The Chimney Tops 2 timeline

The fire review process included a thorough analysis of all communications and decisions made from the time the fire began on Nov. 23, 2016, to the time it left the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6 p.m. Nov. 28. According to the review team, here’s how it unfolded.

Review released of Smokies’ wildfire response

Nine months after a small wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park metastasized into a deadly blaze that wreaked havoc on Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, a report reviewing the National Park Service’s decisions and actions leading up to the Nov. 28 firestorm has been released.

‘We never gave up hope’: After 11 days missing, Tennessee teen walks himself out of the Smokies

Austin Bohanan, 18, had been lost in the wilderness for 11 days when he woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to see boats floating on the water below the ridge where he’d slept.

Those boats were his ticket out of the nightmare that began Aug. 11 when he’d gotten separated from his stepfather Hubert Dyer, Jr., during an off-trail excursion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Chilhowee Lake. Bohanan scrambled down to the water, which turned out to be the tail end of Abrams Creek, and waved down one of the boats. The boaters gave him a ride down to Shop Creek, where his family was gathered to support the crews searching for him.

Teen walks out of Smokies after 11 days missing

After 11 days missing in the remote backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Chilhowee Lake, 18-year-old Austin Bohanan walked out on his own about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22.

State charges dropped in Gatlinburg fires

State charges against the two teenagers arrested in connection with November’s deadly Gatlinburg fires have been dropped, but prosecution could resume with federal charges.

Trio of trails get a makeover

Rainbow Falls Trail: The Rainbow Falls Trail is the next trail in line to get a complete rehabilitation through the Smokies Trails Forever program, funded by Friends of the Smokies. 

Trail crews get to work: Smokies crews work to improve trails and recover from storm damage

Dealing with the aftermath of two major storms while preparing for what could be another record-breaking visitor season, trail crews in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been keeping busy this spring. 

“Three major projects are taking place in addition to the normal routine spring cleaning that our crews do, along with storm damage that we’ve had from several different wind events,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

The Naturalist's Corner: Even bad days can be good

This past weekend, May 6-7, was the 34th annual installment of the Great Smoky Mountains Birding Expedition (GSMBE.) The expedition began in 1984 as the brainchild of author, naturalist George Ellison of Bryson City, master birder Rick Pyeritz of Asheville and East Tennessee State University ornithologist and field guide author Fred Alsop.

Down to bare rock: Smokies’ Chimney Tops could be closed for years following fire

When starting the hike, it’s not immediately obvious why the Chimney Tops Trail should be appointed for long-term closure. The brook is babbling, the sun is shining and the trees are towering just as one would expect of a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the results of a recent trail rehabilitation effort make for exceedingly pleasant walking. 

But as the trail nears its terminus at the twin peaks of the Chimney Tops, the reason becomes abundantly clear. Its harbingers are announced with a jumble of burned branches here, an area of blackened ground there, and the sudden realization that, even on a brisk winter day when it’s hard to smell much at all, there’s a faint odor of charcoal in the air.

Comprehending climate: Smokies seeks to understand impacts of shifts in seasonal patterns

According to the National Phenology Network, Punxsutawny Phil had it all wrong when he emerged from his hole this month to declare six more weeks of winter — across the Southeastern U.S, the NPN’s data shows, spring 2017 is arriving three weeks earlier than the 1981-2010 average. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is looking for volunteers to help gather the data that will bring such generalizations down to a more local level. Phenology — the ways that plants and animals respond to seasonal changes — has been the subject of increasing interest as discussions about climate change have heated up, and the park is now four years into a volunteer program to collect data for the larger NPN project.

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