Ep. 56 – The Amazing Randy, Hiking Shuttles, and Gone Fishing!

SHOW #56  March 15, 2015

Intro

This week on Episode 56 Smoky Mountains Radio, The Amazing Randy, the results of our 2nd listener poll, taking a shuttle, and gone fishing!  Let’s go!

Post-Intro

It is Sunday, March 15, 2015 and this is Episode 56 of Smoky Mountains Radio.  Welcome back to the show.  As, always, I am your host Mike, and I am here to bring my nearly forty years of experience in and around the Smoky Mountains help you have the best possible time on your next trip to the Smokies.  Whether you plan on going for a hike, hanging in the mountain towns, or taking in the many attractions, we have all the information you need right here to make your next trip a success.

I invite you to check out our website, SMR.com to get all the information you need about your trip to the Smokies. You can contact me directly by emailing me at mike@smokymountansradio.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/smokymountainsradio or on twitter @smokies_radio.  You can also call the listener line at 865-325 9784.  Finally, of course, every one of our shows can be found on the website for you to stream or download. Of course, you can make sure you get episodes the moment they are released by subscribing to the show via iTunes or stitcher.  Leave me a review while you are there.  Those links can also be found on SMR.com.  If you have anything you would like me to cover on the show, please feel free to contact me at any time.  Again, all the ways to reach me are right on the website at SmokyMountainsRadio.com

And now, let’s get on with the show.

The Amazing Randy

It has been quite a week here for Smoky Mountains Radio.  We have had a ton of new listeners to the show and on our Facebook and Twitter Pages.  To all of you that have joined us over the last week, thanks for checking us out, and welcome!  This really got rolling as listener Randy down in Georgia made it his personal goal to get the numbers moving.  He must have told everybody he knows about the show, because they came in droves.  And that is why I say, Randy is amazing.  I had some great back and forth with Randy all week long, and he drove traffic to the Facebook page, the website, and to the episodes of the show.  It was an awesome week.  The guy is committed, that’s for sure, and i’ll say on air…Thanks man, I really, really, appreciate it!  I may have to plan some hiking in Georgia this summer just so I can meet this guy.  Perhaps a section hike from Fontana to Springer Mountain.  We shall see!

To all of you that are new, I welcome you aboard, and I hope you like what you hear and will stick around with us through the journey.  But let me lay down the challenge to all of our listeners out there.  If you like the show….and I assume you do…otherwise you are just a glutton for punishment….tell your friends about Smoky Mountains Radio.  If everybody will tell 10 people, we can really grow this program.  Those ten people might tell a two friends, who tells their friends….and so on, and so on, and so on.  That was a veiled Wayne’s World references for those of you that know that movie.  Anyway, that is what will help us take this thing to the next level.

The content here are Smoky Mountains Radio will always be free.  I’m not going to ask you to pay for any content for the show or on the site. But, this does cost money to run, so consider this my mini pledge drive.  You don’t have to contribute to the show…though you are certainly welcome to on the homepage of Smoky Mountains Radio.  Instead, take Randy’s awesome lead and tell people you know about the show.  Leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher.  The numbers will help take care of everything else.  As we add sponsors to the show, it will give me the freedom and ability to get out and do some of the segments, interviews, and reporting on location a lot of you would like to hear, but we gotta have the numbers to justify it.  All you gotta do is take a few seconds and tell people about the show or give us a rating.  Do it now.  I’ll wait…..(cue holding music).  If one guy can add over 100 people in a week, think of what we can all do!  Thanks to Randy and everybody else for listening, and thanks for the support.  And let’s get on with the show.

POLL RESULTS

This week’s poll was all about where you stay when you come visit the Smokies.  We got some good responses this week.  The options were Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Townsend, Cherokee, or whatever you decided to write in.  The top choice this week was Gatlinburg, which goes along with what we tend to see in the area to the tune of 50 percent.  That was followed by Pigeon Forge with just under 20 percent of the vote.  It’s not really surprising that the traffic is as bad as it is on the Parkway given those numbers!  I was a little surprised that Townsend and Cherokee got no love at all in this poll, but we also had votes for Wears Valley, that I affectionately call cabin country, since there are thousands of cabins there….and not a whole lot else.  I love staying in Wears Valley personally.  I probably stay there as much as I do anywhere else, and when the wife comes along, we stay there almost exclusively.  A couple also said they come in from Knoxville for their trips, something I did for several years.  The driving takes longer than you might think despite the proximity to the national park, but it is a great way to go.  A few more said they stay IN the park when they come, which might be the best option of all.  You can’t get closer to the mountains than being in them!  Regardless of where you stay, the main thing is to get out here, right?  Thanks for taking part in this week’s poll.  We’ll take a week off of the poll this week, but we will have a new one coming soon.

Hiking Shuttles in the Smokies

The next segment was inspired by listener Eddie about finding a hiking shuttle in the Smokies.  If you aren’t familiar with them, shuttles can give you several options when you go hiking.  They can drop you off and pick you up from a hike in the mountains, or pick you up from the end of a hike and take you back to your car so you don’t have to rehire all the trail you just did to get back.  This is great because it gives you the option to take different routes on the same hike and rack up more miles without all the backtracking.  Hiking shuttles are available in the Smokies, and have been for quite a number of years, but as Eddie and his buddy found out the hard way, they can be a little hit and miss depending on the area of the park you are in, the time of year, and even the time of day.

If you hike the Appalachian Trail, shuttles are a way of life.  When most people start hiking the AT, they take a shuttle to get to the approach trail for Springer Mountain or less often, take the crazy forest roads to the top of the mountain itself.  Almost nobody is leaving their cars in Georgia for a 5-7 month hike, and taking a cab from any nearby airport is crazy expensive.  Along the 2100 plus miles, hikers will find shuttles at nearly every major road crossing going into small mountain towns.  These are a necessity for the hostels, restaurants, and other establishments to survive.  The thing is, though, everybody on the trail knows about them even though they are not really advertised.  They accomplish this through an amazing network of word of mouth, trail registers, and books that are updated every year that tell hikers how to find them.  The Smokies does not have this vast network.

In the last several years, it has gotten much better here.  But it has taken time.  In 2000, I picked up two thru-hikers at Newfound Gap where I was day hiking and took them into Gatlinburg for a couple zero days (days without hiking).  When I got them to their motel, they asked about shuttle services and I told them I would find them something.  I knew of three at the time and two were not running during that time of the year (early March).  Eventually, I ended up at the Day Hiker and talked to the guy there and he said he would take them.  But that is not a really good system.  There is a better way these days, but you gotta be proactive.

A couple of companies provide the service including  A Walk in the Woods (yes a not so veiled reference to the Bill Bryson book), all park taxi, and Hike Inn are ones that I am familiar with, have seen, or have used over the years.  There are literally dozens more, but I can’t speak to reliable they are since I haven’t used them.  The bulk of them are based on the Tennessee side of the Smokies, but a few located near Hot Springs will take you all around the North Carolina side of the Smokies.  There are also some hotels in the Smokies that will run a shuttle.  The Grand Prix motel in Gatlinburg has done this over the years, and as a result, many thru hikers end up here if they stay in town.  Perhaps one of the best places to look is at outdoor stores.  Nantahala Outdoor and The Day Hiker can both put you in touch with exactly what you need.  And they see it enough that they can make sure you are getting up to date information.

And if you want to make sure you are getting good people at a good rate that are reliable, word of mouth is perhaps the best avenue.  Check out websites by hikers that have message boards.  My first choice here would be whiteblaze.net and trailforums.com  There are a lot of first-hand accounts that would help you.

I would also say to check out hiking clubs in the area.  These guys know who’s out there very well, and many of the members do shuttles.  The biggest hiking clubs in the area of the Smokies are the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.

The final resource is one of the best.  Check with park rangers.  In many cases the rangers know a lot of the people that run the shuttles and see them often.  They can make recommendations on who to use and who not to use.

That may seem like an awful lot of research and resources for something so small, but there is nothing like being stranded at the end of the hike waiting on a shuttle that never comes.  People running shuttle services in the Smokies come and go about as quickly as the stores in the Mountain Mall in Gatlinburg, so it is always good to see what is there even if you used somebody great a couple years ago.  Online presences for these people and companies is getting better, and you should check that out, but word of mouth is still the best indicator to make sure you end up with a great experience.

I am going to take a hike using a shuttle service next month, and i’ll report back who I used and how it went.  I hope that helps everyone out on their next hike in the Smoky Mountains.

I’ll put more information about this in the show notes, and on SmokyMountainsRadio.com

Fishing in the Smokies

In addition to all the terrific hiking in the Smokies, there are tons of activities to do in the national park.  One of those is fishing.  There are some great places to fish in the Smokies and others that are really good and out of the way.  But before you get out the rod and reel, there are a couple of things to take a look at.  The Smokies tend to be pretty stringent about regulations, and fishing is no exception.  However, the rules in place tend to be more lax than you might expect.  But just be sure to know them so that you don’t end up with a hefty fine.

To fish in the Smoky Mountains, you must have a fishing license.  That is probably not a shock to any of the anglers out there, but it is a necessity.  The good news is that you can have a license from Tennessee or North Carolina to fish here, regardless of what park of the national park you are visiting.  Keep in mind that the park does not sell fishing licenses, so make sure you have it before you come.  You can get it on the way, though, as every town has several places that sell them.

You can fish for most of the day if you choose to.  Fishing is allowed just before sunrise and just after sunset.  Good rule of thumb there.  If it is dark, you can’t fish, so no 3am trips on the boat.  A buddy of mine likes to do this, and he was lucky when he was caught.  The park official just told him to get lost.  Don’t expect to be that lucky.

Another thing that I did not know that I found out this week is that you can fish in streams and open water areas all over the national park.  They don’t just confine you to areas like Fontana or big water areas like there are around Abrams Falls.  You can also fish in most of the smaller streams in the park.  Roaring Fork is another great area for this as is the Little Pigeon River.  Both areas are really easy to access, and you will see anglers out there almost any time of day.

Perhaps one thing that many people do not expect is that you cannot use live bait in the Smokies.  Despite the fact that there are bait shops in the surrounding towns that sell it, you can’t use it.  And the reason is quite simple.  The ecosystem in the Smokies is fragile and small changes and additions can have major consequences.  Think about the trees at Clingmans Dome.  The insect that killed them all is not native.  It was brought into the park and has killed thousands of trees.  They don’t want the same kind of disasters happening in the waterways.  This prohibition includes all live bait, scented sprays, and food items introduced to the water.  You just cant do it.

You are able to fish year round in many of the areas in the Smokies.  Any open water is a go for any time of year.  This applies to most of the waterways in the Smoky Mountains.  A lot of people think that you must do catch and release in the Smokies, but this is not the case.  There are daily limits to different species of fish you keep as well as sizes, but you can take them with you.  This requirement is similar to rules that I am sure you have at home already.

There are places in towns that specialize in the activity, so this could be a great place to start.  And if packing the rod and reel and lures in the car is not possible, you can rent some at places all over.  I would recommend these places if for no other reason that they can give you up to date information on the best fishing at the moment for the species you are looking for.  My buddy really likes The Smoky Mountain Angler in Gatlinburg.  You get good information and ensure the stuff you take is allowed in the park.

One word of warning.  Just about any time of year, the waters are frigid cold.  Having some protective footwear and perhaps waders are a must.  There are many cases of hypothermia from anglers being in the cold water for too long.  A 65 degree day can have waters below zero.  Keep that in mind for sure and be sure to have appropriate clothing.  If you’ve got anything you’d like to share about your experiences fishing in the Smokies, send them my way at mike@smokymountainsradio.com.  Thanks again John for the show topic!

I’ll put more information about this in the show notes and on smokymountainsradio.com

POST:

Thanks to all of you that took the time out of your day to contact the show.  I’ve been printing out emails as I get them just to keep them straight.  I really am enjoying everybody i’ve been talking to.  All of you new folks, don’t be shy to send me a message, email, or voicemail.  I’ve got several things planned on your feedback in the next couple of weeks, so if I haven’t gotten yours on air yet, have patience.  It will get on there.   Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and Facebook, and explore the website.  I’ve finally got video up on our youtube channel and i’ll be adding to that more regularly now as well.  The first video is all about choosing proper footwear for the Smokies.  All of that information can be found at SmokyMountainsRadio.com    But until next time, whether you are using a shuttle, driving yourself to the trailhead, or hitching your way, just get out there and GO TAKE A HIKE!!!

SmokyMountainsRadio.com

mike@smokymountainsradio.com

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