Wilderness Wildlife Week Comes to the Smokies
For people who love the outdoors, visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during Wilderness Wildlife Week is an unparalleled introduction to the park’s natural and human history.
The free eight-day event is headquartered at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge but focused on the outdoors. In 2013 there will be more than 300 activities scheduled beginning January 12. You can explore the Smokies through slide shows, demonstrations and lectures held indoors. In addition, there are 44 guided hikes and field trips on tap this year designed for all levels of expertise. Some are easy, others not so much.
I attended my first Wilderness Wildlife Week in 1997 and started with an easy walk on a 1.3-mile paved trail to Laurel Falls. I followed that up with a walk through Elkmont, site of a logging camp and a summer resort community with picturesque homes and a colorful history.
That same year, I took on an easy-to-moderate hike loop that followed Little River, Jakes Creek and Cucumber Gap trails along rushing waters and through Eastern hemlock and rosebay rhododendron. The experienced trip leaders set a comfortable pace and with a little strategically placed moleskin, my new hiking boots worked fine.
The next year I trained a little harder and took on the Old Settlers Trail. I was figuratively left in the dust by a delightful 80-year-old from North Georgia. She had a twinkle in her eye and taught me the importance of a good walking stick, plenty of water and a positive attitude.
A strenuous 11-mile hike that climbs to the restored fire tower at Mount Cammerer remains on my bucket list. But in 2013 I may revisit some of my favorite spots, like the Walker Sisters Homestead or try a new experience on one of the off-trail hikes. Registration for hikes is limited and takes place at the Holiday Inn Express one or two days prior to the day of the hike so check the schedule and plan ahead if you have a particular trail in mind.
With 260 other activities available, it can be tough to choose which session to attend since the schedules change every day and several topics are offered at the same time. For example, I’d like to sit in on a session titled “Of Ginseng, Golden Apples and the Rainbow Fish”, but “Be Careful Out There: Hazards in the Outdoors” and “Taking Better Wildflower Pictures” are sure to be interesting too. Nature photography workshops this year include composition and editing techniques.
Other sessions include birding with an expert like Dr. Fred Alsop, attending presentations about birds, butterflies and bears or learning to make traditional mountain music with dulcimers, spoons or a washtub bass. Mini-concerts are regularly scheduled and several evenings feature “owl prowls” or concerts.
A photography contest is being held and includes a division for ages 17 and under. In fact, nineteen programs are designed especially for children so this is an event the whole family can share.
For a first hand outdoors experience in the Great Smoky Mountains head for the mountains and take a walk on the wild side during Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge.
For more information and schedule details call 800-251-9100 or click here.