The Mississippi McGirlies Got HeySmokies Spirit!

The Mississippi McGirlies got HeySmokies Spirit! Yes they do! Check out this adorable video from some young fans from Mississippi who love the Great Smoky Mountains!

 

The Mississippi McGirlies are well-traveled kids and want to offer some recommendations for your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. Highly recommended are all the roller coasters at Dollywood, the ropes course at The Island in Pigeon Forge, and a fun family dinner at Dick’s Last Resort. The McGirlies also recommend a stay at RiverStone Resort & Spa; they’ve got that awesome lazy river. So, there you go. Now what fun things are you going to do on your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains?

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Smoky Mountain Field School Celebrates 38 Years of Educational Adventures!

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Smoky Mountain Field School staff and students at LeConte Lodge on June 20, 2015.

The Smoky Mountain Field School Celebrates 38 Years of Educational Adventures in 2015! Which exciting adventure are you going to claim as your own this year? Here’s just a few of the many popular programs along with some brand-new workshops and activities that you’ll want to check out!

The University of Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came together in 1977 to form the highly successful Smoky Mountain Field School. High-quality weekend workshops, hikes and other adventures are taught by UT professors, naturalists, and other experts at many locations in and around the National Park. Courses are considered non-credit personal development.

Saturday, August 15, 2015 @ 9:30 amsmoky-mountain-field-school-logo-heysmokies
The Calderwood History Tour with Bill Landry
Join the host of the Emmy award-winning Heartland Series, Bill Landry as he takes you on the “Dragon Tour” of scenic Highway 129 visiting Chilhowee, Abrahms Creek, Tallassee, and Calderwood. Not a lot hiking on this tour, but you can bet there’ll be a whole lot of gabbing! Bring a sack lunch and enjoy the day exploring the ways and sayings of southern Appalachia with the Smokies’ favorite storyteller. (Cost $79)

Saturday, August 29, 2015 @ 10:00 am
Care and Release of Orphaned and Injured Bear Cubs with Coy Blair
Coy Blair, biologist with Appalachian Bear Rescue, shares the rehabilitation process for orphaned and injured black bears. Blair shares the mission of the organization, safety and veterinary care, work-up techniques, and stories of successful releases into the wilderness. (Cost $79)

Saturday, September 12, 2015
Understanding the Black Bear with Joel Zachry
Zachry is a biologist and author of Bears We’ve Met – Short Stories of Close Encounters. Additionally, he’s spent time guiding hikes in Alaska’s black and brown bear country. This course offers you the opportunity to learn about black bear habitat and life in the Smoky Mountains. Class includes an easy-to-moderate hike to explore den sites, foods and other interesting facts about the elusive black bear. (Cost $79)

Saturday, September 15, 2015 @ 9:30 am
Cades Cove History Tour with Bill Landry
Spend another delightful day with Bill Landry, the popular author of Appalachian Tales & Heartland Adventures, in beautiful Cades Cove. Landry will spin tales of the original settlers, bringing them to life in the telling of their early adventures in the mountains. Pack a lunch and get ready for a little walking and talking with a historian and master storyteller. (Cost $79)

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Saturday, October 17, 2015 @ 10:00 am
Bears of Our Smokies with Joey Holt
It’s seems that everyone this year has gone “bear crazy” so the Smoky Mountain Field School is meeting our need for all things bears with another informative course taught by expert outdoorsman Joey Holt. As a board member of Appalachian Bear Rescue, Holt has a unique knowledge of bears in the Great Smoky Mountains. Join him for a beautiful autumn hike to learn how to identify bear tracks and trails, and other often overlooked signs. (Cost $79)

Saturday, October 31, 2015 @ 9:00 am
Mt. LeConte Hike and Overnight in the Lodge with Arthur “Butch” McDade & Brad Knight
Historic LeConte Lodge is the only lodging available in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has been a popular destination for hikers and backpackers since the 1920’s. At 6,000 feet in elevation the five-mile hike is strenuous, but you’ll enjoy the rustic accommodations and hearty meals at the Lodge. Instuctor “Butch” McDade is a 30 year veteran of the National Park Service and author of two books, The Natural Arches of the Big South Fork and Old Smoky Mountain Days. Brad Knight is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, naturalist, and founder of HeySmokies.com. Join them for an unforgettable experience on the mountain. (Cost $195)

For a complete list of available 2015 Courses, visit Smoky Mountain Field School. For more information on the Smoky Mountain Field School, email smfs@utk.edu or call 865-974-0150.

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Newly Designed I-40 Exit 407 Now Open in the Smokies | The Diverging Diamond Interchange is a Gem!

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An example of the new Diverging Diamond Interchange design to ease traffic congestion to and from the Great Smoky Mountains.

Newly designed I-40 Exit 407 is now open in the Smokies and the Diverging Diamond Interchange is a gem! Visitors and locals alike have anticipated improvements at the interchange of I-40 and Highway 66 that serves as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains for millions of motorists each year. And it couldn’t happen at a better time as the area prepares for its busiest time of year.

The interchange has been redesigned in a smartly engineered “diverging diamond” pattern to ease traffic congestion for motorists getting on and off the Interstate. With the newly styled interchange, traffic switches sides at a signal before getting on the overpass bridges so that drivers turning left don’t have to stop or yield to oncoming traffic. Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials report that the diverging diamond design has proven very efficient at moving large volumes of traffic more quickly.

TDOT officials are asking motorists to please use extra caution as at times lanes will be closed and construction workers will be in the area making some final improvements throughout the summer months. Additionally, the widening of lanes on Highway 66 to three-lanes in both directions is still ongoing but should be finished by the end of 2015.

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Synchronous Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains June 2016

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Synchronous fireflies light up the night sky each year in early June in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo credit: Katrien Vermeire)

Synchronous Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains June 2016

These aren’t your average backyard lightening bugs; these particular bioluminescent beetles (Photinus carolinus) perform an extraordinarily silent symphony of lights in the warm, dark forest evoking images of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s truly a sublime experience.

They’ll be here for a week or two in early June 2016. However, the event has become so popular, bringing over 12,000 visitors to Elkmont, that some advance planning is definitely required. Utilizing scientific data on daily temperatures, park scientists have announced that peak viewing time will be May 31 to June 7, 2016. Here are a few tips to help with your planning:

  • You can camp at Elkmont and have direct access to the trails where you can view the nightly light show. Campground reservations can be made up to six months in advance at www.recreation.gov. If you want to backpack, backcountry reservations are required and can be made at nps.gov up to 30 days in advance.
  • Non-campers have limited to no access to the Elkmont area during the 8-day viewing period; however, nightly trolley Shuttles from Sugarlands Visitor Center are available with a Parking Pass via a new lottery system to award the much sought-after passes.
  • The Shuttle Operating Dates will be from May 31 to June 7, 2016. The new lottery system will be open for applications from 12:00 noon on April 29 until 8:00 p.m. on May 2, 2016.  All entries, regardless of the time of application, will be submitted for the lottery drawing. Results for the lottery drawing will be available on May 10.
  • Visit www.recreation.gov during the specified time period to enter the Lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 877-444-6777, but National Park officials highly encourage the use of the online process.
  • Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular vehicle parking pass or a large vehicle parking pass. Regular vehicles are passenger vehicles up to 19 ft. in length with a maximum of 6 occupants. Large vehicles are RVs and mini-buses from 19-30 ft. in length with a maximum of 24 occupants.
  • Lottery applicants must choose two possible dates to attend the event over the 8-day viewing period.
  • There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected the lottery winner will be charged a $1.50 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10. Arrival times to the Sugarlands Parking Lot will be assigned will be assigned to relieve traffic congestion.
  • Remember to bring a chair or blanket, rain gear, and a flashlight because it’ll be dark. Keep your flashlight covered with either blue or red cellophane, usually available at the check-in table. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns. For up-to-date info from the National Park Service, please visit GSMNP Firefly Event.

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Bears in Great Smoky Mountains | What You Need to Know

black-bear-heysmokiesWith the tourist season in full swing and a record number of visitors to the Smoky Mountains predicted this summer, along with reports from National Park rangers of increased bear activity, the opportunities for an encounter with the Smoky’s most iconic symbol have increased as well. Approximately 1,600 black bears live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and this year sightings and encounters seem to be on the rise.

There are a few things that visitors and locals alike need to know regarding black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For many, spotting a bear is the most exciting part of their vacation in the Smokies. And rightly so, the majestic creatures are truly a sight to behold and their furry cuteness creates some sort of romantic notion about their gentleness. However, bears in the Great Smoky Mountains Park are wild creatures and can be dangerously unpredictable. At speeds of 30 mph, black bears can outrun, outclimb, and outswim humans.

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