Monday, February 27, 2017

Smokies Seeks Volunteers at Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is recruiting volunteers to staff the Information Center at Clingmans Dome, from April 1 through November 30, 2017. Volunteers will work at the seasonal information center that includes a bookstore/sales area managed by Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA). Volunteers will assist in educating visitors about the park and provide recreational and trip planning information and directions to other destinations. Individuals are especially needed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but other days may be available.

“Volunteers staffing the station play an important role in enhancing the visitor experience to the Dome,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “They provide visitors the opportunity to appreciate the nuances of their high elevation visit through personal service.”

Volunteers will be working alongside GSMA employees. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Volunteers must be able to walk to Clingmans Dome Tower during the shift. The contact station sits at an elevation of 6,300 feet and is a point source of information on the national park, in general, and on this high elevation spruce-fir ecosystem in particular.

Interested persons will be provided orientation and training and are required to attend training on Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm. The training will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building near Cherokee, NC. To reserve a spot in the training or receive more information, please contact Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at (828)497-1906 or by email at florie_takaki@nps.gov.



Jeff
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Smokies Announces Solar Eclipse Event

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced event plans for the Great American Total Eclipse occurring on Monday, August 21, 2017. The park is offering an opportunity to experience the total eclipse through a special, ticketed event at Clingmans Dome as well as informal eclipse viewing sites at Cades Cove and Oconaluftee. The park is partnering with NASA, Southwestern Community College, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to provide a special program with featured speakers and storytellers that help explain the science and cultural connection to this unique natural event at Clingmans Dome.

At 6,643 feet in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and offers the unique possibility of seeing the moon’s shadow approaching across the landscape. The area will be closed to all public vehicle traffic to better accommodate a safe, memorable experience for about 1,325 ticketed participants. The parking area will be converted into the special event site that will include a jumbotron screen for participating in a national NASA TV broadcast, telescopes, educational exhibits, and stage for special featured speakers.

“We are thrilled that the park lies within the narrow viewing band of this spectacular, natural phenomena,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. “I have great memories of the time I experienced a partial solar eclipse as a child and I am thrilled to view my first total eclipse from the top of the Smokies in the company of a passionate group of visitors.”

Beginning on March 1, tickets will be available for purchase on a first come first serve basis through www.recreation.gov for $30.00 each. You must have a ticket to attend the event at Clingmans Dome. Participants will be shuttled to the site from Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC by coach bus. The Clingmans Dome tower itself will be reserved for the media and live broadcasting teams to share the experience with the widest audience possible. Special presentations and activities will take place during the approximately three-hour period in the afternoon when the sun will be partially and, for a brief time, totally obscured by the moon.

With a full schedule of entertaining and educational programs, park rangers and partners are working together to provide a worthwhile experience, even if the sun is obscured by clouds on the day of the event. While a unique experience, the Clingmans Dome location does present logistical challenges that visitors must consider before making a reservation. Due to its remote outdoor location, an inflexible transportation schedule, and limited service facilities on site, interested visitors should closely review event details and consider which of the park opportunities, among many other planned eclipse events in surrounding communities, would best fit each personal situation. Visitors should also note that park roads, including Newfound Gap Road, may close on the day of the event depending on traffic congestion. For more information about the solar eclipse events, please call the information line at 865-436-1585 or visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/2017-solar-eclipse.htm.



Jeff
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Elkmont Historic District Work Will Temporarily Close Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that work is underway in the Elkmont Historic District to preserve four structures and to remove 29 others as specified in the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) among the National Park Service, Tennessee State Historic Office, and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In 2017, park crews will preserve the Levi Trentham Cabin, Mayo Cabin, Mayo Servants’ Quarters, and Creekmore Cabin in the Daisy Town area. The 29 structures slated for demolition are along Little River Trail and Jakes Creek Trail.

“Elkmont has long been recognized as a special place that tells the story of early logging and tourism, while at the same time harboring a rare alluvial forest that supports unique species like the synchronous fireflies,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “I’m pleased that we have the opportunity to move forward in helping both preserve pieces of the rich cultural history and restore natural habitats.”

Park staff plan to complete the stabilization work of the four Daisy Town structures by November 2017. Workers will repoint masonry features, replace rotted wood, paint, and make needed repairs to windows, doors, and roofs. The Daisy Town area, Elkmont Cemetery, Spence Cabin, Appalachian Clubhouse, and Elkmont Campground will remain open throughout the work project. Campers should expect noise throughout the day, but all quiet hours will be observed.

Weather permitting, demolition work will be completed by May 26 for the 29 structures located along Jakes Creek Trail and Little River Trail. Both trails, which are also used as administrative roads, will be closed during the demolition work to accommodate heavy equipment. Access to the river near the near the structures will also be restricted during demolition. Little River Trail will be closed, Monday through Friday, from March 6 through March 24 to remove six structures in the area known as Millionaire’s Row. Jakes Creek Trail will be closed, Monday through Friday, from March 27 through May 26 to remove 23 structures in the area known as Society Hill. Crews have already salvaged useable items from the structures for use in preserving historic structures in the park.

From 1992 through 2008, the park entered into a series of public planning efforts including an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that led to the 2009 MOU and an amendment to the park’s General Management Plan defining the disposition of the 74 remaining structures in the Elkmont Historic District. The EIS defined a full range of possible actions in seven alternatives for management of the historic district with the expected impacts and projected costs of each alternative. These alternatives ranged from full removal of all buildings as described in the park’s 1982 General Management Plan to incrementally greater preservation and reuse of the buildings for a variety of purposes with costs estimated between $1.4 million to over $30 million. As specified in the decision documents, 19 structures were designated to be preserved for public visitation, while 55 structures were identified for demolition. To date, two structures have been fully restored and four have been removed. Park officials continue to seek funding to complete the needed work.

For more information about the Elkmont Historic District Environmental Impact Statement, please visit the park website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm.



Jeff
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Chimney Tops could be closed for years following fire"

Smoky Mountain News is reporting that the Chimney Tops Trail could be closed for years as a result of the November wildfires.

Last week Holly Kays from Smoky Mountain News took part in a guided hike, led by Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokesperson, Dana Soehn, in which members of the local media climbed to the summit of Chimney Tops to witness firsthand the devastation brought on by the fire. Soehn told the media representatives that "it could be years before the full trail is open again". Moreover, it could take 80 years before the burned area returns to its pre-fire condition.

Additionally, "the Bull Head Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail and Rough Creek Trail are all expected to see long-term closures as park staff watch how the slopes and soils stabilize over time."

You can read the full story by clicking here.



Jeff
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Encompassing more than 265,000 acres, and with more than sixty peaks topping out above 12,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, these majestic mountains provide habitat to more than 60 species of mammals, while more than 280 species of birds visit or reside within the park. With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, Rocky Mountain is also widely recognized as a hiker’s paradise. Here’s why you should plan to visit Rocky sometime this year:

The Continental Divide
One of the best things about Rocky Mountain National Park is its accessibility to the high country. No other park in the country allows visitors to gain lofty elevations so easily. Roughly one-third of the park is above tree-line, and more than 60 peaks top out above 12,000 feet, including 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park. In addition to trails like the Flattop Mountain Trail or the route to Mt. Ida, visitors can also drive over the Continental Divide along the highest continuous paved road in North America. With a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, and more than eight miles traveling above 11,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road connects Estes Park with Grand Lake. The road also provides access to outstanding tundra hikes such as the Ute Trail, the Tundra Communities Trail and the Alpine Ridge Trail.


Wildflowers
Wet springs can bring exceptional wildflower blooming seasons in Rocky Mountain National Park. Even during normal years the park explodes with a variety of wildflowers. Some of the varieties visitors might enjoy include Alpine Clover, Rock Primrose, Western Wallflower, Sky Pilot and Alpine Sunflowers in the tundra areas of the park, as well as Mountain Iris, Lupine, Mariposa-lily and Colorado Columbines in the lower elevations. Some of best wildflower hikes include Big Meadows, Cascade Falls, Emerald Lake and the Lumpy Ridge Loop, among many others.


Longs Peak
At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. The iconic sentinel is seen from almost anywhere in the park, as well as from many locations around northern Colorado. It’s also one of most popular “fourteeners” for hikers and climbers to tackle in a state that boasts a total of 53 peaks above 14,000 feet. Although considered a mountaineering route, thousands of hikers attempt to summit the peak each summer using the famous Keyhole Route. Personally, I don’t want anything to do with the narrow ledges and steep cliffs along the upper portions of the route. I much prefer safer climbs such as Hallett Peak and the Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon Mountains route to cure my big mountain summit fever.


Elk Rut
The annual elk rut is one of the premier attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park. Each fall elk descend from the high country to the lower elevation meadows during the annual breeding season. During the rut, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with herds of females. Mature bulls compete for cows by bugling, posturing, displaying their antlers and herding, while occasionally fighting off young challengers. The peak season for the rut generally lasts from mid-September to mid-October in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Fall Aspens
Just as the elk rut is kicking into high gear, another annual event that draws tourists to the park during the autumn are the brilliant fall colors of aspens. Each September the leaves of quacking aspens turn from green to orange and golden yellow throughout the park. Some of best hikes for viewing fall aspens include Bierstadt Lake, Alberta Falls, Cub Lake, Finch Lake, Adams Falls and Chasm Lake, among many others.


In addition to the hikes discussed above, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Cold Mountain Fire Closes Trails in Pisgah Ranger District

The Cold Mountain Fire is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, approximately 20 miles south of Waynesville, North Carolina, in the headwaters of Crawford Creek. It was reported on Friday afternoon, February 17, 2017. The human-caused fire is under investigation.

An emergency closure order is in effect on national forest system lands in the following area: The Art Loeb Trail (#146) north of Shining Rock Gap and the Cold Mountain Trail (#141).

The fire is currently 134 acres in size, with 0% containment. Approximately 49 firefighters and support staff, including two crews, two helicopters and various overhead, are currently assigned to the incident. Additional personnel and resources will be requested as needed.



Jeff
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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Controlled Burns Across all Four NC National Forests in Coming Months

Over the next several months as weather allows, the U.S. Forest Service is conducting several controlled burns across the four National Forests in North Carolina -- Croatan, Uwharrie, Nantahala, and Pisgah.

The agency will notify the public when the decision is made to conduct controlled burns in their area. Burning days are changeable because the proper weather conditions are needed. Controlled burning will only occur when environmental conditions permit; wind and relative humidity are key factors in fire behavior, safety, and smoke control. A scheduled burn may be cancelled that morning if conditions are not within the expected values.

Trails and roads may be closed the day before the controlled burn for firefighter and public safety. The public is asked to heed signs posted at trailheads and roads and to stay away from burn areas and closed roads and trails.

The Forest Service is required to meet state air quality requirements and will conduct smoke modeling to reduce the possible effects of smoke emissions. The proper personnel and equipment will be on site during the controlled burn.

Controlled burning is an important and versatile forest management tool that can mimic natural fire disturbances and safely reduce hazardous fuels buildup. Reducing fuels is key to limiting wildfire growth. During the historic fire season of last fall, some fires were quickly extinguished because of previous controlled burning that had occurred in those areas.

Habitat for a variety of wildlife can be improved through carefully executed controlled burns. Regular controlled burns promote the growth of herbaceous plants that provide food, such as fruit, for wildlife including important game animals such as deer and turkey.

Controlled burning is an essential ecological tool for restoration and maintenance of longleaf pine ecosystems in eastern North Carolina. In the Southern Appalachians, the Forest Service uses controlled burning to promote fire-tolerant native plants and restore threatened plants and communities, such as table mountain pine and mountain golden heather. The low- to medium-intensity burns create healthier, more diverse and more resilient forests.

All controlled burns are thoroughly planned and analyzed by a team of specialists to ensure that wildlife, fisheries, rare plants, and historic sites are not harmed. Burned areas can be unsightly at first; however, the forests will green up in a matter of months.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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