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SMNP shutdown October 5, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Who has an experience pushing at the limits of the National Park closures? I can’t express how angry I am at this experience. Right now it seems that the closures in the Smoky Mountains National Park are enforced very inconsistently. They have to keep US 441 open across the Park. There are many small pullouts and parking lots along the highway where people park to hike, wander down to the stream to take photos, or whatever.  After reading about many people’s experiences, I conclude that the places you can still manage to set foot on a trail are either the most heavily used places (Newfound Gap, where so many people kept shoving aside the orange cones and barricades that they finally gave up enforcing it), or the most lightly used small pullouts that they overlook (I’m guessing, for instance, Walker Camp Prong or Bear Pen Hollow). I need to get back to Horseshoe Branch before the daylight hours are too short. I will go from NFG parking to do it if I have to.

10/6/13: I’ve learned from my brother in Montana that tourists in Cooke City near Yellowstone are unable to leave the town. The two non-park exit routes are currently blocked by snow, and they are not allowed to go through the park even though local residents holding seasonal stickers are permitted to do so. There are only two businesses open in town, a gas station and a bed-and-breakfast type place. This is utterly absurd. Here is an article in the Bozeman newspaper:




1. Jim Plant - October 7, 2013

I’m sorry I do not have a personal experience to relate. However I will comment on this policy which appears to be a moronic move in that moronic chess match going on in DC.It makes no sense from economic, recreational or tax receipt standpoints. We’re seeing civil disobedience by persons (like you) not normally inclined to be so. This is a selectively chosen and very risky policy the administration is pursuing.
I feel so sorry for for the concessionaire at Pisgah Inn. BRP rangers are guarding the barricades, 24/7, used to prevent him from operating a private business on the BRP, which is still open. That concessionaire maintains and has made improvements to a NPS owned facility as well as provides amenities to BRP tourists. Obviously, this is prime season and they would have made over $30,000 payment to the government during Oct if operating.


Jenny - October 7, 2013

Thanks, Jim. Yes, I’d heard the tale of the Pisgah Inn—simply incomprehensible. These two separate but related problems—the implementation of the shutdown in the Parks, and the shutdown itself—have gotten so aggravating that I have started deliberately tuning out a lot of the news even though most of the time I believe in staying well-informed. It does something to my blood pressure!

2. Kent Hackendy - October 7, 2013

I think we’ll be seeing more acts of defiance if this madness doesn’t end soon. The story about the Pisgah Inn really boggled my mind. (I just stayed there a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed my visit.)

I’m wondering how many backpackers heeded the park closure. I’m sure if I were a thru-hiker coming upon GSMNP when they shut it down, I’m quite certain I would just take my chances and keep on going.

My heart goes out to all the businesses losing revenue during what should be the second busiest month of the season. This is just absolute madness.

Jenny - October 7, 2013

Yes, I was wondering about southbound thru-hikers getting through the Park at this time of the year. I can only hope the madness will end soon and we’ll look back on this as just an odd little episode—but I’m not holding my breath.

3. Tom - October 7, 2013

Are rangers actively turning hikers away from trailheads?

Can people drive to New Found Gap and hike to, say, Charlie’s Bunion?

Jenny - October 7, 2013

The roads into the Greenbrier, Cosby, Cades Cove, and so on are all gated, but 441 has to remain open because it is a US highway. Initially they tried to prevent people from hiking altogether and from parking at Newfound Gap, but people kept removing the cones and barricades. Since around the past weekend, they have been tolerating people hiking on the A.T. out of NFG. They have closed off the trailhead parking for the Chimneys, Alum Cave, Kephart Prong, and so on (trailheads on 441). Of course it would still be possible to park at a nearby non-trailhead pullout and walk to these trails. A friend hiked to Icewater today with no problem. This is a weird “limbo” sort of situation, and as long as the shutdown lasts there’s no guarantee things won’t change at any moment one way or the other.

4. Al - October 9, 2013

I was traveling today from BC to Huntsville and noticed that all the facilities in the Ocoee River and Parksville Lake area were blocked. Guess TVA may have closed down too.
I also see that Deep Creek is blocked off well below the main parking lot and trailheads. Walkers are still in evidence through the campground and picnic areas.

Jenny - October 9, 2013

I’m curious, since I go down there to the Deep Creek entrance fairly often to hike the Noland Divide trail for one of my exercise hikes—is the road closed off below the Park boundary? One way or the other, I’m sure Bryson residents are finding a way to get in there, since that is a major recreational location for locals as well as tourists. I always see many people doing walks around the picnic area as well as hiking the lower Deep Creek trail. (I must say, I think the folks who walk the road around the picnic area instead of going up to the trails are clueless. Why walk on pavement when you can walk along the stream?? But that’s another issue…)
P.S. I should say that I totally understand folks in wheelchairs or otherwise handicapped preferring the pavement to the Deep Creek trail. But from my observation most of the folks walking on the pavement are not handicapped, as far as I can tell. They are marching along at a good speed. Well, anyway, never mind!

5. Al - October 10, 2013

Jenny, the gating is near the kiosk. Noland Divide trail is not affected. Cars are parking on the grass at the east end of the bridge. Wonder if you knew that a manway still exists where the Noland Divide trail ran before it was relocated many years ago. Starts just below the present parking area at the trailheads. I assume it was relocated to make room for parking as there was none back at the former trailhead. The manway runs up Juneywhank branch, crosses it, above where the Casada’s lived and gains a small ridge top on the present trail. Its also reachable from the present ND trail but hard to locate. Its marked by a small metal tag in sight of the NDT but the tag is on the back of the small tree so cannot be noticed unless you approach from the Juneywank side.

Jenny - October 10, 2013

Al, thanks for the info. I didn’t know the trail had been relocated. Some day I want to bushwhack up Juneywank branch to where it crosses Noland Divide trail now, at about 3000′. (I just double-checked. It’s the left fork of Juneywank that has the nice little cascade just above the trail, at 2900′.)

6. Al - October 10, 2013

I did that bushwhack or similar once. Walked up from the cemetery on Hammer Branch to the NDT. Guess I walked back passing that cascade. Heres another great trip. Go up NDT to the top. (where Lands Creek drainage can be seen). Then take a visible pathway to the left and cross over those 2 knobs then that flat place and climb up the rocky path to Sharptop. Descent is possible on the ridge spine towards the Deep Creek Campground but you might want to detour left at some point to cross Durham Branch back to the NDT and avoid that subdivision up above the tube rental place. Or just return the way you went up. Myself and another kid once paid a fellow $3 for a conducted trip to Sharptop on my first OT hike in ’43. We went the same way but did not have to dodge new homes back then. Maybe ask Don Casada about the old Noland Divide trail and when it was moved.

7. Steve K. - October 10, 2013

Jenny….I really enjoy your blog….Thanks for keeping us in the loop so-to-speak. I just read your entry regarding the hike up (and down) Charlie’s Bunion with Chris. Amazing!

I could hardly keep up with you last week….and am certain I would have been left behind on the Bunion trek 🙂

Thanks again!

Jenny - October 10, 2013

Thank you Steve! I enjoyed our outing on the Plotts recently. As far as the Bunion and similar places are concerned, it’s just “mind over matter.” I’m sure you would enjoy it!

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