Celebrating America’s Treasures with the #pendle10park Explorers

Calling All Explorers

Last year, we sent out a call on Instagram, asking for photographers to take our blankets home to their parks. We were overwhelmed with responses! After diligent review of well over a thousand Instagram feeds, we chose ten and called it good.

You’ve seen their work all year, but this video takes you on a tour of all ten parks, with a catchy banjo score that has us tapping our feet here at the office. So Happy Birthday to the National Park Service and thank you to our #pendletonparks explorers. You can see them all (and follow them ALL on Instagram) at the end of the movie.

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Pendleton for the National Parks

Volunteer Profile: Jim and Ellie Burbank for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A repost

Please enjoy a visit with some volunteers we profiled last year; Jim and Ellie Burbank.

Great Smoky Mountains National park (photo courtesy of GSMNP)

Our National Parks are protected and enriched by a small army of volunteers whose time, enthusiasm and energy are put to use in so many ways. Over the next year, we would like to recognize the efforts of some of the people who help protect America’s Treasures. Today, we’re going to start with Jim and Ellie Burbank. The words below come from Lauren Gass, Special Projects Director for the Great Smoky Mountains Park.

The Burbanks

About the Burbanks

Jim and Ellie Burbank give selflessly of their time on a weekly basis to enhance and improve Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Residents of the great state of Tennessee, they embody the volunteer spirit.  They are former operators of the Snowbird Inn in Robbinsville, NC.  Ellie is a world-class chef and baker and Jim is a retired biologist with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Both are weekly hikers who thrill at any chance to introduce their friends and family members from across the U.S. and around the world to the wonders and beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Jim is a key member of the Volunteers-in-Parks program, and the Friends of the Smokies Tennessee office just would not function very well without Ellie’s help.

Jim actually goes out and meets strangers and tells them about the national park in his work as a weekly educational interpretive volunteer in Cades Cove, and he meets plenty of them with 2.5 million people visiting this beloved valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year.  He also leads monthly full moon walks in the Cove for campers and families to experience the quietude of this mountain treasure at night.  Jim also leads wildflower walks for other nonprofit organizations including Friends of the Smokies, and has helped countless hundreds of hikers differentiate between a yellow trillium and a trout lily.

Ellie acknowledges all of the contributions made to Friends of the Smokies, which involves keeping the organization’s donor records up-to-date and accurate, printing tens of thousands of acknowledgment letters each year, and she does it all in two days each week.  She has volunteered with Friends for more than 14 years, and is the equivalent of another part-time staff member. Jim and Ellie dedicate substantial amounts of time to impart their love of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to others, and they take their volunteer work very seriously.  They are extremely knowledgeable about the Park and its needs.

The Great Smoky Mountains national Park hosts over 9,000,000 visitors each year. Yes, you read that correctly–Nine. Million. Visitors. As the most-visited park in the United States, it needs the help of people like the Burbanks. We thank them sincerely for their generosity and commitment.

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Learn more about helping to support our National Parks here.

Taking a Blanket Home: Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the #pendle10park explorers

Ten Million People?

Matthews_ A woman wrapped in a blanket looks out at the park

Welcome to the most visited national park in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These misty mountains welcome nine to ten million visitors per year. The park covers more than 800 square miles in Tennessee and North Carolina, making it the largest national park east of the Rockies.

We sent our blanket home to the Great Smokys with one of our #pendle10park explorers. True to their name, the mountains were cloaked with heavy mist, caused by high elevation, 80 inches of rainfall per year, and a multitude of flora; 130 species of trees, over 100 native shrub species, and some 1,600 species of flowering plants.

Matthews_ Mountains covered with mist that looks like smoke

The Cherokee called the region Shaconage, which translates to “mountains of the blue smoke.”

Matthews_ a waterfall

The park is home to many beautiful waterfalls that also play a part in creating that wonderful haze.

Matthews_ A waterfall empties into a lak

As an International Biosphere Reserve, the Park’s biological diversity is preserved and studied. A staggering 10,00 different species of plants and animals are recorded here, but there may be as many as 9o,000 more species of plant an animal life still to be identified.

Wildlife

With the help of a distance lens, our explorer encountered some of this wildlife, including one of the park’s 1500 black bears.

Matthews_ A black bear in the forest

Elk, which were re-introduced to the park in 2001, are becoming more common. A herd of around 140 ranges on the North Carolina side of the park. Again, we promise that these beautiful shots were taken at a distance.

Matthews_ An elk in the forest
Matthews_ Two elk in the forest

Incredible shots.

Great Smoky National Park is open 365 days a year, and park entry is free. Free! Yes, that means you have access to 850 miles of hiking (there is a fee for overnight camping. But it’s worth it to wake up and smell the coffee in a paradise like this.

Matthews_ A hand holding out a Great Smoky coffee cup
Matthews_ A woman drinks her coffee
Matthews_ Misty mountainsides

Ben Matthews

Many thanks to our #pendle10park explorer, Ben Matthews.

See more of Ben’s work here:

Ben Matthews on Instagram 

Ben Matthews

Shop Pendleton’s National Park collection here: Great Smoky

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