October 2017: The A.T. section between US321 (NB Mile 427) and Wilbur Dam Road (NB Mile 431.4), including Watauga Lake Shelter, is still closed to camping due to bear activity. A temporary campsite (no water) has been set up at coordinates N36.29847, W82.12701 (NB Mile 426.5) just outside the Pond Mountain Wilderness. Also nearby is Boots Off Hostel along Bear Branch Road on the south side of the closed section. Vandeventer Shelter is open to the north of the restricted section.
April 2016: Two nights of bear encounters have been recently reported at the Watauga Lake Shelter. The bears were seeking food, thus destroyed a pair of tents, able to shake a bag off the bear pole, and climbed trees for hanged bags.
The US Forest Service has reinstated a Closure Order similar to the previous one which now covers Oliver Hollow Rd./Hwy 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. – approximately four miles of the Appalachian Trail along the west side of Watauga Lake. No picnicking, lingering, or overnight camping. Hiking, only, allowed on the named four mile Appalachian Trail section. BEARS ACTIVE IN THIS AREA. Help us protect you and the bears. Please hike through the area without stopping. Closure Order: April 15, 2016- Until Further notice.
For TEHCC members, the best recommendation is to avoid this “Oliver Hollow” area and enjoy another section of the Appalachian Trail. For thru-hikers, the word is being gotten out so that they can properly plan their distances. The temporary campsite located south of Hwy 321 above Shook Branch is available for use.
Congratulations to Dan on being the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2017.
Dan Firth has volunteered 500 hours on the Appalachian Trail with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club. He has served on its A.T. committee, monitored rare plants, and recently became an A.T. section maintainer. He monitors seven phenology sites along his Trail section, which involves tracking and reporting seasonal changes in the life cycle of the species being monitored. Since retiring from the Eastman Chemical Company last year, he has eagerly taken on more responsibilities.
Matt Drury, ATC’s Southern regional resource management coordinator, says, “Dan is our most prolific rare-plant monitor in the region, and often seeks new populations to monitor. He is also helping us monitor for ash trees and the emerald ash borer and will be surveying most of the likely ash sites on the Trail in Tennessee this year. This information will help managers prioritize areas for treatment against the emerald ash borer.”
This year, Dan and Matt are conducting a campsite survey of Roan Mountain, covering more than 20 miles along the Trail. The Roan Highlands area has the highest concentration of rare species found along the entire A.T. They are surveying areas impacted by camping, classifying the ground cover into condition classes, and looking at canopy cover, exposed soil, and other conditions. The next step will be to analyze the data and develop a report for Trail managers.
Dan lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with his wife and their son and daughter. A section hiker, he has completed the Trail from the Springer Mountain approach trail to Front Royal, Virginia. He was involved in Boy Scouts as a youth and with his son, and he continues to be involved with the Sequoyah Council. Besides the opportunities for outdoor experiences and education, Dan says that the Scouting emphasis on service and volunteering often has an impact that carries into adulthood.
Dan most enjoys monitoring the rare plant populations and appreciates the ability to make a difference as a volunteer: “Having a scientific basis for decision-making through observation and analyzing impacts on rare plants and on the biodiversity of an area is key to protecting them.” The data he is gathering will provide important information to Trail managers on protecting rare plants.
Due to recent heavy rains, TVA has raised Watauga Lake and several areas of Appalachian Trail are under water. The trail is temporarily rerouted on US 321 and Oliver Hollow Road. Signs are posted and route is blue blazed. If heading trail north on Shook Branch Road, cross US 321 and walk left or west along US 321 for about a quarter mile and then go right along Oliver Hollow Rd. Follow the road for a third of a mile and take the short woods path to the right to the A.T.
Wildflowers are popping out around the region. The picture was taken along the Fall Creek Trail in Warriors Path State Park in mid-April. The club would love to see photos of what you see in the region.
Rental Equipment Checkout Monday, April 24,11:00 am –1:00 pm Contact: Terry Dougherty, or better yet show up. Location: Eastman Employee Center, Rm. 221 and Lobby. It’s time to ensure the Club’s rental gear is ready for another year. We will evaluate all of the equipment and propose necessary repairs or replacements. A light lunch of pizza, veggie tray, cookies, soft drinks and bottled water will be provided. This is a great opportunity to become familiar with available rental equipment. Come and go as your time permits. Many hands make light work. Please help if you can. Contact: Terry Dougherty, 502-5177