In many Western national parks, "bear boxes" are used to keep bears from feasting on camper and backpacker food.
In Shenandoah National Park, upright poles not too far removed from 1960s-era clothes lines are used by hikers to hang their food out of reach from bears.
And in Great Smoky Mountains National Park cables strung between trees make it possible for backpackers to elevate their meals.
“With more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail running along the high ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s only natural for our groups to work together,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies.
The work has taken place at two popular shelters on the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, Spence Field and Peck’s Corner. Using the grant funds from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, park staff installed poles and cables that backpackers can use to store food out of the reach of black bears.
“Both groups share an interest in safe backcountry experiences, keeping wildlife wild, and working with partners,” said Stephen Woody, treasurer for the Friends of the Smokies Board of Directors. “Plus, with a backpacker on the Appalachian Trail plate and a black bear on the Smokies plate, it’s hard to think of a better project for us to work together on.”
Friends of the Smokies and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have also partnered to renovate many of the backcountry shelters along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies and to support several other efforts to address trail maintenance and hiker safety. Reconstruction at Laurel Gap, the fifteenth and final shelter project, was completed in December.
“It’s all about preserving and protecting two great national park units, their natural resources, and the visitor experience,” added Ms. Demuth. “We do best when we work together.”
Traveler footnote: Friends of the Smokies, an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, helps preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness and providing volunteers for needed projects. Since 1993, Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $37 million to help support wildlife conservation, education, backcountry projects, and other park priorities. To learn more, go online to www.friendsofthesmokies.org.