I will be at the Blount Memorial Wellness Center reflecting on the last year of my adventures in the Smokies for the Foothills Land Concervancy. Visit the Foothill's Blog for more information http://blog.foothillsland.org/?p=182
November 15th – 6:30PM – Journey In the
Woods (Blount Memorial Wellness Center located at 220 Associates Blvd.
– Alcoa, TN)
Foothills Land Conservancy presents Doug McFalls – hiker, photographer,
blogger, former winter caretaker for Mt. LeConte Lodge and former AT Ridge
Runner – as he shares his backcountry hiking experiences and unique slideshow
images from the trail. For more info about Doug, visit his blog at: www.reflectionsofthesmokies.com. This presentation is
free and open to the public. For more information, contact Elise with the
Foothills office at 865-681-8326.
Timber Rattler Near The Mt. Cammerer Trail Junction On The AT in October
I am always suprised to see a big
Timber Rattler in the Smokies. But to see one at over 5000 feet of elevation
and on a cool Fall day was awesome! I was hiking near the Mt. Cammerer Trail
junction when I thought, "What a crazy looking stick." My crazy looking stick
turned out to be a 3 foot Timber Rattler trying to soak up some sun on a cool
Fall Colors Highlight the Beauty of the Mountain in Our Smokies
As my season as Ridgerunner on the
AT here in our beautiful Smokies starts winding down, I am still absolutly
amazed by the beauty of our mountains. The Fall color is fantastic! The early
frost in early October seems to have brought on some really vibrant Fall color
in our Smokies. I hope that you have been able to get out and take it in. I
have a feeling that the snows will soon be here with Winter's icey grip and our
Fall color will be gone. Yet the constant change and growth is part of the
beauty of the Mountains.
The Ash Berries Add A Beautiful Splash Of Red To Our Mountains
As I reflect back on the experiences I have enjoyed hiking our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains over the past few months, I am reminded that The Destination Truly Lies In The Journey. What a great journey it has been. I am continually humbled by the awesome sights of our beautiful Mountains. We are truly blessed to be able to experience this Land Of The Blue Smoke.
The Destination Lies In The Journey
Mushrooms On A Log In Our AT
Fall Is Here!, The leaves are starting to fall, the acorns and hickory nuts are about to fall and the breeze is cool!
Between the periods of rain we had a couple of absolutely beautiful days. I spent this
patrol on the Cades Cove end of the AT. Despite the horse traffic, the trail
is in excellent shape. Horse riders, dayhikers and backpackers are out enjoying
the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall here in the
Day One: It was a cool and rainy day. I hiked from
Cades Cove to the Russell Field Shelter. Fall is here for sure! The fog and
rain and cold temperatures were typical of Fall in the Smokies. It was good
weather to get to know my fellow backpackers as we hunker down and try to keep
Day Two: It was cool and foggy and rained off and on
today. I hiked from Russell Field out to the Gregory Bald Trail and then back
to the Mollies Ridge Shelter for the night. We had a group of hikers stop in at
4:15 in the morning! The fog was so thick I don't know how they were out night
hiking. They seemed to be having a good time though!
Day Three: The rain and fog cleared late in the morning
to reveal a beautiful Saturday in the Smokies. I hiked form Mollies Ridge to
Thunderhead Mountain and back to Spence Field Shelter for the night. There was
no new bear sign around the Shelter. I did have a group of 8 college students
that came in at about 7:30 without reservations. They camped in tents and
hammocks outside the shelter. I explained to them why they need to make a
reservation and why they are supposed to stay in the shelter. They informed me
that they knew that they were supposed to have a reservation and stay in the
shelter but they didn't care. I reported the incident to Dispatch and informed
the hikers that they may get ticketed for illegal camping. I gave them some
park maps and reservation forms. It was a frustrating encounter.
Day Four: I hiked from Spence Filed out to Mollies Ridge
and then back to Russell Field Shelter for the night. The trail is in great
shape out here. There were two trees across the trail close to Mollies but they
are easy to step over and not an issue. What a beautiful day to hike through
the hardwoods along the AT in the Smokies. The boomers are cutting the nuts and
the bears are anxiously awaiting them to fall to the ground for an easy
Day Five: I hiked out early to try and get ahead of the
heavy rains and storms that are headed our way. I had enough rain at the
beginning of this week!
I hope that as the leaves continue to change we will have
a little less rain to make it more comfortable to get out and enjoy the beauty
of Fall on the AT here in the Smokies.
My Favorite Blaze. It Seems To Be A Part Of This Natural Artwork
Often I see things along our beautiful Appalachian Trail that I have to stop and take in for a while. I am grateful to be able to share a few of them with you. A blaze on an old rock or the way the fog silouettes a trail sign. Our Smokies are filled with awesome sights.
When It's Too Foggy To Tell Where You Are Going It's Time To Stop And Just Be Greteful That You Are Where You Are
Summer Flowers Linger On the At In The Smokies
It was a
cold and rainy patrol but I really enjoyed hiking with writer Don Williams. Don
went out on patrol with me this week to gather material for an article he is
writing for “Smokies Life”magazine.
Day One: I met Don Williams at the Sugarland Visitors
Center and we went through my regular routine, meeting with Pam Rodgers in the
Backcountry Reservations office and her volunteers, Melissa Cobern and the
Dispatch office. We then went up to Clingmans Dome and hiked into Mt. Collins
Shelter for the evening. It was a cold and rainy day but we had an enjoyable
Day Two: Don and I hiked from Mt. Collins Shelter to
Newfound Gap. Again it was cool and damp. We took time to really look at the
trail work and the plant and wildlife along the trail. We cleared some blowdown
and met some great hikers. I left Don at Newfound Gap and went on to Icewater
Springs. I had planned to hike further but I spent a lot of time helping two
groups of backpackers that didn't have reservations to stay in the backcountry.
I was able to educate the backpackers on the importance of having reservations
and we called the backcountry office and got their reservations sorted out.
Day Three: I hiked out to Pecks Corner on another cold
and gray day. The trail was in good shape and showed recent work from
volunteers. I spent a lot of time with day hikers enjoying Charlies Bunion.
The stretch from Newfound Gap out to Charlies Bunion is a great place to
interact with hikers and pass on lots of good information.
Day Four: I hiked out to Eagle Rocks and then back to
Icewater Springs. The trail is in good shape. I enjoyed meeting some section
hikers along the way. There was about 3 pounds of trash to hike out from
Icewater Springs. Again I had three backpackers without reservations. I was
able to explain the importance of reserving spots in the backcountry.
Day Five: I hiked out for a couple days off. It was a
cool, wet and gray week. I really enjoyed hiking with Don Williams and I look
forward to his article in “Smokies Life”. It was a great week interacting with
backpackers and day hikers. Fall is upon us!
Moss and Mushrooms on the Bottom of a Rootball
Hiking in the fog and rain helps me focus on the things that are close to me on the trail. Often I get caught up in the grand, majestic far away views and miss the beauty that is right under me. The rain and fog gave me a beautiful view of the moss and mushrooms popping out on the bottom of a turned over rootball.
Another Fantastic Sunrise On The AT Here In The Smokies
When I am blessed to enjoy a Sunrise like this one from the AT here in the Smokies I am reminded of a favorite saying, "Wherever You Go, Go With Your Heart."
Wiley Cayote, Near Clingmans Dome
I was very grateful to spend 9/11, a day of remembrance, in our
We were able to get Spence Field Shelter opened back up.
Hopefully we will be able to reopen Silers Bald and CosbyKnob soon.
9/7, 9/8 and 9/9: I hiked into Spence Field Shelter and was met
by Wildlife Ranger Jeremy Nicholson. We stayed at the shelter for a couple days to see if our problem bear would
return. Fortunately we did not see any bears so we were able to reopen Spence Field Shelter. I hiked out on 9/9 to Cades
9/11, 9/12: What a beautiful day in the Smokies. It was a day of
remembrance of the tragic attack on our country. There were a lot of hikers out enjoying their freedom in our beautiful National Park today. I hiked out to Silers Bald Shelter to check for bear sign. I cleaned up a little trash and did not see
any sign that the problem bear had been around. Hopefully we will be able to get this shelter open again soon. I spent a
beautiful evening at double Springs Gap Shelter and hiked out the next day. What a beautiful week!
On The Trail To Spence Field
The georgious colors of Summer will soon give way to the golden landscape of Fall. It has indeed been a wonderful Summer here in our Smoky Mountains!
Mountain Ash Hanging Full With Berries
One of my favorites sights along the trail this time of year is the Mountain Ash as it frames an awesome view. The Bears are starting to dine on the bitter Ash Berries. Soon most of our Bears will be down in the lowlands enjoying the acorns. I hope they will leave plenty Ash Berries to enjoy this Fall and early Winter. I also hope that you will be able to get out and enjoy our Ash Berries yourself this Fall. See you on the trail!
Tom K posted a comment that I though was worthy of addressing in the blog so here it is.
Thu, 01 Sep 2011 9:23:25 am
As of a year ago, Davenport Gap shelter had chain link fencing and
no privy. Several shelters in the western half of the park have no privy. All
of the chain link fencing has been removed. Do you know how long it will be
until all shelters have a privy? Has the chain link fencing at Davenport Gap
shelter been removed? What is the story on the bear trap at Mount Collins
Enjoyed chatting with you on the AT between Newfound Gap and the
Boulevard FRI 19 AUG.
Well, first of all, the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club organizes a group of volunteers called the AT Maintainers Committee that take care of the AT and the Shelters along the AT here in the Smokies under the guidance of the National Park Service. They work with Melissa Cobern who is the Back Country Specialist with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service. So my information may not be completely accurated but I will explain it to the best of my understanding.
Privys: It is my understanding that there is not a plan to install Privys at all of the shelters. One reason is the availability of volunteers to clean, maintain, service and stock the privy's with mulch. I do some of this work but it takes more labor than the Ridgerunner is able to supply to keep the privy's properly maintained. Some of the privy's in the more remote places, like Tricorner Knob or Spence Field for example are very difficult to get mulch into. It is sometimes difficult for volunteers to get the time to get out to the more remote spots and move the privy when it gets full. Don and many other volunteers from the AT Maintainers Committee volunteer a lot of time to keep the Privy's maintained. Also, there are some who believe it it better for the environment to dig a cat hole in the woods. I don't mind digging a hole but I sure do enjoy a Privy in the cold rain!
Bear Trap: The Bear trap at Mt. Collins shelter was pulled to the shelter in May by Park Service Wild Life Rangers to catch a bear that was believed to be the same bear that came around last season acting up and leaving the shelter closed for most of the spring and summer. The Rangers sat on the trap for four days and did not catch the bear. A few days later I came by and with the help of some backpackers and a couple rocks we scared the bear away and he hasn't been seen since. I guess they are leaving the trap there awaiting the return of this problem bear or waiting to place it somewhere else.
Chain Link Fencing: All of the shelters used to have chain link fencing across the front to keep out bears. It was discovered that the fencing encouraged bad behavior from the humans that used the shelters. People were eating food in the shelter, leaving their food trash inside and storing their food in the shelter as well. This attracts the bears. Some people would go as far as to feed the bears through the fence. The park service installed food cables at all of the back country sites and as the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club remodeled the shelters they took down the fencing. This encouraged better human behavior and solved a lot of the bear problems around the shelters. The Davenport Gap Shelter was remodeled before these decisions were made so the fencing was left up. I am not sure if there is a plan to remove the fence or not.
Jason Boyes, The First South Bound thruhiker Spotted In The Smokies This Season.
The first week of September was a week to learn patience. Unfortunately the
Helicopter was not able to deliver the materials for the new privy to Tricorner
Knob so we were not able to complete the project. Thanks to everyone who
volunteered their time to hike out to Tricorner in hopes that we could install
the new Privy. It turned out to be a good week despite the time we spent
waiting for the airlift. There was some excellent work done to the trail near
Tricorner. I got to spend time getting to know some of our awesome volunteers.
I got to meet the first South Bound Thruhiker this
season. Well, he would be the second if you count Jennifer Pharr Davis who set
the speed record hiking South Bound this season. But I count Jason Boyes as the
first true South Bound Thruhiker to reach the Smokies this season because he is
doing an unsupported hike, not a supported trail run. Jason is from Seattle.
He started June 16th and has been hiking 25 to
30 miles per day. I had lunch with Jason at Tricorner Knob shelter on September the 2nd. He will finish the trail by the 9th!
Congratulations Jason Boyles and keep on hiking!
I hiked out with our friend from the Smoky Mountain
Hiking Club, Ed Flemming. Ed and I took the time to prowl up the hill and
summit Mount Guyot. I'm glad I did it! It was an enjoyable day hiking with Ed.
Until next week, I hope to see you on the trail.
Jeff, George, Pete and Ed, Waiting For The Helicopter
Jack Bray, Larry Lindsey and Marc Bradley preping the area for the new Privy at Tricorner Knob
Great Job Jack and Daniel Bray, Larry Lindsey, and Marc
Bradley! All of you did an awesome job at Tricorner Knob. I got to mix up my
usual routine this week and do some different things. I enjoyed hiking into
Tricorner Knob to help our Volunteers finish up work at Tricorner. What a
Day One: I Day hiked from Davenport Gap up to Mt.
Cammerer and back. It was a beautiful day and the trail was in good shape.
Davenport Gap Shelter was clean and looked great! I hiked in a tarp and a trail
Day Two: In preparation for the upcoming airlift of
materials into Tricorner Knob, I met Morgan at the Heliport in Sevierville for a
safety class. I am looking forward to the new Privy at Tricorner Knob!
Day Three: I hiked into Tricorner Knob to help our
volunteers Demo the old Privy and prep the area for the new one. Jack, Daniel,
Larry and Marc are beasts! They hiked in Friday night and by the time I got
there Saturday afternoon they were nearly finished!
Day Four: After a little clean up around the shelter I
hiked out to Cosby Camp Ground. This was the coolest and clearest day since
Day Five: I Day hiked from Newfound Gap to Charlies
Bunion and back. What a wonderful day to talk to Day Hikers.
A beautiful cascade on the Snake Den Ridge Trail
Summer may still be holding on some in the valley but up on the AT it feels like Fall is finally here! It's time to get out and enjoy the Smokies. The Ash berries are turning red and soon the leaves will turn as well. I hope to see you on the trail!
“I Didn’t Do It”! Every day on the trail hikers say,”Thank
You For The Beautiful Trail Work.” I have to say, “I didn’t do it!” I get
to tell them about the awesome Volunteers that really do all the Trail Work and
Maintenance along the AT here in our beautiful Smoky Mountains. Every patrol I
see less work that needs to be done and I get to enjoy a trail that continues
to improve. I have hiked out a lot of food and old tarps this season. I
suppose people think, “Some hiker could use this so I will leave it for them.”
Please help spread the word,”Pack It In Pack It Out.”
Here Come The Beautiful Ashberries!
Here's What I Have Been Up To This Week!
I received a report about blow downs that I wanted to check out. I hiked
sections between Fork Ridge and Indian Gap. I found out later in the week
that these blow downs were cleared before I got the chance to report them!
Awesome work Steve, Ed, and Stu! I had a report of a Backpacker with
reservations at Icewater Springs who has a reputation of “bad behavior”. I
hiked into Icewater for the night. I think a presence at trouble spots is
important. Everyone behaved themselves and it was a nice
Day Two: I went out to Charlie’s bunion and then hiked
to Newfound Gap. I went up to Clingmans Dome and then out to Double Springs
Gap. It was a big day for hikers going out to enjoy Charlie’s Bunion. I had
the opportunity to interact with a lot of hikers. I hiked out a bag of food
and an old tarp that was left at Icewater. I hiked in a new tarp to Double
Springs Gap Shelter. There was no Bear Activity at Double Springs and no new
Hog sign around the Shelter.
Day Three: I hiked to Derrick Knob. I carried a new
Tarp out to Derrick Knob. I stopped at Silers Bald to talk to backpackers
that spent the night. There was no Bear Activity. The spring was running but
has become “swampy and could use some work. A half mile past Silers there is a
stretch that needs mowing. There is fresh Hog sign South of Double Springs
Gap extending about a half mile South of Silers Bald.
Day Four: With the help of backpackers Brian and Tim,
members of the Great Smoky Mountains Hiking and Adventure Group, two worn out
tarps and about 7 pounds of food were hiked out. I met a group of 11 day
hikers from GSHAG and then I spent a great evening with a couple more members
of GSHAG at Derrick Knob shelter. What a great time at Derrick Knob. All of the
backpackers had reservations, they were all in line with Leave No Trace Ethics
and they helped me hike out a lot of Trash. I hiked out to Clingmans dome and
then went down to Mt. Collins.
Day Five: Mt. Collins and Out. What a pleasure it was
to see the fresh sawdust on the trail where blow downs once blocked the trail.
I have been taught to surround myself with winners. All of you that give so
freely of yourselves to take care of our Trail are truly Winners.
Stu, Steve And Ed Cleared Blowdown Near Indian Gap Thsi Week, Thanks Men! Photo By Ed Peck.
All Done! Thanks For All The Hard Work Friends!
Fungus On A Log Near Derrick Knob
The Fungi are as beautiful as the flowers here in the Smokies. What a beautiful patrol on the AT this week.
An aggressive Bear closed down Spence Field Shelter. The
Hogs are still making a mess. The awesome trail maintainers are getting ahead
of the weeds. It was a beautiful patrol on the AT this week.
ATC Ridgerunner Doug McFalls with Bear #513
Dont worry, he's only sleeoing! This Bear was tranqualized and tagged by Park Service Wildlife Rangers at Spence Field Shelter.
Here's what I've been up to this week'.
Day One: I hiked from Cades Cove up Anthony Creek to Bote
Mountain and on to Spence Filed Shelter. It was another hot and humid hike out
of Cades Cove. Backpackers greeted me with tales of an aggressive bear at
Spence Field Shelter. Wildlife Rangers Jay and Courtney came in and darted the
bear and tagged him #513. We ran the bear off when he came to and he left us
for a quiet and peaceful evening. I hiked a new tarp in and left it in the tool
box at Spence.
Day Two: We had an early morning visit from bear #513.
The Wildlife Rangers decided to close the shelter. This was the first Shelter
that had to be closed this season. I carried out some old torn up tarps and
other trash from the tool box. I hiked out to Thunderhead Mountain and then
back down to Russell Field shelter. We saw a Hog rooting around Spence Field
Shelter. I sprayed out a few yellow jacket nests and left the remaining spray
in the tool box at Russell Field Shelter.
Day Three: I hiked down the Russell Field Trial and out. I
walked over some awesome trail work the last few days. There is a cable broken
at the Russell field shelter. The pulley is in good shape. I put the broken
cable in the tool box. I was very impressed with the clean water bars, good
work and awesome mowing from Thunderhead to Russell Field.
Day Four: I came in from Clingmans Dome and hiked to Silers
Bald. I carried a new Tarp in to Silers. The shelter was clean. The trail
from Clingmans and out past Double Springs Gap shelter looked great. About a
half mile past Double Springs to Silers Bald Shelter has a lot of briers growing
over the trial. I encountered two day hikers at the Double Springs Gap Shelter
eating sandwiches on the bunks with two little Shitzu Doggies. It was a great
opportunity to educate some of our visitors.
Day Five: The Hogs at Double Springs Gap shelter spent the
night rolling up the sod and loading it on to pallets and selling it to
landscapers. But seriously, the Hogs kept me awake most of the night tearing
up the field around the shelter. It was the coolest morning in the mountains
since early June. Fall was defiantly in the air!
I really enjoyed working with our Wildlife Rangers on
some Bear Control. Bill Stivers' crew really do some great work. I hope the
Bears will leave them alone so they can do more Hog Hunting. I am encountering
less and less trail that needs cutting back. Great work volunteers! It was
another fantastic patrol. Fall is in the air and that means the leaves will
start turning signaling the beginning of football season. While I was on Rocky
Top I put in a word with the Man Upstairs about our beloved UT Volunteers. Go
What a fantastic summer on the Appalachian Trail Here in our beautiful Smoky Mountains. In between Thunderstorms it has been a job for all the volunteers that work on our trails to keep the Briars Beat Back!
Beatin Back The Briars!
Here's What I have been up to this week!
The heavy summer rains and hot days have everything
growing like crazy along the AT. I saw some great trial work this week as well
as some weeds and briers that grow as fast as you cut them. It's a beautiful
time on the AT with cool nights and mornings and blazing hot days on the
Day One: I hiked from Newfound Gap to Porters Gap and Back
to Icewater Springs Shelter. The trail was in great shape despite the heavy
rains. I clipped back some briers along the way that were missed in the recent
mowing. There are a couple short sections that need mowing that are noted in my
report. I came back to Icewater Springs and mowed briers back around the bear
cables, down the trail to the Privy, around the yard and down toward the
spring. It was a hot and humid day that ended with a powerful
Day Two: I hiked from Icewater Springs Shelter to Pecks
Corner and Back. It was cloudy and cooler today. It was a nice break from the
oppressive and humid days we have seen lately. There was some fresh hog
rooting near Charlie's Bunion.
Day Three: Icewater to Newfound Gap. I cut back a few more
briers that have grown out into the trail. There was a lot of great trail work
on this section. Thanks Volunteers!
Day Four: Mt. Collins. Again I walked over a lot of fresh
cut briers and lopped limbs. Nice work! I caught a few briers that were missed
as well as a few limbs that the rains have bent down toward the trail. The
area around Mt. Collins Shelter looks awesome. The limbs have been trimmed back
from the bear cables to keep the mice from Dive bombing Food Bags! Briers have
been continually cut back allowing the grasses to come in strong. What a
pleasure to hike into such a beautiful place.
Day Five: Back out for a day off. We had a big rain last
night and the trail from the Sugarland Mt. Intersection down about a half mile
North had some muddy spots still in it. The heavy rains have left a lot of
muddy spots that could use some help drying out. I suppose the key is to walk
soon after a heavy rain to see the spots that aren't draining well. Over all
the trail is in beautiful shape.
It may be hard to believe if you spend most of your time in
the valley, but it is starting to cool off! Summer is on the wane and we will
soon see some cool afternoons. I hope the promise of cooler weather will in our
fantastic Smokies will inspire you to get out on the AT soon! I'll see you on
Some Fantastic Trail Work On The AT Near Newfound Gap
The trail work I have walked over this seasonis just a s beautiful to me a s aperfect sunset !! Thanks Volunteers!
Sunset From Icewater Springs