The Great Salamander Swing


I've always wanted to make a salamandering trip through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. I have passed through the region a number of times, and stopped to herp for a few hours, but I wanted to make a trip where my focus was mainly on salamanders. In addition to the possibility of seeing some really cool caudates, I wanted to gain more experience finding and identifying species. I am pretty weak in this area.

An opportunity presented itself in late April of 2006. I was slated to give a presentation on Redfoot Tortoises at the ARAV annual conference, in Baltimore, and my mind began to work out the logistics...if I took a week's vacation and tacked it on the end, I could drive to Baltimore, give my presentation, and then head west again, and swing down through Virginia to the Smokies...this could be a big trip if I planned it right.

In late winter I pulled out Petranka's big salamander book and began studying the species I had a shot at seeing. I also got out maps and guidebooks to start working out a route and itinerary. I received some excellent help from Scott Gravette, Michael Graziano, and Dick Bartlett, assistance that would ratchet the trip up a few notches. The days flew by, winter fled the calendar, and April arrived. I was ready to sally forth, so to speak...

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