Mount Rogers/Grayson Highlands reopened to dispersed camping (10/2), but be aware of possible bear activity

As of 10/2/2018, the National Forest lands, including section of the Appalachian Trail, temporarily closed in the Mount Rogers NRA and Grayson Highlands SP are now available for dispersed camping; however, maintain caution.

Since closure on August 30, the Forest Service and partner agencies have monitored the area with no further issues regarding black bear activity and human encounters. Habituated bears may still be active in the area, so visitors should remain alert. Campers should be extremely vigilant about storing their food according to recommended guidelines. Dogs should remain on leashes to avoid surprise encounters.

The prior notice involved the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests prohibiting overnight camping in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Grayson Highlands State Park, and surrounding National Forest lands. This order impacted 17 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Elk Garden/VA-600 and Fox Creek/VA-603, including the three A.T. shelters: Thomas Knob Shelter, Wise Shelter and Old Orchard Shelter. Backcountry camping within Grayson Highlands SP was also closed, not just along the A.T., which changed the plans for other groups such as BSA Troop 48.

North Carolina USFS Proposes Bear-Resistant Food Container Requirement for A.T.

In mid-August, the US Forest Service announced that is seeking input on a proposal to require bear-resistant food containers for all overnight campers on the Appalachian Trail located in the North Carolina National Forests. The obligation would also be applied to the Panthertown Valley near Cashiers, NC. The backpacking public is encouraged to submit written comments by September 19, 2018 to comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us email address. Please reference “Bear-Resistant Food Container Requirement” in your subject.

Context for the need is that visitors to the NC National Forests have experienced an increasing number of black bears encounters involving food over the past few years. Most are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest, such as along the A.T., rather than at campgrounds that are equipped with bear-proof trash cans. The incidents include bears taking food and backpacks, damaging tents, and staying near inhabited campsites for hours. While the loss of food is inconvenient for humans, the potentially serious encounters with bears needs to be addressed by eliminating human behaviors which lead bears to see people as a source of food. Secure storage for food and scented items (toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks) which is then placed away from the immediate camping location can help discourage this conduct.

Georgia National Forests already require the use of bear-resistant food containers when overnighting in a designated A.T. section during the spring months with a $5,000 fine per individual and $10,000 per organization. The proposal by North Carolina Forests is continuation of that approach as overnight use of the Appalachian Trail is typically dispersed.

North Carolina has not yet established a list of approved storage systems (would be part of the next phase once a decision is made to proceed). Here is a list certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Pro or con… now is the time to provide specific comments to determine if and how this policy proposal proceeds.

 

Kim Peters – August 2018 ATC Volunteer of the Month

Kim Peters is the ATC’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2018!

Kim has been an active TEHCC member for more than 18 years, and over time, has taken on more responsibility by providing trail maintenance leadership. In 2010, she began serving as TEHCC Maintenance Coordinator engaging many different volunteers, from new members to retirees, in various maintenance activities. TEHCC typically has more than 13,000 hours invested in the Appalachian Trail each year, by roughly 450 different volunteers, across regular outings and special events. Therefore, the role of volunteer coordinator is critical to our club’s success

A search of club newsletters reveals that Kim started out hiking with TEHCC on April 1, 2000 with a trip to the Sand Cave/White Rocks in Ewing, VA. Since then, her retirement has enabled her to spend more time in the outdoors through both hikes (TEHCC Hiker of the Year in 2001 and 2007) and trail maintenance. Kim has hiked the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry. Over the years, she has logged personal maintenance time of nearly 5,000 hours over 600 events. Currently, Kim invests around 450 hours (~56 days!) each year; thus is the third most active TEHCC maintainer.

As Maintenance Coordinator, Kim recruits volunteers for our 36 trail sections and 15 shelters over 134 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She hosts a large winter meeting to kick off each new maintenance season with recognition, safety, and training. Inquiries from potential volunteers are matched with the weekly trail project crew, section groups, or a regular monthly outing. In 2012, Kim rebranded the third-Saturday events to “Hiking with Tools” to reach out to those who are new to maintenance, have a weekday job, or desire lighter tasks such as cleaning out waterbars, lopping rhododendron, breaking up fire rings, or painting blazes/shelters. This latter effort has been very successful in recruiting new maintainers of the Appalachian Trail.

The Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club sincerely thanks Kim for her service and leadership over the years. And congratulate her on being further recognized as ATC’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2018! Please contact Kim (atmaint@tehcc.org) if you’re interested in helping with the Appalachian Trail.

AT near Watauga Lake no longer rerouted

June 2018 – The lake level has receded, thus the Appalachian Trail has returned to its normal path.

May 2018 – Due to recent heavy rains, TVA has temporarily raised the Watauga Lake level, so that a couple of bridges on the Appalachian Trail are now 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.

This situation previously occurred in April 2017.

For future reference, Watauga Lake levels above the 1961 foot level trigger the need to put up the re-route signs.

Bear Activity along TEHCC Section – May 2018

ATC received a report in mid-May that a bear grabbed an insufficiently hung bag from a campsite established about 0.5 mile south of the old McQueens Knob shelter (mile 458.5).  Two other hanging bags were untouched.

Please take necessary precautions to limit risk of encountering a bear, including properly hanging bear bags away from your campsite.

Roan Mountain Garlic Mustard Pull, Saturday, April 21, 2018

Roan Mtn State Park, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, ATC, TEHCC, and other groups are partnering to work this day. Meet at 8:30 am in Colonial Heights to arrive at Roan Mtn State Park main entrance by 10 am for briefing and to receive heavy duty trash bags. We’ll pull until early afternoon, and then drop off the collected plants back at the park before heading home. Last year 634 pounds of garlic mustard was pulled. Rain date is Wednesday, May 2.

Contact Greg Kramer if interested.

Invasive Species Removal – Devils Creek Gap, Saturday, April 28, 2018

Many plants imported to the US can outcompete native species and these plants are called invasive species. One invasive plant that is still being propagated in the US is the Autumn or Russian Olive. On April 28, TEHCC will be removing Autumn Olive as well as picking Garlic Mustard. Invasive species spread by a variety of methods. Garlic Mustard seeds attach themselves to clothes and animal fur, which are picked up in one place and dropped in another. Russian Olive was imported as a large shrub which can provide food and cover for birds. As birds travel the Atlantic flyway, they deposit seeds from Autumn Olive plants along the flyway corridor, which includes the Appalachian Trail.

We will be cutting Autumn Olive plants and painting their stems with herbicide to keep the plant from growing back from its roots. Last year, four folks removed 227 pounds of Garlic Mustard from Devils Creek Gap. If you are interested in this project, we’ll leave from the Colonial Heights gathering location at 8:30am to arrive at Devils Creek Gap by 9:30am. Current plans are to work until 1pm. In case of inclement weather, a back-up date of Friday, May 4th has been selected.

Across the southern AT clubs, there are only three Garlic Mustard Challenge days this year because two of the five sites have too little Garlic Mustard to pick. If you can come this year, maybe we won’t have to pick next year.