Group hiking opportunities: ‘Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends’ and Danny Bernstein’s ‘Classic Hikes of the Smokies’

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by Julie Dodd

If you are just getting into hiking or if you are looking for a more social hiking experience, group hiking could be just what you’re looking for.

Experienced hikers Danny Bernstein and Missy Kane each lead group hikes that provide great hiking opportunities and also benefit the Friends of the Smokies.

Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends

Missy Kane

Missy Kane

“Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends” hiking program is a partnership with Missy Kane, Covenant Health and the Friends of the Smokies.

Missy is an Olympic runner, a Pan American Games medalist, and a member of the Knoxville Sports hall of Fame. She is the Covenant Health fitness expert and leads a number of fitness programs, from hiking and biking to corporate wellness and senior fitness.

Missy’s hiking series takes place each Wednesday during the months of April and October. Each hike has about 50-60 participants.

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Hiking 101 workshop at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (Farragut location), on March 27, helps get you ready for hiking

by Julie Dodd

Blue Ridge Mountain Sports logoJust in time to help you get ready for Spring hiking, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is hosting Hiking 101, on Thursday, March 27, at the Farragut location, 11537 Kingston Pike.

This free workshop starts at 6:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.

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Ice on the Appalachian Trail vs. Spring flowers in Cades Cove = Smokies Surprises

by Holly Scott, Marketing Director

When last week’s blog post debuted on Wednesday at 6 a.m., it was 60+ degrees at my house, and I had the windows and screen doors open. Sam McGroom’s excellent advice about Winter Hiking seemed untimely, but winter was on its way.

The temperature dropped 40 degrees that same day, and I woke up Thursday morning with a sheen of snow covering my driveway. Things can change quickly in the foothills of the Smokies this time of year.

As a study in contrast, I wanted to share with you some high elevation views that the Smokies’ long-season Ridgerunner Billy Jones captured from the Appalachian Trail in the first week of February along with Genia Stadler’s latest Smoky Mountain wildflowers from the floor of Cades Cove and other lower evaluation places. These photos were taken within days of each other at different elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


On Billy’s first patrol of the season at the end of February, he captured this image of icicles one mile south of Dry Sluice Gap Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Daffodils in Cades Cove the first week of March

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Tips for winter hiking in the Smokies

by Sam McGroom

Sam McGroom with GSMNP trail sign

Sam McGroom during a “magical” winter hike at the trail intersection of the Gregory Bald Trail and the Appalachian Trail at Doe Knob. All photos (including this one with a self-timer) by Sam McGroom

I used to be a big cold weather wimp until I moved to the edge of the Smoky Mountains and decided to try to hike all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Winter hiking became a wonderful experience that now I anxiously look forward to as I poke along in leaf peeper traffic each fall, trying to find places to hike that aren’t choked with tourists admiring the spectacular autumn show in the Park.

What’s so great about winter hiking?

For starters, no bugs!!  It’s nice to not coat the body with repellant and stick dryer sheets in the hat to keep the pesky buggers at bay.

On many trails, winter offers views that simply aren’t there when leaves are on the trees and the lower humidity and cool air often result in amazingly beautiful azure skies. The quiet that occurs with less traffic, fewer people and less forest activity is delightful.

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Secretary Sally Jewell Hikes Chimney Tops Trail with Friends of the Smokies

By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

March 3, 2014

Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent Pedro Ramos on Chimney Tops Trail

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pedro Ramos at Chimney Tops Trail. Photo by Warren Bielenberg

United States Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the Smokies over the past few days. She says she’s been here a half-dozen or so times to hike and enjoy the culture of the area, like in 1977 when she spent the summer with her sister who lived in Waynesville, NC.

The purpose of her trip was to join Senator Lamar Alexander and Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials to announce the construction schedule for the Joint Curatorial Collections Facility in Townsend, TN, also known as the Collections Preservation Center. This $4.3 million facility is coming to fruition with nearly $2 million in support from Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and will be built on 1.6 acres of land donated by the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

The center has been a long time coming. In the words of Senator Lamar Alexander, “Someone had to make the decision, and she did it.” The approval process began a few years ago, and has taken the hard work of recently retired Smokies’ Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, Senator Alexander, and the cooperation from the boards of the Heritage Center, Friends, and GSMA.

Click here to read park press release of Collections Preservation Center construction timeline

Secretary Sally Jewell in Great Smoky Mountains

United States Senator Lamar Alexander with Secretary Jewell and Superintendent Ramos. Photo by Jack Williams

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Travel Channel Presents Evergreen Ball- A Showcase of Hard Work + Generosity for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Lauren Gass, Special Projects Director


Nearly four weeks have passed since the 2014 Evergreen Ball, but I am still overcome with feelings of gratitude for everyone who worked to make the evening a success – and friends, it takes a village! A few of our volunteers started working with me as early as Wednesday in an effort to be ready for the big event on Saturday. And ours are not your run-of-the mill volunteers. These guys will do anything you ask! File paperwork, move taxidermy, even craft tee shirts into beautiful chair covers.

Jess Curtis volunteers with the setup crew

For the Evergreen Ball committee and about 20 additional volunteers, the day of the ball begins early.  All hands are on deck at Cherokee Country Club as we transform the Sequoyah and Dogwood rooms and the Pub into upscale boutique chic.  Everyone is negotiating for table top easels, black table skirts and looking for missing bid sheets.  Sometimes it feels like a race, but no one slows down.  By the middle of the afternoon, it looks like everything is coming together.  We take just a moment to peek in the ballroom and it absolutely takes our breath away.  Once again, the decorations committee has outdone itself and we are so proud!  Now, it is time to rush home, change into evening attire and return for the big event.

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What’s in your backpack is key part of successful winter hiking in Smokies

by Lori Garufi

on LeConte Lodge porch

Lori Garufi served birthday cake on the LeConte Lodge porch as part of a hike to recognize Margaret Stevenson’s 101st birthday. Photo by Julie Dodd

We haven’t done much winter hiking this year due to extreme cold. Anything with a view and NO creek crossings would be my choice.

I also love Old Settlers in the winter. There are lots of old homesites and relics that are normally covered with vegetation in the summer, not to mention the poison ivy!

We recently hiked Lead, Bote to Spence Field just for lunch. The view was amazing, of course.

We are still trying to get over to Bryson City for a hike, but haven’t been able to get across Newfound Gap for the last four Wednesdays. Watch out for road closures that could leave you stranded on the wrong side of the mountain from home.

I carry more gear in the winter than I do in summer.

Extra layers, thermal underwear, emergency heat blanket, hot hands, gloves, hat, neck gaiter, crampons or spikes, wind shell (rain shell), fleece, goose down coat, rain pants, leg gaiters.

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