For those who yearn to know more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a group setting, Great Smoky Mountains Association’s Branch Out programming is designed especially for you.
Registration is now available for the following activities:
• Naturalist Ramble – Trees of the Smokies is set for Sunday, Sept. 8. Learn more about Trees of the Smokies on the trail with an expert naturalist. Experience an educational exploration through a variety of habitats focusing on tree identification, and gain a greater understanding of our natural areas.
• Fall Warblers Made Simple is set for Saturday, Sept. 14. Fall migration is in full swing. Designed for birders of all levels, learn more about observing and identifying birds in the Smokies. After a classroom meet-and-great, head outside to watch birds as they comb the woodlands for insects and seeds.
• Full Harvest Moon Above the Cove is set for Saturday, Sept. 14. Join a stroll around Cades Cove Loop Road as the full harvest moon of September shines above this historic valley surrounded by majestic mountains. Get a different perspective of the flora, fauna and the fully restored 18th- and 19th-century structures.
• Autumn Atop Andrews Bald is set for Monday, Sept. 23. Rise and shine for the first hike of Autumn. Beginning in a spruce-fir forest, hike along Forney Ridge Trail to one of the most scenic locations in the park, Andrews Bald. Participants will find themselves surrounded in beauty as they take in the scenic vistas from this grassy area.
• Birding in Seven Islands State Park is set for Thursday, Sept. 26. Explore the rich mosaic of habitats, including native grasslands, of Seven Islands State Birding Park in search of a variety of bird species. Then enjoy lunch courtesy of Aubrey’s Restaurant and Burleson Brands, a pair of locally-owned eateries.
• Walker Sisters History Hike is set for Friday, Sept. 27. Take a leisurely ramble to the Walker Sisters’ home while listening to stories of how these self-sufficient women survived in the Smokies – even after the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park! They served as a “living history” lesson to hundreds of park visitors who drove or hiked to their cabin from the 1930s to the early ‘60s.
• Look Rock Hawk Watch is set for Sunday, Sept. 29. Pull up a chair, sit back, and look to the sky during this special fall migration event. Participants will work as a team to identify, count and report the raptors and other species of bird that fly by on their way south.
• Monarch Tagging in Cades Cove is set for Sunday, Sept. 29, Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 6. Kids of all ages are invited to learn how to safely observe, collect and properly identify several types of winged insects. Participants will help tag Monarch butterflies as part of the citizen science movement to study their 2,000 mile migration.
• Lost! How to Prevent It for Families is set for Saturday, Oct. 26. Heading into a National Park, forest or other wilderness area can be an exciting family event creating memories that last a lifetime. But each time, there’s a chance of getting lost, injured or suddenly ill, and assistance could be hours away. Kids will have a great time while they participate in fun and educational exercises that can help keep them safe if they encounter an unexpected situation while in the woods.
“When you Branch Out in the Greater Smoky Mountains with GSMA, you’ll connect with the nature and history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, its surrounding ecosystems, and fellow members on four primary tracks,” said Dana Murphy, GSMA’s membership event specialist.
While Branch Out fees vary depending on program length and complexity, GSMA members receive a discount as part of their membership benefits. Registration fee proceeds support GSMNP through a scope of work that concentrates on education, research and preservation efforts. Because most programs include participation limits, registration is required at SmokiesInformation.org/Events or by phone at 865-436-7318, ext. 349.
Great Smoky Mountains Association-sponsored Branch Out events are designed to enhance greater public understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of the national park. A national park partner, GSMA has provided more than $44 million to support the park’s educational, scientific and historical programs since its inception 66 years ago.
For more information about GSMA, visit SmokiesInformation.org or call 888-898-9102, ext. 222 or 349.