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Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:00

Outdoors roundup

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Book chronicles adventures of the AT 

They call her Grandma Gatewood. She carries an umbrella, wears a checked skirt, and she loves to hike. She’s also the subject of a new book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery, that nabbed a place in the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards. 

Every year, the book awards honor the best in outdoors-related literature, picking winners in each of 10 categories. Montgomery’s book won the history/biography category.  

Gatewood, the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail and the first person to hike it twice (for good measure, she did it a third time), made her treks in the 1950s and ‘60s. 

“Montgomery is a first rate storyteller,” said Ron Watters, the chairman of the Awards program. “He weaves the facts of her life into a moving narrative. We really come to know and understand this amazing woman who found deliverance in the simple act of walking.” 


What about wildlife? 

An activity-filled class, “What did your lunch cost wildlife?” will focus on choices we make and how they affect the environment, Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Waynesville Recreation Center. 

The two-hour session will include a presentation, discussion and activities to drive the points home. An adult program will be held from 9:30-11:30 a.m. with a session for homeschoolers from 2-4 p.m.

Free for rec center members; non-members must pay a daily admission fee, which also includes use of rec center amenities. Register with the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department, 828.456.2030 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 


End of the season for Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome Road, a scenic high elevation road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park topping out around 6,500 feet, will close Nov. 30, marking the end of another season.

To celebrate another great year, the Great Smoky Mountains Association will offer visitors refreshments and special sales at their outpost store at the Clingmans Dome scenic overlook Nov. 28-30. 

The weekend will also mark the retirement of long-time North Carolina GSMA team manager Barry Hipps. 

“We’ve all greatly enjoyed working with Barry, first as a GSMA board member, then as the Carolina Team manager. We hate to see him go but wish him well in retirement,” said GSMA Executive Director Terry Maddox.

In addition to celebrating Barry’s upcoming retirement, visitors are encouraged to hike the half-mile paved trail to the Clingmans Dome lookout tower one last time in 2014.


Smokies visitation makes the recordbooks 

It’s been 27 years since Great Smoky Mountains National Park had an October visitation higher than the 1.3 million people that came to the park this October. October is typically the second busiest month of the year, driven by visitors coming for the fall foliage. Despite record rainfall at the beginning of the month, a strong wind event and a major snowstorm on Halloween, people kept coming.

Visitation at the park’s major entrances of Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee was up, but it was the outlying areas that led the way in making this month the fourth highest October on record. These areas, including Cataloochee and Big Creek, showed a visitation 73 percent above the 20-year average.  

October aside, 2014 has been a popular year to visit the Smokies, with visitation up for nearly every month so far. More than 8 million people had visited the park as of the end of October — the record for annual visitation was set in 1999, when 10.3 million people visited the park.

More statistics are online at


Prescribed Burn Planned for Pisgah 

 A prescribed burn along U.S. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest will treat 1,000 acres between now and mid-December. 

The burn, between Avery Creek Road and Coontree Picnic Area, is aimed at reducing fuel buildup and improving wildlife habitat. Avery Creek Road, sections of Coontree Loop and Bennett Gap Trail may be closed during the burn. Exact dates will depend on factors such as temperature, humidity and wind. 

Pisgah Ranger District, 828.877.3350.


Lighting efficiency project underway for WNC schools

 A program to fund lighting efficiency projects in Western North Carolina’s public schools will use $500,000 of TVA settlement funds to accomplish the goal. Haywood, Jackson, Swain and Macon counties are among the 17 eligible for the program. 

The funding stems from a federal lawsuit waged and won by the state of North Carolina against TVA in 2012, whereby the utility had to pay out $11.2 million to go toward projects that address air quality in North Carolina.

WNC Communities is heading up the school lighting efficiency program in partnership with an advisory committee of school representatives, energy experts and others. 



Coal Ash Stories screened in Sylva

Coal Ash Stories, a screening of four short films focusing on the dangers of coal ash spills and how communities can respond, will give citizens a chance to learn about the issues and get involved with addressing them, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Jackson County Library Community Room in Sylva. 

The Duke Energy coal ash spill — and questions about the state government’s response to it — have made headlines this year, and The Canary Coalition’s goal is to educate people on the risk to people in those communities as well as in those surrounding other coal-fired power plants. The films will cover public health concerns, related policy and ways that communities are responding. 

Free, with snacks and drinks served. Co-sponsored by the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP and OccupyWNC. 828.631.3447 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 


Winter camping 101

REI winter camping experts will cover the must-knows of cold-weather camping 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at REI Asheville. The free event will cover how to plan, stay warm and choose the best gear, as well as what to expect when setting up camp and settling in for the night. 

Free with registration required at 828.687.0918.

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