Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Do hikers need to carry a gun now?

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Do hikers need to carry a gun now?: Do hikers need to pack heat when venturing into the wilderness? I raise this question after reading about several violent acts in the wilderness within the last year. Allow me to list a few of these in chronological order:

* The FBI continues to search for the person(s) who murdered Scott Lilly on the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia. His “partially buried” body was found on August 12th of last year. The FBI recently announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s).

* Last August, during a violent rampage, an Indiana man stabbed and killed a 76-year-old assistant Boy Scout leader while hiking with three others on a rail trail near Bunker Hill, IN.

* On September 25th, 2011, a female driving in the Nantahala National Forest stopped to render aid to a person she believed was incapacitated, while lying beside the road. At that time a firearm was used to subdue the victim, and then she was forcibly raped. As far as I know this case has not been solved.

* Last October an avid hiker was found dead on a trail in the San Luis Obispo area with severe trauma to his head and face - presumably murdered.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Three Bald Eagles Hatched in Pigeon Forge

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Three Bald Eagles Hatched in Pigeon Forge: Over the last two days three baby eaglets have been hatched at the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge.

The bald eagle nesting pair, "Independence" and "Franklin", both disabled and "non-releasable" birds, are cared for by the AEF at its United States Eagle Center in Pigeon Forge. The AEF cares for about 80 birds of prey daily, including the world's largest collection of "non-releasable" bald eagles. These birds are non-releasable due to permanent physical disabilities or accidental imprinting on humans.

Many of the eagles residing at the facility have successfully reproduced while in AEF's care. In fact, the AEF also operates the largest Bald Eagle breeding facility in the world, and have released dozens of captive-hatched eaglets into the Great Smoky Mountains area, Tennessee and other places.

The parents of the newest eaglets at the center have already produced numerous young during previous breeding seasons, which have all been successfully released into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Below is a Youtube video of the first two eaglet hatchlings that were born early Monday morning:

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Trail Days

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Trail Days: Next month is Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. Trail Days is the annual Woodstock for hikers. It’s the mother of all hiking gatherings. It’s a celebration of all things Appalachian Trail. And it all happens in tiny Damascus, Virginia, also known as Trail Town, USA where the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper and the Iron Mountain Trail slice through the middle of town. Each year Damascus becomes the destination point for thousands of thru-hikers, veteran hikers and those who just love hiking and the Appalachian Trail. It's recognized as the largest trail event in the world, and many A.T. thru-hikers will time their hike in order to be in town in mid-May for the annual three day festival.

In honor of the biggest and best hiker festival in the world here's a short film, produced by Broadcast Your Adventure Films (part of, to give you an idea of what Trail Days is all about:

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove to Begin

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove to Begin:  Wednesday marks the first day of Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove. From May 9th through late September, the Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. in order to allow bicyclists and pedestrians the chance to enjoy the cove.

Two years ago the Smokies re-paved the loop road and made it an outstanding destination for road bikes. The 11-mile one-way road provides bicyclists with excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife and touring 19th century homesites. During the summer and fall season, bicycles may be rented from the Cades Cove Campground Store (located near the Cades Cove Campground) if needed. For information call (865) 448-9034. If at all possible I would highly recommend bringing your own bikes.

If you wish to explore the interior of Cades Cove via Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane, you will need a mountain bike or a hybrid.

New Study Confirms that Hiking Sparks Creativity

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: New Study Confirms that Hiking Sparks Creativity: In this Digital Age, information is never far from our fingertips. Indeed, most of us are constantly inundated by the effects of smart phones, computers, and cellular devices.

According to a new study from the University of Kansas, however, the effects of these gadgets are not always positive. In fact, this constant barrage of information can actually rob us of our creative inspiration, the study finds; something as simple as a nature hike can leave us refreshed and rejuvenated, however. This new study has garnered the affirmation of many notable outdoor enthusiasts, among them Santa Barbara’s Sean Alisea.

Indeed, as a proponent both of hiking and of calming meditation techniques, Sean Alisea finds much to praise in the new report. “The pressure, pace and noise of modern life creates in us a constant struggle against our primitive fight-or-flight response,” Alisea says in a press statement. “Aside from meditation, which I also highly recommend, I believe that the primary way to re-connect with one's spirit is to commune with nature. Hiking, besides keeping you extremely fit, affords you the space and solitude you need to feel at peace with your world.”

That hiking offers many physical benefits is hardly a surprise, but the new University of Kansas study affirms that, as Sean Alisea notes, the benefits are also spiritual and psychological. In fact, the report’s central finding is that a few days in the wilderness, surrounded by nature but away from the pull of the cell phone, can increase creativity by as much as 50%.

Injured Hiker Rescued From Old Rag Mountain

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Injured Hiker Rescued From Old Rag Mountain: This morning's NPS Digest is reporting that a hiker had to be air-lifted off Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park last week.On the afternoon of May 3rd park dispatch received a report of an injured hiker near the summit of Old Rag Mountain, within a three-quarter-mile section of the popular hike known as The Rock Scramble. The initial report indicated that a 42-year-old man had taken a five to seven-foot fall, and had suffered a back injury. EMS and rescue personnel hiked to his location and found him to be stable but in need of litter evacuation due to his injuries.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bear Population highest in the last 100-150 years

Bear populations have increased dramatically in the eastern United States in the last 20 years.  Tennessee’s bear population is no exception.  It is now probably higher than it has ever been in the last 100-150 years.  Most of Tennessee’s bear habitat exists on public lands in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  As Tennessee’s human population increases, and more people move near public lands, bear interactions with humans will continue to increase. 

Every year the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) receives hundreds of calls and complaints concerning black bears.  Most of the complaints are of bears raiding garbage containers, bird feeders, and pet food left outdoors.  Additionally, some people even intentionally feed bears.  As a result of the improper storage of garbage, easy availability of bird seed, and the direct feeding of bears, animals often become habituated to humans and become a nuisance and a threat to human safety.  Nationwide bear management experience has shown the life expectancy of “nuisance” bears may be less than half of that of “wild” bears that do not have repeated contact with humans.  Disappointingly, there are no other alternatives but to destroy bears that have become a threat to human safety.  Last year hundreds of agency man-hours were spent addressing bear-human conflicts as a result of people directly and indirectly feeding bears.  The fact that “Garbage Kills Bears” is irrefutable.  Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear.  As summer approaches and the likelihood of bear sightings increases, the TWRA encourages residents to educate themselves by being "bear aware."

Please help keep communities safe by preserving the “wild” nature of bears by following these few simple tips:

•Do not feed bears,
•Store garbage in bear-proof containers or in a manner that is inaccessible to bears,
•Do not feed birds between April and January when bears are most active or take feeders inside at night,
•Keep pet food indoors and feed pets in the house or garage,
•Do not add food to your compost piles,
•Keep cooking grills clean and stored indoors when not in use.When camping or picnicking, keep your site clean. Never leave food or coolers unattended. Never keep food in or near your tent. Store food in properly sealed containers, and whenever possible, store these containers in a vehicle. If camping in backcountry areas, hang packs or food bags at least ten feet off the ground and at least four feet from the trunk of a tree.

TWRA believes that bears and humans can coexist.  Often all that is required to prevent bear-human conflicts is to simply stop feeding bears, properly store garbage, remove bird feeders, and/or keep pet food indoors.   Disappointingly, some people are often reluctant to do the simplest of measures to keep our Tennessee bears “wild” and therefore safe.  Despite the fact that garbage kills bears, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to communicate this to the public. 

Until the public stops feeding bears and acknowledges the fact that garbage does indeed kill bears, then the TWRA along with other responsible wildlife agencies will have no choice but to euthanize bears that become a threat to humans. 

The Best Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: The Best Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park: Last month I published a list of my Top 10 Hikes in Glacier National Park. After creating the list I realized that many of the trails were fairly long day hikes, which obviously won't appeal to everyone. So I decided to start from scratch and build a new list, based on the best of the easier hikes in the park. Hopefully you'll find this helpful as a starting point in trying to decide where to hike during your visit.