The year in quotes

It’s often been said that there’s wisdom to be found in the rhythms of nature, and that’s certainly true. But there’s also wisdom — and humor as well — in the words of those who spend their time outdoors, soaking those rhythms into their souls. Some of their words are featured here among The Smoky Mountain News’ favorite quotes from 2019’s outdoors section.

Learning in the real world: Smokies outdoor education center turns 50, plans expansion

As it nears the end of its 50th anniversary year, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has its eyes set on the half-century to come. Within five years, the nonprofit aims to build out a second campus to supplement its existing facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Walker Valley. 

Ride on: Kids mountain biking park opens in Jackson

More than a year of planning, collaboration and plain old-fashioned hard work has resulted in a new kids bike park along the Jackson County Greenway, an accomplishment celebrated during a sunlit ribbon-cutting event held at noon Thursday, Oct. 24.

“This park right here, not only is it a tangible, concrete resource for kids immediately and today, but it also stands for, I think, effective and incredibly positive collaboration and partnership between our organization and Jackson County, which I think could materialize into other exciting things,” said Michael Despeaux of the Nantahala Area Southern Off Road Bicycling Association. 

Outdoor economy efforts continue

If the United States’ outdoor recreation industry were its own country, it would be the world’s 25th largest economy. And, while towns like Moab and Boulder and Jackson Hole might have more name recognition on a nationwide scale, Western North Carolina has everything it takes to command a large piece of that hypothetical country’s pie.

The fungi forager: Franklin man develops a passion for wild mushrooms

Beneath the woodsy world of tree trunks, ferns and leaf litter is another, hidden realm. It’s the world of fungi, where these shadow organisms — not plants, but yet not animals — spread their tendrils through the soil, through the moist decay of fallen branches, into the bark of standing trees, both living and dead. Where the two worlds meet is where the mushrooms grow.

Science program goes statewide: ecoEXPLORE program for kids now available in N.C. State Parks

A program that’s been getting Western North Carolina kids outside since 2016 is now a statewide offering, with a whirlwind tour of 10 North Carolina state parks over the next couple weeks celebrating ecoEXPLORE’s arrival at all 41 park units. 

“There’s a lot of benefits to being outdoors, and it’s something that we’re seeing less and less in adults and children,” said Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville. “A lot of times it’s almost like a competition — you can go outside and be screen-free, or you can go indoors and be completely immersed in a screen. I think one approach that is helpful is utilizing those items like smartphones as tools to explore the environment, and not just as tools to explore the environment but to engage kids in doing conservation work.”

Kids in Parks logs one million TRACK Trails adventures

In its mission to engage children with the outdoors, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program is marking a powerful milestone; kids and families have completed one million adventures through the program’s TRACK Trails. This figure represents more than one million miles hiked, biked or paddled, and more than 500,000 hours spent outside.

Believing Bigfoot: Locals log Sasquatch evidence in North Carolina’s mountains

Jeff Carpenter knows the woods. 

A native of Otto who’s spent most of his adult life the next county over in Sylva, he learned from his father Earvin Carpenter what it means to be an outdoorsman and a mountain man. He knows how to hunt and track and orienteer. He’s seen more than a few bears, heard more than a few coyotes, spent more than a few nights camped out in the backcountry. 

But over the last 15 years, he’s become convinced that there’s something out there that doesn’t show up in standard field guides. 

On the upswing: Golf industry changes with the times

Golf is more than a game in Western North Carolina — the wellbeing of the popular past time can be a major indicator of how the regional economy is doing as far as real estate and tourism growth. 

The golf industry — like many others — took a major hit following the recession in 2008. Many courses went bankrupt and closed down, people couldn’t afford to play the game as often, and home building within the country clubs came to a standstill. Even in 2017, more than 200 golf courses across the nation closed as the supply and demand pendulum continues to swing its way back toward the center following 20 years of unsustainable growth. 

Gov. Cooper touts tourism at Nantahala Outdoor Center

It’s no secret that Western North Carolina has long been a haven for outdoor recreational enthusiasts, but as that particular segment of North Carolina’s economy continues to expand, Gov. Roy Cooper is doing all he can to foster further growth. 

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