Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

As fall progresses, you will see a change in leaves starting at the highest elevation, and slowly working down the mountain. The yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush, and the pin cherry have already begun displaying a change in colors. Soon, fall colors will be appearing around the 4,000 feet marker. The most spectacular displays are between mid-October and early November when all of the trees have started to change. Some of the best drives are along Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Foothills Parkway. These drives are spectacular, because the Park is full of a variety of trees. October can be a busy month in the park, so make your reservations early so you and your family do not miss the beautiful Smoky Mountain Park this fall.


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If you’re planning on spending an exciting day in the Smoky Mountains, you need the Scavenger Hike Adventures and Mountain Journal. The Journal gives your clues on 14 easy, moderate, and extreme hikes to find over 200 hidden treasures within the park. There are hikes for the entire family, even some stroller accessible trails. For the extreme hikers, there is a 10-mile challenge hike. Click here to order your own Smoky Mountain Scavenger Hike Adventure and Mountain Journal for your fall vacation. 

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Why Leaves Change?


The transformation of the Smoky Mountains in the fall is definitely a sight to see. But have you ever found yourself wondering what exactly it is that makes leaves change? Why is it that maple leaves turn bright red, and why other tree leaves turn yellow and orange? Here is a little information I found:

Three factors influence autumn leaf colors- leaf pigment, length of night, and weather. As days grow shorter, and night grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to pain the landscape with nature’s autumn palette. So you may ask where these autumn colors come from? There are three types of pigments that are involved in autumn colors. One is chlorophyll, which gives leaves the basic green color. Carotenoids produce yellow, orange, and brown colors in such things as corn, carrots, and daffodils. Lastly, anthocyanins give color to things such as cranberries, red apples, concord grapes, cherries, and plums. They are water-soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.

There are certain characteristics for particular plant species. Oak tree leaves turn red, brown, or russet, hickories turn golden-bronze, sourwood & black tupelo turn crimson red. Striped maple tree leaves become almost colorless.

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorphyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp night seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. This causes an increased amount of sugars to be produced in the leaf, and the cool nights cause a gradual closure in the veins, preventing the sugars from moving out. The amount of moisture in the soil is another factor in the brilliance of fall colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. Since both major factors are different every year, no two autumns are alike.

The best time to see the most brilliant colors in the Smokies is in late October and early November, so planyour vacation today!

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Here is a list of suggested hikes through the Smoky Mountain National Park that are great for seeing all the fall colors and for some great photographs!
1. Appalachian Trail: Park in the large parking area at Newfound Gap, and look for the trail signs. Follow the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap (around Clingmans Dome Road). The trail is approx. 3.4 miles roundtrip.
2. Inspiration Point on Alum Cave Trail: Park at Alum Cave Trail parking area about 10.5 miles south of Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road. The hike is 3.6 miles roundtrip, and is through the old-growth forest and has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
3. Look Rock Tower: From Townsend, TN take US-321 to the Foothills Parkway and follow this scenic road to the Look Rock tower parking area. The 1 mile roundtrip hike is ranked as a moderate hike, but the views from the tower are spectacular!
4. Sutton Ridge Overlook: Park in the designated hiker parking area just before the entrance to Cosby Campground. Follow the self-guided nature trail pas the amphitheater to the beginning of the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail to Sutton Ridge. It is about 1.4 miles to the spur trai,l which leads to the overlook.

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trailBecause Tennessee has such rich culture and heritage, several places in the mountains have been designated as part of the Tennessee Heritage Trail. The trail was created to both preserve and share Tennessee’s culture and is divided into 3 parts. The Arts & Crafts Trail will show visitors the various creations of Tennessee’s past, including pottery, baskets and other folk art. The History Trail takes you back in time to meet the people and events that shaped the course of Tennessee culture, and Gatlinburg’s part of the this trail is of course, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The third trail, the Music Trail, exposes the different types of music in the region, including bluegrass, country, and other folk tunes. The locations on the Music Trail in Gatlinburg include The Old Heidelberg Dinner Show, Smoky Mountain Travelers and Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. Click here for more information and a complete list of locations.

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You have 5 more days to register for the Overnight Adventure (Aug. 15-17) on Mt. LeConte with the Institute of Tremont. You will stay in the LeConte lodge, which is the highest elevation lodge in the eastern U.S. Saturday night will be spent at Tremont, and then Sunday morning the climb up Mt. LeConte will begin. You will learn about the National Park, the ecology around you, and the natural history of the area as you hike. Everyone will stay in the lodge over night, and return to the Institute on Monday. The program last from Saturday supper to Monday late lunch. The cost is $365 & includes all meals, lodging, transportation, and instruction. Click here register.

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Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful and a great way to see the wonders of the Park. If you are a more experienced, adventurous hiker, the back country trails offer an in-depth backwoods experience. Here is a list of some of the trails throughout the park.

Trail – Mileage – Difficulty Rating – Time – Location

1. Boogerman Trail – 7.5 – moderate – 5 to 6 hrs – Cataloochee Campgrounds

2. Charlie’s Bunion – 8.8 – moderate – 4 to 5 hrs – Newfound Gap

3. Chimney Tops – 4 – strenuous – 3 to 4 hrs – Newfound Gap Road

4. Mt. Sterling – 12 – strenuous – 5 to 6 hrs – Cataloochee Scholhouse

5. Shuckstack – 10 – strenuous – 7 hrs – Twentymile

6. Smokemont Loop – 6 – moderate – 4 to 5 hrs – Smokemont Campground

Balds are also an interesting part of the Park. They are mysterious treeless areas high in the mountains. Some speculate that they were caused by ice storms, insects, woolly mammoths, dry wind, or fire. Some of the trails offer special features depending on the season. For instance, Gregory Bald is filled with beautiful azaleas in late June.

Trail – Mileage – Rating – Time – Location

1. Andrews Bald- 4 – moderate – 3 hrs – Clingmans Dome Road

2. Gregory Bald – 9 – moderate – 4 to 5 hrs – Parson Branch Road

3. Silers Bald – 10 – moderate – 5 to 6 hrs – Clingmans Dome Road

4. Spence Field – 11 – moderate – 6 to 7 hrs – Cades Cove Picnic Area

5. Thunderhead – 13 – strenuous – 8 hrs – Cades Cove Picnic Area

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