Welcome Amy Snyder as ATC SORO Resource Management Coordinator

Vic Hasler reporting

Amy received a B.S. in Biology from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2006. As a graduation present to herself, she decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. During her hike, she witnessed the dramatic devastation of the forest caused by the gypsy moth invasion. This experience inspired her to pursue a M.S. in Entomology from Virginia Tech. Since graduation in 2011, she has been working towards forest protection in the natural sciences and natural resources fields. In her free time, Amy enjoys hiking, whitewater kayaking, and mountain biking. She can be reached at asnyder@appalachiantrail.org.

Trail wiki feature of the month

View South-East from the first bald clearing of Rogers Ridge

View South-East from the first bald clearing of Rogers Ridge

Rogers Ridge Horse Trail is an in-and-out 6.87 mile long ridge line trail. It’s a long hill climb trail for a day hike but near the end, the 360° views of the surrounding ridge lines all make it worth it. A side benefit of this hike is being able to reach the Tri-State Corner Knob junction of TN-NC-VA. The trail begins in the Horse Ridge Scenic Area of the Cherokee National Forest past Damascus near Laurel Bloomery, TN. Horses are allowed, but on a recent October 2015 trip, there was little evidence of them. Although clearly marked at the trail head that ATV/ORV vehicles were not allowed, signs of their recent presence was along the entire trail. The hike begins with an immediate creek crossing that has neither a bridge or decent rocks to hop across, but this will be the last time you see water. Although guide books mention some camp sites along the way with water access, we didn’t see them. The trail wastes no time in getting to your 3,201 feet of climbing as it’s nearly a consistent slope up to the summit. The trail itself is very well marked with Yellow rectangle blazes, but several unmarked and well worn trails connect along the way. It may be possible that one of them connects to the Gentry Creek Falls trail that would make for a nice loop trail. The trail itself is wide with a clear “two-track” appearance with the occasional water logged rut to walk around. While not noticed on the ascent, the descent can be challenging for the ankles as there are several sections of loose rocks fist sized and smaller.

View from the upper part of Rogers Ridge Bald

After hiking for 5.33 miles with glimpses through the trees of mountains and neighboring ridge lines, you finally enter a clearing to enjoy the views. The trail may “officially” end here as the previously well blazed path now lacks markings, but you can continue on to enjoy the views. From here you can take a side trip to the south to get an early view of the surrounding ridge lines and valley including Grandfather Mountain. Continuing on the trail to the north, you reach another bald clearing that could suit well for camping, especially large groups. The only reservation I myself have about camping here is the apparent frequent use of ORV’s here. From this higher elevation, there are views of Whitetop Mountain and Mt Rogers Mountain to the northeast. Throughout these tree bald clearings, blackberry bushes appear to be growing rampant. If you can tolerate the thorns, the blackberry picking in the summer must be unlimited! In a bald clearing to the east towards the state line is the trail high point in the final bald clearing. Although various sources differ on the exact measurement, we measured by GPS at 4,900 feet. The ridge top home seen to the south appears to have been severely vandalized. Although unfortunate for the owner, one can only hope that one day this majestic ridge line and profile can be returned to its original natural glory. After the high point, the trail begins to consistently descend for the first time, and ends at a trail/road. Turn left to continue the descent to find the Tri-State Corner Knob, the (at least at one time) terminus of this trail.

View of Whitetop Mountain and Mt Rogers from Rogers Ridge

View of Whitetop Mountain and Mt Rogers from Rogers Ridge

When visited in October of 2015 the hike was an enjoyable day of near complete solitude. The only encounter was a couple in a truck near the trail terminus. Unexpectedly we found the tree colors to be apparently in their early stages to the south and west, and finding only bare trees to the north and east. Regardless, the day of fresh air, views, and exercise was more than enough to make this a great trail to visit that you should consider as well.

Survey Disc marking the TN-VA-NC Tri-State Knob

Survey Disc marking the TN-VA-NC Tri-State Knob

Norovirus Information – 2015

Several outbreaks of norovirus (stomach bug) have occurred on the Appalachian Trail in recent years, including 2014. Help prevent one in 2015! Proper hygiene—especially hand washing with soap and water—is key to preventing the spread of the disease. (Hand sanitizers may not be effective against norovirus.) Also, be aware that most water filters do not filter viruses.

Please be informed! Read the following information carefully.
Prevent Norovirus 2015

Wilderness Rally September 6th – Hampton, TN

September marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Wilderness Act. Join the Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Wilderness
Stewards (SAWS) program and the US Forest Service in celebrating! Two events will mark the occasion. Both will convene at the Watauga Point Recreation Area in Hampton TN on September 6th. Trail maintenance will be from 9am to 4pm at which point it will become the actual celebration of food, crosscut sawing, storytelling, games, etc. See the two attachments for the details.

Stewardship Rally Flier

Wilderness Rally Watauga Point

Bear activities closure update

US 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. (approx. 4 miles) – All activities except hiking along the Appalachian Trail are prohibited due to recent bear activity.

Hikers are asked to walk through the area without stopping. Preparation or consumption of food, lingering, and camping are prohibited in the area known locally as “Oliver Hollow” by a U.S. Forest Service closure order.

The Watauga Lake Shelter in this stretch is also closed. Even though a “closure order” has been issued to restrict usage of the area, the A.T. is not closed to hiking. These orders are in effect for an 18-month period from June 3, 2014 until December 1, 2015. The official U.S. Forest Service poster can be found here. (June 17, 2014)

On some signs the Forest Service is now using definition of closure area as “Shook Branch Rec area/Oliver Hollow Rd. to Wilbur Dam including Watauga Lake Shelter- Closed”

ATC Phenology Program

Are you interested in exploring nature and helping out a good cause? ATC is seeking volunteers for their Phenology program. If you’re like me, the quote below should resolve your current question.

What is Phenology?

The term Phenology is derived from the Greek work “phaino”, meaning to show or appear. Phenology is the study of the reoccurring life cycle stages of plants and animals; such as bud break, leaf-out, hibernation, bird migrations an insect emergence. Phenology also includes the study of how the timing of these events relate to biotic and abiotic forces, such as weather and climate.

Read more about it at ATC’s website or download their brochure.

TN Announces Rocky Fork State Park

The 5th and FINAL sale of chunks of Rocky Fork from The Conservation Fund to the Cherokee NF was completed on September 27, 2012. This concludes transfer of Rocky Fork into public ownership, a goal sought by ATC since at least 1983. To top off that excitement, on Oct. 30 TN Gov. Bill Haslam and US Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that the 2036 acre TN-owned portion of Rocky Fork will become Rocky Fork State Park! Funds for this project came from a TN Heritage Conservation Trust Fund grant (obtained by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy), federal Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations, and generous donations from private donors and foundations, notably Fred & Alice Stanback, the Lyndhurst Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (through Walmart’s 2012 Acres for America program), the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Fund bought and held the property pending public purchase. Look for an upcoming article in ATJourneys for more details.