Cultural history, natural surroundings, park cemeteries, and sweat-inducing, blood-pumping hikes. These are just a few of the topics to be explored in Great Smoky Mountains Association’s Branch Out activity series this May. Those interested in learning more about our country’s most visited national park are encouraged to join any of these programs set within Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Program: Birding – Walker Valley Warbler Walk
Date: Monday, May 6, 2018
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Tremont Institute Bookstore – Tennessee
Details: Get into the rich forest habitat of Walker Valley with professional guide Keith Watson. With Keith’s assistance, we’ll look and listen for migratory songbirds like the Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula and Louisiana Waterthrush. We’ll also be on the lookout for permanent park residents, such as Winter Wrens and the Red-breasted Nuthatch working their way through the canopy and underbrush in search of food, mates and territory to raise the next generation.
Program: Elkmont History Walking Tour
Date: Friday, May 11, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Elkmont – GSMNP, Tennessee
Details: We’ll explore the fascinating land use changes over time in the Elkmont area, from prehistoric days when ancient hunters and gatherers used the drainage of the Little River to make a living, through the years when European-Americans settled and farmed the area, through the timber cutting years of the Little River Lumber Company and its railroad, to the advent of the resort communities and the establishment of the park. We’ll also explore the history of the construction of recreational trails and campground in the area after the national park was established.
Program: Follow the Footsteps – Old Settlers Trail
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2018
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Location: Greenbrier – GSMNP, Tennessee
Details: During this hike along a relatively level trail, we’ll pass a myriad of historic sites with chimneys, stone walls and non-native plants common at historic homesites. We’ll rock-hop over a number of streams and when we top the crest of Copeland Divide, and weather permitting, we’ll catch a glimpse of Greenbrier Pinnacle to the east. Once we’ve completed 4.5 miles, we’ll take a lunch break to re-fuel and visit Lindseytown Cemetery to pay our respects before heading back to our vehicles.
Program: Birding – Alum Cave Trail
Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Sugarlands Visitor Center – GSMNP, Tennessee
Details: More than 75 species of birds have been recorded on the Alum Cave Trail in May, so get your binoculars and reserve your space for this informative, five-mile round-trip outing with expert birder Keith Watson.With Keith’s help, participants will go in search of Peregrine Falcons, singing and nesting warblers, as well as permanent park residents, such as Winter Wrens and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. We’ll learn to spot these small animals as they work their way through the canopy and identify their songs and calls.
Program: Little Cataloochee Trail
Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Location: Cataloochee – GSMNP, North Carolina
Details: Little Cataloochee was once considered an “island community” physically seperated from Big Cataloochee by Noland Mountain. The settlements were loosley connected by roads and trails. We’ll begin our day on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail for the first half mile and then transition to Little Cataloochee for a visit to the lone grave of Charlie Burress, a 2-year-old who was laid to rest in 1909. Ascending gently along this old roadbed we’ll pass historic farmland and rock-hop above creeks among a lush forest with hemlock, tulip trees and rhododendron.
Program: Birding – Cades Cove
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Cades Cove Campground Store – GSMNP, Tennessee
Details: Birding enthusiasts have recorded more than 125 species in Cades Cove during May! And we’re going to see how many we can see under the guidance of birding expert Keith Watson. We’ll begin our day with a walk around part of campground B Loop, then head out into the Cove (we’ll need a couple of volunteers to carpool), stopping at various places along Loop Road, Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane to listen and look for grassland and forest and field edge birds such as Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, hawks, vultures and sparrows.
Most Branch Out event fees are $35, with GSMA members receiving a $15 discount. Proceeds from registration fees support GSMNP through a scope of work that concentrates on education, research and preservation efforts. Because most programs require participation restrictions, registration is required online at www.smokiesinformation.org/info/branch-out-programs or by phone at 865.436.7318, Ext. 349.
Great Smoky Mountains Association-sponsored Branch Out events are designed to enhance greater public understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of the national park. A national park partner, GSMA has provided more than $36 million to support the park’s educational, scientific and historical programs since its inception 65 years ago.
Support for the association is achieved primarily from sales of educational publications and from annual membership dues. Those who wish to enrich their national park experience are encouraged to become GSMA members. For more information about GSMA’s membership and volunteer opportunities, visit SmokiesInformation.org or call 888.898.9102, Ext. 222 or 349.