Thursday, April 30, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains national park Laurel Falls wild fire update

The Laurel Falls Hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains national park remains closed along with other hiking trails close by as 3 fire fighter crews continue to fight the stubborn blaze fueled by leaves, branches, and other hardwood litter as well as trees with heavy beetle kill damage.

Though open flames were no longer visible from the last areal reconnaissance of the Laurel Falls wild fire in the GSMNP, stump holes and logs are still smoking and could flare up at any time. The photo below was taken at the Laurel Falls wild fire and shows typical current fire behavior.

Laurel Falls wild fire current fire behavior

Though the Laurel Falls Hiking trail is only a moderate incline, the fire fighters are dealing what they have classified as an extremely rugged and steep terrain making battling the blaze very difficult.

The estimated current containment date of the Laurel Falls Wildfire is now May 3rd. The potential growth of this fire is minimal as long as the weather trends continue and the condition of the fire is now far better than it has been in the past 3 days.

Currently this wildfire is within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains national park and Ober Gatlinburg and residences close by do not appear to be in any danger, but are still having to deal with varying degree of smoke.

Laurel Falls TN and Stony Ridge NC Wild Fires still burning in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The national park service released management of the 2 wildfires still burning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to an Interagency Incident Management Team. This team specializes in directing and providing logistical support to large incidents, especially fires.

Currently the Laurel Falls fire which was started by an illegal campfire has affected more than 250 acres and has shut down the extremely popular Laurel Falls hiking trail is only 25% contained despite days of intense firefighting efforts by almost 90 firefighters with air support. At this time the rare old growth forest behind Laurel Falls are not in danger.

Laurel Falls fire which was started by an illegal campfire has affected more than 250 acres

Plenty of fuel for this wildfire was and still is available as a prescribed burn has not been done in this area for a very long time. This section of the park really did need the natural cleaning of fire to help increase the biodiversity. Firefighters are burning areas in front of the wildfire right now to reduce its fuel.

Expect the Laurel Falls hiking trail to be closed for some time even after the fire is out to be sure there are no hot spots are hanging trees that could fall onto visitors.

Since fire personnel are tied up fighting this fire it will take days for the Roundtop Trail to be reopened because crews need to examine the trail and surrounding area before it can be deemed safe.

More than 150 firefighters are working on the Stony Ridge Wildfire with the use of air support

The Stony Ridge Wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains national park was started by a downed power line and has already scorched at least 1,200 acres in the Cherokee North Carolina area and has shut down the northern most section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between US 19 - Soco Road and US 441 Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. US 441 Newfound Gap Road is not impacted at all other than occasional smoke.

More than 150 firefighters are working on the Stony Ridge Wildfire with the use of air support and at this time it is halfway contained. The western perimeter at this time is secured and crews are battling to secure the eastern perimeter by the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The cool damp weather from last night and now today has been some help and we can only hope that we get more rain though the forecasts are saying there is only a 30% chance of rain today.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Hiking Trails Closed due to Wildfire activity in Great Smoky Mountains national park

Wildfire activity on the Great Smoky Mountains national park prompts the immediate closing of more hiking trails between Gatlinburg and Elkmont in the Metcalf area and Wears Valley

The Hiking Trails now closed in the GSMNP are:

  • Cove Mountain Hiking Trail
  • Laurel Falls Hiking Trail
  • Little Brier Gap
  • Little Roundtop Hiking Trail
  • Little Greenbrier Hiking Trail
  • Metcalf Bottoms Hiking Trail

We are on our way to the area for a first hand look and will report form the scene.

Wildfire closes Laurel Falls and Little Roundtop Trails in Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Last nights wildfire east of Elkmont in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park lit up the night sky and forced the closure of the Laurel Falls Hiking Trail and parking area and the Little Roundtop hiking trail.

A combination of a few days without rain, unseasonably warm weather, very low humidity and winds gusting from 10 - 15 mph was the perfect storm for a wildfire.

Another wildfire burned at least burned at least 30 acres and some structures forcing evacuations in the Cobbly Nob area between Cosby and the Gatlinburg / Pittman Center area. Witnesses miles away still see and smell smoke from this fire.

Based upon today's weather forecast, the danger of wildfires is still high.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

While bear become bolder in the GSMNP questions still remain unanswered about bear spray.

It's getting warmer in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and more black bear are being spotted each day by hikers, campers and motorists in various sections of America's favorite national park.

The information given by a park employee to Your Smokies about the legality of bear spray in the Great Smoky Mountains last week continues to be called into question by a small number of outspoken people because of conflicting information allegedly being given out by a national park representative in the backcountry office.

Repeated requests have been made to have an official clarification about this park representatives apparent confusion of the law and his recommendation that enforcement is selective at best. Is this a case of "don't ask don't tell" and if so why?

Most people accept the fact that certain items deemed as weapons are not allowed by law in schools, courtrooms along with other government facilities and airports. One has to wonder what is really going on.

According to a spokesperson from the Grand Teton national park, any national park superintendent has the authority to allow their park to be exempt from this law and allow bear spray.

Other have gone so far as to raise the question if a national park superintendent has the authority to allow visitors to carry guns into a national park which I believe at this time to be incorrect.

Another Black Bear rumor circulating on the web is that the bear population in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is occasionally thinned. Simply stated, according to the best possible source, this is not true.

black bear climbs on car in Cades Cove section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The Black Bear in the Great Smoky Mountains national park seen above was photographed by me in Cades Cove yesterday afternoon and is clearly behaving at what can be only be described as inappropriate and unsafe behavior that can eventually lead to an unpleasant bear human interaction.

Before the bear climbed up on this vehicle the driver wisely rolled up his window. When the bear climbed up the car door, pulled on the mirror, scratched at the car and then give the window a few taps, the driver revved his engine and rolled his car slowly prompting the bear to back down and walk away from the car.

Unfortunately besides the bear appearing to pan handle and bother this car he crossed the road twice with many people not very far away.

At one point while the black bear was busy in a field tuning over pieces of wood and leaves foraging for food, there were people with cameras on both sides surrounding the bear. Surrounding a wild animal - even one of the deer in Cades Cove could have a very bad outcome.

Fortunately within minutes of this picture being taken an enforcement ranger showed up to keep the traffic moving and the onlookers at a safe distance. The ranger did an excellent job walking back and forth along the roadway and at one point anticipated the bear was going to come in from the field and cross the road over to the woods on the south side.

The ranger politely asked that people move back and away from an area he felt the bear was about to cross and explained why. The only person who did not immediately comply with the park ranger and tried to inch closer to the bear was a middle aged lady who had serious problems walking and needed the assistance of a cane.

The bear in Cades Cove did in fact cross road and after the ranger felt he was to close to the public he banged a stick on the fence and the bear climbed up the hill deeper into the woods but still stayed within 75 feet of the roadway.

This is an example of a bear I do not want to run into on a hiking trail. While a great photo op on the roadside from the safety of a car, in the backcountry a bear showing no significant fear of humans and intense interest in food, exactly as this bear was doing, can be a real issue for an unsuspecting camper of hiker and can become a dangerous bear encounter of the worst kind.

Update 4/24/09 8:00 am. I have been advised this morning that an answer will be forthcoming "early next week".

Update 4/30/09 9:13 pm. Most of the week is gone and I have yet to get the answer if bear spray is legal or not.

Update 5/60/09 5:14 pm. Finally received official clarification about if bear spray is legal or not in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Related Bear Spray and Black Bear News

Clingmans Dome Road will close today until Tomorrow evening for GSMNP 75th

A Governors' Proclamation Ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains national park attended by state officials from Tennessee, and North Carolina, local counties and municipalities as well as tourism representatives and conservation associations will require that Clingmans Dome Road to be closed from public visitors access from 7 pm today until 5 pm tomorrow afternoon.

Conspicuously absent from this historical occasion kicking of the parks 75th anniversary will be Governor Beverly Perdue from North Carolina.

The hiking trails on an around Clingmans Dome Road will remain open to hikers including the Appalachian Trail which goes up to Clingmans Dome Observatory Tower and runs down along Clingmans Dome Road

All trailheads along Clingmans Dome Road will not have vehicle access as long as the road is closed. Hikers would be able to park or get picked up at the Newfound Gap Parking Area which will be more crowded than usual. A better alternative is to avoid the area.

The 75th anniversary celebration will be ongoing throughout the year and the kickoff open to the public will take place as a ticket event in Cades Cove June 13th at 3:00 pm. Since Cades Cove has such limited parking and access a vehicle access pass will be entered the Cove at that time. As of this morning good number of tickets for this event are still left and can be obtained by calling (865) 291-3310. More information can be found at The Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestras web site.

Your Smokies News will be at the Governors Proclamation Ceremony at Clingmans Dome and will reporting live as long as the spotty wireless signal holds up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guns stay out of the Great Smoky Mountains national park but may soon enter TN State parks

The federal Government had until this Monday to appeal the injunction which blocked the possession of loaded firearms in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and other national parks in lower 48 states. The lack of action means that the long standing ban on guns in most national parks is now back in effect. The state of Alaska has some national parks that are excluded from the firearms ban.

While the federal government made its stance on guns in national parks with its recent action (or lack thereof) known, a measure to allow people with state issued handgun permits to carry their firearms into TN state parks regardless of their size or location sponsored by Strawberry Plains Republican Rep. Niceley passed with a 71-22 vote in the Tennessee House.

This is so far there is no date when the on the proposed legislation allowing guns in Tennessee State Parks go to the Senate Judiciary Committee and must pass the Tennessee Senate.

It may not be so easy for this to pass as the agency which operates state parks the Environment and Conservation Department is outspoken against allowing guns into state parks.

Commissioner Jim Fyke of the Environment and Conservation Department has already testified to a House committee that "Besides the fact that we don't think guns belong in state parks or are needed, we don't want people to think that state parks are unsafe".

Commissioner Fyke citing the fact that in the past 3 years there were 100 million visitors to state parks and only 21 reported serious crimes.

Related New Stories on Guns in National Parks:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is Bear Pepper Spray Legal or Illegal to have in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

With more than 2 black bear per square mile and around 900 miles of hiking trails and roadways in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, your chances of having a bear encounter up close or from a distance are quite good. Because of this many hikers and campers carry cans of bear pepper spray they have purchased from either outfitters or online.

the Great Smoky Mountains national park has more than 2 black bear per square mile

Regardless of what these stores or web sites are telling you, it is ILLEGAL to carry, posses or use any form of bear spray, pepper spray, mace or any other irritant gas spray in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. This is not just a "park rule" but a weapons law on federal property - not something you want to break at any cost.

Don't kill the messenger as I was in complete shock when I learned of this through the kindness of a park employee who read on one of my web sites my recommendation to purchase and carry bear spray when hiking or camping in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

It's pretty obvious to anyone who hikes or goes camping in the Great Smoky Mountains national park that it is against the law to have a loaded firearm in the park. There are signs at every trailhead and this general rule - make that law - applies to most national parks.

The fact that guns are prohibited from the Great Smoky Mountains national park also appears on the back of park maps, in written park literature, is stated in lectures given by both park personal and volunteers and on the parks web site.

What is virtually impossible for the average park visitor to find anywhere is the fact that you can not carry bear spray or on your person - that includes in your backpack while in the park.

Even more confusing is the fact that if you do a general search on the Great Smoky Mountains national park web site under "National Park Service for the term "bear spray" it describes the use of bear spray in other national parks.

many hikers and campers carry cans of bear pepper spray

Yesterday I went to a handful of local outfitters or their web sites in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area and they all have bear pepper spray for sale. When I asked not one told me I could not carry bear spray in the park.

As a mater of fact one of the best known outfitters in Gatlinburg whose store is so close it is almost in the GSM national park has on their web site "Bear Spray & Personal Protection For A Safe Hike In Great Smoky Mountains National Park Or In Your Own Neighborhood".

To be further confusing many other companies online, web sites, hiker forums etc all advocate the use of Bear Pepper Spray in national parks - often specifically referencing the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

As mater of fact it is also used as a reason why guns should not be needed against a bear attack in a national park. I myself recommended it many times as a viable non lethal alternative to guns with a far lower chance of serious collateral damage to others.

I see Appalachian Trail through hikers in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as a group unknowingly breaking this law quite regularly and since their travels take them through various jurisdictions with varying laws they are at a greater risk of being caught up in breaking this weapons law on federal property.

In case you are wondering what the exact law is and if it has been misinterpreted by me here it is:



Sec. 2.4 Weapons, traps and nets.

(a)(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section and parts 7 (special regulations) and 13 (Alaska regulations), the following are prohibited:
(i) Possessing a weapon, trap or net
(ii) Carrying a weapon, trap or net
(iii) Using a weapon, trap or net
Definition of a weapon is described below:




Sec. 1.4 What terms do I need to know?
Weapon means a firearm, compressed gas or spring-powered pistol or rifle, bow and arrow, crossbow, blowgun, speargun, hand-thrown spear, slingshot, irritant gas device, explosive device, or any other implement designed to discharge missiles, and includes a weapon the possession of which is prohibited under the laws of the State in which the park area or portion thereof is located.

If you have purchased bear pepper spray through one of my web sites for use only in the GSMNP and you wish to return it, contact me through the site and I will arrange for you to be able to return it for a full refund.

If you own bear spray, don't bring it into the Great Smoky Mountains national park and I suggest you call any other place you wish to carry it before you bring it there.

If you are not happy with the law banning the use of Bear Spray in the GSMNP, don't harass the park employees, complain to your congressman or Washington.

As for my recommendation to the national park, I would consider adding a written notice that bear spray or any irritant gas device is illegal to posses in the GSMNP on:

  • Park bulletin boards - the first one being at the beginning of the AT in Fontana.
  • The black bear page on the parks web site
  • Printing it on future bear, hiking and camping literature
  • On the back of future issues of park maps where other park rules are located right next to where it says firearms are prohibited.

There are questions as to the effectiveness of Bear Spray and well as potential safety issues for those not properly trained in its use.

I also as that if you have a hiking or camping forum you post in, blog, MySpace or Facebook page you let others know about this law by linking to this page at:

As always comments are not only welcome but encouraged.

Related News Stories

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wears Cove entrance to Great Smoky Mountains national park closed today

Due to a prescribed burn taking place this afternoon in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, the Wears Cove entrance will be closed to all traffic as it will be one of the fires control lines.

Hikers should also avoid going on the following hiking trails as well:

  • Roundtop Hiking Trail
  • Little Greenbrier Hiking Trail
  • Metcalf Bottoms Hiking Trail

Visitors that are near the prescribed burn area as well as residents close to the park may see or smell smoke.

The Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area will remain open throughout the day. Wears Cove Road however will be closed from the bridge at the north end of the picnic area all the way up to the Wears Cove Entrance.

Wears Cove entrance to Great Smoky Mountains national park closed today

Prescribed burns are used to reduce the danger of out of uncontrollable wildfires by reducing the available fuel and increase biodiversity in the Great Smoky Mountains national park by simulating the natural action of wildfires.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hiker dies from fall in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

What began as a quiet vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains for Robert Lyons and his wife Judith Lyons of Louisville, Kentucky ended tragically after Robert fell approximately 20 feet off of the Chestnut Top Hiking Trail. Robert eventually died hours later as a result of blunt trauma he received during the fall.

According to the national park service Robert and his wife Judith were planning to hike the Chestnut Top Trail to Schoolhouse House Gap where they would then hike out via the School house Gap Trail.

The hiking trail was wet from melting snow and heavy rains and though they had only hiked in a few hundred yards, when the thunderstorm rolled in they decided to turn back and return to the safety of their car.

If you are hiking on the Chestnut Top Trail when you get about a hundred yards in from the trailhead, the trail is narrow with a sheer drop and a very steep 250 foot gain in about only 700 feet of hiking. Apparently Robert Lyons fell in the vicinity of this area and tumbled about 20 feet.

Though he had suffered what he believed was just back injuries he made it back down to the side of the heavily traveled Great Smoky Mountains national parks Townsend Entrance Road.

Hiker dies from fall in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Tragically when the accident was called in at around 5:30 pm, the dispatcher was told that the injured 73 year old hiker was at the Schoolhouse Gap Trail which was miles away. Park rangers who responded to the call were unable to find Mr. Lyons and Mrs. Lyons called park dispatch again at 6:10 pm this time with the correct location of her injured husband.

Mr Lyons was conscious when rangers arrived at the scene and was suffering from back pain and wanted to be transported by ambulance to a hospital.

The Rural Metro ambulance finally arrived at 6:40 pm and took Robert Lyons to Townsend where he was transferred to a LIFESTAR helicopter and taken by air to the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville where he was pronounced dead at 10:20 pm.

This story of a hiker falling and ultimately dying as a result of his injuries is even more tragic since both he and his wife acted responsibly in turning around when a thunderstorm came in so that they would not be hiking along a ridgeline. If they put themselves in danger of being struck by lightning would Mr. Lyons have fallen?

This story may have had a different far happier ending if the original call made was to 911 and an ambulance was sent to the correct location as at least 40 minutes was lost sending the first responding ranger to the wrong location to begin with.

Could the extra time lost in this rescue have cost this hiker his life? Maybe not in this particular case, but this long a delay can surely mean the difference of life and death in another accident.

A park ranger if not an entire Search and Rescue (S&R) team may be needed to extract an injured hiker from deep backcountry, but not in this case when an injured hiker is on the side of one of the most traveled roads in the park.

How maddening it must have been for the Lyons to have Mr Lyons injured on the side of the road and having cars keep passing by them. A witness stated Mr. Lyons had a red handkerchief tied to stick trying to flag down traffic.

This trail such as many other hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park can be very slick when wet and saturated ground along the side of a trail may give under your weight without warning. This trail is also particularly steep as well as fairly narrow at this point making it even more of a hazard in wet or icy conditions.

My father once fell off the side of a mountain trail in a remote area in Italy because the edge of the trail we were hiking on just gave way and without a noise he fell and was gone. Luckily he got caught in some brush instead of falling the whole way down the cliff which saved his life. We were able to pull him back up onto the trail with the help of my jacket which we used as a lifeline.

Going down a decline or embankment, especially one that is steep, hikers need to control the speed and direction of their decent. This is a great time to be using 2 hiking poles that you are sure will not give way underneath you.

Of course accidents can just happen while hiking. Countless times I have stumbled and tripped while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. The more aware, careful and well equipped one is, the less of a chance of a serious hiking accident.

When in an emergency, the Great Smoky Mountains national park suggests that you call 911 - not the park.

It is also a good idea to have a map or the name of the trail(s) written down and as accurate a location as possible where the injured party is.

Another good idea is to make note of how long it took you to go from where the injured party is (use your stopwatch if you have one) as time can be a better gauge of distance than by guessing mileage while you are in a panic.

My condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Lyons.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

2 roads remain closed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The snow and ice are melting so the Great Smoky Mountains has only 2 roads closed due to winter conditions: Old Route 284 and Clingmans Done Road.

Only parts of Clingmans Dome Road still have snow and ice in the more shaded areas and should be open be open by this weekend. Drivers need to be cautious at dusk and during the night on Newfound Gap Road (US 441) as melting snow from around the roadway can refreeze creating black ice

Sunset at Newfound Gap Road last night

Pictured above: Sunset at Newfound Gap Road last night

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wildflowers blooming throughout the Great Smoky Mountains national park right now

Though the last 24 hours may feel more like winter than spring, the wild flowers throughout the Great Smoky Mountains national park have been blooming for weeks.

While I feel as though the best time to catch the wildflowers is from April to May, the Great Smoky Mountains are blessed with such biodiversity and micro climates that you can find plants blooming until mid October.

picture of Dutchmen's Breeches taken by the Chimneys in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

What's great about the park being so large and having more than a 4,000 foot elevation range between its highest an lowest point is that you can chase a blooming season starting at lower elevations and warmer southern exposures to the higher elevations and more northern exposures to prolong the duration of peak bloom.

I have made a list below of plants observed in bloom while I was hiking inside the GSM national park.

A trillium leaves and bloom in the GSMNP

The first wildflowers I observed blooming in the Great Smoky Mountains national park were Toothwort, Large Flowering Trillium, Yellow Trillium and Blood Root.

Also deep into the bloom cycle right now are Squirrel Corn, Sweet White Violets, Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, Dutchmen's Breeches, Halbred Leaf Violet, Common Blue Violet, Smooth Yellow Violet, Trillium Erect, White Fringed Phacelia, Rue Anemone, Fraser's Sedge and Wild Ginger.

Just starting to show right now are Wild Phlox, Wild Geranium, Hepatica, Wood Anemone, Prostrate Bluets, Bishop Caps and Birdfoot Violet.

While some of the wild flowers in the GSMNP are big, bright and showy, others can only really be appreciated with a magnifying glass. An example of one of the tiny flowers is pictured right below. The individual flowers in this grouping are so small see how large the tip of a house key looks near them.

tiny wildflowers blooming in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My favorite wildflower hiking trails (not in specific order) are Old Settlers Trail, Porter Creek, Big Creek, Finley Cane, Lower Mount Cammerer, Cucumber Gap, Thomas Divide, Rattlesnake, the lower part of Low Gap, Camel Gap and Baxter Creek, Goshen Prong, Flat Creek, Wet Bottoms, Ace Gap, Beard Cane and Mingus Creek. (Complete list of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and what sections they are in)

Beside these highlights I listed, every single hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains national park has its own treasure of wildflowers you can see.

Don't want to go hiking to see wildflowers? You can see countless wildflowers right along the roadside or on any of the quiet walks along Newfound Gap Road, Laurel Creek Road and Little River Road.

I am sure that I have missed many great wildflowers found inside the park blooming right now and have not had a chance to identify many of the plants I have seen as well so please feel free to comment to this post so I can add in your observations. I ask that you do not identify specific locations of endangered, rare or plants highly prized by poachers such as Yellow Ladyslipper or Ginseng.

Please observe the federal laws protecting all plants and wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains national park by taking only pictures and when doing so be careful not to crush or disturb nearby plants.

Wildflower season in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is breathtaking and magical. Please leave the magic for others to enjoy.

More road closures and openings in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Intense plowing and sanding by the park service and sporadic sun melting snow in roadways has allowed the GSMNP to open many of the roads previously closed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Unfortunately snow continues to fall in some areas so 2 new roads maintained by the GSMNP were just closed.

The only roads closed right now in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are: Newfound Gap Road US441 from Cherokee NC to Gatlinburg TN, Foothills Parkway East From I-40 to 321 in Cosby TN, Old Route 284 From Big Creek NC to Cataloochee NC, and Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome parking area.

Update 4/8/09 9:30 am list of closed roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is still current.

Protect your plants against tonight’s hard freeze in the Smokies

While it won't be cold enough in the Smoky Mountains to make pipes freeze up tonight, it will be cold enough in the Smokies to damage some plants in your gardens by freezing tender new buds and shoots.

The first thing to do to protect your plant is bring inside any sensitive flowering plants that you can. Too many plants to bring inside or the pots are too large to move them around? You can lay them on their side and cover the plants with a cloth.

Protect your plants against tonight's hard freeze in the Smokies

If you are covering plants make sure to not cover them with plastic unless it can not touch the plants as plastic touching plants that freezes will cause more damage. You can separate the plastic cover on your plants with cloth. Though it probably won't be brutally cold tonight in the Smokies to have to worry about this, sometimes it is best to cover cloth that is over plants with a layer of plastic to block the wind.

Pine needle mulch and leaf mulch both work great to protect plants against freezing - just be sure to remove it the next day so the plants warm up.

Another good idea is to make sure the soil is very damp before it gets cold as the damp soil tends to stay warm longer than dry soil. You do not want plants to be wet when the freeze begins as that will cause more intense damage.

Great Smoky Mountains national park road closures

More roads in the Great Smoky Mountains national park closed due to last nights snow storm. Though the lower elevations received little more than a dusting and most roads stayed clear, any road with elevation has become hazardous to drivers.

The following roads are now closed in the GSMNP:

  • Newfound Gap Road (US441)
  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Clingmans Dome Road
  • Laurel Creek Road
  • Little River Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Trail
  • Wears Cove Road

Road conditions in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are subject to change today and some roads will reopen.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Winter conditions prompt National Park Service to close 2 major roads in GSMNP

The Great Smoky Mountains national parks major through road - Newfound Gap Road also known as US 441 which connects Gatlinburg Tennessee with Cherokee North Carolina has been closed due to ice and snow from the winter storm system that is right now in the Smokies.

Clingmans Dome Road which takes you from Newfound Gap Road near the Newfound Gap parking area up the Clingmans Dome Parking area is also closed due to ice and snow.

Winter conditions prompt National Park Service to close 2 major roads in GSMNP

No other roads in the GSMNP are closed at this time, nor are any expected to close tonight.

Since the storm will continue to drop snow until as late as Wednesday it is possible Newfound Gap may periodically open and close for the next 2 days. We don't expect Clingmans Dome Road to reopen until Wednesday or Thursday.

Winter storm grips the Smoky Mountains

A hard freeze with up to 4 inches of snow - how could this be since it was in the high 70's yesterday with spring wildflowers blooming everywhere the Great Smoky Mountains? It's the Smokies - expect the unexpected when it comes to weather in the Smoky Mountains.

Home gardeners and farmers alike are rushing to protecting young plants, flowering bushes and trees against the deep cold expected tonight and the very hard frost expected tomorrow night.

Snow has been falling for hours in the higher elevations such as Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome where some the snowfall is actually sticking but the biggest hazards right now are the thick fog and the slick roadways that will possibly freeze into black ice in some areas as the afternoon temps continue to fall.

winter storm at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as seen in the picture above taken today is the highest point you can drive to and Clingmans Dome Road would be the first potential road to close as the weather in the Smokies continues to deteriorate.

Gatlinburg and other high elevations in the Smokies may see as much as 1 to 3 inches of snow tonight with colder weather and another inch expected tomorrow night. This weekend we should see more seasonal weather in the Smokies reaching closer to 70 degrees again.

Will Newfound Gap Road, the major road connecting Cherokee North Carolina with Gatlinburg Tennessee close due to snow and ice? It's very possible and Your Smokies will keep you informed of the road conditions in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and we have the best Smoky Mountains weather conditions page too.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains national parks Sugarlands Riding Stables dedication on April 9th

This will be an eventful year for horseback riding stables in the Great Smoky Mountains National park starting with the dedication of the newly built Sugarlands horseback riding stables April 9th 2009 just outside the city limits of Gatlinburg Tennessee within the GSMNP boundary on Newfound Gap Road US 441.

The dedication which will include a ribbon cutting ceremony with Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and Kenny Kear who is the President of the Sugarlands Riding Stables, Inc a concessionaire with a 10 year concession contract with the GSMNP will begin at 11 am and will include a tour of the facility and light refreshments courtesy of Kenny and Sherri Kear.

Great Smoky Mountains national parks Sugarlands Riding Stables dedication on April 9th

Not only is this the first new permanent barn built in the GSMNP since the 1960's when horseback riding concessions began in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, this 10,940 square foot barn has custom designed barn stalls which have sliding dividers that makes cleanup for more efficient and cost effective. This new start of the art barn also includes other custom features including an automated horse watering system.

The new owners of the Cades Cove riding stables have just finished demolishing the old barn that was used by the riding stables previous owners the Meyers for more than 40 years.

Horses in Cades Cove are right now in temporary paddocks and will be moved closer to the new barn as soon as it is completed early this spring.

Holy bat cave! NPS closes caves and mines in GSMNP in an effort to halt spread of bat disease.

In an effort to stem the spread of White-nose Syndrome (WNS) the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended to the national park service in areas of risk that all caves be closed to public access thus the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed all caves and mine complexes to visitors.

Where are the caves in the Great Smoky Mountains national park? One of the caves named Gregory Cave is located in Cades Cove and is sealed at the entrance with iron bars. Since this cave was used as a fallout shelter sometimes the locals here referrer to it as that rather than a cave.

NPS closes caves and mines in effort to halt spread of bat disease

There are 3 other popular caves - once of which is also sealed with iron bars and not far from Cades Cove in an area known as White Oak Sinks which like Cades Cove has limestone formations which through time and erosion created caves.

In total the GSMNP has 17 caves and 2 mine complexes some of which the endangered Indiana bat makes its home. Some of these caves have access limited to park personal and scientists with the proper clearance.

The other caves that do have public can access are not meant for causal visitors and requires the use of a park permits to enter them which will not be granted now as long as there is a risk that the fungus which causes White Nose Disease can be spread by visitors entering a bats habitat. Enter a cave in the Great Smoky Mountains national park without a permit and get a $5,000 fine.

So far and estimated 400,000 bats in the Northeast have been killed by the White Nose Disease and if unchecked would be an ecological disaster. As of yet WND is not in Tennessee or North Carolina but can easily be spread into our currently disease free caves and mines. If the WND fungus infects a colony, within a year there may be as much as a 90% mortality rate.

Commercial caves such as Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend Tennessee may end up having to close also in order to stop the spread of this horrible disease. The water flowing through Tuckaleechee Caverns actually originates from the Cades Cove area.