Leading the way: Love for nature spurred HCC’s Black forestry grads to barrier-breaking lives

Ron Davis Sr. was just 17 years old when he arrived in the tiny town of Clyde, completely alone. 

It was 1967, and Davis, a Black man from Knoxville, was there to start the new forestry program at Haywood Technical Institute, now known as Haywood Community College. He worked out a boarding agreement with the only Black person who lived within walking distance of the school, then located in the building that today contains Central Haywood High School, and nervously reported for his first day of class. 

The wildest show: Synchronous fireflies display untamed beauty in the Smokies

I entered the lottery on a whim, figuring that, like 90 percent of my fellow entrants, I’d end up with nothing but a polite “thank you for entering” and an invitation to try again next year. I was stunned, frankly, to receive an email that instead began with the word “congratulations” and an invitation to start dreaming about a front-row seat to one of the region’s most spectacular natural phenomena. 

That would be the flashing of the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinus. 

Lost or found? Viral article about ‘forgotten’ Smokies town raises eyebrows

out fr2A lot of people familiar with Great Smoky Mountains National Park got a surprise earlier this month when an article began making the rounds online claiming that a hiker had discovered an abandoned town in the middle of the park.

“Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted how much land there is in America. Sure, it’s harder and harder to find places that haven’t been explored, but it’s also become easier to forget places that we’ve already been. Kind of like the entire friggin’ town in the middle of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” read the lead of an article featured on road trip planning site Roadtrippers, later reposted in The Huffington Post. 

Synchronous fireflies draw thousands to the Smokies

coverIt’s a little after 7 p.m. when the first trolley shows up to Elkmont Campground. Green, red and yellow, the flashy Gatlinburg transit vehicle seems a bit out of place in the backwoods greenery of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but so, too, do the crowds of people that pour out of it.  

People bearing fold-up chairs, blankets and cameras. People with North Face and Patagonia strapped to their backs, and people toting oversized purses and tote bags. Children, teenagers, parents, retirees. People who are always in and out of the National Parks, and people who have probably never set foot in one in their lives.

The Little River watershed

Nestled in the northern center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Elkmont was once a thriving logging community that inspired Walt Disney’s screen image of Snow White’s cabin and now serves as a key research site for studying synchronous fireflies.

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