and year and if each visit takes home just 1 pine cone, 10 million pines cones that are needed to reseed the pine forest, feed or shelter the local critters or return valuable nutrients to the soil would all be gone. Rather than just saying "it's against the law" he brought it into terms that the park visitors would understand and embrace.

    The are hundreds of other great volunteers I have come across in my journeys in and around the Great Smoky Mountains national park and I thank all of you because you and the park staff are what allows to park to continue to be the amazingly beautiful and safe environment it is. Your work at protecting these valuable resources has not gone unnoticed!

    Wildnerness Week is starting now in Pigeon Forge

    Wilderness Wildlife Week part of the the Winterfest celebration in the Great Smoky Mountains is kicking off today in Pigeon Forge.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    Hiker, bikers, horseback riders and driver beware of blowdowns in the Smokies

    The Smoky Mountains are completely saturated from days of rain and with last nights and this mornings strong winds, numerous blowdowns are being reported all around the Smokies.

    Hikers and horseback riders in the Great Smoky Mountains national park should keep in mind that long loop trails may be blocked by blowdowns requiring you to turn and around and double back to where you started. Because of this, count on a hike taking twice as long to be sure you will be back before dark.

    Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    Heavy rains cause localized flooding in the Smokies

    Though the heavy rainfall in December were a help restoring some streams and rivers in the Smoky Mountains region to normal, the heavy rains the past few days are starting to take a toll on the area.

    Small rock slides have been seen on trails and along roadways in the Great Smoky Mountains national park creating a hazard for drivers who don't see them - especially at night and now some local roadways and low lying areas in the region are starting to flood.

    As the storms coming through the Smoky Mountains dump more rain throughout the night and into tomorrow, you can expect conditions to worsen.

    The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning covering all of eastern Tennessee along with Cherokee County in North Carolina that will remain in effect until 5:45 am EST Tomorrow.