Tag Archives: great smoky mountains National park

When Closed means Closed

Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened about a month ago. The trail had been closed since Thanksgiving, 2016 because of wildfire originally set by two teenage boys. The fire moved from the top of Chimney Tops Trail into populated areas and caused a great deal of damage.

But it seems like most of the trail wasn’t affected, so the park decided to build a platform at the new top of the trail and close off the original top. You can no longer scramble to the actual rocky top because of significant environmental damage and safety concerns. The fire destroyed so much of the vegetation at the top. There is severe erosion of rocks and soil, making for very steep slopes and drop offs.

But rumors are flying that some hikers feel it’s their right to ignore this closure and go around the gate and yellow tape. If this continues, the park may close the whole trail again. Oh no!! What part of closed don’t they understand?

So I decided to see the shortened trail, now only 1.75 miles, for myself? Today was a colorful autumn day, probably too warm for November – climate change is real.

Happy hikers at the platform

The trail was as perfect today as it had been after the Trails Forever Crew put in steps and water diversions. And just as steep. I met 24 people going up and too many to count going down.

Most understood what happened even “if they weren’t from around here” and were content to enjoy the view from the platform. I took plenty of pictures of happy people.

But there’s always a few who aren’t happy with restrictions and think they know better. A father with two adult children from the area wondered why the park had put in all those steps in the first place, why he couldn’t climb to the top, and was there always someone from the park here?

It was obvious that the family group was waiting for me to leave so they could try to get to the top of the rocks. I took their picture.

View of Chimney Tops

“There’s over 800 miles of trail in the park. Plenty of other challenges here.” But they weren’t going to explore other trails. You know the type – wearing  jeans, a cotton t-shirt, a sweatshirt around the waist and usually a scowl on their face. It seemed tempting to wait them out. But after 30 minutes on top and talking to everyone as they got to the platform, I started packing up.

They didn’t even wait for me to leave. They headed down to the closed area. More hikers came up as I started down the trail.

The trail is perfect, until the closure.

Go up there, stop at the platform, walk down to the Closed sign, if you’re curious and go back down – a perfect half-day hike.

Friends of the Smokies at Purchase Knob

Fall Trail

The weather forecast was not encouraging today.

However over twenty Friends of the Smokies members ignored the threat of rain and even thunderstorms and went hiking at Purchase Knob.

It would be more correct to say  we hiked from Purchase Knob, home of the  Appalachian Highland Science Learning Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beth R. of Tampa led the group.

The day started out gray but the yellows, reds, green and even brown more than made up for the lack of brilliant sunshine.

We left the Science Center on the Cataloochee Divide Trail, which is the dividing line between the park on one side and private land on the other.

Bill Woody’s cabin

First we stopped to admire the view from Bill Woody’s cabin. If you look to the left of the cabin, you see the private road that allows the owner to get from his house to this tiny cabin.

Gooseberry Knob, at the Swag Resort, allowed us to feel like we were staying at this high-end luxurious mountain hotel.

Since the trail passes by the property, the owners, Deener and Dan Matthews, encourages hikers to stop and sit a while. And we did. See the picture at the top of this post.

Then the climb started to Hemphill Bald located at Cataloochee Ranch, a private dude  ranch. The ranch is managed by the third generation of Alexanders.

To their credit, the owners have protected the property with a conservation easement. Though they can graze cattle and ride horses on the property, they can’t have developers put houses and condos on these high mountain knobs.

Marker trees

We came back down and took a short detour to a Native American Trail Marker Tree. The Cherokees bent back saplings to grow with a curve to indicate a trail marker – like our trail blazes but without the paint.

Here are Jack and Linda under the Trail Marker Tree.

By now, no one knows what “trail” the tree was supposed to mark.

After we returned to Purchase Knob, Ranger Paul Super gave us a short history of the Learning Center and its purpose. You can read more about the Learning Centers here.

Thanks, Beth, for leading the hike.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, November 14 on the North Shore Road Loop. Sign up here.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Book review

What can you say that’s new about the most visited park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Maybe not much, but you can surely present it in a different, novel way.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Daniel S. Pierce, Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson is a beautiful coffee table which tells of the wonder, beauty of the park without forsaking its history. In less than 130 pages, the book depicts each section of the park along with a full-page poster-like painting.

The introduction shows a timeline of human activity in the Smokies area.

In 1000 CE, the first settlement of Kituah became the Mother Town of the Cherokee. European settlers moved into the Oconaluftee section of the park in 1802. The book is as recent as the devastating fires during in the fall of 2016.

At LeConte Lodge

After reading the introduction, I turned to the pages on LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States, to read about its origins. In my experience, it’s the most deluxe high-mountain lodge – ever. You can stay at 6,360 feet and not have to carry a sleeping bag. That’s luxury!

Dan Pierce is now Professor of History and National Endowment of the Humanities Distinguished Professor at UNCA and former chair of the history department.

When I came to Asheville in 2001, I enrolled in a course Intro to the Southern Appalachians at the College for Seniors in Asheville. Dan was the instructor. His first book, The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park had just come out. I read it eagerly and recommended it to other as THE book on the park. So, he is the certainly the right person to write the copy for this illustrated guide to the Smokies.

You can’t discuss this book without mentioning the Anderson Design Group. They created the drawings of waterfalls, cabins, views and picnic areas in the classic poster art styles from the 1920s to 1940s. The back page of the book shows posters of the 59 national parks, which they gathered into a book. I counted all the national parks that I’ve been to – 40 over the years.
The details
You can buy the paperback book on the Great Smoky Mountains Association website  for $24.95.

A hardback copy is available at the Anderson Design Group website,  for $39.99.

Think Christmas – Your shopping all done

Book Launch
The three authors will be speaking about the book on October 5 at 6:30pm in the University of North Carolina – Asheville Humanities Lecture Hall. After the presentation, they’ll move to the Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery for a reception to open the exhibit of art work from the book. The exhibit will be up until the end of November.