Entries For: November 2008
The National Park Service is considering a plan to relax their regulations that govern bicycles on trails - a change potentially made without public notice, review or comment which would allow Park Superintendents to designate trails and trail use. That means that you could be meeting a cyclist coming down the hill on the Alum Cave Trail in the Smokies as you huff and puff up.
That scenario in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is admittedly far fetched. But there are good reasons why bikes, dogs and guns (did I leave anything out?) are not allowed on the trails. The National Parks are meant to preserve the environment and leave it unimpaired for future generations. You want to bike with your dog and gun, go to the National Forest where hiking is just one of many uses.
I have nothing against cyclists, hunters or dog owners - well maybe dog owners if they can't control their dogs. Just not in the National Park.
You may want to look at this article and write to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior at
1849 C Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20240
Last week, I went on a hike on the Rocky Fork track in TN with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. We met at the first rest stop on I-26 in Tennessee to contemplate the track of land we're trying to save. See the picture above. According to SAHC, this is the largest remaining, unprotected piece of land in the Southern Appalachian mountains.
Then we drove to the Rocky Fork track to hike and learn about its pedigree and its future. Right now, the land is owned by Timber Vest, a timber investment company. It is always important to me to know who the sellers of a piece of land. For every buyer who may want to develop the land, there's a seller who is getting a good price for the property. This 10,000 acres is being sold for $40 millions.
The Conservation Fund will actually buy the property and turn it over to the state of Tennessee and to the US Forest Service. As we hiked, we saw that the land had been heavily logged. Roads and even flat homesites were obvious. But there were also plenty of sweet moments such as the tiny triple waterfall - nothing like the Triple Falls in Dupont State Forest.
The loop was 8 miles and 1,200 ft. of ascent - difficult enough for some that we ended up in three groups - all spread out. Although it is private land, you can hike it and groups like the Johnson City hikers plan hikes here regularly. But there are no maps yet!
How do trails get maintained? Not easily in the Smokies. Because of the network of trails, it's more difficult for volunteers to get to the internal trails than it is on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, for example.
This is the reason for the Trails Forever program, a four million dollar program that will provide a permanent trail crew to work on big trail projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Two millions dollars have already been committed and there soon will be a major capital campaign by Friends of the Smokies to raise the matching funds.
In the meantime, work has been done on the Jakes Creek and Baskins Trail and continues on the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald. The picture above shows a trail crew that I met on top of Clingmans Dome, getting set to go toward Andrews Bald. The park is calling this Trails Now.
To volunteer on the Trails Forever crew or for more information, contact Jeremy Sweat.