The Cataloochee Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cataloochee is a tucked-away destination and its special beauty offers an appeal to all interests and ages. Bring blankets or folding chairs and a picnic, and set up camp for a long afternoon along the large meadow of Cataloochee Valley to watch for the appearance of the elk herd.

Elk in Cataloochee

Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Lace up those hiking boots and venture down some of the interesting trails located within the park boundaries.  Campers will be awed after sundown by the multitude of stars that are visible in the low light of this remote valley. Anglers are sure to enjoy searching out the perfect spot along a rushing creek to land an elusive trout. The equestrian set will appreciate the horse camp and the many trails available.

  • Fishing: Cataloochee Creek and all its tributaries feature an abundant wild trout population. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required within park boundaries and may be acquired at nearby communities or online from North Carolina at ncwildlife.org or in Tennessee at tn.wildlifelicense.com.
  • Camping: a 27-site primitive campground is located in the valley and is open mid-March through October for tents or RVs up to 31 feet. Group camping is available through advanced reservations. Back country camping requires  a permit. For more info, go to recreation.gov.
  • Horse Camp: reservations are required and maybe obtained by calling 877-444-677 or logging onto recreation.gov.
  • Hiking: One of the more popular trails in Cataloochee is the seven-mile loop Boogerman Trail that winds through towering old-growth forests. The Little Cataloochee Trail meanders down an old road that leads past several historical structures.

Getting There
The easiest way to reach Cataloochee is from Interstate 40. Take the North Carolina exit #20 (Maggie Valley) and turn right into Cove Creek Road.

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Smoky Mountain Super Moon

Smoky Mountain Super Moon!

Smoky Mountain Super Moon!

Smoky Mountain Super Moon will rise above the Southern Appalachian mountains Wednesday, March 20, 2019. This Smoky Mountain special event is the final Super Moon of the year appearing on the same day as the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring! This super moon is known as the “Full Worm Moon.”  The full moon and the spring equinox arrive within four hours of each other. The last time this occurred was March 2000, but the last time it was on the same date was March 20, 1981.

A “supermoon” means the Moon will be almost at its closest point to the Earth for the month. This is the third and final supermoon of 2019. The moon will seem bigger and brighter than normal.

Traditionally Native American and other historical names for full Moons were used to keep track of the seasons. Each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month during which it appears. The Moon we view in March is known as the Full Worm Moon. During this time of year the ground begins to soften from the cold extremes of winter inviting earthworms to begin to appear and do their thing. Robins and other birds begin to feed on them and this was always considered a verifiable sign of spring. This re-birth of the earth is accompanied by roots pushing their way through the soil with green shoots popping up.

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Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushroom

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit – Jennifer M

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushrooms are always in season! Trametes versicolor (common name Turkey Tail mushroom) is a decomposing polypore mushroom found on logs, stumps and dying trees all across North America. You can find them year-round in an array of beautiful colors, concentrically lining the fan shaped or circular caps (zonate) and growing in rosette patterns or overlapping clusters on dead or dying hardwoods and sometimes conifers. The underlying pore surface has 3-8 tiny pores per mm that starts out white but gradually ages to buff or darker, with a white spore print. This mushroom is thin and flexible when young turning more rigid as it weathers and ages. The cap has zones of velvety or finely hairy rings, again weathering off sometimes with age. Not only are Turkey Tail Mushrooms beautifully photogenic, they are also being investigated medicinally worldwide. With their high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides they are purported to help stabilize immunity levels and store energy to aid in the fight against colds, flu’s and the recovery process after cancer treatments. Turkey Tails simmered together with Chaga, cinnamon bark and pure maple syrup make a delicious tea. Make sure to check below the cap to correctly identify Trametes versicolor, for there are many Turkey Tail lookalikes with larger pore surfaces, toothed pores, even gills or just smooth.

Be advised: If you have never collected wild mushrooms always go with an expert who can identify them! We strongly recommend  basic mushroom identification skills acquired with picture taking, along with heavy research before attempting to ingest any wild mushroom. Although there are no known toxic polypores, there are still several highly toxic gilled mushrooms that can cause gastrointestinal disturbances or even death.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park prohibits the removal of mushrooms, plants, animals and historical artifacts. Please respect park regulations so the next visitor can enjoy the parks beauty too. Remember to leave only footsteps and take only photographs! The hardwood coves of Greenbrier, Cosby, Deep Creek, Cades Cove and Cataloochee are great places to view Turkey Tails so make sure and have plenty of memory available on your camera and enjoy.

HeySmokies mycology enthusiast loves Turkey Tail hunting!

HeySmokies mycology enthusiast, Jennifer M, loves wild mushroom hunting!

HeySmokies would like to welcome our new mycology enthusiast Jennifer M. Jennifer lives in Southwest Ohio and works as a conservation and parks technician for a large Southern Ohio park system. She has developed a keen interest in mycology that spans over thirty years that has grown to include fungi photography, cuisine and arts/crafts. Her favorite travel destination site is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area. “I’ve been visiting since I was a child and the excitement of exploring this beautiful environment and all it has to offer has never faded!”

Top and underside of Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit - Jennifer M

Top and underside of Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit – Jennifer M

Smoky Mountain Camp Stew Recipe

Smoky Mountain Southern Camp Stew is a delicious dish any time of year! photo credit : Susan Vickery

Smoky Mountain Camp Stew Recipe. Camp stew is a Southern favorite any time of year but especially in the cold winter months. This dish is easy to make, delicious and a real crowd pleaser during the big game on Super Sunday.

All you need are a few simple ingredients and about thirty minutes of prep time. This dish goes great with a pan of buttermilk cornbread. We love to “sop up” the stew liquid with a big piece of cornbread while others like to crumble their pone into the stew. We call them crumblers. Either way it is a tasty addition to the stew.

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Synchronous Fireflies Great Smoky Mountains June 2019

Synchronous Fireflies Great Smoky Mountains June 2019. It’s never to early to start making plans to see the Synchronous Fireflies (and the Blue Ghost Fireflies) that will light up the night sky in late May and early June 2019 in the Great Smoky Mountains. Firefly viewing in the Smokies has become such a popular event that there are now several venues available to enjoy the spectacular shows.

Smoky Mountain Synchronous FirefliesThe Synchronous Firefly (Photinus carolinus) and the Blue Ghost Firefly (Phausis reticulata) are two species that are found only in the Southern Appalachian Mountains which include the Great Smokies. And during the short mating season in late May and early June, both firefly species put on quite a show to behold! The male Synchronous Fireflies flash their little green-yellow bioluminescent lanterns in unison for about 6-8 blinks and then they go dark for a few seconds creating a sublime wave of light throughout the forest. The male Blue Ghost Fireflies don’t flash their blue-white lanterns, instead they glow continuously just a few inches above the ground. The ethereal experience of either nighttime show should be on everyone’s bucket list!  National Park scientists mostly use air and soil temperatures to predict the timing of each year’s mating season.

Synchronous Fireflies with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
One of the most popular places to view the Synchronous Fireflies is in Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This event has become so popular that a free lottery system was instituted this year for the $1.50 parking passes for the eight-day shuttle period to Elkmont. During this time of peak viewing, Elkmont is closed at nighttime with the exception of shuttle users and campers in Elkmont Campground. Dates for the 2018 Lottery and Elkmont Shuttle will be announced sometime in April 2018. HeySmokies will keep you updated, so be sure to check back with us. We’ll provide you all the details of what you need to know to register for the lottery. For more information in the meantime, visit Recreation.gov.

Synchronous Fireflies with Discover Life in America in Gatlinburg, TNBlue ghost fireflies
For a few nights during peak firefly viewing time, Discover Life in America hosts a fundraising event featuring nightly presentations and field walks at the Norton Creek Sanctuary near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tickets for the event are $100 each and the event is geared toward persons ages 10 and older. For reservations for this exclusive event, call Discover Life in America at 865-430-4757 or email todd@dlia.org.

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