Mis-identifying mushrooms is a risky mistake

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in September 2004.

The cool and humid forests and valleys of the Smokies region are said to be home to a greater variety of mushrooms and related fungi species than any other place on earth.  To some, mushrooms seem spectral and fantastic — like something out of a dream world, best avoided. To others, they represent adventure — objects to be sought out, identified, and understood for their own intrinsic beauty and place in the ecological cycle. And then there are those who pursue them as delicacies — gourmet items that wind up on the kitchen table.

God’s broadcasting station — the great outdoors

When I taught homeschool seminars in Latin, history, and literature in Asheville, I would wait for a cold spell in February and then email my students to come to class dressed for the weather. On their arrival I would lead them outside and hold class for half an hour beneath gray skies and temperatures well below freezing. With any luck we might even find some bits of falling snow. The students would stand shivering in the cold — some of the boys apparently considered t-shirts and shorts appropriate winter clothing — and then we’d tromp back into the classroom.

Bones from coast to coast: Black Mountain runner completes 1,175-mile run while battling cancer

Most people would not see a diagnosis of incurable cancer as an invitation to run 1,175 miles. But Kenny Capps is not most people. 

“It’s a cancer that requires you to say on top of it,” he said. “Moving in whatever way you can, that’s invaluable to being able to live with it. Because you can live with it. I know it’s terminal, but so is life. They don’t have a cure for that either.”

Counting the bears: UTK conducts largest-ever black bear survey

Barbed wire and hundreds of pounds of donuts are the key ingredients in a University of Tennessee Knoxville effort to complete the largest-scale black bear population study ever attempted. 

The 16 million-acre study area covers portions of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, but by far the biggest chunk — about 8 million acres — includes portions of 24 WNC counties. Researchers collected data from the other three states last year but are spending the second and last year of the study focused solely on counting bears in North Carolina. 

No sight required: Summer camp spurs blind youth to outdoor adventure

When Sam Chandler heard that the summer camp he’d been attending for years planned to launch an adventure camp, he was sold. Chandler — who at 17 is a rising senior at Tuscola High School in Waynesville — was quick to sign up for the week of ziplining, hiking and whitewater rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. He came back for a second year, and, when he’d maxed out the two-year cap on adventure camp attendance, returned this year as a counselor.

It would be a common story of summer camp memories and corresponding summer camp allegiance, but for one simple fact: Chandler, like the rest of the teens embarking on these outdoor excursions, is mostly blind. 

A loving push: Cullowhee farm provides growth, safety for people with autism

Grayson Wolfe is the kid with the huge smile on his face as he jumps between stepping stones on the obstacle course. He’s the kid biting his tongue in concentration as he prepares to descend the slide; the kid blowing air through a straw with all he’s got to power his paper boat through the water; the kid leaning over to hug one of the adults volunteering that day at Full Spectrum Farms.

“He’s really shining here,” said Grayson’s dad Ron Wolfe, watching his son play. 

Adventure for all: Outdoor camp for youth with special needs builds friendships and confidence

Intermittent breeze ripples the water atop Lake Junaluska as the sky vacillates between sun and cloud, but the wind can’t quite carry away the excited shouts and chatter of the 60 kids and teens strung out along the dock, casting lines in the water or paddling its surface in red canoes. 

“There goes Maggie!” somebody shouts, pointing to a little girl whose head just barely rises above the top of the canoe as she reclines between two teenage volunteers and another young girl, who supports Maggie carefully from behind. 

Just sit on the porch and breathe

I write this down in the country again ... seated on a log

in the woods, warm, sunny midday. Have been loafing here deep

among the trees, shafts of tall pines, oak, hickory, with a thick

undergrowth of laurel and grapevines — I sit and listen to the

pine tops sighing above, and to the stillness ...

— Walt Whitman, Specimen Days (1892)

Backyard trails: Local mountain bike trails surge to popularity

In 2013, Western Carolina University cut the ribbon on 7-mile trail system zig-zagging an otherwise unbuildable piece of university property. 

Over the five years since, the trails have become an indispensible resource for mountain bikers — as well as trail runners and hikers — in the Cullowhee area, and last fall a trio of WCU employees set out to back up those observations with hard numbers. 

Bracken among the world’s most common plants

 “Here and elsewhere, bracken is such an aggressive plant that one wonders why it has not taken over the world.”

— R.C. Moran, A Natural History of Ferns (2004)

Bracken fern is said to be one of the five most common plants in the world. Standing up to five feet high, it is the coarse leathery fern you have no doubt encountered in disturbed areas, thickets, and dry open woodlands.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.