Arrowmont Souper Bowl XI Nov 20

Souper Bowl XI is November 20th!

Ah! There’s a chill in the air. You know what that means? It’s time to warm yourself up with a big bowl of delicious homemade soup and bread at the annual community event Souper Bowl XI at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg.

On November 20 at the dining hall on the campus of Arrowmont School of Arts in Crafts in Gatlinburg, enjoy lunch from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm or dinner from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm.

The event is an annual fundraiser for United Way of Sevier County and guests always look forward to adding another finely hand-crafted ceramic bowl to their collection. The bowls are crafted by Arrowmont instructors, resident artists, and studio assistants. Tickets for the event are $30 each.

Arrowmont Souper Bowl XI Nov 20Arrowmont is and educational center for contemporary arts and crafts for adults and children. The school offers weekend, one- and two-week workshops in a variety of visual arts media. From beginner to advance artists works in professional studios on the beautiful 14 acre campus in Gatlinburg. You can choose from a variety of classes such as drawing, photography, woodturning, fiber, ceramics, metals/jewelry, warm glass, books, paper, and mixed media.

The Artists-in-Residence program is a year-long learning endeavor for five lucky early-career artists. The public is welcome year-round to visit the campus and attend presentations that bring together artists, educators, and collectors.

While visiting Arrowmont, be sure to stop by the Arrowcraft shop. It’s one of six shops operated by the Southern Highland Craft Guild that offer fine regional crafts and on-site craft demonstrations. Arrowcraft was founded in 1926 by Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women and continues preserving the tradition of mountain arts and crafts.

For more info, visit Arrowmont or follow them on Facebook.

Ole Smoky Moonshine Thompson Square Concert Nov 1

Free Thompson Square Concert Nov. 1 at Ole Smoky Moonshine in Pigeon Forge

County Music’s Thompson Square Performs FREE Concert at Ole Smoky Moonshine’s Grand Opening at The Barn at The Island in Pigeon Forge on November 1 at 4:00 pm.

To celebrate their Grand Opening of their new 7,218 sq. ft. distillery and retail store, The Barn at The Island in Pigeon Forge, Ole Smoky Moonshine and Q100.3 radio welcome the award-winning country duo Thompson Square for a free concert on November 1 from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

The husband and wife duo’s debut single, “Let’s Fight,” was country music’s song of summer in 2010. Keifer Thompson met Shawna in Nashville at a singing competition and before forming their own band, they sang backup vocals on Ty Herndon’s “Right About Now.”

Thompson Square’s second single, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” went to number one on the country music charts. In 2012, the duo were recognized as Top Vocal Duo at the Academy of Country Music Awards and they’ve produced a string of Top 10 hits like, “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About,” “I Got You,” and “If I Didn’t Have You.” Their most recent single, “I Can’t Outrun You” was released on June 23, 2014.

Ole Smoky Moonshine Pigeon Forge Barn Live Music ConcertIn addition to the performance, you’ll enjoy complimentary moonshine tastings and be one of the first to sample Ole Smoky’s new holiday spirit, Shine Nog! Along with other fun surprises, this is sure to be a great event!

For more info, visit Ole Smoky or follow them on Facebook.

 

The Elkmont Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Elkmont-spence-cabin-great-smoky-mountains-national-park-heysmokies…feeling great in ELKMONT!

Elkmont ranger district is one of the most popular areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and boasts a colorful and lively history. Rambling along the western base of Sugarland Mountain, the Little River has created a lush, beautiful, bottom land that has lured folks here for centuries. It’s here in Elkmont where each year in mid-June millions of synchronous fireflies light up the night sky for a couple of spectacular weeks. More information on the Firefly Event can be found below.

Elkmont Campground and Day-Use Rentals

Campground – A large and busy 200-site campground at 2,150 ft. elevation is located on each side of the Little River and is open mid-March through November for tents and RVs. Group camping and wheelchair accessible ADA sites are also available. The campground does not have electric, water, or sewer hook-ups. Potable water is available at spigots near each restroom facility with flush toilets. For more info and reservations, go to recreation.gov.

Camp Store – the campground offers a small outpost that sells firewood, basic dry foodstuffs and camping gear. There are vending machines for cold and hot drinks, snacks, and even ice cream!

The campground itself does not offer any day-use facilities; it is strictly for overnight use only. The nearest picnic area is Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, west of Elkmont on Little River Road. Elkmont does offer two recently restored historic structures for day-use rental for groups:

Spence Cabin “River Lodge” – Restored in 2012 to its true-to-original color scheme of pink and green, this 1920’s cabin in the Elkmont Historic District is a unique venue for small groups (40 or less) and offers a beautiful stone patio along the banks of the Little River. Day-use rental reservations can be made at recreation.gov.

Appalachian Clubhouse – Built in 1934, this beautiful 3,000 sq. ft. log clubhouse is located in the southern portion of Elkmont in an historic district referred to as “Daisy Town,” between the mouths of Jakes Creek and Bearwallow Branch. It can accommodate groups of 100 or less. Day-use rental reservations can be made at recreation.gov.

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Elkmont Historic District

Elkmont Hiking Trails

Elkmont Nature Trail – Just up the road from the campground and ranger station is this self-guided trail that is less than mile long. You’ll find a brochure at the trailhead detailing the natural history.

Little River Trail – About a quarter-mile beyond the nature trail, the road forks. The left fork leads to Little River Trail, a wide and flat route, that is great for families. Little River Trail, which intersects with Cucumber Gap Trail at mile 1.3, follows its namesake for  6.2 miles and ends at backcountry campsite #30.

Jakes Creek Trail – If you follow the right fork in the road you can access Jakes Creek Trail. Jakes Creek Trail and Little River Trail are connected by Cucumber Gap Trail making a 5.1 mile loop that is a favorite for day hikers.

Cucumber Gap Trail – At 2.3 miles in length and connecting Little River Trail and Jakes Creek Trail, this easy trail is great for families. In springtime it offers a beautiful wildflower display.

Fishing in Elkmont

Superb back-country trout fishing can be found the cool waters of Little River, Jakes Creek, and other numerous streams for those who possess a Tennessee fishing license which can be obtained at tn.wildlifelicense.com.

Synchronous Fireflies in Elkmont

The unique Synchronous (one of 19 species in the park) Firefly is the only species that can synchronize their flashing lights. Peak time to view this phenomenon is usually mid-June, but weather conditions greatly effect the exact time. The event has become so popular that the Park Service now limits car access to the campground to registered campers, but others may visit the site via shuttles from the Sugarland Visitor Center. You must obtain a parking pass for Sugarland Visitor Center as shuttle service is available only to the occupants of cars with a parking pass. Passes are free, but a $1.50 reservation fee is required. To obtain parking pass along with reservations visit recreation.gov.

Getting There

From Sugarlands Visitor Center
Approximately 6 miles miles west on Little River Road, turn left at Elkmont Campground sign and travel 1.5 miles to campground office. Public transportation via the Gatlinburg Trolley is available to Elkmont seasonally, for more information, check out the National Park Tan Route.

From Townsend
Approximately 11 miles east on Little River Road.

Elkmont History

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Horace Kephart, naturalist, author, and early park advocate.

It is hard to imagine today as you trek through this dense forest, but just one hundred years ago this area was clearcut by the Little River Lumber Company. Hundreds of men and families lived and labored here in primitive conditions to bring lumber to a growing nation. The land was left “wrecked, ruined, utterly vile and mean,” according to Horace Kephart an early park supporter.

Despite the ecological mess left by the lumber operation the beauty of Elkmont was sought by wealthy Knoxville socialites. Soon the area was a favorite vacation spot. The railroad that once removed millions of board feet of lumber now brought hundreds of visitors to escape the bustle of the city.

In 1910 plots of land were sold to a group of Knoxville sportsmen who established the Appalachian Club for wealthy hunting and fishing enthusiasts. By 1912 others visited the area to stay in the new Wonderland Park Hotel. This facility was purchased in 1929 and transformed into the Wonderland Club, and for the next 20 years both clubs provided an elite venue for wealthy East Tennesseans.

When the National Park was created in the 1930s many cottage owners in Elkmont were given lifetime leases. These were converted to 20-year leases in the 1950s and again in 1972. Leases were denied in 1992 and the park service made plans to raze the remaining structures. Fortunately, in 1994, several cottages, along with the Wonderland Hotel, gained a listing on the National Historic Register opening a 15-year debate over the fate of the historic buildings. Today the restored Spence Cabin and the Appalachian Clubhouse are nostalgic reminders of a bygone era.

The Clingmans Dome Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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…feeling great at CLINGMANS DOME!

 Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This high elevation oasis in the clouds is the highest peak in Tennessee at 6,643 feet above sea level.

Getting There

From Gatlinburg: Take Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Hwy 441 South) for 14 miles to Newfound Gap. Just past Newfound Gap, turn right onto Clingmans Dome Road and travel 7 miles to the parking area.

From Cherokee: Take Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Hwy 441 North) for 19 miles and turn left onto Clingmans Dome Road and travel 7 miles to the parking area.

Be sure to note that Clingmans Dome Road is closed to motorists in Winter.

The parking area for Clingmans Dome is large but is often full due to the popularity of this beautiful spot. Composting restrooms can be found adjacent to the parking area.  Be sure to check out the kiosks along the walkway to learn more about the mountains and the people who have called them home. Near the parking area is a Visitor Center with maps, books, souvenirs, and volunteers to answer questions.

Take the drive to Clingmans Dome and discover why this high elevation, spruce-fir forest is one of our favorite spots in theGreat Smoky Mountains. Any time of year, any kind of weather, you will find inspiration in these mountains that will call you to return again and again.

Climbing the Dome

The paved trail is a half mile to the summit. It is a steady, uphill walk so be sure to take advantage of the benches provided along the way when you need a moment to catch your breath.

Once at the summit, take the final climb up the handicapped accessible observation tower for a breathtaking 360 degree view of the park and surrounding mountains. On a clear day, visibility can surpass one hundred miles. Not every day is clear in the high country of the Great Smoky Mountains and temperatures can vary by thirty degrees from the low lands.

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Be Prepared

Temperatures and weather can vary dramatically from the valley below. Hypothermia is a REAL possibility year-round if you are caught without proper gear. Have a fleece jacket and raincoat handy for any visit to Clingmans Dome no matter the season or your skill level. A hat and gloves are always nice too!

Hiking Trails accessed from Clingmans Dome

  • Forney Ridge Trail  – can be found just below the Visitor Center and provides a lovely 1.8 mile walk to Andrew’s Bald.
  • Appalachian Trail  – at the base of the observation tower the trail intersects the famous Appalachian Trail. From this intersection a hiker may walk two hundred miles south to Georgia or two thousand miles north to Maine. No matter which direction you choose a little time spent on the AT is always time well spent. The views are magnificent any time of year.

What’s up with all the dead trees? Under attack!

Notice the “graveyard” appearance of dead Frasier Fir trees along the path to the tower. These lingering sentinels are a sad reminder of the threats our National Park faces every day. These trees were decimated by acid rain and an invasive species of insect known as the Balsam Wooly Adelgid. These pests literally suck the life out of the firs by drinking the trees sap. With no natural defenses the trees were sitting ducks when the assault began. Note the fir saplings sprouting up for they probably will not be here when you return. Few reach maturity before the insect strikes. Park biologists have been working hard to find a sustainable way to preserve this important part of the biosphere with mixed results. We are hopeful that a solution can be found to ensure the forest to the diversity it has had for centuries.

How did Clingmans Dome get its name?

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Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman

 

Clingmans Dome is named after Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman. He was a pioneer, explorer, soldier, scientist, and statesman. Clingman won the competition to accurately measure this peak in the 1850’s. General Clingman had a colorful life and was given the honor of having this peak named after him by the Swiss geographer Arnold Guyot. While the awe inspiring grandeur of the Clingmans Dome view will endure forever, sadly General Clingman died alone, penniless and institutionalized.

The concrete observation tower at Clingmans Dome was constructed in 1959.

The Big Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Midnight Hole is a popular summertime swimming hole in Big Creek

Big Creek ranger district is found on the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a small campground for 12 sites for tents only. The popular and crystal clear swimming spot, Midnight Hole, is found here.

This mountain watershed is one of the largest and most scenic in the park. Flanked by the towering Mt. Sterling to the south and Mt. Cammerer to the north, Big Creek has an abundance of scenic beauty. Experience the grandeur of this clear mountain stream and surrounding forest any time of year for an experience you’ll never forget!

Things to do at Big Creek

Mouse Creek Falls at Big Creek Smoky Mountains National Park

Mouse Creek Falls on Big Creek Trail

Camping
Campground is open April 10 – October 31. With only 12 tent sites, Big Creek is the smallest campground in the park. RVs are not allowed. The campground is described as a walk-in campground because you park your car in a small parking lot and walk about 100-300 feet to your site. Some sites are on a small mound above, others are closer to the river. Each site has a tent pad, grill, a picnic table, and a pole for a lantern. A restroom, with flush toilets and cold water sinks, is located in the small parking area. You should bring everything you need with you since the closest grocery store is in Newport, Tennessee, about a 30-minute drive from Big Creek. Camp sites are first-come first-served. For more information visit www.nps.gov.                           

Hiking at Big Creek

  • Big Creek Trail – Beginning above the picnic area follow an old railroad grade for just over 5 miles to Walnut Bottom Campsite #37. For an easy hike, take Big Creek Trail for 1.5 miles to Midnight Hole. The water flows between two huge boulders and into a large pool. This swimming hole is a favorite for kids of all ages. Another 0.5 mile takes you to Mouse Creek Falls, a 25-foot cascade located on the left as you go up. Look for a horse hitching rail as your signpost for the falls.
  • Chestnut Branch Trail – Beginning at the Ranger Station near the entrance to Big Creek. This trail climbs out of the drainage area through a dense second growth forest 2 miles to the Appalachian Trail.
  • Baxter Creek Trail – Take the steel foot bridge across Big Creek at the picnic area to begin this tough 6.2 mile climb to the summit of Mt. Sterling. An amazing view awaits the brave few who climb the old fire tower at the end of the trail.

big-creek-trailhead-heysmokiesHorse Camp and Facilities
Open April 10 – October 31. There are five campsites with potable water available. For more information visit www.nps.gov.

Picnicking at Big Creek
A large picnic area, with its own parking lot, separates the tents-only campground from the horse camp. Running water and flush toilets can be found a half mile past the picnic area at the campground.

Fishing at Big Creek
Big Creek and the nearby Pigeon River are a favorite for anglers. Rainbow trout, small mouth bass and more can be found in these waters. Either a Tennessee www.tn.wildlifelicense.com or North Carolina www.ncwildlife.org fishing license is required in the park. If fishing outside the park stay aware of your location. This area straddles the state line and you definitely need the correct license for the state you are fishing in.

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White water rafting near Big Creek

Rafting near Big Creek
White water rafting is a thriving business on the nearby Pigeon River. Enjoy a raging 5-mile white water experience or dial back the adrenaline on a scenic float trip. Most outfitters have an outpost in Hartford, Tennessee, five miles north of the Waterville Road exit on Interstate 40. Visit HeySmokiesRafting.com for rafting outfitters.

How to Get to Big Creek

From Gatlinburg 
Take Highway 321 East to Cosby, Tennessee. Turn left at the “T” and continue on to the Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway. Turn right on the Parkway and proceed 7 miles to Interstate 40. Turn right on I-40 and head south toward Asheville, North Carolina. Drive 7 miles on I-40 and take the Waterville Road exit. Turn right on Waterville Road crossing the Pigeon River and drive 5 miles to the entrance of Big Creek.

From Asheville/Maggie Valley 
Take Interstate 40 North. After crossing the Tennessee state line take the Waterville Road exit. Turn left on Waterville Road crossing the Pigeon River and drive 5 miles to the Big Creek entrance.

History of Big Creek

Big Creek is steeped in mountain history. This land was once home to the Cherokee Nation before the arrival of Europeans. For generations they farmed and hunted this land as their society thrived. European settlers occupied the land after the forced removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. The new inhabitants wasted little time building churches, ballfields, hunting lodges, homes and more. As the Anglo population soared in these pristine forests, the Smoky Mountains began to attract the attention of unscrupulous lumber barons from the Northeast. As Northern forests were depleted, a greedy nation quickly turned to logging this virgin timber. Railroads and mill towns sprang up almost overnight and during the next few decades millions of board feet of lumber were removed leaving the mountains nearly clear cut  and ruining the ecosystem for many years.
The creation of the National Park put an end to the lumber industry and the healing process began for the forest. As you wander through this amazing place try and imagine no trees for as far as you can see.  It is hard to do when the view is limited to just a few feet because of all the trees; however, this would have been your experience if not for the realization of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.