Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Laurel Creek Road and Cades Cove Closed Until Noon...

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Laurel Creek Road and Cades Cove Closed Until Noon...: Managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced that the Laurel Creek Road, which carries traffic from the Townsend, TN Entrance into Cades Cove will be closed until noon on the morning of Thursday, March 1. The closure will allow the Park to safely remove two very large hazardous trees. The closure applies to hikers and cyclists as well as vehicles.Traffic coming into the Townsend Entrance and traveling east-bound on Little River Road enroute to Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC will not be affected.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Group Camping In The GSMNP

The park has seven areas where groups may camp. These areas are listed below, along with the operation dates and numbers to call for information. They are open only during the months listed. You must have reservations to stay at these areas. These areas will accommodate tents only. Trailers, campers, or other wheeled units are not permitted. Also be aware that showers and electric hookups are not available.
The minimum party size is eight, and the maximum length of stay is seven nights in these areas. Check out time is noon. You are welcome to call the ranger station to obtain site-specific information, but be aware that the ranger stations are field offices and are not staffed during all hours!
All group campsites require reservations. To make reservations, you must call the National Park Reservation Service at: 800-365-2267
Camping dates may be reserved up to five months in advance, and payment is required at the time the reservation is made.

CampgroundPhone #OpenCloseSitesMax # of peopleFee
Big Creek828-486-5910mid Marbeg Nov125$ 40.00
Cades Cove800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov220$ 33.00
Cades Cove800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov130$ 48.00
Cades Cove800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov1 (pavilion)30$ 63.00
Cataloochee828-497-1930mid Marbeg Nov325$ 30.00
Cosby423-487-2683mid Marbeg Nov320$ 20.00
Deep Creek828-488-3184 beg Aprbeg Nov320$ 30.00
Elkmont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov112$ 23.00
Elkmont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov115$ 23.00
Elkmont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov220$ 33.00
Elkmont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov130$ 48.00
Smokemont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov115$ 23.00
Smokemont800-365-2267mid Marbeg Nov220$ 33.00

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adventures In Stoving: Wood Fired Cooking on a Caldera Cone

Adventures In Stoving: Wood Fired Cooking on a Caldera Cone: It can be tough to do real cooking on a wood fire in the backcountry. Sure, there are guys who can do it, but it's not all that easy, even for the experienced. Is there a way we can make cooking on a wood fire a little more accessible? As a matter of fact, there is: A wood burning stove.If you've been following my blog, you know I've been evaluating a Sidewinder version of the Ti-Tri Caldera Cone

T Look Rock Observation Tower to Close for Construction

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Look Rock Observation Tower to Close for Construction : Managers at Great Smoky Mountain National Park have announced that the observation tower at Look Rock on the Foothills Parkway in Blount County, TN will be closed for construction work from Monday, February 27 through Friday, March 23.During the closure period a new radio repeater will be installed by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to upgrade the radio communications available to Blount County Sheriff’s Office and local Emergency Management Services. The paved trail that leads from the Look Rock Parking area to the Tower is also closed at its entrance off the Parkway. In addition to its role as a public observation tower, the Look Rock Tower hosts an Air Quality monitoring site, and houses radio repeaters serving the Park, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Loudon Electric Cooperative, and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service.

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Different Types of Forest In The GSMNP

Five forest types dominate the Great Smoky Mountains. Together these forests sport more than 130 species of trees, and 4,000 other plant species. They represent all the major forest types along eastern North America. As elevation increases within the park, temperature decreases and precipitation increases. Each 1,000 feet of elevation gained is the equivalent of moving 250 miles north. The additional precipitation classifies small sections of the Park as a rainforest. All five types can be seen at once from Campbell Overlook, two miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road (US 441).

The spruce-fir forest caps the Park's highest elevations. Most areas above 4,500 feet support some elements of this forest. It is best developed above 5,500 feet. In terms of climate the spruce-fir forest relates to areas such as Maine, and Quebec, Canada. The main components of the spruce-fir forest are red spruce and Frasier fir. Other important species include yellow birch, mountain-ash, hobblebush, and blackberries. The balsam woolly adelgid killed 95% of the Frasier firs over the past decade. Accidentally introduced from Europe, this tragedy threatens the fate of the entire forest type. The Park sprays to control the insect, but this is a labor consuming process that needs to saturate each tree. Environmental pressures, including acidic deposition and ozone present further threats.

A northern hardwood forest dominates the middle to upper elevations from 3,500- 5,000 feet. It mixes with many species from other forest types, but is characterized by sugar maple, American beech, and yellow birch. These forests resemble those throughout much of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and southern Ontario. The northern hardwood forest, specifically sugar maples, produces the most brilliant fall color.

Drier ridges in and around the Park hold a pine-oak forest. Despite plentiful amounts of rain, these excessively drained slopes dry out often, and fire is a regular part of these forest communities. In late 1996, the Park began controlled burning to prevent unintentional fires from threatening lives and property. This also insures natural regeneration of species requiring fire for propagation. Major species include red, scarlet, black and chestnut oaks, along with table mountain, pitch, and white pines. Some areas also have hickories.

A hemlock forest often grows along streambanks. Water temperatures remain cold year- round, and this cools and dampens the air. Hemlocks survive better in these conditions than any other species. Hemlocks dominate streamsides throughout the Appalachians. An insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid is moving south and west. It threatens every hemlock in the eastern united States.

The cove hardwood forest lines the valleys throughout the Park. It is the Smokies most diverse ecosystem. Important species include, tulip poplar, American basswood, red maple, sweet gum, yellow buckeye, black birch, and dogwood. This lush, diverse forest enjoys warm temperatures, a long growing season, and plentiful rainfall.

Other Trees

Sixty years ago, the most common Park tree was American Chestnut. About 30% of the Park was chestnut forest. Due to a disease, chestnut blight, every adult chestnut in the eastern United States died. Loss of the chestnut heavily impacted animals depending on the nuts for winter fat. Scientists continue to work search for hybrid chestnut species that can resist this disease.

Black walnuts are common near homesites. Often planted in yards, walnut wood was valuable, and the nuts made good food.

Black cherry is another valuable wood and food source. The cherries are a favorite of bears when they ripen in August. Cherry trees are often damaged by climbing bears.

Tennessee's state tree, tulip poplar, is abundant in the Park. Builders favor it for cabins. It grows long and straight, striving for the sun without pause.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Take a Hike (in every National Park)

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Take a Hike (in every National Park): Many individuals have made it their goal to hike every trail within a national park. For those achieving that goal in the Great Smoky Mountains, for example, they earn the right to become a member of the exclusive 900 Miler Club.Even more ambitious are those that seek to hike every trail in a national park over the course of just one year. In 2011, Montana resident Jake Bramante became the first person ever to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in only one year.And then there’s Donna and Mike Guthrie, who have taken it upon themselves to hike at least one trail in every national park in the United States. They plan to achieve this goal by 2016, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, as well as their 70th birthdays. If you consider the logistics of reaching all 58 national parks – from the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, to the Everglades in Florida – the travel alone is an enormous undertaking.The Colorado Springs couple set their ambitious goal in late 2009 as a way of seeing more of the country. To date, the Guthrie’s have already been to 32 parks, including a winter excursion to Yellowstone earlier this month. They’ve also seen some of the lesser-known parks such as Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, and Dry Tortugas in Florida. However, some of their favorites so far have been Crater Lake in Oregon, and Yosemite in California.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians In GSMNP

More than 230 species use the Park, and over 110 species breed within Park boundaries. Birds are most active early in the morning, starting about 45 minutes before sunrise. Good birding spots include the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Cades Cove, and Oconaluftee. Some common species include juncos, mourning doves, chimney swifts, eastern phoebes, barn swallows, blue jays, indigo buntings, cardinals, towhees, sparrows, eastern bluebirds, eastern meadowlarks, field sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, crows, chickadees, wild turkeys and warblers. Summer species includes the eastern kingbirds, barn swallows, yellow warblers, and indigo buntings. Golden eagles come through the Park in autumn. The pileated woodpecker, habituates stands of dead and dying pines. The barred owl is the most common night bird.

Copperhead and Timber Rattler - The Park's only poisonous snakes are the northern copperhead and timber rattler. The copperhead is most common below 3,000 feet while the timber rattler up to 6,000 feet. Neither have a lethal poison, and death from a snake bite in the Smokies is extremely rare.
Timber Rattler

The most common non-poisonous snakes are black rat, garter, and common water snake. The black rat snake is known for its ability to climb trees. They grow to six feet long. Rats and bats are their main prey. The garter snake grows to about four feet. They like to warm on sunny rocks. The common water snake often gets confused with the cottonmouth. They sit in the water, preying on small fish.

Other reptiles include the eastern box turtle, common snapping turtle, and southeastern five-lined skink.
Amphibians thrive in the Great Smokies. Frogs, toads, and salamanders are all common Park residents. The Smokies 27 species of salamanders make them the salamander capital of the world. Notable species include Jordans Salamander, found only in the Smokies, and the Hellbender. It grows up to five feet long.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bear Awareness In The GSMNP

Black bears in the Park are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat all bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines.

Encounters Along the Trail

Remain watchful. If you see a bear at a distance do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) - YOU'RE TOO CLOSE.

Being too close may also promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don't run but slowly back away watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, typically without vocalizing, or paw swatting, try changing your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, begin talking loudly or shouting at it. Act aggressively and try to intimidate the bear.

Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick if you have one. Don't run and don't turn away from the bear.

Don't leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems. Most injuries from black bear attacks are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people's food. If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you're physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.
If the bear shows no interest in your food and you're physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object -- the bear may consider you as prey! Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately! Above all, keep your distance from bears!

Encounters in Camp

The best way to avoid bears is to not attract them. Keep cooking and sleeping areas separate. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of food odors; do not store food, garbage or other attractants (i.e., toothpaste, soap, etc.) in them.

A clean camp is essential to reducing problems. Pack out all food and litter; don't bury it or try to burn anything. Proper food storage is required by regulation. Secure all food and other attractants at night or when not in use. Where food storage devices are present, use them. Otherwise: Place all odorous items in your pack.

Select two trees 10-20 feet apart with limbs 15 feet high. Using a rock as weight, toss a rope over a limb on the first tree and tie one end to the pack. Repeat this process with the second tree. Raise the pack about six feet via the first rope and tie it off. Then pull the second rope until the pack is up at least 10 feet high and evenly spaced; it must be four feet or more from the nearest limb.

Garbage Kills Bears!

Secure all food, toothpaste, soap and trash at night or when not in use

Do not cook or store food in or near your tent

Pack out ALL your trash, don't bury or burn anything

If a bear approaches you, frighten it by yelling, banging pans together, or throwing rocks

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wildflowers and Grasses of GSMNP


Mountain Laurel

Peak wildflower season is April, but the Cades Cove's open meadows hold blooms from spring to fall. Mountain laurel, rhododendron, and flame azalea attract visitors throughout spring and summer. Mountain laurel blooms in May, followed by rhododendron in late June and early July. In late June people come from around the country to view Gregory Bald's azaleas.
Purple Phacelia
 In the open areas, such as Cades Cove, other flowers are more common. Purple phacelia bloom in May often accompanied by blue-eyed grass. May apple and yellow trillium do better in the shade. By June, European red clover comes into bloom, offering a tasty dessert for local deer. Daisies, Queen Anne's lace, and, later, Black-eyed Susans color the year longest days. Butterfly weed glows bright orange in July. Some other common flowers in Park lowlands (and blooming dates) are: sweet-joe-pye weed (July-September), yellow ragwort (May-June), hawkweed (April-July), yellow fringed orchid (July-September), and trumpet vine (August).


An invasive, exotic grass, fescue, dominates Cades Cove. Other common grasses and sedges are velvet grass and broom sedge. The Park works to increase native grasses percentages. Recent studies show elimination exotic grasses leads to greater plant and animal diversity.
Black-eyed Susans
Queen Anne's Lace

Wildlife In The Great Smoky Mountains

The Smokies are a premier wildlife viewing area. Early in the morning and late in the evening make the viewing. Cades Cove and Cataloochee have large open spaces, providing excellent opportunities for viewing. Still, wildlife sightings are common throughout the Park. Bears are the most sought after, and the reintroduced red wolf make a special sighting also.
A total of 65 mammals live in the Park. Some, such as the coyote and bobcat are reclusive while deer are very common and obvious. Besides deer people most often see red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, raccoons, opossums, red and gray foxes, skunks, and bats. Deer are common throughout the Park. An exotic, the wild European boar, causes widespread damage. Like other intrusive exotic species, the Park seeks means to control the boar population. Mammals native to the area, but no longer living here include, bison, elk, gray wolves, and fishers.
Reintroduction efforts brought back the red wolf and river otter.

Family-Felidae (Cats)

Bobcats and mountain lions are the only felines native to Cades Cove. Bobcats still live in the cove. They usually eat small game, but will kill small deer. Bobcats grow up to three feet in length and weigh up to 20 pounds. They are nocturnal and seldom seen.
The Smoky's native mountain lion is the eastern cougar. Most biologists believe hunters eliminated the cougar from the region in 1920. However, persistent sightings since the 1960's led to studies. No definitive evidence of their presence resulted. Any cougars currently in the Smokies are transients or released pets.

Family Canidae (Dogs)

Red and gray foxes are native to Cades Cove. The gray fox is more common. Foxes prefer habitats with open and forested areas such as Cades Cove. The gray fox is less aggressive than the red, but its ability to climb trees aids in food collection and defense. Coyotes and red wolves should lower Cove's fox population.
Coyotes also inhabit the Park, favoring the Cades Cove area. Coyotes migrated across the Mississippi River and arrived in the Park in 1985.

Family Mustelidae

The long-tailed weasel, mink, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, and river otter live in and around Cades Cove. Man regionally eliminated the fisher in the 19th century. In the mid 1980's, the Park successfully reintroduced 140 river otters. Favorite otters habitats include Abrams Creek, and the Little River, Otters are nocturnal and rarely spotted by people.
Weasels, minks, and spotted skunks are rare. Skunk populations fell due to diseases such as distemper, and should recover. Although one of the Park's most feared residents, skunks spray only when threatened.

Family Procyonidae

The raccoon is this family's only local member. Raccoons congregate near streambanks where they feed on crayfish, salamanders, nuts, or berries. They will eat almost anything. Local population densities vary because of disease. Raccoons will steal food from humans. They will even beg.

Family Castoridae (beavers)

In the 1600's beaver were common in Cades Cove. By the 20th century, none remained. Reintroduced in North Carolina in the 1960's, beavers migrated back to the Smokies. Beavers prefer slow waters.
Family Sciuridae
Local members of this family include: the eastern chipmunk, woodchuck, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, red squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and northern flying squirrel. Acorn abundance determines the winter survival for the chipmunk, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, and southern flying squirrel. Red squirrels eat a varied diet, including insects and bird eggs.
Woodchucks, also called groundhogs or whistle pigs, are common along roadsides. They live in underground tunnels. When caught outside their tunnels, they climb trees to elude predators. Like all members of this family, they face heavy predation from canines and felines.

Family Leporidae (rabbits)

The two local members of this family are the eastern cottontail and the New England cottontail. Eastern cottontails hide in tall grasses to avoid detection. Sightings are more common in mowed areas. The New England cottontails only live in the higher elevations
Family Suidae (pigs)

The wild hog is the only Suidae present. They are not native and damage Park's ecosystems. Eurpoean Wild Boars came to the southern Appalachians in the early 1900's as sport for hunters. They overran their fenced enclosure near Hoopers Bald, North Carolina, and quickly spread throughout the region. Females can birth 12 piglets each year. They root through the soil, killing plants, promoting erosion, and polluting streams. In the fall, they compete with native species for acorns. Since the wild hog is a destructive non-native species, the Park works to control their number. Despite 30 years of management, more than 500 hogs remain in the Park. Future efforts may maintain populations at minimal levels, but elimination is unlikely.

Family Cervidae (deer)

Deer live throughout the Smokies, but are most commonly seen in Cades Cove. Between 400-800 deer live near the Cove. When visiting at sunrise, it is common to see 200 deer.
Deer populations can change quickly. Local overpopulation leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by wolves, coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with overpopulation.
Deer living in the southern Appalachians give birth in late June. Newborn fawns have no defense beyond camouflage. Many are lost to predation during their first few days. By their second spring, males begin to grow antlers. They fully develop in August, and in September, the bucks fight for mating rights. Mating occurs in November. The antlers fall off by mid-winter.
Deer browse for nutritious foods. The Park's diversity is excellent habitat. When favored foods disappear, deer switch to more common, less nutritious plants. If nothing else is available, they will eat poison ivy or rhododendron. Acorns and nuts are important fall foods. Acorn availability relates to deer survival rates.

Other Mammals

The opossum is the Park's only marsupial. Other mammals include shrews, moles, and mice. Several bat species are common in and around the Cove. Bats are nocturnal. Black rat snakes eat bats. One snake, Gladys, devours sleeping bats at the Cades Cove Visitor Center. The snake uses the Visitor Center roof as its home and grocery store.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Information on Black Bears In GSMNP

Most Park visitors enjoy seeing a black bear, Ursus americanus, in the wild. It is smaller and less aggressive than its western cousin, the grizzly bear. The Smokies rugged, temperate environment provides excellent bear habitat. Only black bears live in the Park. About 600 bears roam the Park, and many consider Cades Cove their home. The Park has one of the country's highest bear densities.
Bear life spans average 12 years. A typical male weighs 300 pounds, while females average 230 pounds. Bears, like humans, are omnivores. Their food intake is 85% plant material. They obtain most of their protein from insects, but occasionally eat fish, fawns, or other small animals.
Most bears enter a deep sleep starting in late fall. Most Park bears prepare to den by mid-December. Cubs, usually two, are born in late January. They weigh 8 ounces when born. Bear sightings usually begin in early March, but weather conditions can delay this. Newborns and mothers remain denned until May. Cubs remain with their mothers for a year and a half.
Bears emerge from their prolonged sleep in March or early April (they do not hibernate). July starts the mating season. Young males often travel more than a 100 miles to find a mate. Fertilized eggs lie dormant until denning.
Once awake the search for food begins. Spring foods are scarce, so bears conserve their energy. Berries ripen in July and cherries in August. If the crop is good, these fruits provide ample food. Acorns provide a source of winter fat. Bears eat some high protein foods, including insects, fish, and higher animals. Though bears can run 30 miles per hour, they rarely run down prey. They prefer carrion, or easy prey such as fawns.
It is illegal to feed or harass any Park wildlife. Fines range up to $5,000 and 6 months in prison. Besides being illegal, human foods (and packaging) can kill a bear. They die from asphyxiation or digestive track blockages. A human-fed bear has a lifespan of only 8 years. Tamed bears lose their natural fear of people. Violent bears must be destroyed. Please, for their sake and yours, do not feed the bears.
Park bear management includes population monitoring efforts, and, when necessary, relocation. The Park moves aggressive bears deep into the backcountry. Hopefully, they revert to natural behaviors. If this does not happen, the Park moves the bear to less populated areas. Most of these relocation sites are open to hunting. Tame bears make easy targets.
Although there is no one best place to see bears in the Park, Cades Cove and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are among the best spots to look. Bears are most active early in the morning and late in the evening.
On the small chance of encountering an aggressive black bear the best action is make a lot of noise (a whistle works well), and slowly retreat. Only when between a mother and her cubs, or when dealing with a hungry, human-fed bear are they dangerous. Bears are excellent climbers, so climbing a tree is ineffective. Playing dead does not work either, since dead animals are part of the black bears' diet. However, few dangerous bear situations occur.

February Events in The GSMNP

Family Adventure Weekend
Dates: 02/10/2012,02/11/2012,02/12/2012
Location:  Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Summary: Spend a weekend with the family exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This weekend is chock-full of hikes, crafts, games, waterfalls, beautiful views, campfires, and plenty of time to enjoy being with the ones you love.
Fees: $422 for family of four ages 6 and up ($95 for each additional person)
Details: Run away from home and bring the family with you! What better way to spend a weekend with the family than exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This weekend is chock-full of hikes, crafts, games, waterfalls, beautiful views, campfires, and plenty of time to enjoy being with the ones you love. We will provide opportunities for discovery and adventure AND we do all the cooking! It doesn't get much better than this! Join our talented staff for a weekend you will never forget. Program lasts from Friday supper through Sunday lunch, February 11-13.
Cost: $422 for family of four ages 6 and up ($95 for each additional person). Advance registration required.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is an educational partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tremont is a non-profit environmental education center that provides in-depth education programs that celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster stewardship, and nurture appreciation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For additional information, visit Tremont's website at
Contact: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Phone: (865) 448-6709

Oconaluftee Old Time Music Jam Session
Dates: Every 3rd Saturday of every month. from 10/15/2011 to 12/15/2012
Times:  1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Location:  Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch
Summary: Join us on the front porch of the visitor center for a jam session. All levels of playing are welcome.
Fees: Free
Details: Join us on the front porch of the visitor center for a jam session. Anyone who plays and would like to share their talents can join in the music gathering regardless of playing level even beginner musicians. The jams will follow an "around-the-circle" format, where folks may lead tunes/songs or pass the tune choice to the next person. Join in or just come and listen!
Contact: Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Phone: (828) 497-1904

"Car Clouting" on the decline in the Smokies

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: "Car Clouting" on the decline in the Smokies: Earlier this week Smoky Mountain News published an interesting article about three individuals that will be heading to prison for breaking into a slew of cars at trailheads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest over a several month period.In the article, SMN mentions that the Smoky Mountains used to average about 100 car break-ins, also known as "car clouts", per year. That number dropped to 37 incidents in 2010, and only 14 last year.They offer these tips before leaving your car at the trailhead:• Remove valuables from vehicles.• If you must leave valuables in vehicles, hide them out of sight in the glove compartment or trunk.• Scan the trailhead to make sure no one suspicious is hanging about. If they are, consider moving to another trailhead.• Do not leave a hiking itinerary on your dash. Leave it with friends, family or at a ranger station.• Don’t back your car into a parking spot. This provides thieves cover to break into the trunk.You can read the article by clicking here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Suunto X10 The Ultmate Outdoor GPS Watch

The ultimate outdoor tool
Living up to the expectations of its predecessors, the Suunto X10 features a GPS tracking system that is fast and accurate, with robust performance in harsh conditions. It also has a long battery life and is USB chargeable, making it the ideal companion for adventurers.

During the trip
The Suunto X10 continuously checks the barometric pressure, so you can always stay one step ahead of the weather. In addition to the altimeter, compass, and barometer use the GPS to better navigate to up to 500 waypoints throughout your journey. You can set the Suunto X10 to Activity Mode to record your speed, distance, and altitude information, and any memory points you define along the way. With the fast GPS fixes - even under heavy foliage - and long lasting battery power, you can navigate confidently and conveniently, while keeping your hands free. Once you reach your destination, set your Suunto X10 on Track Back mode to be guided back the way you came.

After the trip
After your trek upload your journey to (or a third party digital map software*) to visualize the altitude profile, plot and show your progress on a map and share your experience with your friends and fellow outdoor enthusiasts. When everyone knows where you've been and how you got there, the pressure is on to find new places. With the Suunto X10, the earth is your playground.

View tracks on
You can export tracks from your Suunto X10 to, where you can view your adventures anywhere on the globe with real satellite imagery (provided by Google Maps). Once exported to, you can relive your adventures, zooming from outer space to distances as close as 60 meters / 200 feet with detailed resolution. You can also view your speed and altitude graphs from your journey, and share all this information online with your friends.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hike to Gregory Bald in the GSMNP

 Trail Description:

As stunning as the year-round views are, Gregory Bald is most famous for the spectacular flame azaleas that bloom atop the summit. Azalea lovers from all over the world come here to witness the acres of fire red, wine red, orange, salmon, yellow, white, pink, and multi-colored azaleas that reach peak bloom around mid to late June.
According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique, that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.
Although this isn't an easy place to get to, there were still at least 60 or 70 people at the summit on our last hike. Normally when you reach a hiking destination requiring a fairly tough hike, people are usually taking in the scenery, eating a picnic lunch, or just resting. On this day, you could describe the mood as festive. People were practically giddy at the explosion of colors all around. There was even one group that sang Julie Andrews' "Sound of Music" as they were getting ready to head back down the mountain. It's completely understandable that the azaleas and the views here would have this affect on people - this place is truly special. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this should be on the life list of any self-respecting hiker, gardener, or nature lover.

To reach Gregory Bald we began our hike from the Gregory Ridge Trailhead. Yes, the Gregory Bald Trail is a shorter hike to the summit, but you are committed to driving along the one-way Parson Branch Road, which eventually takes you to the southwest corner of the park. Personally, I'd rather hike the additional mile each way than drive a couple of hours to get back to Townsend.
On the lower portion of the trail hikers will cross over three footbridges before reaching backcountry campsite 12, roughly two miles from the trailhead.

At roughly 2.4 miles you'll enter a stretch of trail where a forest fire swept through a couple of years ago. Coincidentally, a campfire was still smoldering in the fire ring at the site we just passed.
After passing the campsite the trail begins a relentless climb of roughly 2000 feet over the next 3 miles.
At 4.9 miles you'll reach the junction with the Gregory Bald Trail. After turning right here, the trail begins a sharp climb for the next 100 yards or so. It then flattens out for awhile before one last push to the summit. 

Gregory Bald is a 10 acre grassy meadow, and is one of two balds maintained by the Park. It's not clear whether this high elevation meadow was created by nature, or was cleared by early settlers in the area.
The Bald is named after Russell Gregory, an early settler in the Cades Cove area. He and other cove residents used the meadow to graze cattle during the spring and summer when cove fields were used for growing crops. Like most cove residents, Gregory supported the Union during the Civil War, but was ambushed and murdered by Confederate guerillas from North Carolina in 1863.

Russell Field, a couple miles towards the east, is likely named after Mr. Gregory as well.
At one point the Appalachian Trail crossed Gregory Bald before exiting the Park at Deals Gap. On the Library of Congress's website you'll see that the first Park map issued to the public in 1940, as well as the revised 1941 map, showing the AT crossing Gregory Bald. However, the 1951 map shows the AT already being re-routed to its current exit location at Fontana Dam.
From the summit, depending on the amount of haze you encounter, hikers can see Cades Cove and Rich Mountain towards the north, Fontana Lake towards the southeast, and Thunderhead Mountain and Clingmans Dome towards the east.

If you can't make it in June, another good time to visit Gregory Bald is in August when the wild blueberries are ripening at the summit. Keep in mind though that bears love blueberries as well, so it's good to be a little more cautious during this time period.
Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Covers 80 hikes in the Smokies. Includes photos, trail maps, elevation profiles, and quick reference trail highlights.  

Creek crossing on way up to Gregory Bald

Nice fall hike to Gregory Bald

Atti just hanging around on Gregory Bald Trail

Gregory Bald

The grassy balds of Gregory Bald

Beautiful view from Gregory Bald

Atti enjoying the view from Gregory Bald

What a view !

Atti just taking a rest

Elevation marker 4949 ft

Azalea's on Gregory Bald

ATC grants $2000 for bear cables in the Smokies

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: ATC grants $2000 for bear cables in the Smokies: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has granted $2,000 from its specialty license plate funds to Friends of the Smokies to help reduce black bear access to backpacker food along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies.“With more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail running along the high ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s only natural for our groups to work together,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies.The work has taken place at two popular shelters on the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, Spence Field and Peck’s Corner. Using the grant funds from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, park staff installed poles and cables that backpackers can use to store food out of the reach of black bears.Friends of the Smokies and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have also partnered to renovate many of the backcountry shelters along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies and to support several other efforts to address trail maintenance and hiker safety. Reconstruction at Laurel Gap, the fifteenth and final shelter project, was completed in December.