Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region

Giant Hogweed invades the Smoky Mountain region.

Giant Hogweed invades the Smoky Mountain region and it can be a real pain! Photo credit – Daily Mirror

Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region. Giant Hogweed looms large on it’s march toward the Smokies. Giant Hogweed can reach up to 20-feet in height and is considered extremely dangerous. It can cause 3rd degree burns and blindness. Typically found in multiple places along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and now near the Smoky Mountains. Recently Virginia Tech researchers have identified Giant Hogweed in Clarke County Virginia and Wautauga County, North Carolina near the Tennessee line. According to Diane Watwick, Urban Watershed Forester for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Forestry, there have been no reported or confirmed sightings of the infamous plant in East Tennessee to date.

Hogweed bears a striking resemblance to Queen Anne’s lace on steroids and is sometimes mistaken for elderberry or cow parsnips-both of which look similar and grow readily in the Smoky Mountain region but rarely exceed 6-feet in height.

Hogweed, whose growth period last from mid May thru July, features huge spiky leaves, which can measure 5-feet in width, and a umbrella-shaped cluster of white flower heads that may exceed 2-5 feet in diameter. According to the USDA Forest Services, USDA and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Giant Hogweed can also be identified by unusual 2-4 inch diameter hollow stems that feature hairy bristles and maroon spots.

Contact with the plant’s clear watery sap can prove disastrous. Symptoms, which can take from 3-5 days to appear, include painful fluid-filled blisters resembling burns, and phytophotodermatitis, which can make skin sensitive to ultraviolet light for years following exposure to Hogweed’s broken stems, roots, flowers, seeds or leaves.

Native to the Caucasus Mountain range in Asia, Hogweed was introduced to other parts of the world through collections in botanical gardens where its escape into other areas proved easy.

The Great Smoky Mountain region, with its miles of wild areas and abundant varieties of vegetation, just might prove the perfect incubator for the monstrous plant which produces some 100,000 seeds annually that are then spread by the wind or running water and can remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years.

Best advice is do not come into contact with any part of this plant and if you think you have identified a Giant Hogweed contact the UT Agriculture extension office at 865-974-7114

Great Smoky Mountains Farm Museum Fall Harvest Celebration

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The mountain farm is a great place to discover the secrets of the Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains Farm Museum Fall Harvest Celebration. The annual Mountain Life Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2018.  This event continues to preserve the legacy of Appalachian folkways and is a tribute to the many families who lived on lands that would later become the national park.  The event is from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.  All activities are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the Mountain Life Festival is to share with park visitors some of the traditional fall activities that were an important part of rural life in the southern mountains.  The spirit of cooperation that existed among families and neighbors is reflected in this event.  Demonstrations on the grounds of the mountain farm museum include hearth cooking, apple butter making, blacksmithing, lye soap making, food preservation, and gardening.   Artifacts and historic photographs from the National Park’s collection will also be on display.  Mountain Life Festival will coincide with our music jam sessions held on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center from 1 -3 pm every first and third Saturday of the month.

The centerpiece of the event is the sorghum syrup demonstration, which the National Park has provided each fall for over 30 years.  The syrup is made much the same way it was produced a hundred or more years ago, using a horse or mule-powered cane mill and a wood-fired cooker.  The syrup making demonstration is provided by students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School Future Farmer’s of America through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

The Mountain Farm Museum is located adjacent to the park’s Oconaluftee Visitor Center on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina.  For more information call the visitor center at (828) 497-1904.


Great Smoky Mountains Hosts Stargazing Event

The universe is waiting for you in Cades Cove!

The universe is waiting for you in Cades Cove!

Great Smoky Mountains Hosts Stargazing Event. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in cooperation with the Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society, will offer a stargazing program in Cades Cove on Saturday, September 15, 2018 beginning at 7:30 pm.  Experienced astronomers and numerous telescopes will be on hand to provide a discovery of the fall sky’s position of stars, galaxies, and constellations, including the Milky Way. In case of rain or cloud cover where night skies are not visible, the program will be cancelled.

All participants should park at the orientation shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road. A park ranger will walk with the group one-third of a mile to a nearby field to the viewing location. Since the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed at night, no vehicles are allowed to drive to the viewing site, or park within the Loop Road.

Those planning to attend should wear comfortable walking shoes, dress warmly, and bring a flashlight. Participants are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket for sitting, along with binoculars which can be used for stargazing. To preserve the integrity of the telescope lenses, smoking is not allowed near them. Carpooling is strongly encouraged.

The program is subject to postponement due to rain or cloud cover. If the weather is questionable, call the day of the event to confirm that the program will take place at 865-448-4104 or follow the park’s Facebook page at Facebook.  To learn more about the Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society, visit

Smoky Mountain Luxury Glamping

Under the Canvas Smoky Mountain Glamping is the epitome of luxury!

Under the Canvas Smoky Mountain Glamping is the epitome of luxury!

Smoky Mountain Luxury Glamping. Camping in luxury, Glamping, comes to the Smokies

Glamping (short for glamorous camping) is the latest trend in the Smokies. Brought to you by Under the Canvas Great Smoky Mountains, this new experience, slated to open Sept. 20 and run through Nov. 19, features luxury safari-inspired tents tricked out with king-sized beds dressed with upscale linens. A variety of tents (that sleep from four to seven people) are available with amenities that include private or communal baths. If you opt for the more upscale tents, you can enjoy ensuite bathrooms that include a shower, sink and flushing toilets; wood stoves, guaranteed to keep you toasty on cool mountain evenings, and a private deck that provides a great place to gather for early morning Yoga or evening drinks and meals. The Stargazer tent comes with a unique ceiling window allowing guests to view celestial sites from the comfort of their bed. While all the tents feature king-sized bed and luxurious linens, the Suite tent also boasts a lounge area with a leather queen-sized sofa-bed, and a more secluded and sheltered location with premium views. All 40 tent sites offer convenient access to more than 800 square miles of forests, amazing mountain views and the famed Appalachian Trail. Embers, an on-site restaurant, will offer breakfast and dinners. Lunches, pre-ordered the night before, are available on a get-to-go basis. According to company spokesperson, Matt Thomas, Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains is also working with local vendors to enhance the camping experience. “Guests can not only stay with us, they can also enjoy activities (led by local guides, such as hiking, horseback riding, etc.)” said Thomas. Tent prices range from $189 – $499 per night “depending on day of the week, holidays and other variables,” said Thomas. The venue is located on a 182-acre camp.

Continue reading…

Trails Forever Volunteers Needed

Trails forever volunteers needed.

Trails forever volunteers needed.

Trails Forever Volunteers Needed

A group of dedicated volunteers has spent the last five years making much needed trail improvements in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Working in tandem with experienced trail building staff, they are using sustainable materials to preserve the trails while also protecting the trail corridor. Smokies Trails Forever teams first-time volunteers, as well as those who have donated time and skills with previous trail restoration projects or volunteered in other capacities within the park, will be teamed with experienced trail builders. This is your chance to make a lasting positive impact in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Trails forever volunteers needed.

Help maintain your favorite trails in the Smokies!

REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) has funded trail reconstruction along Forney Ridge and Chimney Tops Trails and also provides a Trails Forever equipment trailer.

For more information on how individuals and groups can help, go to or call 828-452-0720.