Displaying items by tag: great smoky mountains
CADES COVE Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday plans to officially reopen Parson Branch Road, first cut through the ridges around Cades Cove 180 years ago.
The narrow, 8-mile one-way mountain road out of Cades Cove to U.S. 129 has been closed since 2016 following washouts that were compounded by a steady diet of collapsing diseased and dead hemlocks. A ceremony is set for Thursday morning at the beginning of the road in Caves Cove.
The road was closed because of the tree hazards and damage to the road surface. The hemlocks succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect that has wreaked havoc on hemlock stands and their accompanying ecosystems.
Invasive insects are among the vanguard of noticeable climate changes in America’s most-visited national park
GATLINBURG Ants scurry beneath the carpet of last year’s leaves in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The native ants are busy spreading the seeds of violets and bloodroot, preparing a new carpet of spring wildflowers to draw thousands of visitors.
But the local insects aren’t alone under there. They have become prey to venomous Asian needle ants that also prowl the leaf litter.
These invaders dine on termites, other ants and insects, while stealing habitat from them. Unlike invasive fire ants, needle ants can live in pristine forests and build large colonies with hundreds of queens. But like fire ants, needle ants have a painful sting that can trigger an allergic reaction.
Climate change is expected to make it easier for invasive species like needle ants to upset the delicate balance of this temperate rainforest full of rare plants and animals. That’s just one example.
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Four visitors have disappeared without a trace from the Great Smoky Mountains in the last 50 years. Where did they go?
In a lateral move from late-night doom-scrolling, I’ve grown obsessed with reading about people who have gone missing in national parks. The National Park Service website currently lists 28 “cold cases” ranging from unsolved murders and suspected suicides to just ... gone. No body, nary a footprint or broken branch, no lingering scent for search dogs. Just poof. The silhouette of a life vanishing into mist.
I lie awake at 2, 3, 4 o’clock, hypnotized by the white glow of my phone, trawling abandoned blogs and conspiratorial subreddits for clues. I turn their disappearances over and over in my mind like a piece of quartz, glassy yet opaque, a fogged-up window I can’t quite see through.
Eight of these cold cases are from Yosemite, five are from the Grand Canyon, two are from Shenandoah Valley, and there’s one apiece from Mesa Verde, Crater Lake, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Chiricahua National Monument. Another four are from the Great Smoky Mountains, the wild and tangled backdrop of my east Tennessee home.
I’ve ventured furthest down the rabbit holes of the ones gone missing from the Smokies. Having spent a lot of time in the Park I’m familiar with the trails from which they disappeared. I’ve hiked them myself, one in an oblivious single-file search party of so many other Park visitors. It’s a strange feeling to know that you’ve literally walked along a path which, for someone else, led to … where did it lead?
Foothills Land Conservancy preserves land and multiple habitats across seven states
Foothills Land Conservancy rang in the new year with the preservation of 250 undeveloped acres along the Little Pigeon River in a rapidly growing area of Sevier County in East Tennessee.
The deal was finalized in late 2020 — a fitting end to the Blount County conservancy’s 35th year.
Foothills Land Conservancy has protected about 135,000 acres in seven states, including 95,000 acres in East Tennessee, since its inception in 1985. For comparison’s sake, that’s nearly a third of the protected land that encompass the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of that land has been acquired since 2006, when former state Sen. Bill Clabough became executive director.
“We’ve been really growing and expanding,” Clabough said late last year from the conservancy headquarters on the century-old Harris family farm in Rockford.
The farm itself is under a conservation easement, one of several ways the conservancy preserves and protects natural and agricultural lands.
“When you do good work you don’t have to do a lot of advertising,” said Clabough, 69, a likable former country store owner and Wildwood native whose political public service came to an end in 2005 when the moderate Republican incumbent was defeated by a firebrand conservative in the Senate GOP primary.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Clabough said of his primary defeat.