Bits of Stone
Successful Trails Forever Endowment bringing results in Great Smokies
More than 1,000 donors from 37 states and three foreign countries helped Friends of the Smokies establish funding of the $4 million Trails Forever Endowment for Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the current year. The purpose is to provide better care for trails which are too often one of the most underfunded aspect of maintaining the park.
The Trails Forever Endowment is just another example of results from the outstanding leadership provided by President Jim Hart of the Friends of the Smokies. Always quiet and in the background, Jim is the easy going, hard-working head of Friends who is constantly finding realistic ways for lovers of the Smokies to help care for the nation’s most-visited national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes approximately 30 percent of the area within Blount County. Many Tennesseans and North Carolinians support Friends of the Smokies through the purchase of vehicle license tags in their respective states. Others give of their volunteer labor on specific projects. Too often we fail to stop and fully appreciate what Friends are accomplishing.
Cronan, Stevenson, Young honored
Blount County connections with the $4 million Trails Forever Endowment Fund project are numerous with two of the three Pathfinders listed in a recent bulletin having been involved in Blount County:
• The late Tom Cronan, husband of retiring UT women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, was a member of the Maryville College faculty and was a Professor Emeritus of Carson-Newman College. He had a love for hiking and the Smokies. He hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and was a national pentathlon champion. A tireless advocate for health and wellness, he successfully battled cancer for several years. Ann Baker Furrow, Maryville native, and Joan Cronan co-chaired the Tom Cronan Pathfinder Fund campaign. An outstanding golfer, Ann was the first woman on a UT athletic scholarship. She is a member of The Daily Times Wall of Fame honoring outstanding graduates of local high schools.
• The late Margaret Stevenson, remembered for her kind, optimistic spirit, hiked to the top of Mount LeConte 718 times, was the first woman to hike all trails in the Smokies. She hiked 3,000 miles a year for 40 years. In 2006, she died at age 94. Her daughter Margie Ribble, one of three children, is retired from the Maryville College faculty. Margaret’s husband Bob was a graduate of Maryville College. Debbie Way of Blount County represented Margaret Stevenson’s Wednesday Hikers in the events.
• The late Lindsey Young, a Knoxville attorney, is remembered for his lifelong dedication to the Smokies. An avid hiker, he was an original member of the Friends of the Smokies board of directors.
Statistics of Trail improvements
Begun with the Aslan Foundation’s $2 million challenge gift, it was a signature project of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the park. The program has some amazing statistics. A snapshot shows the movement, shaping and installation of:
• 804 stone pavers and steps weighing 685,000 pounds with 462,000 pounds of side rocks for steps.
• 67 stone water bars weighing 52,000 pounds and 26,000 cubic feet (4.4 million pounds) of crushed rock for fill.
• 153 timber steps and 300 linear feet of plant walk constructed.
• 454 linear feet of timber turnpikes and construction of 74 timber water bars.
And remember, all of this work was accomplished with hand tools and manual labor, protecting the area adjacent to the trails. Heavy use by hikers and often located in areas hit hard by weather conditions, trails must be maintained for the safety of hikers and protection of the park. Many hikers also volunteer their time and effort to help maintain trails.
Volunteer hours have increased from 469 in 2008 to more than 6,500 hours each of the past two years. Readers can join the volunteer effort. Go to: http://www.SmokiesTrailsForever.org to get started.
50th anniversary reveals 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis details
The 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis has revealed figures of which many Americans were not aware. The current issue of the VFW magazine offers some details.
As early as August 1962, our high altitude U-2s as well as Navy and Marine planes, flying 500 feet above the ground at 600 mph, confirmed the presence of 158 tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba.
The crisis continued through the U.S. blockade which ended Dec. 31, 1962. At the peak of the crisis, 233 ships, including seven aircraft carriers, 31 naval aviation units, six minesweepers, two Seabee battalions, and a detachment of Naval Beach Group were involved.
Civilians at Guantanamo, the U.S. base on Cuba, were evacuated and Marines strengthened the base. Another 25,000 Marines and 100,000 Army troops in Florida were on standby. The carriers Enterprise and Independence had closed the island and had received their orders about where to start firing.
Notes of interest:
• Science News reports three studies show the pair of April 11 quakes in the eastern Indian Ocean were signs of things to come. The quakes startled seismologists with their size (magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2) and their location.
Quakes most often occur near the edges of the large tectonic plates. However, the April quakes were an indication that one great slab of Earth’s crust is slowly fracturing into two and seismic risk remains high in that area. The quake activity indicates that over millions of years the split of the Indo-Australia plate will put India and Australia on different continental courses.
• Military History magazine has reported a team of divers using side-scan sonar has pinpointed the German submarine U-550 which sank off the coast of Massachusetts in 1944. It sank during surface combat with American destroyer escorts.
Largely intact, the U-boat lies in deep water roughly 70 miles south of Nantucket. The team confirmed the vessel is reachable by technical divers. On April 16, 1944, U-550 torpedoed the tanker SS Pan-Pennsylvania and was in turn depth-charged by the destroyer escort USS Joyce and forced to the surface. Joyce and her sister ships, Peterson and Gandy, then shelled, depth-charged and even rammed the U-boat, whose German crew scuttled U-550. Forty-four went down the ship, 13 survived. The prisoners sat out the war in England.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times