Monthly Members Activities
Activities designed to enhance Great Smoky Mountains Association members' knowledge and appreciation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are scheduled monthly. If you have a suggestion for an activity or want to volunteer to teach a group of park lovers more about a particular area of park history, environment or culture, please sends us an email.
Contact us at any time to register for programs listed below at email@example.com
Unless otherwise indicated, cost to participate is $10 for GSMA members and $35 for non-member, which includes a complimentary personal or gift membership opportunity. Check back here often, as events and details are continually being added.
Wednesday, Jan. 8 - Park Trivia with the The Trivia Guys. Meet at the Cabin Cafe in Gatlinburg at 7 p.m. for an evening of food, fun and National Park trivia. Test your knowledge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for free or join for $5 to be eligible for first, second or third-place prizes.
Saturday, Jan. 18 - "Nighttime Owl Prowl" with Kevin Burke. Meet at 7 p.m. at the Rainbow Falls parking area off the Roaring Fork Motor Trail near Gatlinburg. Rarely seen by the average park visitor, owls are permanent area residents that respond well to a clearly hooted call from someone who knows the true meaning of the phrase, “Who cooks for you?” Kevin Burke is just that person. Many know Kevin as the manager of Gatlinburg’s Nantahala Outdoor Center. We at GSMA know Kevin as one of our favorite bird guys. In fact, Kevin has led many birding expeditions for GSMA this past year, the latest of which was during the organization’s annual Members’ Appreciation Weekend in September.
Thursday, Feb. 6 - "Heads up for Hunters of the Sky" with Michael Skinner, executive director of the Balsam Mountain Trust. 2 p.m. Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room near Cherokee. (Feb. 13 snow date). Michael will present this program on bird-of-prey populations and biology in a hands-on lively discussion that showcases non-releasable birds. You may meet Freedom the American bald eagle, Rasta the screech owl, Rusty and Chayton the kestrels, Zeus the aerial hawk, and other gorgeous species of regional raptors. Limit 50 participants; deadline to register for this $10 event is Feb. 5.
CANCELLED: Saturday, Feb. 22 - "Jewels from the Sky" with Kris Light. Location: Location: Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room. Snow crystals vary greatly in shape, size and clarity depending on conditions in the clouds. "Jewels From the Sky" shows the beauty and diversity of these tiny pieces of ice. Some crystals are not typical "ski sweater" snowflakes, participants will be amazed to see what can fall from the clouds in a winter storm.
Saturday, March 15 - "Bears, Boars, and Bulls" with Kim DeLozier, author of "Bear in the Back Seat." Location: Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room. Kim DeLozier, a wildlife biologist in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for over 30 years, has seen just about everything when it comes to wildlife in the Smokies.
Saturday, March 22 - Can't get enough park trivia? Neither can we. That's why we're partnering with the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont to sponsor a GSMA Member Team (or many teams) to compete in their upcoming Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, March 22. For every GSMA Member team registered, we'll make a $10 donation to Tremont in your team's name.
Here's the plan:
- Organize a team and include "GSMA" as part of your team name/theme
- Register your team, pay the $50 entry fee by March 20, and complete all the required paperwork
- EMAIL us a copy of your registration confirmation, using "Tremont" in the subject line
- Email us your team photos - group shots and action shots - so we can let others know how you did
- Have a wonderful day in the park!
Thursday, April 17 - GSMA members are invited to the annual Smokies Life reception during 64th Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg, 5 p.m. Two of our featured authors from this newest edition of our award-winning magazine will present programs on their area of expertise. GSMA Board of Directors Chair Bill Hart will speak about Harvey Broome and his connection to the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Wilderness Act, followed by Paul James, executive director of Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, will give a short talk on the centennial anniversary of the passing of the last passenger pigeon. Refreshments will be provided.
Saturday, April 26 - "Porters Creek Wildflowers" Join retired NPS ranger/naturalist Carey Jones for a wildflower walk on Porters Creek Trail during peak wildflower season. This trail is in the Greenbrier area of the national park. Meet at the Porters Creek Trail no later than 9 am. Bring water, snacks, rain gear, camera, wildflower guidebook and a hiking staff, if desired. The time frame is to be is expected to be about 3 and hours. A limit of 20.
Saturday, May 3 - "Birds and Blooms" with Kevin and Jennie Burke. Hike with this husband-and-wife naturalist team along the Cove Hardwood Trail & Chimney Tops to identify higher-elevation park resident birds and wildflowers. Some of the trail covered could be a bit on the strenuous side, but the going will be slow. Kevin's birding expertise comes from years of practice and daily devotion to the sky and tree tops. Jennie is a former GSMNP "vege-crew" member and a longtime flower lover. Meet at the Chimney Tops picnic area and be ready to hike from 9-11 a.m. Bring binoculars and a hand lens for close-up viewing. Snacks and water are also recommended.
Saturday, May 10 - Noted national park hike leader Vesna Plakanas will lead a group on an "Edible Plants & Mushrooms" hike in the Greenbrier section of the national park. While taking plants from the park is prohibited, Vesna will show participants what to look for outside the park. Participants will meet at 10 a.m. in the first parking lot for a 2- to 3-hour easy walk. Water, lunch and a field guide are recommended.
UPDATE: Change of location! Saturday, June 7 - Nightlife Exploration with Wanda DeWaard. Members are invited to explore the Smokies at night with local naturalist Wanda DeWaard. You'll be surprised at what the nighttime forest has to offer, from fireflies to glowing insects to nocturnal critters and birds. Participants will meet at Metcalf Bottoms picnic shelter at 7:30 p.m. Plan to explore for about 3 hours.
Saturday, June 14 - "Misunderstood Wildlife" will be explained by North Carolina naturalist Steve O'Neil, executive director of Earthshine Nature Programs. Meet the wildlife you love to hate - from snakes and salamanders to roaches and 'possums - you will learn the truth about some of the most misunderstood creatures that share our world. Come meet the animals, hear Steve's wildlife respect and conservation message and then listen as Steve closes the show with a short didgeridoo concert. Participants will meet at the Collins Creek picnic shelter at 2 p.m.
Saturday, July 12 - "Three Waterfalls and a Museum" with Ila Hatter. With a stop first at the new Swain County Museum (located in the historic county courthouse), participants will take a quick tour of the new facility, which as of late summer will also be home to GSMA's newest visitor center bookstore. Then it's on to Deep Creek for a walking tour of that area's three waterfalls - Juney Whank Falls, Deep Creek Falls and Indian Creek Falls. Ila, a GSMA sales associate, has a deep love of the national park. She learned the art of wildcrafting in the most traditional way—from family, friends and neighbors—and is recognized as an expert and tradition-bearer of the lore of the Great Smokies. With hands-on familiarity and a storehouse of knowledge, Ila offers folklore, medicinal facts, native wisdom, and fun anecdotes that will entertain and inform all backyard botanists, and history buffs, whatever their age or background. After walking with Ila, participants are invited to join with GSMA Marketing and Membership Director Lisa Duff at Nantahala Brewing Company for an afternoon brew.
Saturday, July 12 - Learn to carve a black bear, which can then become an attractive lapel pin or refrigerator magnet. Noted Tennessee carver Don Taylor is on tap to lead this hands-on activity at the picnic area just in front of GSMA headquarters. All supplies will be provided, however, please bring a sharp knife and gloves if you already have them.
FULL: Monday-Tuesday, August 18-19 - Hike along Hazel Creek to Bone Valley. GSMA Board of Directors member Danny Bernstein will led 20 very fit hikers on a 16-mile round-trip hike to Bone Valley in the North Carolina section of the park. In order to be sure we complete the milage and don't miss our return-trip boat ride, not a lot of time will be given to discussion of the cultural history of the area; however, the history of this section of the park is well worth a read and includes the towns of Proctor. Check it out HERE in "History Hikes of the Smokies." Participants are required to stay overnight at Fontana Village Resort to ensure everyone is up and ready to go early on Tuesday morning. The boat to cross Fontana Lake leaves at 8 a.m. and stragglers will be left behind. This will be a long day, folks. You'll need water shoes, too, to navigate the water crossings. This special event comes with perks - lodging, dinner and breakfast at Fontana Village. Cost to participate is $125 per person in a double-occupancy room; $175 for single occupancy. Participants may reserve their spots beginning in March with a credit card. After June 10, refunds will not be given.
Sept. 19-21 - Please click HERE for more details about this year's Annual Membership Weekend.
Oct. 4 - GSMA Fall Festival in the Cove to include: Monarch Butterfly Tagging, hayride, bird watching and refreshments. Former GSMA board member Warrent Bielenberg will lead particpants on an early morning bird walk, followed by Wanda DeWaard, who will teach the group how to tag butterflies and why it's important to follow these insects year to year as indicators of climate change's influence on the environment. An afternoon hayride and fall-flavored refreshments caps the day in the Cove.
8-9:30 a.m. - Birdwatching with Warren - Limited to 20, $12 member fee
10-2 p.m. - Butterfly tagging (bring lunch and water) - Limited to 16, $12 member fee
3 p.m. - Hayride with an interperative guide - Limited 50, $16 member fee
Refreshments after the hayride, place to be determined
Members may pay for each activitiy separetely or $35 for all three, a $5 savings. Register by Sept. 30.
Oct. 11 - Photograph the Valley of the Elk with GSMA Business Member Al Harris. The richness of the Cataloochee area will fill your view finder, from re-introduced elk to a variety of historic buildings. Fall colors should be nearing peak, too. Time: 9:30 a.m. - noon. Hiking will be minimual. Equipment to bring includes: camera, camera equipment, water, lunch, be prepared for the weather that day. Call for detail instrutions about meeting place. Limited to 14 participants, $25 each.
Nov. 15 - Hike leaders Mark and Janet Snyder will take a group to many home sites as well as to the Gourley Pond, walking on the Rowan man-way (herders road), past Graveyard Hill and Lequire cemeteries. They also have some surprises in store. The length is about 6.5 miles and will meet at 9 a.m. in the main parking lot across from the Ranger station. Plan on about 5.5 hours, includes lunch break. This will be a moderate to stenuous hike for the active hiker. Some type of protective eyewear is recommended for this hike.