BACKCOUNTRY TAX FEEASCO the unedited and uncensored edition

Our original Backcountry Tax blog on the gosmokies site was moderated by some folks who held an opinion in favor of backcountry fees.  As a result the blog operator, Jigsha Desai made several threats to shut us down but we remained in operation because it was the most popular blog post in the history of that site.  We decided to take our conversation to a place where our message wouldn't be suppressed.  This blog is the result.

Therefore, it is our collective opinion that the Backcountry Fee Proposal put out By Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and backcountry specialist Melissa Cobern is an egregious reach into the pockets of taxpaying citizens. 

A prominent study proves that access fees restrict use of National Park and forest lands.

The primary justification of the backcountry fee proposal made by park administration is campsite overcrowding which was proven false.  Click here for details and statistics to prove this fallacy for exactly what it is.  A federal fee grab.

Park management cozies up to the horse lobby but proposes a tax on  backpackers who are the best citizens of the Great Smoky Mountains.  In fact, Ditmanson recently signed off on a new horse concession smack dab in the middle of Cades Cove. is touted as a solution for reservation problems in the backcountry office but this Canadian based company is frought with problems.  72 hour reservations are required for the empty Smokies campsites you will be paying for the privilege of using.  Forget spontaneous weekend outings with the family.  Better pull out the wallet, you are going to pay just to talk to them.

This is not about money for any of us.  We love the Smokies and actually get out there and know the lies being spread by the Sugarlands swashbucklers.  It is a matter of deciding what type of National Park you want.  Should boy scout groups and single mothers and twenty somethings be discouraged from nature because of trumped up justifications for more rangers?  We think not.  Help us stop this double taxation now.  One fee will result in another.  We must make a stand.

(picture courtesy Kittzy Benzar, Western Slope No fee coalition)

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Comment by Rob Cameron on November 4, 2016 at 7:46pm
You front country campers are welcome to try and burn that government approved,high dollar firewood to your heart's content.
Comment by John Quillen on November 1, 2016 at 9:11pm

FYI to all fellow weekend backpackers in the GRSM:

Great Smoky Mountains News Release
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Contact:   Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207
Jamie Sanders,, 865-436-1203
Park Restricts Campfires in the Backcounty
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary ban on campfires in the park’s backcountry effective immediately. Due to extremely dry weather conditions and the amount of fresh leaf litter on the ground, the potential for escaped fires to occur in the backcountry has dramatically increased. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice
The fire ban only applies to campers utilizing the park’s 100+ backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the park’s 9 frontcountry (developed) campgrounds or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take certain precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires. This includes extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves is still permitted at backcountry campsites.
“With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of extreme fire danger,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since 2007, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”  
Backpackers should be aware that this situation affects the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle. The following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 6, 16, 26, 113, Mollies Ridge Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Spence Field Shelter, Silers Bald Shelter, Double Spring Gap Shelter, and Pecks Corner Shelter. Other campsites may be without water as the drought conditions continue. Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.
For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.
Comment by John Quillen on October 24, 2016 at 8:16pm

Thought ya'll might enjoy this recent caricature of SFW's executive director.  I believe this was drawn after Jim was quoted in  THIS ARTICLE


Comment by Myers Morton on October 18, 2016 at 6:54pm

The climb is like the Chimneys on steroids.

Comment by Myers Morton on October 18, 2016 at 6:52pm

There is no more beautiful place on the face of this planet than the Hangover.  We also successfully preached the SFW Gospel to 4 new converts.  Our ranks grow.

Comment by Dustin M on October 17, 2016 at 11:06pm

Awesome pictures. I just got back from Indiana. It's so flat up there it's ridiculous. 

Comment by John Quillen on October 17, 2016 at 9:56pm


I've spent every Oct 15 weekend (save for 1 in 1996) on that spot for the past 30 years. Because it is the most beautiful view on earth.  I don't care if it is in North Carolina. They are home mountains in the Nantahala National Forest. Here is a link to some other photos of an excellent sunset and super moon weekend.  Wish you could have joined us.

Ironically, as we were leaving, a man was bringing his three boys down the hill.  I gave them SFW stickers and he said, "That fee is the reason we are here".   Then he thanked us for what we had done.  I fear the day we may have to do the same there.

Comment by Jim Casada on October 17, 2016 at 9:31pm

John--Makes an old fat fellow like me envious to see those lovely mountains, know you folks climbed them, and realize how much I miss my beloved high country in what I consider to be the finest of all months in the Smokies, October. Mind you, I could make a sound case for April and May, but all things considered I have to give a slight nod to the loveliness of a mountain fall.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on October 17, 2016 at 9:09pm

A few of us SFWers were able to get into God's country and the no fee zone this weekend.  Mark Cooke, Myers, Kirby Davis, Gary and new converts Tom And Sarah on the Hangover.

Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel on September 28, 2016 at 9:02am

Your welcome!! I am very thankful for everything that ALL of you do!! I hope to get to meet you and others on here someday!

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