Burmese pythons headed for Tennessee?

April 18, 2009

I don’t like snakes, but I love snake stories. While reading the April 20, 2009 edition of The New Yorker, however, I learned one potential Tennessee snake story that absolutely gives me the chills: Burmese pythons, which can grow to 20 feet or longer, have established themselves in South Florida, and could, over time, make their way to Tennessee.

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Campaign to Protect Rural Tennessee?

April 12, 2009


Quick–where was this picture taken? Could be in East Tennessee or Middle Tennessee. No matter where it is, it’s a beautiful place, one that would be a joy to live near, commute alongside, or spend part of a vacation just driving past.

The photo was actually taken in the England, and it’s from the website of a remarkable group called The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

And it’s just the kind of organization we need for Tennessee.

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Packing while backpacking: guns on the trail?

May 5, 2008

The Bush administration and the National Rifle Association are backing a proposal to bring gun laws in national parks and wildlife refuges into synch with state laws regarding firearms. In other words, states, not the federal government, should decide whether people can carry guns in all parks–state or federal.

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Extend the Appalachian Trail to Alabama?

May 4, 2008

Today comes word that tourism boosters in Alabama want to extend the Appalachian Trail (AT) into that state. Seems there is a Pinhoti Trail that runs northeast from an area near Birmingham and ends, conveniently enough, near the southern terminus of the AT. The fact that the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce is pushing this bad idea is enough to tell you the motivations.

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Living the life on Mt. LeConte

May 4, 2008

Chris and Allyson Virden have managed Mt. LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for six years. Morgan Simmons of the Knoxville News Sentinel has a great piece on their lives at what has to be the highest lodge in the eastern United States.

TennesseeWife and I hiked up to Mt. LeConte in January back in the 1970s to write an article on the folks who managed the Lodge and who wintered over back then. They told us a great bear story. Seems that the Lodge stored plastic jugs of maple syrup in some sort of outbuilding, and bear broke in and quickly came to associate syrup jugs with good eating. The couple thought they had secured the door, but the bear broke in again, seized another jug, and stood up to drink his fill. This jug, however, contained Clorox bleach.

The bear evidently didn’t drink enough bleach to hurt him, but the bleach cascaded down his front and transformed his black fur to a white streak, a sort of ursine Susan Sontag. For the rest of the year, he was easily identifiable until his streak grew out. The four of us pondered–and laughed–at what the other bears thought had happened to him.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Sustainable Tourism Summit in Gatlinburg

April 29, 2008

The 2008 Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit is underway in Gatlinburg, a circumstance akin to holding a conference on chastity in Las Vegas, but we’ll not dwell on that. The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Josh Flory covers the conference in today’s paper.

First, this gathering is a great idea, and one long overdue in Tennessee. Sevier County is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country. The overwhelming majority of visitors arrive in the summertime in some sort of vehicle creating massive traffic jams, untold tons of pollution, and hordes of visitors to the largest chunk of wilderness in the eastern United States. The many coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and other states create smog that often obscures this mountain scenery.

Various Tennessee state departments, among them Tourist Development, Agriculture, and Transportation have sponsored the Summit, and have brought together an impressive list of speakers, as well as the usual list of political suspects.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander

Chief among the latter was Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, of whom Flory writes: “Alexander said that during his Senate career he’s pushed the Environmental Protection Agency and the president to work harder to limit sulfur, nitrogen and mercury emissions, saying that ‘We need cleaner air.” “People don’t come to see the Smoggy Mountains,” he added. “They come to see the Smoky Mountains.'”

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Eating Snail Darters

April 14, 2008

The last dam that the Tennessee Valley Authority built was the Federal agency’s most controversial one. The Tellico Dam flooded the Little Tennessee River, a beautiful, trout-filled stream coming out of North Carolina and flowing into the Tennessee River just below Knoxville. There was no need for the project except to create more lakefront property for developers.

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New Yorker on Great Smokies hemlocks

December 5, 2007

Richard Preston, author of scary non-fiction biological books such as The Hot Zone, has now turned his attention in this week’s New Yorker magazine to a killer stalking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


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Lost Trails in the Smokies

October 11, 2007

Metro Pulse writer Ken Wise has an excellent article on “lost trails” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These paths were once marked trails in the Park which, for one reason or another, have been abandoned by the Park Service and do not appear on current maps.

That’s the good news and the bad news. One of the aggravating things about hiking in the Smokies is trying to get away from it all and finding dozens of other people who have the same idea. These trails are guaranteed to have no crowds, but the remote nature of these hikes–here’s the bad news–brings up the very real possibility of getting lost.

Whenever I dayhike, I always carry what the Scouts call the Ten Essentials, with my own modifications.


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Cranberry clash in Shady Valley

October 11, 2007

Mark Twain is alleged to have said “In the West whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting. In Shady Valley, you might say “Cranberry juice is for drinking; water is for fighting. As the Bristol Herald Courier reports, a water dispute has broken out between the Nature Conservancy, which built low dams to create bogs for the southernmost growing cranberries near Mountain City, and the Shady Valley Watershed District (SVWD), which wants to tear those dams down.


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