Mount Sterling — a hikers’ crossroads

Climbing the 80 rickety feet of metal and wood got my adrenaline flowing a bit.

Once up there, I found it to be a precarious perch, especially since the plywood floor was rotten and some of it missing. I was in the old fire tower atop Mt. Sterling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From my vantage inside the tower, I had a great view of most of the northern section of the main crest of the Smokies, which is also the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and the route of the Appalachian Trail.

Deep into Gorges State Park

By Ed Kelley

Tiptoeing quickly across the Toxaway River, my ankle gaiters did the job and kept the cold water out of my boots. With higher water, fording the river could be dicey. I had chosen the Auger Hole trail in Gorges State Park because I thought it would give me a nice overview of the park and get me deep into the gorges. The trail is a well-maintained road that is driven regularly by Park Rangers.

A pickle of a Prong

I felt like I should have had crampons on my boots, like the spikes mountain climbers use on ice. The steep trail was so slick I would take two steps forward, then slide back a step.

Time spent outdoors always validates itself

By Ed Kelley

When I think of the mountains of Western North Carolina, I like to believe I know a lot about them. I was raised in Haywood County and have lived here over half a century. I think of myself as “young,” but I look at old pictures and see how the face of these mountains has changed since I was a kid, not only from a physical standpoint with all the development that is going on, but from a cultural angle as well. I may not have the depth of knowledge of more scientific folks, and I may not be as objective as a good reporter should be, but I think I have something to say.

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