Sunday, September 27, 2009

Greenbrier section still closed but Cades Cove reopens as Great Smoky Mountains National park cleans up from flooding and storm damage

While the storm that drenched the Smoky Mountains was not packing much of a punch dropping from 2 to just less than 3 inches of rain in the past 24 hours in areas of the park, the saturated ground and rain swollen rivers could not handle any more and minor flooding was widespread in areas in and around the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

The Little Pigeon River created the most damage in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as it washed out an area of roadway along Greenbrier Road near the bridge to Ramsey Cascades where Middle Prong runs into the Little Pigeon River.

The video below shows the Little Pigeon River following over its bank and it effects were felt far downstream in the residential areas some of which had minor evacuations.

The Little River which flows out of Elkmont was rising quickly promoting an evacuation of the Elkmont Campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and further downstream created problems for campgrounds outside the park and resident in Townsend and Walland. The Campground has been deemed safe and was just reopened.

In Cades Cove Sparks Lane which notoriously gets flooded was closed first followed by Hyatt Land and then the entire 11 miles of the Cades Cove Loop were closed as water stared building up in the back end. Cades Cove Loop has just reopened but Sparks Lane, Hyatt lane and Rich Mountain Road will remain closed until they dry out so that passing vehicles will not damage the road surface.

The Chimneys Picnic Area was also closed last night as rising waters from the Little Pigeon River started to flow over the banks.

Crews will be working today in the park surveying and cleaning what appears to be minor damage. Hikers should report any large downed trees or washout in back country but expect to have to climb over under or around obstructions in the trails for at least a few days.

Based upon the extent of the damage on Greenbrier Road reported to me by eyewitness yesterday don't expect Greenbrier to be open past the Ranger station for at least a day or 2. Hopefully while they have dump trucks in the area they will fix some of the preexisting immense holes in the road surface right now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last Chance to Hike or Bike Cades Cove without Traffic until Repaving is finished in 2010

I love hiking and driving in Cades Cove. Problem is millions have as well for the past 39 years leading to the complete degradation of the Cades Cove Loop Road which will be broken up and repaved next year so this Wednesday is your last chance to hike the road without traffic until at least late May.

Cades Cove Loop road is closed to automobile traffic until 10 am on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from spring until late September so that pedestrians and bicyclists can enjoy this spectacular place without the noise and annoyance of car and motorcycle traffic.

Starting on March of 2010 Cades Cove loop Road will be closed to all traffic - cars, bikes and all pedestrians - in order for the roadway to be broken up and pulverized, new concrete poured and then the road will be surfaces with asphalt. While the Great Smoky Mountains national park is hopeful that the job will be completed by Memorial Day although weather will determine how fast this job can be completed.

The new Cades Cove Loop Road will not be widened and a total of 12 pull offs were proposed by the park. Rumors are floating around that the road will be made harder to park alongside of except at designated pull offs.

Hiking or biking in Cades Cove in the morning is just such a magical time. Expect cool comfortably temperatures, a hint of mist in the year, easy wildlife sighting of turkey, deer, bear and maybe even a coyote and the magical lighting that photographers refer to as "the golden hour".

I particularity like walking the 11 miles of the Cades Cove Loop road rather than riding a bike. It is just so much more intimate to be walking quietly along this road as the beauty of the cove and its inhabitants unfolds before you at every twist and turn of this historic road.

From wide vistas of meadows framed by mountains to walking through tunnels of trees that envelop you and block out the sun, every footstep is in another chance for you to intimately experience adventure and beauty.

Hiking and Biking the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop road

Sunrise will be at 7:31 am tomorrow morning and it takes around 3-1/2 hours to hike the loop quickly so I count on 4 to 4-1/2 hours to take my time and take photographs and "smell the roses" along the way.

Cars are allowed to drive into the Cades Cove Loop at 10 am and won't reach the back end of the loop until around 10:30 - 10:45. Hiker and bikers need to park at the orientation shelter at the beginning of the Cades Cove Loop until the parking area fills at which time you will be directed to park near the Cades Cove Riding Stables.

I will be leaving at 6:45 - 7 am from the orientation shelter to I will be already be past the John Oliver cabin past sunrise. Anyone looking to join me is welcome and should comment here or twitter me their intentions.

Related Smokies News Stories:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mountain Life Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum in Oconaluftee Area of Great Smoky Mountains national park

In the upper elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains national park there is a touch of color and the heat has broken and even in the valleys the heat of summer has been broken so the annual Mountain Life Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum in Oconaluftee is right around the corner.

Come to the farm museum on Saturday September 19th from 10 am to 4 pm and learn why leather britches are not pants, what carding means when it has nothing to do with ID and what it's like to make your own soap while listening to great Appalachian style music - all for free!

While I am sad to see what for me signals for me the end of summer, this is one annual event in the Great Smoky Mountains national park I have not missed for years.

The location of the Farm Museum is perfect in beautiful green valley alongside the Oconaluftee River surrounded by low mountains that will only have a hint of color just a minute inside the park boundary at Cherokee.

hands on demonstration of home life in the 1800s

Expect the hands of time turn back more than a hundred years and see interesting live demonstrations by park staff and volunteers such as lye soap making, hearth cooking, food preservation, broom making, quilting, blacksmithing, chair bottoming, along with apple butter and apple cider making. You will get to sample warm cider too!

A special edition this year to help celebrate the parks 75th anniversary is a showcase Appalachian folkways along with historic artifacts and photographs from the national park's collection will also be on display to help pay tribute to the former resident who lived where the park now stands.

hands of time turn back more than a hundred years and see interesting live demonstrations by park staff and volunteers

Corn husk dolls, hominy making, old time toys and other interesting demonstrations about what home life was 100 years ago in the Great Smoky Mountains will be going on around the farm museum.

You can also learn about the more than 40 types of apple tress the Cherokee and the early settlers grew from Ron and Suzanne Joyner from Big Horse Creek Farm in Ashe County, NC. When I interviewed them in the past they were a wealth of knowledge and they presently have a nursery with more than 300 varieties of custom-grafted heirloom apple trees.

In the farm itself, you can watch an almost 40 year old tradition of the Great Smoky Mountains national park: the making of sorghum syrup. The Appalachian early settlers did not have table sugar and they grew their own sorghum and with a horse-powered cane mill and wood-fired cooker made this important food stable.

40 year old tradition of the Great Smoky Mountains national park: the making of sorghum syrup

Students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association will be feeding the press which is pictured above and making the sorghum syrup.

Through all the celebrating at the Mountain Farm Museum in Oconaluftee, don't miss the musical entertainment by Marshall Crowe and the Bluegrass Singers.

Bedsides the event, take some time to stroll down the Oconaluftee River hiking trail which is one of the 2 trails in the park that allows well behaved leashed dogs and stroll around the farm with its historic buildings and picturesque landscape.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bear Spray: Now Legal to Carry and Use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Though I was waiting for months for the official announcement that bear spray would be legal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, it was a sharp reader of this web site that brought to my attention the fact that the National Park web site now states bear spray is allowed in the GSMNP.

Months ago I started and became the center of a huge controversy about bear spray when it was brought to my attention that Bear Spray was illegal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. Questions about misleading, conflicting and confusing visitor information as well as selective enforcement made matters worse.

Bear spray is far more effective that firearms are in a bear attack which by that way, even though there are more than 2 bear per square mile is extremely rare in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Since bear spray is far more effective than guns and the chances of collateral damage is far lower, it made perfect since to legalize bear spray since firearms will be allowed in national parks in February 2010.

While I was advised by park officials in late spring that the bear pepper spray law was going to change, I waited until the official announcement from the park to advise my readers about the change in the bear spray law as I did not know exactly when it would become legal.

No news of the change in the bear spray law was ever released publicly; instead a paragraph about bear spray and its legality and use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park was inserted in the GSMNPs hiking page.

Bear Spray (pepper spray formulated for bears) should be only used in an emergency against an attacking bear and not used to keep bear away from campsites or other place you wish to keep bear away from. Spraying an area with bear spray may even attract bears them rather then repel them as they will want to examine what the strange scent is and where it is coming from.

Bear Pepper Spray is only allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park for "the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife". It must also contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids and be commercially manufactured and labeled as "Bear Pepper Spray".

I stumbled into something that made some people working in the park and some locals who refused to comply with the law all along unhappy. While my tenacity about getting to the bottom of this matter may have angered some, they do know my love for the park and how resource protection and public safety are for more important to me than not making waves. I hope that those who I may have aggravated understand my good attentions.

Though I plan to never use it, bear spray will now be part of my hiking gear. I hope that people who will purchase bear spray will learn about it, try it and only use it when absolutely necessary (which in the GSMNP should be almost never).

Just because you are allowed to have a can of bear pepper spray when hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park does not mean that you can ignore food storage rules, comply with staying away 50 yards away from bear or using common sense around wild animals.

Just as bear spray is now legal in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, if abused the park may take this right away just as they had to remove chain link fences from shelters as people abused the fences and would throw food out for bears. Be responsible!

Related Stores about Bear Spray and Black Bear

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Great Smoky Mountains National Parks 75th Anniversary Rededication and Newfound Gap: Great Memories for a Lifetime

I have been waiting for this day when the Great Smoky Mountains National parks would have a rededication ceremony and the Roosevelt Monument at Newfound Gap in celebration do the parks 75th Anniversary for years, and with all my expectations I can't believe I was not let down.

This dedication ceremony was to be a modern day interpretation of the 1940 dedication event in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which was attended by president FDR, was the grand finale of the major events the GSM national park was hosting for the 75th anniversary of the formation of this park.

modern day interpretation of the 1940 dedication event in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which was attended by president FDR

Almost 2,000 people attended the Rededication Ceremony held at the Roosevelt Monument which straddles the Tennessee and the North Carolina border in the Newfound Gap parking area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Many of those who attended this historic event have deep roots in the Smoky Mountains and most of them where either born in what was to become the Great Smoky Mountains national park or are descendants of those who lived here.

Almost 2,000 people attended the Dedication at the Roosevelt Monument in the Newfound Gap parking area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park

Some of those very hardy men who built the Great Smoky Mountains national parks trails, bridges and roads who were members of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) attended this event.

By now these men have become old familiar faces to me as they have been guests of honor numerous here in the past year such as at the CCC dedication ceremony at the Sugarlands Visitor Center where a plaque honoring the Civilian Conservation Corp was unveiled and at the groundbreaking for the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

As with all the other ceremonies, CCC corpsman Clarence Allison, the 3rd man down in the picture below wore his original uniform and hat.

Among the honored guests at the dedication ceremony were these men who worked for the CCC

Today some of those who were here for that historic occasion 75 years ago proudly wore ribbons as well as those who lived in what is now the park and those who built the roads, bridges and more than 800 miles of hiking trails that crisscross the park.

Lots of changes have occurred in the Great Smoky Mountains the past 75 years since the men on the CCC help turned it into the land stunning place it now is and most have them have been for the good of the national park.

Technology allowed us to make cell phone calls, check our email, update our Twitter accounts or transmit a signal via satellites so that people outside the park could see what was going on. Just think at the 1st dedication in 1940 wire was run in trees and across bushes and up the mountains in order to transmit this historic occasion.

100 old Gudger Palmer had his roots in Big Cataloochee in North Carolina before he was forced to move out of the park at 25.

75 years ago when 100 old Gudger Palmer (pictured above) was only 25 and lived in Cataloochee North Carolina, there used to be barely any black bear, wild turkey and white deer inhabiting the area which just became the Great Smoky Mountains national park. These and many other animals now flourish and even the casual observer in the park should see them most of the year.

Then there are the animals that have been wiped out of existence in what was once more than 6,000 private tracts of lands. Today the park service has brought the river otter, peregrine falcon and my favorite: the North American elk back into this area and they are all now thriving in this beautiful biosphere.

While this was a day for historic speeches made by politicians promising to make things better and of course the thrill of seeing Dolly Parton perform live, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself was the star of the day.

Dolly Parton receives a bouquet of flowers from Dale Ditmanson superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains national park while Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ken Salazar and NC Governor Bev Perdue look on

As our bus pulled up past the rain clouds up to the Newfound Gap Parking area, a lone tree just below the road displayed red and yellow tinges on some of its leaves - a gentle sign of fall color that would soon grace the Smoky Mountains.

As we disembarked from the shuttle the cooler air laced with the smell of fir washed over us moved the 3 American flags and the North Carolina and Tennessee state flags on top of the Roosevelt Monument wave in the wind. The only other decorations were 7 white and blue banners draped over the monument which also came alive as the wind came across the gap.

Governor Bev Perdue said North Carolina working the crowd and Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains

Sure the 75th anniversary of the original dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains national park was a great opportunity for politicians to press flesh with constituents and get to work in some impressive sound bites, nothing could beat the parks performance as the weather cleared up just as the program began and deteriorated with clouds moving in as Dolly Parton closed the event with her last song.

I had been waiting for this event for years all the while reflecting how wonderful this park is and I was not disappointed. I guess I must now look forward to the 100th anniversary dedication and hope that I will still be hiking as I do now in my 70s and reveling in the Great Smoky Mountain national parks beauty.