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. 

Ten great outdoor moments from 2020

There’s been a lot of focus lately on all the ways that the last 12 months have been hard and frightening and challenging, but believe it or not, 2020 has had its share of bright spots, too. Here are 10 of the most inspiring, beautiful and joy-filled moments from this year’s outdoors news. 

Federal money coming to WNC public lands

Public lands in Western North Carolina are set to get a chunk of the $950 billion approved for deferred maintenance projects with the Aug. 4 ratification of the Great American Outdoors Act. The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service both released project lists last week. 

Waynesville Parks and Rec receive national accreditation

The Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department recently earned national accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies. 

Pandemic multiplies demand, complicates operations for outdoor businesses

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, people worldwide are rediscovering the outdoors in a big way — leading to record visitation at public lands in Western North Carolina and offering a marked boost to outdoor-oriented businesses and communities even as the nationwide economy continues to suffer. However, even this successful sector has met its share of challenges related to labor market shortages, supply chain disruptions and the sheer challenge of making up for revenue lost during full-on closures this spring.

Beyond the waterfalls: Asheville writer releases first written history of DuPont State Forest

Danny Bernstein’s fascination with DuPont State Recreational Forest began soon after she moved to Asheville in 2001. 

“The first hike I took in DuPont Forest was to High Falls,” Bernstein wrote in her new book DuPont Forest: A History. “Like other visitors, I gawked and stared at the falls as I clicked one shot after another. It was a spectacular waterfall. Then I turned around and spotted a tall chimney on a hill. I walked up the wooden steps and saw that the chimney had a fireplace on two sides. A date had been engraved in the concrete. No other clue, no plaque, no sign — I was not in a museum. But I knew there was a story here beyond the waterfalls.”

Bringing backcountry to the back door: Early plans unveiled for Chestnut Mountain park

The project may still be in its early stages, but plans are beginning to take shape for the 448-acre park that will soon occupy the Chestnut Mountain property just outside of Canton. 

“We’re looking forward to building an amazing place that really helps merge conservation and recreation and just something we can make for future generations,” said Assistant Town Manager Nick Scheuer during a public meeting on the project held July 29 via Zoom. “This is a big idea and a huge project and something that really has the potential to impact our region for not just our lifetime but for our kids and our grandkids.”

Regional Calendar

Community Events and Announcements

• The Jackson County Department of Public Health is seeking input from residents who’ve used the department’s services and residents who have thoughts on the health needs of Jackson County. http://health.jacksonnc.org/surveys. Info: 587.8288.

• The Jackson County Branch of the NC NAACP meeting for Saturday, July 18, 2020 at 10:00 am will NOT be meeting face to face but online.  The program topic will be "Being Allies to the Asian American Community", presented by Ricky Leung, from NC Asian Americans Together.  Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive instructions to join online.  All are welcome!

 

Business and Education

• Haywood County Community College Small Business Center will hold Business Planning Virtual Learning Series. The first program, on July 20 - 21 will be the ABC’s of Starting a Small Business in Today’s Crazy Economy. The second program, on July 27 - 28 will be Creating a Winning Business Plan. The third program, on Aug. 3-4 will be Dynamite Marketing on a Firecracker Budget. Attendees are encouraged to register for the webinars that best meet their current small business needs and availability. Visit SBC.Haywood.edu or call 828.627.4512. 

• Registration is underway for several session of a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician program through Landmark Learning. Upcoming sessions include Aug. 7-15, Aug. 21-23, Aug. 29 - Sept. 6, Sept. 5-13, Sept. 18-20, Sept. 26-27 and Oct. 3-30. www.landmarklearning.org.

 

Volunteers & Vendors

• Haywood Habitat for Humanity will conduct their Annual Meeting on Wednesday, July 29th at 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. The meeting is open to persons supporting the purposes and objectives of the organization. New board members will be nominated and voted on.  Call 828.452.7960 to request a link to the meeting no later than Monday, July 27th. For more information, see the organization’s website www.haywoodhabitat.org.

 

A&E

• Currahee Brewing (Franklin) will host Amongst The Trees at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 1. Free and open to the public. www.curraheebrew.com.

• Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host JJ Hipps & The Hideaway July 17 and Scoundrel’s Lounge July 18. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public. www.froglevelbrewing.com.

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host karaoke at 7 p.m., July 17. For more information and a complete schedule of events, click on www.lazyhikerbrewing.com.

• Nantahala Brewing (Sylva) will host Shane Meade at 5 p.m., July 18. Free and open to the public. www.nantahalabrewing.com.

• The Overlook Theatre Company will present “A Few of Our Favorites: the Best of Broadway” in a live, drive-in concert at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. Tickets: $7 in advance per vehicle, $10 day of show per vehicle. All money raised will go to the theatre in education program which allows children of every age opportunities to experience live, theatrical presentations. 828.524.1598 or www.greatmountainmusic.com

•The Hometown Appalachian Heritage Festival will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 18, in downtown Franklin. Live demonstrations will be showcased and will feature the essence of life in Appalachia. You’ll see quilters, wood carvers, canoe builders and even a live, working gem mining flume. Many other events are planned including a fire truck display, face painting for the kids, Appalachian Music and a checker tournament at the Macon County Historical Museum. Free and open to the public. For more information, call 828.524.5676 or click on www.franklin-chamber.com

• The next “Dillsboro After Five: Wonderful Wednesdays” will be held from 3:30 to 7 p.m. July 15 in downtown. Start with a visit to the Jackson County Farmers Market located in the Innovation Station parking lot. Stay for dinner and take advantage of late-hour shopping. Bring the family and enjoy small town hospitality at its best. “Dillsboro After Five” will be held every Wednesday through July 29. For more information, call the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce at 828.586.2155 or click on www.mountainlovers.com

• Concerts of the Creek presents Bohemian Jean (classic hits/ acoustic) on Saturday, July 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

• Presented by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the 11th season of Concerts on the Creek will return on Friday, July 17, at Bridge Park in Sylva. Performances will be held from 7 to 9 p.m.

• Artists in all disciplines are eligible to apply for grants to support their professional and artistic development through a partnership of the North Carolina Arts Council and Asheville Area Arts Council, Haywood County Arts Council, Arts Council of Henderson County, Tryon Fine Arts Center, Rutherford County Recreation, Cultural, and Heritage Commission, and the Transylvania Community Arts Council. Artist Support Grants will be distributed to eligible applicants by Haywood County Arts Council in the following counties: Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford, and Transylvania. Applications for the grants are available www.haywoodarts.org/grants-funding. The deadline is Sept. 30. Grants will range in awards from $500 to $1,000. For information or questions, contact Leigh Forrester, executive director of the Haywood County Arts Council, at www.haywoodarts.org or 828.452.0593. 

• The Macon County Public Library, in cooperation with North Carolina Humanities Council, will host “Water/Ways” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. “Water/Ways” will be on view through Aug. 24 at the library in Franklin. The exhibition explores the endless motion of the water cycle, water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. For more information, visit www.fontanalib.org or call the Macon County Public Library at 828.524.3600. The library is open by appointment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Food & Drink

• Tour the 10-Acre Garden and enjoy a wood-fired pizza Saturday, July 25, at the Ten Acre Garden in Bethel. Danny Barrett will give a tour of his farm, showing the group how he gets water to the whole property, and at the end of the tour there will be pizza made with local ingredients to enjoy. The event is organized by the Haywood Waterways Association as part of its “Get to Know Your Watershed” series of outdoor recreation activities. The event is free for members with a $5 donation for non-members. Donations are also accepted for the pizza, and participants will be able to buy vegetables from the farm. Space is limited to 10 people, with social distancing guidelines followed. RSVP to Caitlin Worsham, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.476.4667, ext. 12.

On Stage & In Concert   

• The Overlook Theatre Company will present “A Few of Our Favorites: the Best of Broadway” in a live, drive-in concert at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. Tickets: $7 in advance per vehicle, $10 day of show per vehicle. All money raised will go to the theatre in education program which allows children of every age opportunities to experience live, theatrical presentations. 828.524.1598 or www.greatmountainmusic.com.

 

Outdoors 

• Discover the amazing diversity of life in the Pigeon River with an event on Saturday, July 25, at Jukebox Junction in Bethel. Using snorkeling gear, underwater viewing boxes and nets, participants will learn about the salamanders, fish and other fascinating creatures that make their home in the river. Due to COVID-19, reservations are taken on the hour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the number of participants for each time slot limited to 10. The event is part of Haywood Waterways Association’s “Get to Know Your Watershed” series of outdoor recreation activities. It is free for members, a $5 donation requested from nonmembers. Memberships start at  $25. All youth under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult. RSVP to Christine O’Brien at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.476.4667, ext. 11, by 5 p.m. Friday, July 24.

• Mountain True will host a canoe outing on Apalachia Lake in the Hiwassee area from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 26.  Cost ranges from $10 to $25 depending on membership status and boat rental needs. Space limited. The group will meet at the parking area at the TVA Hiwassee Dam Recreation Facility and carpool to the put-in, which has very limited parking. Fishing and swimming are both options along the way, so bring a line if you like. No alcoholic beverages allowed, and everyone must have a flotation device accessible. Register at www.mountaintrue.org/event/apalachia-lake-paddle-waterfall-hike.

Hiking Clubs

• On Saturday, July 18 The Nantahala Hiking Club will take a moderate-to-strenuous 7-mile hike, elevation change 900 ft., from Long Branch to Rock Gap in the Standing Indian Recreational Area. Start at the backcountry parking, hike up Long Branch to the Appalachian Trail. At Glassmine Gap, continue north to Rock Gap and return by the Forest Service Road. Dogs on leash are welcome.  Hike is limited to 6 people. Meet at Westgate Plaza at 11 am, drive 38 miles round trip.  Call Leader: Katharine Brown, 421-4178, for reservations or questions. 

• On Sunday, July 19 The Nantahala Hiking Club will take a moderate 3.5-mile hike, elevation change 500 ft. on. Wayah Bald Loop, starting at Wayah Tower to hike the Appalachian Trail to the junction with the Bartram Trail and coming back via a forest service road.  Beautiful views from the tower and the bald. Hike is limited to 10 people. Meet at Westgate Plaza in Franklin at 2 pm, drive 32 miles round trip.   Call Leader: Gail Lehman, 524-5298, for reservations. 

• On Saturday, July 25  The Nantahala Hiking Club will take a moderate 6-mile downhill hike, elevation change 700 ft., to Bee Cove Falls in South Carolina on an old logging road off 107 near the Fish Hatchery. View this 80' multi-tiered falls in a pretty area near the edge of the escarpment of the mountains. Hike limited to 10 people. Meet at Cashiers Rec. Park at10 am, drive 20 miles round trip.  Call Leaders: Mike and Susan Kettles, 743-1079, for reservations. 

• On Sunday, July 26 The Nantahala Hiking Club will take a 9-mike moderate-to-strenuous hike, elevation change 1,000 ft., on the Cowetta Hydrological Lab Center Loop, hiking up Shope Creek Road to Cunningham Branch to Dyke Gap to come down Ball Creek Rd. Hike limited to 6 people. Meet at Smoky Mtn. Visitors Center on Hwy. 441 at 9 am, drive 10 miles round trip.  Call leader Katharine Brown, 421-4178 for reservations.

Freedom on foot: Cashiers man shares trail running passion through guide company

These days, Brendon Voelker’s life revolves around running, but eight years ago the Texas native was still struggling to complete his first mile.   

He was overweight and out of shape back then, and while he could happily spend a day riding around on his road bike, running a mile was out of the question. But after a weight loss journey that left him 80 pounds lighter, Voelker made it a personal goal to get that first mile under his belt. By the end of 2013, he’d completed a nonstop 5K for the first time, and the distances ballooned from there. 

America, mile by mile: Cross-country trip reveals country’s beauty, diversity

Back when the trip was a new idea, I don’t think either of us took it seriously. Three weeks on the road, at a time when most American cars were sitting idle in the driveway? Thousands of miles of driving through sand and snow, mountain and desert, far from home? Surely this was just a pie-in-the-sky dream borne from the hunger pangs of quarantine, nothing more. 

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