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September 14, 2020

Foothills Parkway is an Area Treasure

Have you travelled along the Foothills Parkway yet?  This is a national parkway that traverses the foothills of the northern Great Smoky Mountains.  The completed parkway will be more than 72 miles long and will connect U.S. Route 129 with Interstate 40. Today the parkway is 38.6 miles long with the remainder to be completed in the future.

The Foothills Parkway offers breathtaking views in all seasons.

The views from the Foothills Parkway are magnificent.

 

 

Portions of the parkway run through parts of Blount, Sevier, and Cocke Counties in Tennessee.  Sections cross a series of high ridges running parallel to the Tennessee boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The road offers unobstructed views of the Smokies to the south and the Tennessee Valley to the north.

Many of our guests like to drive the section known as the “missing link”.  This 16-mile drive features magnificent views with many overlooks from which you can take photos and enjoy the scenery.

History of the Foothills Parkway

Congress authorized the parkway in 1944 as a scenic road that would provide magnificent views.  http://www.nps.gov/articles/foothillsparkway  The first few sections of the parkway were finished in the late 1960s.  The 5.6 mile section between I-40 and Cosby was the first to be completed.  Crews worked for several decades on a 16-mile segment from Walland to Wears Valley.  They nearly finished it.  But the construction hit rugged peaks and valleys.  The walls they built crumbled and the soil was filled with minerals with the potential for environmental damage.  Because of these issues, the project was placed on the backburner in 1989.  The 16.5 mile gap in the road left behind became known as the “missing link”.

In 2009 federal stimulus money got construction started again.  The Missing Link of the Foothills Parkway opened to the public in November 2018.

The parkway entrance is off of Wears Valley Road.

As always when you are visiting the mountains, be sure your brakes and tires are in good shape.  Be sure to have a plenty of fuel as gas is not available in the park.  Using a lower gear on steep downhill terrain can avoid hot brakes.  And be extra careful if the conditions include precipitation or low visibility.

 

August 31, 2020

National Park Campgrounds and Picnic Areas to Reopen

September 3, 2020 marks the reopening day for campgrounds and picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).  The reopening follows guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities.  The National Park Service is closely monitoring the covid-19 pandemic.  They have developed a phased approach to increasing park access.

Campgrounds and picnic areas will be open in time for the Labor Day holiday.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has something for everyone.

Campgrounds and Picnic Areas

The following areas will be accessible beginning on September 3: 

  • Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee, and Cosby Campgrounds
  • Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Tow String Horse Camps
  • Heintooga and Look Rock Picnic Areas
  • Little Greenbrier Road

Please remember that the following areas continue to be open:

  • All Park trails, backcountry campsites, and shelters
  • All visitor centers and restrooms
  • Cable Mill in Cades Cove and Mingus Mill near Oconaluftee
  • Cades Cove, Elkmont, Deep Creek, and Smokemont Campgrounds
  • Anthony Creek Horse Camp
  • Big Creek, Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Areas
  • Spence Cabin and all Picnic Pavilions for day-use rental
  • Concession operations:  LeConte Lodge, Sugarlands Riding Stables, Cades Cove Riding Stables, Cades Cove Campstore, and Smokemont Riding Stables

The Appalachian Clubhouse remains closed.

According to Park Superintendent Cassius Cash, “We are pleased to be able to offer more opportunities for visitors to disperse and recreate in the park in time for the Labor Day holiday and our busy fall season.  The Park has experienced record visitation this summer and we want to remind everyone that we need your help more than ever to keep the Park protected and clean.”

Park officials suggest you choose trails and overlooks without congested parking areas.  Visiting early in the morning will help you view the Park in less crowded conditions.  Remember to maintain distance from other visitors and wear a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distance.

Buckhorn Inn guests may ask staff to recommend some of our favorite hiking trails.  We also can pack you a hearty sack lunch for $10 to enjoy at one of the picnic areas.

May 29, 2020

Smoky Mountains Are Home to Amazing Creatures!

The Great Smoky Mountains are home to 150 types of land snail.

The land snail’s shell is beautiful in both design and color.

The Great Smoky Mountains contain a myriad of flora and fauna.  Some of you may have seen this little critter we photographed and posted on our Facebook page.  We were eager to learn more about it.  And just in time, the May issue of Smokies Live hit our inbox.  This is a publication of the Great Smoky Mountains Association and contains well-researched articles on a myriad of topics.  One such article is “Permanent Camp:  Land Snails”  http://www.smokiesinformation.org.  Thanks to George Ellison for this interesting article.  And we appreciate the beautiful illustration by Elizabeth Ellison.

The article identifies land snails as terrestrial gastropods in the phylum Mollusca.  Worldwide, there are more than 100,000 members of the land snail species.  About 150 of these can be found in our very own National Park!  Land snails are fascinating to watch.  They move by muscular contraction.  The taller of their two sets of tentacles have eyes on their tips.  The shorter set enables the snail to smell.

Where Can You Find Snails in the Great Smoky Mountains?

Just about everywhere, according to the article.  They prefer moist, shady conditions.  The article quotes Dan and Judy Dourson (authors of Land Snails of the Great Smoky Mountains).  “The base of large diameter tree species such as black and butternut walnut can sometimes yield high numbers of land snails.”  

The Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) is a nonprofit that supports the preservation of the Park.  They offer many resources to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the Park through education, interpretation and research.  Membership in the GSMA includes subscriptions to their print magazine and electronic newsletters.  Members also are entitled to shopping discounts at visitor center stores.  We encourage you to consider membership in the GSMA and join us in becoming stewards of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

May 11, 2020

National Park Begins Phased Reopening

Saturday, May 9, 2020 marked the first phase of the reopening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This phase, expected to last about two weeks, includes some popular destinations.  The Park will open Newfound Gap, Little River, Cherokee Orchard, Laurel Creek, Cades Cove Loop, Lakeview Drive, and Deep Creek Roads.  The restrooms and picnic areas along the roads will be open as well.  However, visitor centers and campgrounds will remain closed for this period.  The phased-in reopening follows guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local public health authorities.

We understand that the LeConte Lodge and Cades Cove Riding Stables will open on May 18.  The Cades Cove Campstore and Smokemont Riding Stables are set to open on May 23.

National Park Encourages Safety

The National Park is a treasure in our own backyard.

Visitors can once again marvel at the beauty of the National Park.

The foremost priority in the reopening is the health and safety of employees, partners, volunteers, visitors, and local residents.  Park managers will monitor all activities to ensure that they comply with public health guidance.  Park authorities stress that visitors must practice social distancing.  Saturday’s reopening drew visitors from far and wide.  Park spokesperson Dana Soehn reports that she saw license plates from 24 states in one parking lot.  Soehn asks that visitors make choices to keep themselves, and Park staff, safe.

After the two-week period, Park management will decide whether to reopen secondary roads and campgrounds, and later, to lift all restrictions.

We view the Park as our treasure, and we are so glad that visitors may once again seek comfort and solace by viewing the wonders of nature.  We encourage our guests to hike early in the morning, before other hikers arrive.  The Park Service website http://www.nps.gov/grsm is a wonderful source for information.  The site has the most current information about facility openings, service hours, and access.  They also have released a new video highlighting tips for a safe Smokies visit.

If you haven’t been hiking for a few weeks, a walk around the Buckhorn Inn nature trail is a good way to get back in shape.  We look forward to seeing you outdoors!

 

February 24, 2020

Park Hosts Record Visitors in 2019

More than 12.5 million visitors came to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2019, an increase of more than 1 million over 2018.  The three main entrances, which accounted for more than two thirds of all park visitation, are near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee.

Monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, June, and May.  Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a recent issue of the Great Smoky Mountains Association newsletter, “I am very proud of our employees who work hard each day, along with our volunteers and partners, to help provide outstanding visitor experiences and to protect the resources that people come here to enjoy.”

Chief Ranger Lisa Hendy is intent on ensuring that visitors enjoy the park safely.  Her focus is on Preventive Search and Rescue.  You can find out more about her plans in the Spring 2020 issue of Smokies Life Magazine http://www.smokiesinformation.org.  

Tips for Avoiding Crowds

The Park reports that most people tour the park between 10 am and 6 pm.  By visiting earlier, or later, you will find the trails less crowded.  The most heavily used areas of the Park are the Cades Cove Loop Road and the Newfound Gap Road.  Lesser-used places include Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Cosby, Fontana Lake, and Heintooga Ridge Road.

Visitors enjoy hiking Mount LeConte during off seasons.

Visitors can avoid crowds by avoiding peak hike times.

The peak seasons in the Smokies are the months of June and July and October.  Visiting at other times mean fewer other guests.

Luckily for our guests, Buckhorn Inn is located out of the crowds in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  We are only a mile and a half from the Greenbrier entrance to the Park, which is one of the lesser used.  And finally, our Great Winter Escape and Great Summer Escape packages coincide with the quieter times in the Park!  We look forward to seeing you soon.

October 22, 2019

Grandma Gatewood and her Inspiring Story

Have you ever heard of Grandma Gatewood?  She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself.  She also was the first person to walk it three times.  Even more surprising is that she did all of this after age 65!

Ben Montgomery’s book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk:  The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” http://www.amazon.com was published by Chicago Review Press in 2016.  This is the story of a great-grandmother who left her small Ohio town with a change of clothes, a pair of thin-soled sneakers, and less than $200.  She did not have a tent nor any professional hiking gear.  By September 1955 she was standing atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin proclaiming “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”  Emma Gatewood had lived through poverty, an abusive husband, and raised 11 children before she began her walk.  

Grandma Gatewood utilized the healing powers of physical activity and natural beauty.

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180 mile long public footpath.

On the trail she faced fierce storms and saw the beauty of nature.  She walked up steep ridges and down treacherous ravines.  She often relied

on the kindness of other hikers or community members to keep going.  It is not only a tale of grit and determination, but also of the healing power of nature.

The author interviewed family members and others that Gatewood met along her journey.  He also had access to her trail journals and diaries as well as media coverage of her amazing journey.  

Grandma Gatewood Benefitted the Trail

Gatewood became a celebrated hiker.  She appeared on television programs with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter.  Her celebrity brought public attention to the Appalachian Trail.  She was not shy about voicing criticism of parts of the trail which were not well-maintained and hence difficult.  This public spotlight led to enhanced trail maintenance.  Many believe that this attention very likely saved the trail from extinction.

At age seventy-one she hiked the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail.  By the time she passed away at age 85, she likely had hiked more than 10,000 miles!

June 6, 2019

“Fireflies Display Left Us Speechless”

Yesterday’s USA Today headline read “See the Synchronous Fireflies Smoky Mountains Display that Left Us Speechless” .  https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2019/06/04/synchronous-fireflies-great-smoky-mountains-tennessee-spectacle/1342743001/  Are you familiar with this amazing display?  How do these insects know how to flash together?  Is it some sort of count led by a leader?  Are they responding to some sort of scent?  The real answer is their search for a mate.  

Seeing the display of the synchronous fireflies is truly a bucklet list item for many.

The display lights up the forest in a magical way.

We owe the show to the Photinus Carolinus, commonly known as the Synchronous Firefly and the Phausis Reticulata, the Blue Ghost Firefly.  For about three weeks every year these species of fireflies unique to this area emerge for an annual mating ritual.  This ritual usually takes place in late May or early June.  National Park scientists use air and soil temperatures to predict the timing of each year’s mating season.  The males use their lights to dance for the females.  The females respond with a brief double-flash.  What makes this display so unique is that the males shine their lights in a synchronized display, followed by a synchronized period of darkness which allow the females to shine their lights.

Fireflies Display Lottery

This natural phenomenon has become so popular that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park conducts an annual lottery to determine which visitors are allowed in the park for the show.  Only about 1,800 visitors are admitted each year, coming from all over the world.  The lottery provides parking passes and shuttle service for the Elkmont area.  The lottery typically is announced in April each year.  

Some of our guests were fortunate enough to see the display at Elkmont last evening.  One guest described the experience as magical.  “It felt like the stars were coming down to light the forest!”

Both species of firefly are common in Southern Appalachia.  So if you are in this area in the month of June, stay outside a bit later.  When it is good and dark you might be surprised at the light show you see!

April 1, 2019

GSMNP Protects One of Last U.S. Wild Trout Habitats

Did you know that 20% of the 2,900 miles of streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are large enough to support trout populations?  The Park offers a variety of fishing experiences, from going after trout in remote, headwater streams to angling for smallmouth bass in large, coolwater streams.  Most of these streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish, according to the Park.  Therefore, you have a great opportunity to catch these beauties throughout the year!

The Park permits fishing year-round, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset in all streams.  Tennessee residents and nonresidents age 13 and older must have a valid fishing license.  The daily possession limits are five brook, rainbow, or brown trout or smallmouth bass.  Twenty rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit.  Fishermen may use only artificial flies or lures and a single hand-held rod.  Additional information is available from the park at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fishing.htm  To trout fish in Gatlinburg, you must purchase a special license.  The city does not allow fishing on Thursdays.

Brook trout are native to the park.

Fishing is plentiful in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are 67 different species of fish in the park.  Brooks are the only trout native to the Smokies, although rainbows and browns have been introduced and are found in most large streams.  Long-term monitoring indicates that fishermen play practically no role in the fish population changes.  Major spring floods and summer droughts have much more effect both inside, and outside, the park.

Local Trout Fishing Guides Available

Local outfitters provide everything from rods and reels to professional guides.  These local experts can offer tips and insights for any skill level.  They know on what the fish are biting on any given day!  Spending a day with a local guide can speed up the learning curve.  You can research guides on your own, or ask advice from a local fishing shop.  

If you are new to fishing, many experts recommend the East Prong and the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.  Both areas are easily accessible and offer medium to large fish.

And if fishing is not your thing, just watch our online menu and make a reservation for trout night at Buckhorn Inn!

 

 

 

January 28, 2019

National Park Resumes Regular Operations

We are sharing this news from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

With the enactment of the continuing resolution, staff at GSMNP resumed regular operations beginning Saturday, January 26. Many basic services were accessible to visitors on weekends and holiday periods throughout the shutdown period using a combination of partner funds and revenue generated by recreation fees. Visitor centers are now accessible seven days a week and reservation services for the frontcountry and backcountry are fully operational.

The Park is a wonderful place to time in any season.

The Buckhorn Inn is only 1 1/2 miles from the entrance to the Greenbrier area of the Park.

Visitors may experience delayed openings this spring at some campgrounds, picnic areas, and seasonal roads due to a reduced timeline for seasonal staff hiring and project planning. An updated operating schedule will be posted on http://www.nps.gov/grsm as soon it is available.

Park Superintendent Thanks Community

“On behalf of the employees of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners and communities for their unwavering support over the last five weeks,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “In addition to the monetary support offered by our partners to provide basic visitor services, we were moved by the number of people and organizations who stepped up to organize litter pickups and the outpouring of generosity expressed to our employees through meals and gift cards.”

All staff, including biologists, engineers, education rangers, and administrators have resumed work functions critical for year-round park operations. Employees are glad to be back at work protecting resources and assisting visitors in having a safe and enjoyable experience. If you are interested in helping take care of the park, please visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm  for more information on how to become a volunteer.

The GSMNP is a true treasure.  We are fortunate to have such a beautiful, unspoiled area to enjoy.  We applaud the staff for their year-round assistance in maintaining this natural resource.

November 5, 2018

Five of the Best Activities in the Great Smoky Mountains

Today’s guest blogger http://www.trip101.com shares five of the best activities to enjoy in the Great Smoky Mountains.  

Perhaps the most renowned mountain range in North America, the Great Smoky Mountains border North Carolina and parts of Tennessee, and offer a virtually unlimited selection of world class outdoor activities.  Opportunities abound across the “Smokies,” an iconic portion of the Appalachian Mountains, where diversified forest ecosystems thrive among untouched and protected spaces alike. From spruce-fir forests to river valleys, the Great Smoky Mountains offers a proven solution for outdoor adventure in the American southeast. Check out our top five activities worth pursuing in the Smoky Mountains, to fill your travel itinerary with easy, lifelong memories.

1. Clingmans Dome

Dedicated hikers and lovers of awe-inspiring sights and sounds will fall easily in love with Clingmans Dome. Welcome to the highest mountain peak in all of the Smoky Mountains, with an elevation of more than 6,600 feet. Venture to the peak of this coniferous environment, for sweeping, uninterrupted

Clingman's Dome is a great activity.

The observation deck of Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.

panoramas of the surrounding landscapes, together with a simply unmatched sense of accomplishment.

Clingmans Dome is halfway in North Carolina and halfway in Tennessee, and provides hours of hiking enjoyment to dedicated travelers. Drive Clingmans Dome Road, and then take to a rather steep pathway up to the summit itself, fitted with an observation tower for extended viewing enjoyment. When visibility is at its best from the top of Clingmans Dome, you can see for more than one hundred miles in all directions, and into seven individual states. Take in a picture-perfect sunrise or sunset from the peak, and cross-country ski to the destination come wintertime.

2. Cades Cove

Located in Tennessee, well within the confines of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove qualifies as a staple site in the southeastern portion of the United States. The original home to decades-old settlers, Cades Cove is today beloved for its easy access and scenic wildlife surroundings. The historical element of the site alone is enough to satisfy qualifications for the National Register of Historic Places.

A geological “limestone window” defined by dated erosion, Cades Cove is home to rock formations that are more than 400 million years old. Take note of the fact that you must plan ahead if you plan on visiting Cades Cove, given the fact that it is the single-most visited location within the confines of the National Park itself. Home to Cherokee natives, European settlers and now generations of satisfied travelers, Cades Cove offers the unique synthesis of panoramic landscapes and educational immersion alike.

3. Mount Le Conte

For a truly unique Smoky Mountains experience, you need to stop by Mount Le Conte. The pride of Sevier County, Mount Le Conte offers you access to the highest peak housed entirely within the state of Tennessee. Better yet, on the way to the summit you will have ample opportunities to experience more than 5,000 feet worth of forest. The sandstone and the shale that comprise large portions of the

Buckhorn Inn offers views of Mt. LeConte.

Mt. LeConte offers spectacular views.

mountain are easily 450 million years old, if not more.

Annual snowfall at Mount Le Conte totals nearly forty inches per year, so if you plan on visiting this site during the winter you would be advised to dress accordingly. Interestingly, Mount Le Conte is also renowned for its lodge near the summit itself, so if you’re looking for some award-winning hospitality along your way to the mountain’s peak, that’s an opportunity worth pursuing. If you spot a train of llamas trekking alongside of you, don’t be alarmed: llamas deliver supplies to the lodge three times a week during peak operational months. Intermediate hiking conditions and frequent opportunities for photos make the hike up Mount Le Conte worth every second of your investment.

4. Andrews Bald

From the bottom of the mountain to the summit, you can expect an elevation gain of nearly 900 feet, coupled with lasting opportunities for photos and fresh, outdoor air alike. If you’re looking to reach Andrews Bald, you’re going to want to embark on the nearby Forney Ridge Trail, which eventually delivers you to your destination. Well-maintained hiking endeavors and stone steps pave the way to the summit itself, part of a park-wide manicured effort to keep this location easily accessible to all guests.

Andrews Bald is the destination for you if you’re looking to bring the entire family along for the ride. Again, this hike is an all-time favorite among dedicated Smoky Mountains hikers, so you’re going to want to get an early start, and prepare to accommodate other hikers en route to Andrews Bald itself. All in all, the hike’s popularity witnesses to its worth, as a family-friendly, worthwhile endeavor in the Great Smoky Mountains.

5. Roaring Fork

A drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a wonderful activity.

Water stream flowing along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

With a name like Roaring Fork, you know the experience is worth your investment. A stream that cuts through the Great Smoky Mountains in the Volunteer State, Roaring Fork today is the home of both a historic district and a nature trail of the same name. Straight from the Little Pigeon River, the Roaring Fork stream is a must-see in the Great Smoky Mountains. Take the trail direct to the stream, along the way experiencing waterfall background, ample opportunities for relaxation and the chance to take life at a pace comfortable for you. Activities include touring historic sites.  Historically preserved cabins, mills and more will greet satisfied hikers upon arrival, making Roaring Fork an ideal outing, especially for those individuals looking for a quick immersion into local lore.

The Great Smoky Mountains Abound with Family-Friendly Activities

No matter the corner of the Great Smoky Mountains in which you elect to spend your time, the massive acreage allows you to capitalize on authentic outdoor adventure, at a moment’s notice. From the waterfalls of the Andrews Bald trek to the limestone structures of Cades Cove, There’s an outdoor endeavor at the Great Smoky Mountains that can comfortably accommodate anyone’s individual preferences. Provide the entire family with the outing at the Great Smoky Mountains that they deserve, with any one of these five activities virtually guaranteed to deliver lifelong memories outdoors in Tennessee and North Carolina! If you are looking for more destination guides and accommodation reviews, hotels and vacation rentals, check out http://www.trip101.com