Author: Peyton Proffitt

  1. The big and small of it

    Photo by Jessica Hill with Shutterfox Photography

    This month, my Experience Your Smokies class got another peek behind the curtain of park operations and traveled to Twin Creeks Science Center to fish out aquatic invertebrates.

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  2. EYS Exotics & Invasives: Larry and the Lady HWAs

    EYS Exotics & Invasives:  Larry and the Lady HWAs

    During my most recent Experience Your Smokies class, I learned the details of a sad story. It all started in 1951, when a seemingly innocent shipment of trees made its way from Japan to Richmond, Va. The trees were intended for used as exotic suburban showpieces. Unfortunately, they carried with them an invasive species that would, in 40 years time, almost completely destroy one of the most ecologically important tree species in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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  3. Things get wild at EYS

    On a foggy morning just off U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road, a park ranger’s truck was spotted hauling an olive green culvert to the back of Chimney Tops picnic area. A few folks had gathered to eat an early lunch and take photos of the river. Two rangers approached the group and pose the following question: “Would you like to see a bear today?”

    The thrilled visitors surrounded the culvert at the rangers’ request. To their delight, the rangers opened the culvert door and a young male black bear bolted up the mountain, heading deep into the woods.

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  4. Park Maintenance and Historic Preservation with Experience Your Smokies

    Park Maintenance and Historic Preservation with Experience Your Smokies

    Over the next several months, my Locally Grown column will feature details related to my sessions with Experience Your Smokies, an educational program that receives essential funding and scholarships each year from Great Smoky Mountains Association.

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  5. Please don't pick our wildflowers

    Every year, visitors from all over the world travel to the Smoky Mountains to view our park's wildflowers. My favorite, Indian Pink, are blooming now at Sugarlands Visitor Center!

    Learning to identify wildflowers is just one way of enjoying the native flora of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Wildflower photography, learning about folk and medicinal uses of wild plants, connecting with the cultural history of the Smokies, and using native plants as a source for artistic inspiration are some of the activities wildflower enthusiasts and aspiring naturalists enjoy. 

    Some even desire to reproduce the beauty of this park in their own home gardens by self-propagating. Others want to pick a flower and save it as a reminder of their visit. Just last week, I saw an Instagram photo of someone with yellow trillium in their hair. All of these are considered poaching – unlawful acts that do great damage to the delicate ecosystem within our park. So I beg you, do not pick wildflowers! 

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  6. Our Park's Edible Berries

    Our Park's Edible Berries

    By Peyton Proffitt

    Have you ever snacked on berries in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? If you haven’t, now is the time! National park visitors are allowed to pick edible berries and have a taste, but are reminded not to disturb the plant as a whole. Be mindful of where you're picking and don’t wander too far off the trail. Check out the list below to decide which berries you want to search for. 

    “Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” - Wendell Berry

    Have you ever snacked on berries in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? If you haven’t, now is the time! National park visitors are allowed to pick edible berries and have a taste, but are reminded not to disturb the plant as a whole. Be mindful of where you're picking and don’t wander too far off the trail. Check out the list below to decide which berries you want to search for.

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