Snakes, really, are beautiful creatures

Snakes are among the world’s most beautiful, fascinating, and ominous creatures. We are at once attracted to and repelled by them.

The comeback of the turkey a real success

The come back of the wild turkey in the southern mountains in recent years is one of the notable success stories in wildlife restoration. Thirty or so years ago, the sighting of a flock of wild turkeys was a rarity. Thanks to the combined efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation and its local chapters, working in conjunction with federal and state wildlife agencies, such sightings — while always memorable — have become rather commonplace. 

Charlies Bunion one of best views in Smokies

Are you by chance looking for a high-elevation day-hike that embodies quite a bit of the region’s human history? If so, try the moderate to steep portion of the Appalachian Trail that leads from the Newfound Gap parking area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Charlies Bunion.

Jimson weed has a long and lethal history

If you have a recently cleared area on your property or in your neighborhood, there's an excellent chance that jimson weed is blooming there right now. The good news is that it’s one of more interesting species in one of the most remarkable plant families. The bad news is that it’s one of the most toxic and potentially lethal plants in the flora of the Smokies region.

Scarlet tanagers spar in song

This seems to be a scarlet tanager kind of year. I’ve been seeing and hearing them at my house, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and in the Great Smokies. No bird in our region is more striking. Jet black wings on a trim red almost luminescent body, the male is impossible to overlook. And it’s easy to recognize by both song and call.

The secretive, intelligent and prolific crow

Like most commonly observed objects, crows flit across our field of vision unheeded. Caw-caw-cawing unmusically … flap-flap-flapping over the fields … dressed as if for a funeral … iridescent pieces of black flannel waving in the breeze. We hear and see them … but we don’t really pay attention. We rarely think about them … we never ask ourselves: “What are these birds up to?”

Box turtles can live 120 years

Five turtle species reside in Western North Carolina: snapping, musk, and painted turtles are primarily found in streams, lakes, and ponds. The elusive and rare bog turtle is found in the habitat for which it’s named. The eastern box turtle will enter water during dry weather, but it’s largely terrestrial. For that reason, they are the species with which we have the most contact.

Dragging Canoe was Cherokee’s greatest military leader

Historian E. Raymond Adams has maintained that the warrior with the curious name of Dragging Canoe was “the greatest military leader ever produced by the Cherokee people.”  A review of Dragging Canoe’s military career doesn’t reveal many great victories that he led, but it does indicate that he was a clever and resourceful military leader who was able to sustain significant “dark and bloody” opposition to white settlement for many years. 

Toxic plants of Appalachia

From time to time, I’ve discussed in this space various plants the Cherokees and early settlers utilized for medicinal, edible and utilitarian purposes. The reverse side of that topic would be those plants that were dangerous to use.

The peculiar weather of the Smokies

Weather continues to be the enduring topic for conversation here in the Smokies region. Long after the Eric Rudolph furor has died down, folks will still be thinking, wondering and talking about the weather. The best weather discussions are about strange weather … the stranger the better. 

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