Smoky Mountain Elk Rut

Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is heating up in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.The fall mating season begins each year around mid-September and is known as the rut. And it’s during this time that male elk, or bulls, are energized and ready for action. They make bugle calls to attract the females, or cows, and to challenge other males.

Elk are the largest animals in GSM National Park. Yes, they are larger than black bears! Bulls can weigh between 600 to 700 pounds and up to 10 feet long. Cows weigh around 500 pounds.

One of the best places to see elk in the Smokies are on the North Carolina side of the National Park in the Cataloochee Valley.  The elk regularly cross the mountains out of Cataloochee and are often seen in Big Creek, and in the fields near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center just outside of Cherokee.

Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is is heating up. Photo credit - Lori's Outdoor Photography

Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is is heating up. Photo credit – Lori’s Outdoor Photography

The best time of day to see the elk is usually at sunrise or the last hour before sunset. During the fall rut, visitors are not allowed to walk in the fields even when the elk aren’t present. The fields are the gathering place for the bulls and their harems of cows to breed, so the males are quite agressive and can mistake you or your vehicle as a threat. They will charge and it can get ugly. Be aware and be sure to keep a distance of at least 50 yards at all times for your safety and theirs. Stay on the roadside and be sure to bring binoculars or a spotting scope and use your telephoto lens on your camera.

Elk once flourished in the Smokies and the rest of the southern Appalachian Mountains but were hunted to extinction by the mid-1800’s in Tennessee. The reintroduction of the majestic animals began in 2001 with 25 elk imported from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area on the Kentucky/Tennessee line.  In 2002, another 27 elk were brought into Cataloochee Valley. Reports say there may be up to 200 elk in park currently. A success story indeed!

Elk are vegetarians and love the grasses found in the bottom land of the valleys. With winter coming on, elk grow a second coat of fur with long hairs on top to repel snow and water to stay dry. They have a plush underfur to stay warm. For more information on elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit GSMNP.


Dollywood Light The Way 5K

With over four million Christmas lights Dollywood is a site to behold!

With over four million Christmas lights Dollywood is a site to behold!

Dollywood Light The Way 5K is scheduled for Friday November 15, 2019 at Dollywood. This annual event is celebrating its seventh year running. The race course is truly unique boasting over four million beautiful Christmas lights throughout America’s favorite theme park. This is the first year the race holds the honor of being a certified 5K so you don’t want to miss it!

Runners and walkers alike are welcome to participate in the Light The Way 5K. This event benefits not only one, but two great causes – Share It Forward and Keep Sevier Beautiful.

The twinkling lights of Dollywood will be on full display at the 11:39 p.m. start time and through out the race. There is limited space available for participants so don’t delay signing up or you may miss your chance to tour the park in this event.

My family and I have run the Light The Way 5K several times and love it! We come all the way from Alabama and there is no better way to enjoy this beautiful park,”  said Mary Sanders.

Be aware that runners will not be allowed to push strollers in the race so plan accordingly and use a child carrier instead. Pets are not allowed in the race but you can celebrate with your furry friend later.

Race packet pick up will be at Dolly’s Splash Country. Friday packet pick up will close at 10 p.m. so don’t be late!

If you have never experienced Dollywood at night this is the perfect opportunity to avoid some of the crowds and really enjoy it!

Smoky Mountain Full Beaver Moon

The Smoky Mountain Beaver moon is on the rise!

The Smoky Mountain Beaver moon is on the rise! Photo credit – eyeofhorus

Smoky Mountain Full Beaver Moon is set to rise November 12, 2019. There is no place more special to view the rise of a full moon than Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This month is the famous Beaver Moon.

In ancient times it was common practice for humans to observe and track the changing seasons according to the lunar month instead of the solar year. Our modern calendar is based on the solar year. The ancient peoples of Native American tribes and folks across Europe gave names to the months based on lunar phases observed in the Northern Hemisphere seasons.

You have probably heard the expression, “Busy as a beaver.” There are few times of the year that beavers are more busy than November. With winter fast approaching beavers begin to hoard food and fortify their dwellings. Winter beaver dams are constructed to give additional protection from predators as well. Ancient hunters observed the beaver activity and knew that it was now time for them to prepare for winter too.

This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Beavers make dams of wood and mud. In the middle of the ponds this creates they build dome-shaped homes called lodges with underwater entrances. Beavers continue to grow throughout their lives, and so do their teeth. They constantly gnaw on wood, but because the enamel in a beaver’s incisors contains iron, their front teeth never wear down. Once the beaver dams and lodges were constructed they had a safe refuge for the winter.

Smoky Mountain Beaver Moon will be on the rise soon.

Smoky Mountain Beaver Moon will be on the rise soon. Photo credit – consciousremi der

There once were more than 60 million North American beavers. However, because people have hunted them for fur and their glands for medicine, among other reasons, the beaver population has declined to around 12 million. Beavers have begun to make a come back in the Smoky Mountain region in recent decades and beaver dams and lodges have been detected in the foothills nears Greenbrier.

Beavers don’t get all the credit for the November moon. Other names are the Frost Moon, November Full Moon, Trading Moon, Snow Moon and sometimes the Oak Moon.

Some of our favorite places to view the Beaver Full Moon is Cades Cove, the porch of Oconaluftee Visitors Center, Cataloochee and Clingmans Dome.


Don’t Feed The Bears Event

Don't feed the bears event will help rescue orphaned bear cubs!

Don’t feed the bears event will help rescue orphaned bear cubs! Photo credit – bear society

Don’t Feed The Bears Event benefitting Appalachian Bear Rescue will be Saturday, November 16, 2019. The event will be held at the Enchanted Valley Barn  in Sevierville, TN from 12:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. All the fun is sponsored by the Gatlinburg Brewing Company (GBC)who will have many varieties of delicious brews on hand to sample.

This is the first annual event for Gatlinburg Brewing Company and will include live music, food, and games for the kids. Who would have thought that drinking beer and playing games could give orphaned bear cubs a second chance at life in the wild.

Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) has been working hard to save bears since the early 1990’s. Generous donations have paved the way for recent expansions to ABR’s facility allowing them to handle more cubs than ever. The facility provides space for the bears to be bears. There are trees to climb, pools to play in and plenty of food for hungry cubs. The monthly expenses of the facility are high and donations are always welcome.

Mark your calendar so you won’t miss this chance to “Don’t Feed The Bears”  or you will have to wait an entire year to toast the symbol of the Great Smoky Mountains. November 16th will be here before you know it. CHEERS!

If you encounter a HeySmokies donation box in the wild feel free to help yourself to a free sticker and please be generous. If you would like to display a donation box in your business contact us today! donation boxes benefit Appalachian Bear Rescue and help save orphaned black bear cubs. donation boxes benefit Appalachian Bear Rescue and help save orphaned black bear cubs.

Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event

Great Smoky Mountains Purchase Knob stargazing event is your ticket to the stars!

Great Smoky Mountains Purchase Knob stargazing event is your ticket to the stars!

Great Smoky Mountains Stargazing Event will be held at the Highlands Science Learning Center Friday, November 15, 2019 in North Carolina. The Highlands Science Learning Center is located high above Maggie Valley in North Carolina. This low light environment is the perfect spot to view the heavens on a cool fall night. The learning center is approximately 5,000 feet above sea level and is considered one of the best places in Haywood County to view constellations and planets.

The Asheville Astronomy Club will be on hand again to lead interplanetary travelers through the stars via a variety of powerful telescopes. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to view binary systems, star clusters and minute  details of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies.

“National park areas offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” says Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Visitors are often amazed at the amount of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The fun will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a presentation indoors of what can be expected to be seen when the stars come out. At 5,000′ cold temperatures are to be expected so everyone is encouraged to dress warmly and bring rain gear – the event will proceed rain or shine. Space is limited in the free event and everyone is encouraged to sign up early. Participants must register in advance to reserve one of the 45 parking permits. Reservations for permits can be made at Star Gazing or by calling 828-497-1907.

For more information about stargazing in the park, please visit the park’s website at