Mid-October Fall Color Report

Right now, the prevailing question around town, both for locals and visitors alike, goes something like this: “Have the leaves changed where you’re at yet?” and “What color are the trees down there?”

To say that fall color is nudging along would be putting it about right. Though the sunny days have been lacking as of late, the Townsend area continues to experience warmer-than-normal conditions. According to officials with the park, peak color at the lower elevations is still over a week away. Tree species like black gum, dogwood, and sumac trees continue to show vivid reds in the valley. Golds are showing their beauty in such species as the black walnut, birch, beech, and hickories. You’ll also notice that some maple and oak trees are beginning to transform in lower regions of the Smoky Mountains.

What the Townsend area is in need of in order to bring about the most vivid colors are a succession of warm, sunny days and cool crisp, but not freezing nights. Still, there are a few parts of the Smoky Mountains that are showing more reds now than in years past. This could be due to some biological factors in certain plants that could have been brought about because of some dry spurts over the summer.

A bit of fall advise, as the foliage gets more colorful, you begin to see more and more people coming through town snapping pictures and taking video. While a scenic drive might be an easy way to see the color for yourself, think about hiking one of the many Smoky Mountain trails this year, especially if you want to get away from the crush of onlookers.

A few good hikes for the casual Smoky Mountain hiker include Baskins Creek Falls, Old Settlers and Porters Creeks Trails. For the hardier outdoor enthusiasts, hikes like Sugarlands Mountain, Appalachian, Mt. Sterling, Low Gap, and Goshen Prong Trails provide for some very scenic overlooks and vistas. Roads with good fall color viewing include the Foothills Parkway on both the east and west side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) which has a number of beautiful overlooks; the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail; and Cove Creek Road. Other suggested scenic drives include the Clingmans Dome Road.  Heintooga Ridge Road/Balsam Mountain Road provide good low elevation scenery with early changing trees.

Suggested hikes:  This is an excellent time, especially this weekend if the weather is nice, to hike trails leading to higher elevations: Lower Mount Cammerer, Maddron Bald, Brushy Mountain, and Trillium Gap Trails.

For additional information about fall foliage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm

The Smoky Mountain Brook Trout

The Smoky Mountain Brook trout sport wavy lines, on its dark, olive-green back – it’s their most recognized characteristic. It’s also a literal camouflage in that the brook takes on the appearance of flowing water which allows the brook trout hide from predators that lurk above.You’ll also notice its pale yellow spots and a few small red spots if you’re lucky enough to catch one.

A main giveaway that you’ve caught a Brook trout is the white edging along its fins. However, they can be a definite disadvantage when it comes to keeping hidden from predators.

Brook trout swim efficiently in water as shallow as the depth of its body due to its length. They have the ability to maneuver around and through a variety of obstacles, which is an asset in capturing food no matter how deep the water.

You’ll find brook trout in colder, clearer streams. They’re also seen as the most cold tolerant of all trout found in the Smokies.

Brook-trout populations reach as far south as Georgia along the Great Smoky Mountain chain, but have been steadily declining since at least 1900 and probably earlier. And not only is it due to what is the most common thought – the more adaptable rainbow trout. Overfishing, as well as logging, was prevalent and destroyed many of lower elevation habitats and the more accessible areas of highland streams that the brook had come to rely on.

Logging was essentially eliminated with the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1936. Still, brook trout populations have continued to steadily decrease in the area. Accordingly, rainbow trout that were first introduced into the regional streams in 1910 have slowly displaced the remaining brook trout, thus sending them higher and higher into the area’s headwater streams. These headwater areas are thought to be the brook trout’s last refuge among the Great Smoky Mountains as the upstream movement of the rainbow may be finally limited by physical barriers such as waterfalls or other obstacles created by park employees on the brook trout’s behalf.

The brook trout is at its best in waters with a temperature range of 40 to 68 degrees. Still, brook trout feed at temperatures as low as 34 degrees.

Somewhere between 72 and 77 degrees is where you’ll find a brook’s tolerance. Usually this is reached at some point during the summer months. There are of course exceptions during this time, like to avoid a predator or hunt. During this time brook may navigate into warmer waters but only for a short time.

Brook trout generally have the shortest life span of the various trout species, usually living on average 4 years. Their overall growth is dependent on such natural factors as water temperature, habitat, and competition from other fish. The brook will rarely weigh more than three pounds, even in productive waters, by the end of their third year of life.

The catch-and-release process seems to provide the brook trout with a lot of stress at spawning time. It’s widely thought that the brook should be left unmolested during this season, even though some brook trout waters permit year round fishing.

The Smoky Mountain Rainbow Trout

Anytime trout fishing in brought up in conversation, mention of the Rainbow Trout is not far behind. The “true American trout” as its called by most fishermen, the Rainbow Trout brings about colorful imagery and excited in the minds of most anglers and rightfully so. In simple terms, it’s just a beautiful fish.

Rainbow are found worldwide and are now included in most stocking programs due to their adaptive nature and for the sole reason that they’re a extremely sought-out fish.

The rainbow is different in demeanor from most fish as well. They’re aren’t “bottom feeders” like their cousin the brown trout who tend to creep in the depths of the stream, and they don’t mimic the brook trout who tends to stay in the back waters. Rainbows feed and approach the surface with regularity and therefore they are commonly found in the open, faster waters. They’re found to be more revered than their relatives as well.

You can identify Rainbows fairly easily, especially those found in the streams of the Townsend and the Smoky Mountains. Their upper bodies are heavily matted with black spots and their backs range from dark to light olive. The abdomen is white and along the lateral line there’s a characteristic reddish pink band – a trait in which the color usually extends over the central portion of the fish’s gill covers. The rainbow has no yellow or red spots.

Rainbows apparently find security under a choppy, broken stream surface. Unlike browns, rainbows are much less oriented to physical, overhead cover. When hooked, larger browns will run for overhead cover, rainbows would rather just run and run and run to feverishly evade being hooked. Rainbow trout are also unique among the trout species in that they usually jump one or more times once hooked, a characteristic just as prevalent among bigger rainbows as among smaller ones.

Rainbows grow depending on a myriad of factors. Depending on habitat and the available food supply you’ll see the most dramatic variables in growth. For example, one-year-old rainbows will average 4 or 5 inches long; at two years approximately 6 or 7, and 9 inches long at three years. The maximum age reached by most rainbows is about seven years of age and, if they drift-feed, can weigh eight pounds or greater.

Central to the whole sport of fly fishing for trout is the demonstrated ability of rainbow and other trout to learn, remember, and to act as individuals different from the norm. These abilities demonstrate firsthand why trout are selective and why, as a result, there is no one trout fly that will tempt all of the trout all of the time.

Park resource managers continue with restoration efforts and have closed some streams and tributaries to fishing. This is an ongoing effort to ensure natural barriers such as waterfalls are adequate enough to prevent the brown and rainbow trout from migrating upstream.

Hiking Townsend – Rainbow Falls Trail

Mount LeConte is one of the most hiked peaks in the Smokies. To get there, many hikers go by way of the Rainbow Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of course, the trail is popular due to the Rainbow Falls break point. And while it’s not exactly in Townsend, hikers coming through town usually mark the Rainbow Falls trail as a “must see” on their list. The trail is actually closer to Gatlinburg, but still a wonderful local hike. It’s a challenging hike to say the least, but the reward of experiencing Rainbow Falls makes it all the more worth it.

As previously stated, the Rainbow Falls Trail is fairly challenging if you’re hiking all the way to the top of Mt LeConte. From the start, it’s about an hour and a half hike to Rainbow Falls and four hours to Mt LeConte. You’ll gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation hiking to Mt. LeConte.

The Rainbow Falls trail is one of the oldest routes to Mount LeConte and begins along LeConte Creek. One mile above Cherokee Orchard, it twists away from the stream to a ridge before returning creek side. From here, you’ll definitely notice a set of switchbacks as you make your way along the trail.

Crossing the stream a second time, you can see the high cliff from which the falls descend surrounded by rhododendron and a hemlock growth. LeConte Creek is fairly narrow at this point, forcing water outward into a heavy mist before settling 82 feet below. Sunlight reflecting off this mist creates the rainbow effect which gives the falls their name.

When you cross the LeConte Creek for the third time, Rainbow Falls comes into complete view. Navigation over the rocks allows a closer approach, and a better view of the falls. The trail continues beyond Rainbow Falls, becoming steeper, before settling into a more even-keeled route. Temperatures can change considerably at the this point and unprepared hikers might find themselves in a bit of a pickle – especially if it’s raining. With the change in altitude and temperature, plant life changes as well. Balsam, spruce, and mountain ash dominate the trees, and crimson bee balms, asters, Indian Pipes, and monkshoods are also evident.

A short distance from the summit of Mount LeConte the Bull Head and Alum Cave Bluff trails intersect the Rainbow Falls Trail. At this point, you will be only a few hundred yards from the top of Mt. LeConte and LeConte Lodge.

Starting point: Cherokee Orchard Road – Turn at light No. 8 in Gatlinburg and follow Airport Road one mile out of Gatlinburg and into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way, the road will change from Airport Road to Cherokee Orchard Road. About 2.5 miles after entering the Park, Cherokee Orchard Road approaches the Rainbow Falls parking area where you can walk over to the Rainbow Falls trailhead.

Townsend’s Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop and Pickin’ Porch

There’s a term, “Music of the mountains”, that gets tossed around here quite often. While it can be tricky to point out with all the country and country infused rock and bluegrass being played these days, when you hear it, you know it. And when it comes to “Mountain music” or “Music of the mountains”, the sound that best personifies it comes from an instrument called the dulcimer.

The dulcimer is a plucked, three or four stringed, almost harp-shaped violin of an instrument. How’s that for a description? In Townsend, Mike and his wife Connie Clemmer own the Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop, which also doubles as an open air recording studio, a.k.a. porch.

According to their web site, Mike’s dream of owning a dulcimer shop evolved from his life-long love of many types of music, playing music, singing and his ability to repair instruments. Over 30 years ago, it was an acquaintance who asked him to assist on making good on a number of dulcimer orders the acquaintance had in Townsend. Armed with years of experience repairing guitars and basses, Mike accepted the challenge and learned the art of dulcimer building. Since, it’s been a labor of love according to Mike.

Their Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop still resides in Townsend, Tennessee. Visitors can stop by and watch how a dulcimer is handcrafted from walnut, cherry, butternut, sassafras or wormy chestnut and enjoy the song of the mountain dulcimer. Also, guests can check out the happy sound of the Ban-Jammer – Mike’s original creation.

As mentioned, they also operate a pickin’ porch from May through September every year which is now featured in a number of YouTube recordings.  Currently they are preparing to host the fall Dulcimer weekend November 9,10, and 11 at the Townsend Church of God, right around the corner form their shop.

Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop
7645 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy. PO Box 383
Townsend, TN 37882

The Barn Event Center in Townsend

Got a big event you’re trying to plan for? Let the Barn Event Center in Townsend, TN give you a hand in making whatever kind of event you’re planning a huge success. Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor wedding, The Barn Event Center is a great choice for your special day. The Barn’s unique setting, antique decor, and state of the art facilities can make your day as easy for as you can imagine.

Maybe it’s a family reunion that’s coming up. Townsend, Tennessee is the perfect location for a Smoky Mountain family reunion set against the backdrop of the national park. The Barn can host groups from 20 to 150 in a very comfortable, spacious setting.

The Barn Event Center can also hold your next conference or corporate affair. The center can host small or large meetings, company luncheons, holiday gatherings and more. One of the Barn’s features is a built in stage and PA system. Comfort and space are at a premium here – perfect for presentations, awards ceremonies and other gatherings. You can also take advantage of the Barn’s smaller conference room, each with coffee makers and service stations to help keep the meetings and discussions flowing and the ideas materializing.

The Barn Event Center is perfect for small parties as well as large groups. From gatherings that include baby showers and bridal parties, along with anniversaries and birthdays, no party is too much or too little. What the event, it is welcome at The Barn. The Barn’s staff is delighted to help you however they can in planning and caring out your event.

Art and Culture surround the beginnings of the Barn Events Center. Combine the heritage of Townsend and natural setting of the Smoky Mountains that surround the facility and you have a work of art and a perfect home for any art show or cultural exhibition. That is the Barn in a nutshell.

Let the Barn turn your party, meeting, or gathering into a rousing success. The built-in stage, dance floor and PA system make it quite the showplace. With the holidays just around the corner, make sure the Barn is on the short list if you’re planning an event.  The Barn’s party planner can speak to you about your holiday plans. The Barn offers so many opportunities to take advantage of the season and make your gatherings that much more memorable.

The Barn Event Center
7264 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, Tennessee 37882

Maryville, TN

People are the Key

Maryville is the county seat of Blount County.  Blount County is the home of Townsend, Walland, the Foothills Parkway and of course one of the most popular entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Maryville is also one of the towns that is a little off the beaten path but has a lot to offer people who visit  the areas each season.  Shopping, dining and of course historic locations make Maryville a great place to visit while you are on vacation in the Smokies.

The first people to call the Maryville area home were the people of the Cherokee village called Elajay.  Elajay (named after the Ellejoy Creek) was located near present day Heritage High School on Lamar Alexander Parkway on the way to Townsend.  Elajay was built along the Great Indian Warpath, one of the transportation routes for the native people of the Smoky Mountains.

Maryville received its name from Mary Grainger Blount.  Mary was the wife of William Blount (territorial governor) whom Blount County was named after.  The first settlers in and around the Maryville area was John Craig and his family that built Fort Craig.  The fort was built to defend the settlers from attacks by the Cherokee.  Craig donated the land that Maryville was founded on.  In 1808 Sam Houston came to Maryville from Virginia and for a time was a school teacher in a one room school house (you can still visit the Sam Houston School House today).

In the 1800s Maryville was the center for the abolitionist movement in East Tennessee.  In fact, when the rest of Tennessee voted to secede from the Union, only 24% of the citizen of Maryville voted to do likewise.  Maryville was liberated by the United States army in  1864.  During the liberation of Maryville, an African-American slave named Polly Tool rescued the records that were being burned in one of the buildings in downtown Maryville. She has been honored by a  statue in the Blount County courthouse.  In fact, Maryville also elected the second African-American mayor in the history of the United States of America, WB Scott in 1869.

In more modern times, Maryville has been the home to several industrial employers, including Clayton Homes and Denso.  Between these two companies and the ALCOA plant in Alcoa, TN, Maryville citizens have enjoyed employment, throughout the 20th and 21st century.  Maryville is not necessarily a tourist town but they have lots of history and plenty of points of interest to offer those people that decide to get off the main roads and explore.

Points of Interest:

Foothills Milling Company – Fine dining on the Blount County side of the Smokies.  Great menu that changes with the season and offers eclectic dining in a unique atmosphere.

Little River Trading Company – The best outfitters in the Smokies.  If you are going to go hiking, this is the place to start trip.  Experts in hiking, climbing, camping, mountain biking and kayaking are on hand to answer your questions.

Sam Houston Schoolhouse – This schoolhouse from the early 1800s gives you a glimpse back in history.  This historic attraction includes not only information on the schoolhouse but also facts about the life of an American Hero:  Sam Houston.

The Wildlife of Cades Cove and Townsend, Tn

No matter what part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park you’re visiting, don’t approach the wildlife! Though they may be cute and make for a great Facebook post the closer you get, extreme caution should always be the play. One reason – you don’t want to alter an animal’s behavior, or they might try to alter yours. Now then, here’s a quick rundown of wildlife you might come across in Townsend, the Smoky Mountains, and especially Cades Cove.

You’re very likely to see a black bear in Cades Cove, maybe even more so than any other place in the park. The bears are most likely to be seen spring through the fall as they become very sleepy in the winter, becoming semi-hibernating. The Smoky Mountain black bear is not as dangerous or as large and aggressive as the Grizzly.

Bobcats are nocturnal and rarely seen in Cades Cove or other parts of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but they’re there. Bobcats weigh eighteen to twenty pounds and are about three feet in length. They prey on fawns and other small game.

Both red and gray foxes are found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and both prefer Cades Cove to just about any other place in the park. The reason for this is the availability of both forest and open fields. The trees in the cove also provide foxes with added protection from coyotes and other predators.

Coyotes help control small animal populations of Cades Cove. Coyotes are dog-like in appearance but with noticeably smaller feet, thinner legs and a bushier tail. They are about two feet tall and four feet log including their tail. Their facial features are distinctive, having pointy ears, round inquisitive eyes and an overall appearance that looks a bit like a German Shepherd.

Skunks are common in Cades Cove, both striped and spotted, with their highly recognizable bushy tail. Their ability to potentially spray their foul smell at unwelcome guests keep most people away even at the sight of one. Skunks can spray a distance up to fifteen feet.

Covered with waterproof brown fur, except for their tail which is black and hairless, and weighing up to 60 pounds, the beaver is an interesting species. The beaver’s legs are fairly short with clawed partially webbed feet in the front and fully webbed feet in the rear. They prefer slow wide waters which are near trees.

Raccoon are charming creatures, but nocturnal. These masked animals will eat anything they come across in the park, and anyhting you might leave as well. They’re very intelligent and often found in the dense forests that are near water. Raccoons make their dens in hollow trees, abandoned buildings, or dens abandoned by other types of animals.

Beautiful and shy, it’s rare to see a red wolf in Cades Cove. They are very sly and usually aren’t to be found close to people.

Seen as pests by most farmers, Woodchucks would eat farmers crops in Cades Cove centuries ago and dig holes. This practice could injure the legs of various farm animals if they stepped in a burrow.

All of the Great Smoky Mountain National park is a haven for white tailed deer, but there is no better place to view deer than Cades Cove. Smokies visitors commonly see 200 deer if visiting the cove at sunrise. Though timid, the deer have learned to tolerate motorists stopping along the Cades Cove loop to watch them browse.

Wild Boars are present in Cades Cove but are not native.

There are many types of snakes in Cades Cove but only two, the Copperhead and the Timber rattlesnake are poisonous. Bites are rare but it is a good idea to be wary of night hiking when the snakes are most active or of climbing around piles of rock, tall grass, abandoned buildings, etc.

There are over 200 species of birds in Townsend and Cades Cove. Summer birds include yellow warblers, indigo buntings, eastern kingbords and barn swallows. Golden eagles visit Cades Cove in the autumn. In addition there are night flying barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, meadowlarks, sparrows, bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, crows, and mourning doves.

Hiking Townsend – What to pack for a short jaunt in the Smokies.

Many people come to Townsend, TN and the Smoky Mountains to get into the Smokies’ more natural environment – to hike to some secluded destination or explore some far off mountain top. It’s trip that many of us have thought about, planned, or even just hopped in the car and begun. Whether you’re backpacking, or hiking, there are a number of things to take into consideration before starting out. One, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is made up of trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared” once you set out and choose wisely based on experience.

You’re sure to lace up your best hiking boots or trail shoes soon thereafter. But that’s it? Nope, there are number of other items to consider. Either way, whether you’re camping for a few nights or just hiking for a day, a backpack is a good thing to bring along. This will evenly distribute weight during the hike and maximize your comfort for the whole of the trip.

For short day hikes, these items are handy to pack for the trip:

  • Clothing. In the higher elevations, an extra layer can be a life saver, literally. A lightweight jacket with a hood will help combat the cool, windy air. Pack a hat and gloves if you think there’s a possibility you’ll really need them.
  • Weather protection. These days, sun protection is essential whether you’re at the beach or in the mountains. Pack some sunscreen as well as some Chapstick.
  • Hiking Safety. Pack a first aid kit. Just a small, portable first aid kit comprised of essential items is fine. Some of the items to include – band aids, blister pads, anti itch cream, tweezers, and antibacterial cream. Some bug repellant might come in handy too. This will ward off those irritating mosquitoes that come alive during the summer months. Pack a pocket knife as well. A compass and a trail map might help you as well. During the hike, it is vital that you stay on the marked trails, but if you should happen to get lost, a compass will help you find your bearings and get you back to the trail. As for hiking trail maps for Gatlinburg, TN you can pick some up at the Sugarlands Visitors Center just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.
  • Snacks. Be sure to bring some snacks and water for you and whoever else will be going on the hike. Keep yourself and remind others to hydrate whenever you get a chance. You might not feel like you are losing fluid, but you are, especially if you are hiking in the mountains! Bring a refillable water bottle that you can store in a side pocket of your backpack (one filled bottle per person). And pack lightweight snacks like granola bars or snack bags of GORP (raisins and peanuts), which will help you and your group refuel after a mile or two.
  • Fun stuff. The Smoky Mountains offer breathtaking vistas, so don’t forget your camera! You will want to photograph the views, flowers, wildlife, and document the fun times you are having on the trail! Another fun thing to take along is a small notebook and pen. Journaling can be a great way to remember your hike, the things you see, and even the conversations you have with your hiking party.

A day hike in the mountains and forests around Gatlinburg, TN is a fun and invigorating way to explore the area! You will see many beautiful and amazing sights! And if you plan ahead by packing your backpack with a few lightweight essentials, you can relax and enjoy your hike, no matter where the trail leads you!

Autumn in Townsend and the Smokies

This year, September 22 is the start of the fall season and most around the Townsend, Tn are expecting a colorful autumn. Though there were a few dry spurts this summer, expect the next couple of weeks to really determine just how lively this fall season will be.

Don’t look for much in the way of freezing temperatures at night, which is a good thing, and the more sunny days the better. This will keep those good sugars in the leaves longer and provide for more vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows in October. If everything goes as planned, and that’s a big “IF”, November should be a great color month as well. So plan accordingly, especially those of you planning a Smokies getaway this fall.

Outside of all the scientific stuff, elevation is key when determining fall foliage viewing – when you’ll see it, how much you’ll see, and how long you’ll see it. Elevations from 4,500 to 6,000 feet are key. During the first two weeks in October, leaves can reach peak color above 4,000 feet. During the remainder of October, Smoky Mountain tress like the sugar maple, red maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, and dogwood come alive with magnificent fall color.

No matter where you go in the Great Smoky Mountains you’ll find beautiful fall foliage, especially in places like Townsend and Cades Cove. Places like Cataloochee, located on the other side of the national park, are great spots for nature lovers as well and probably a bit less crowded. Cades Cove can get downright packed during the fall season and for good reason. Oh, and by the other side of the park, that means the North Carolina side. If you’re coming from Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or Sevierville, take Highway 321 north to Interstate 40, then east towards Asheville. Take exit 20 to Cove Creek Road and go another 11 miles to Cataloochee.

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Cataloochee is definitely a worthwhile drive each fall because it provides for some great sights and some even better photo ops. It’s amazing the number of people who visit the park yearly yet never find out about places like Cataloochee until a year later. Just a thought. Cataloochee offers the same spectacular color show as Townsend and Cades Cove. It’s just the lack of crowds that really make it so different. Who knows, by the time everyone sees this, the crowds may have shifted to that side.

Rich Mountain Road outside of Townsend is another great fall foliage viewing spot. Head out to Cades Cove on Laurel Creek Road and enter onto the Cades Cove Loop Road. About 3-4 miles into the loop (loop road stop #8) turn onto Rich Mountain Road. It’s a wonderful drive with some of the best views the Smokies have to offer. During the fall, it’s indescribable. It’s something you just have to see for yourself. There are numerous places to stop, walk, and enjoy these colorful scenes along the road, so take your time and don’t drive too fast. And don’t worry about a map or needing your GPS, Rich Mountain spits you right back out in the middle of Townsend, no problem.

These are just a few of the many opportunities there are to catch the majestic fall foliage offered up by the Smoky Mountains each year near Townsend. If you do nothing else, just drive around and get lost on a mountain road, you’re sure to end up not too far from where you started out and you’ll see the Smokies like they were meant to be viewed – colorful, passionate, and as beautiful as any other place you’ve ever ventured to see.