Great Backyard Bird Count Event

Great backyard bird count.

Great backyard bird count.

Great Backyard Bird Count Event offers many opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains. This count is for the birds. Bird lovers everywhere are invited to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and help create a real-time snapshot of our feathered friends. Participants, from all over the world, are expected to be involved in the 22nd annual four-day event which begins Friday, February 15 and continues through Monday, February 18, 2019. Enthusiasts, which include beginning birdwatchers to experts, can spend as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) during the event and then report their sightings online at


Each checklist submitted during the event helps indicate how bird populations are changing, and how the latest warm weather patterns have affected bird movements around the country. GBBC allows researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn how to protect birds and the environment we all share. Last year’s count included data from more than 160,000 people and produced the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird population ever recorded.

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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

Biltmore Estate Vintage Vanderbilt Clothing Expo

Vanderbilt style on display. photo credit - Biltmore

Vanderbilt style on display. Photo credit – Biltmore

Biltmore Estate Vintage Vanderbilt Clothing Expo. Dressing in style at Biltmore Estate February 8 – May 27,  2019 is a Smoky Mountain special event. Reproductions of original Vanderbilt clothing are on display at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and the public is invited to imagine the glittering parties when the Vanderbilt’s really dressed in style while entertaining in the fabulous home’s elegant rooms.

Oscar winning costumer John Bright and Cosprop, London, guided by Biltmore curators, meticulously recreated the fashions favored and worn by the Vanderbilts and their guests at elegant turn-of-the-century house parties during America’s Gilded Age.

Join in the fun with Biltmore’s new custom exhibition audio-guided tour, created especially for this

Dressed for success Vanderbilt style!

Dressed for success Vanderbilt style!

exhibit, which combines realistic 360 degree sound techniques featuring stories told from the perspectives of those who lived and worked at this amazing home during the early 1900s. This impressive audio-visual experience brings scenes, previously viewed only in old black and white photos, vividly to life. Consider this your invitation to attend a Vanderbilt House Party!

Biltmore Estate is nestled in Asheville, North Carolina in the foothills of beautiful Pisgah National Forest. Long referred to as, America’s Castle, the sprawling estate includes tours of the mansion and the extensive gardens designed by famed architect Frederick Law Ohmsted.

Chihuly Biltmore Exhibit

Chihuly Biltmore Exhibit. Photo credit-Biltmore

Valentine’s Cookie Baking Class

Valentine's Day Cookie baking class will be a delicious diversion.

Valentine’s Day Cookie baking class will be a delicious diversion.

Valentine’s Cookie Baking Class at Wildflour Bakehouse in Sevierville, TN. This Smoky Mountain special event will feature separate classes for kids and adults Saturday, February 9, 2019. Wildflour Bakehouse is a staple for good eats in Sevier County serving breakfast and lunch. They are a family run, small batch bakery that creates pastries and breads in house early each morning. Stop in and get your day started right with some of their sweet and savory baked goods.



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Blue Ridge Parkway Winter Closures

Blue Ridge Parkway closure. Photo credit - NPS

Blue Ridge Parkway closure. Photo credit – NPS

Blue Ridge Parkway Winter Closures. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the unofficial sister national park to the Great Smoky Mountains. Beginning in the beautiful Oconaluftee Valley just north of Cherokee, North Carolina and stretching hundreds of miles to Shenandoah National Park this national treasure is a must but always plan ahead when heading to the hills.

Ole Man Winter takes toll on Blue Ridge Parkway. The National Park Service reminds visitors that some areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway remain closed due to winter weather effects and debris along the scenic highway. Many factors impact the Parkway for extended periods during winter weather. Variables include the route’s north facing slopes, tunnels, higher elevations and sight limitations. While some snow and ice are removed, the Parkway’s priorities involving natural resources prohibit the use of ice melting chemicals.

Park Superintendent J.D. Lee thanked committed staff, partners and neighbors that supported the Parkway during the recent lapse in appropriations. He also mentioned several weather events that continue to impact Parkway travel during this frigid season.  “We appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation as we prioritize work to provide access to this special resource,” Lee said.

Ever changing road conditions and weather problems led the National Park Service to dedicate an online site that monitors openings and closing along the scenic 469-mile route via an interactive road map that allows visitors to zoom in on specific sections of the Parkway and provides a planning tool to ensure enjoyment and safety. To access this map visit Blue Ridge Parkway Closures.