Archives for: December 2011
A years-long project to rehabilitate Appalachian Trail shelters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has concluded with the completion of shelter reconstruction at Laurel Gap, the various groups involved report.
The Laurel Gap shelter, near the intersection of the Sterling Ridge and Balsam Mountain trails, is the 15th AT shelter rehabbed since 1999, according to The Daily Times in Maryville, Tennessee.
The project provided the shelters with improved natural lighting, a cooking area to separate food odors from the sleeping space, improved bunk access, new roofs and masonry repair, the removal of chain-link fences, and drainage improvements, the newspaper said.
More than 250 three-walled shelters are spaced about a day's hike apart from one another on the Appalachian Trail. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, AT hikers are required to camp in the shelters.
The ATC points out that "shelters can be grimy and rodent-infested when hikers don't clean up after themselves, and they may be crowded." On the other hand, "shelters are the best places to stay dry in wet weather, ... they are often a good place to meet and talk with other hikers, and most have privies and water sources nearby. But ... more importantly, staying at shelters reduces hiker impact on the Trail environment."
Update: The burn is to be conducted on 600 acres near the park’s northern boundary and adjoining Alcoa property, a news release posted Thursday says. Once a day is selected, the burn will begin in the late morning and will end by late afternoon.
State Parks officials announced a prescribed burn at Morrow Mountain State Park that will close several sites and trails in the park's Fall Mountain area sometime between January 4 and 13.
On the day of the burn, the park will close the the boathouse and boat ramp areas, the group campground, the lower picnic area with Shelters B and C, the Kron House reconstruction site, and the Long Loop of the Bridle Trail, the Fall Mountain Trail, Three Rivers Trail and Quarry Trail.
The weather will determine the precise date of the burn, and closures won't be confirmed until the day they commence. Notice of the burn was on the park system's alert page as well as the Morrow Mountain page.
The alert advises checking the website or phoning the park at 704-982-4402 during the indicated week before going to the park.
The alert does not indicate the size of the burn nor how long the affected areas will remain closed.
North Carolina's State Parks are initiating a new tradition for New Year’s Day by offering ranger- and volunteer-led First Day Hikes at 28 state parks across the state.
First Day Hikes is a national effort by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors to "promote a healthy lifestyle as well as appreciation of natural resources," a news release from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says.
All of North Carolina's state parks and state recreation areas will be open on New Year's Day. Find First Day Hikes by searching "Fun and Free Programs at Parks" under the Education tab on the state parks website.
First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts, according to America’s State Parks, and this will be the first time all 50 state park systems have joined to sponsor First Day Hikes.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is seeking grant proposals for up to $5,000 in funding for a broad range of AT-related projects.
|The ATC says in a news release that proceeds from North Carolina Appalachian Trail specialty license plate sales have brought in about $135,000 this year, of which $35,000 is to be dispersed through grants in 2012.|
Ten individuals and partner organizations won grants this year.
Proposals will be considered for "physical projects" on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and its facilities; major public-service projects; enhancement of trail clubs’ long-term AT management abilities; natural heritage and environmental monitoring; education and outreach; and the ATC community partnerships. Grant funds must be spent in North Carolina.
Proposals are due by February 17.
The AT-specialty license plates cost $30 ($60 if personalized), and $20 from each sale reverts to the ATC.
Scroll down on the license plate page for grant application information.
Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine suggested in an article December 8 that the draft management plan's statement that the Parkway would be "actively managed as a traditional, self-contained, scenic recreational driving experience" meant bicyclists might eventually be banned from the Parkway.
"There is nothing in the General Management Plan Preferred Alternative that precludes any existing uses from continuing, or precludes the consideration of new uses," the Parkway's statement says. "There are many activities that occur on the Parkway - hiking, horseback riding, motorcycle use, running, bird watching - such uses are allowed where appropriate given resource protection and safety concerns. All uses of the Parkway motor road are currently and will continue to be managed under federal laws and National Park Service policies."
The National Park Service released a draft of the proposed management plan for public comment in October. Comments were due by December 16.
This week's statement also says the Parkway's eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (an objective of the management plan) is in part due to its serving as an example of rural parkway design. This requires maintenance of "the design and spatial relationship of the travel lanes, grass shoulders, paved ditches, and cut and fill slopes," which is apparently an oblique reference to bicycle lanes and an attempt to cut off consideration of them.
Blue Ridge Outdoors, in a December 12 post, maintains the Parkway's plan is bad for bicyclists. "By placing their management focus exclusively on driving, they can make management decisions such as restricting cyclists during summer months or certain times of day," it says. "They can also close certain sections of the Parkway to cyclists (and runners, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts)."
Lake Mattamuskeet, the largest natural lake in North Carolina at 40,000 surface acres, is the heart of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County. It is best known as a wintering spot on the Atlantic Flyway for hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl, including Tundra swans (below), Canada geese, snow geese, ducks and coots.
The refuge is also open to fishing and crabbing, and hunting for waterfowl and deer in season.
We visited last Saturday and joined one of the annual tram tours of wetland impoundments on the lake's eastern shore.
Except for ducks and coots in the canal along the dikes the tram followed, the tour mostly provided the opportunity to see birds from afar. The refuge provided a spotting scope at one stop.
Most of the refuge's levee system is closed to the public from November through February, but roadsides and observation decks provide several spots for bird watching. The causeway bisecting the lake, which is a part of N.C. 94, has several places to stop.
A gazebo on the causeway, below, is part of the Charles Kuralt Trail, a series of similar spots on the 11 refuges in North Carolina and at the national fish hatchery in Edenton dedicated to the North Carolina-born journalist's fondness for out-of-the-way points of interest.
Lake Mattamuskeet attracts birds because its waters are shallow - ranging from half a foot to 4 feet deep and averaging 1.5 feet deep - and clear, Stanton said. The Fish & Wildlife Service also allows farmers to plant 125 acres of cropland on the refuge, and some corn is left unharvested to feed the birds.
The group of Tundra swans below includes two juveniles, identifiable by their gray plumage.
A small visitor center has a few exhibits, some merchandise for sale and staff offices. Across from it, the quarter-mile New Holland Trail provides a scenic walk through a stand of bald cypress and open marsh.
Beyond the New Holland Trail, the dike passes one of lake's two state-operated boat ramps on the Central Canal, below, and ends another quarter-mile away at a photo blind on the lake shore.
Find our entire report, with additional photos and video, at Carolina Outdoors Guide - Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.
Work on the Bodie Island Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which was halted in March, could resume soon, according to a report in The Outer Banks Voice.
National Park Service Outer Banks Group Deputy Superintendent Darrell Echols told the newspaper that funding for repairs to the lighthouse has been secured and a contract to continue the restoration could be signed in a matter of weeks.
A $3.09 million project to refurbish the lighthouse that began in December 2009 was halted in January 2010 when damage that exceeded expectations was discovered. After an extra $1.6 million couldn't be found, the project was shelved in March 2011.
The newspaper's report, which focuses on protection of the tower as it sits open to the elements, provides no other details, but Echols said an announcement on the particulars would be made soon.
Delayed work on the Bodie Island Lighthouse, below, could resume soon.
The fire, which burned for 111 days from August 4-9 to November 21, consumed more than 6,500 acres and cost more than $12.5 million to suppress, it says.
The fire on the 111,000-acre refuge also briefly crossed into Dismal Swamp State Park, which had closed in anticipation of the approaching flames.
Most of the refuge's forested wetlands are in Virginia but a portion extends into Camden, Pasquotank and Gates counties in North Carolina west of U.S. 17. Lake Drummond, a 3,100-acre natural lake in Virginia, is at the heart of the swamp.
The state park is just south of the Virginia state line in Camden County.
The refuge is conducting bus tours to Lake Drummond on December 13 and 27, which will provide the first public views of the Lateral West Fire zone. Reservations are required. Phone 757-986-3705.
The refuge continues to recover from the fire's effects, and some areas remain closed because of safety concerns.
A proposal to manage the Blue Ridge Parkway as a "traditional driving experience" means bicyclists may be banned from the scenic roadway, according to Blue Ridge Outdoors.
The phrase is from a proposed management plan for the 469-mile drive and the recreation sites along it. A draft of the plan was released for public comment in October, with comments due by December 16.
"The Blue Ridge Parkway’s newly released draft management plan could limit cycling on the Parkway," Blue Ridge Outdoors says in a December 8 report. "The draft plan focuses exclusively on the Parkway being 'actively managed as a traditional, self-contained, scenic recreational driving experience.'"
The National Park Service said in October it favored the alternative of three proposals that "emphasizes the original Parkway design and traditional driving experience." The preferred alternative would accommodate "a wider range of trail-based recreational activities."
"Recreational opportunities would focus on the outdoors and include organized group programs, self-guiding interpretation, nature observation, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, viewing natural and cultural resources, photography, exploring, and backcountry camping," the management plan report says.
The magazine's report supplies pro-cycling replies that interested parties can submit through a National Park Service web page collecting public comments on the plan.
Rental cabins at Cape Lookout National Seashore can now be reserved online, the National Park Service announced Monday.
The 20 cabins at Long Point Cabin Camp on North Core Banks and the 25 cabins at Great Island Cabin Camp on south Core Banks are available from March 16 to November 30 next year. Reservations open at 10 a.m. January 5 through the federal recreation.gov service.
Park Superintendent Pat Kenney says in a news release the move to recreation.gov is in response to input from visitors about the current telephone-based reservation system.
Recreation.gov is the federal government's central reservation system for thousands of recreation sites. It requires upfront payment through a credit card and charges a fee for a cancellation.