What I want for 2014

MST - Entering the Blue Ridge Parkway

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and that you got what you wanted. Based on my Facebook friends, some wanted a mini iPad and some wanted Peace on earth. If you didn’t get what you wanted, you can still wish for it or work for it in 2014.

I would like two things for 2014, both in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1.  Please open up Heintooga Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Uh?? You might say.

Heintooga Road is a less-traveled road that goes from the Blue Ridge Parkway spur to Straight Fork Road. See picture above.

It’s always closed in the winter. But this year, 2013, it was  closed the whole year because of budget problems. The budget sequester caused the park management to make difficult decisions. One was to close Heintooga Road, so it wouldn’t have to be patrolled and maintained.

By closing Heintooga Road, you also closed Polls Gap, the trailhead for Hemphill Bald, one of the most iconic balds in the park. Of course, all trails are connected and you could eventually get to Hemphill Bald from Cataloochee Divide but that would be a very challenging dayhike.

Heintooga Road is also on the route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. By opening up Heintooga Road, you make this route much more inviting.

The sequester cuts will get worse in 2014, harming more park resources.

2.  Please fix the bridges on the Boogerman Trail.

This iconic trail in the Cataloochee section of the Smokies is a favorite, especially in the winter. The trail has been out of commission for several years. I’ve been leading hikes for Friends of the Smokies for several years and I’ve yet to be able to offer a classic Boogerman Trail hike.

There are 10 bridges on Caldwell Fork Trail which leads up to the Boogerman Trail. And that requires a lot of maintenance. The first bridge (longest wooden bridge in the park) has been out and it’s become impossible to do any part of the Boogerman Trail unless you’re willing to wade through high water. Not in the winter, thank you.

These are my outdoor wishes for 2014:

*  Open Heintooga Road on schedule

*  Fix the Boogerman Trail

We need to keep an eye out for the conditions of our trails. Trails Forever has done a wonderful job of rehabilitating trails but it can’t do everything.

I’ll let you know if and when either of my wishes come true. Let’s work on persuading our Congressional representatives for a better budget for national parks this year.

I wish you and yours a Happy Hiking Year!

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