In search of the slippery salamander

Red-cheeked salamanders (Plethodon jordani) are found only at higher elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo by Dean Stavrides via iNaturalist, CC.

It’s possible to hike hundreds of miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and never see a salamander. Even so, an exceptional number of the amphibians make their home in the mountains.  Scientists have identified 31 species of salamander in the Smokies and might be on the precipice of adding another. They range from tiny […]

Trailside Talk: Appreciating the forest for the trees­­­

Some of the best remnants of old-growth forest in the Smokies can be found along Albright Grove Loop. Photo by Mark Steele.

Visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park often are highlighted by sudden “moments” among the all-encompassing trees. A black bear and her cubs pop out of undergrowth along a park roadway. The dense tree canopy on a ridge opens to reveal a view stretching far into the distance. A majestic old-growth tree spreads its branches […]

Don’t take the Smokies home!

The scene is a simple one. A young boy, fascinated by slick stones in a creek, picks one up and skims it across the water, trying to reach the other bank. As wholesome as this scene may appear, it is one that shouldn’t happen in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the protection of Smokies […]

Trailside Talk: Christmas in the Smokies

Every December, Kermit Caughron left his home in Cades Cove to travel to Knoxville, Tennessee. There, among other things, he bought a bushel of red delicious apples, a bundle of oranges, a box of bananas, and several bags of candy, including orange slices and chocolate crème drops…

Trailside talk: Finding solitude in a busy park

For many people, national parks are about an escape from daily life, a place to find peace and quiet alongside a stream, on the shore of a deep lake, or at the highest point of a mountain…

Trailside Talk: Smokey the Bear

After recovering from his burns in Santa Fe, Smokey Bear was flown in a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser airplane to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where he lived for 26 years. Smokey received so many letters the US Postal Service granted him his own postal code. Public domain photo.

Many people of a certain age have a special affection for Smokey Bear (or Smokey the Bear, as he has also been called). I remember reading Smokey’s story—how he was rescued from a wildfire in New Mexico in 1950 and became the symbol of fire awareness in the woods for generations. Posters and signs showing […]

Trailside Talk: The wonder of falling water

The Smokies have waterfalls, dozens of them. Tall, wide, swift, slow. You can find them on the roadside and deep in the Smokies wilderness. Walking to a beautiful waterfall is the objective of many Smokies hikers. The hike is often its own reward, but to round a corner in the forest, after hearing the noise […]

Trailside Talk: Approaching autumn

There are a few magical moments that bring in the seasons of the Smokies. The first snowflake blowing across the shoulders of Mount Le Conte or Mount Guyot beckons winter. The tiniest wildflower signals spring is close behind. An afternoon thunderstorm rolling across the ridge freshens the Little River and declares that summer has arrived. […]