Jackson votes in favor of Blackrock conservation

A 441.5-acre piece of land high in the Plott Balsams is well on its way to being permanently conserved following a unanimous vote from the Jackson County Commissioners to contribute $250,000 to its conservation. 

Learning bird songs is an art unto itself

 Editor’s note: This column first appeared in a May 2009 issue of The Smoky Mountain News.

In the opaque early-morning light outside our bedroom windows, the birds that reside in our woods — or do we reside in their woods? — commence warming up for the day with tentative calls and whistles. The male cardinal seems to take the lead most mornings. Before long, however, the patterns arrange themselves into a tapestry of music.

New state office to focus on outdoor recreation growth

Outdoor recreation leaders in the region recently had the opportunity to weigh in on a newly established North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office whose aim is to help the industry and recruit more business. 

The Naturalist's Corner: Back in the saddle

I have had, since 2004, one of the best gigs any bird nerd could ask for. That was when I was awarded my first U.S. Forest Service (FS) bird survey contract for three districts in the Pisgah National Forest. To say I didn’t know what I was getting into would be a great understatement. I was given some over-the-counter maps and a list of coordinates and was told all I had to do was find the points, mark them and then survey them.

The Naturalist's Corner: Not quite a wrap

The starting date for my annual bird survey for the U.S. Forest Service is May 1. All of our nesting species should be on territory by this date. Some, like Canada warblers, may not be here in great numbers but they will be represented in appropriate habitat.

A.T. identities: Thru-hikers share their trail names’ origins

On the Appalachian Trail, everybody’s story is the same, in a sense — the chill of the cold, the heat of the sun, the constant challenge of placing one foot in front of the other toward the trail’s end in Maine. 

But the stories are just as different as they are similar. Thru-hikers are retirees, recent college grads, folks in the middle of a career change. They’re Appalachian natives, West Coast wanderers, foreign travelers. They’re silly, serious, talkative and silent. 

Finding inspiration in the backwoods of WNC

Certain memories or events in life stand out as paramount, like a utopian experience that seems more like a movie than reality. This past weekend was one of those for me. Over 24 hours spent running in the backwoods of Western North Carolina bolstered my faith in humanity.

Jackson launches outdoors camp

With a whole world of mountain beauty to explore, summer leaves no time to waste indoors. 

Waynesville’s Base Camp now offered on the go

In the four years since they first launched, Waynesville’s Base Camp summer programs — day camps packed full of outdoor adventure and environmental education — have quickly risen in popularity, selling out in hours, months ahead of when the camps begin. 

Wildflower spotting: New book guides search for April blooms

The combination of a stress-filled week and the dawn of a perfect, sunny and 70-something degree day worked like a drug, a magnetic compulsion to leave the dark indoors in search of a sunlight-swathed trail to melt my anxiety away. 

Mid-April is standout wildflower season here in the lower elevations of the mountains, so I grabbed the newly minted trail guide sitting on my desk for guidance on where to go. Wildflower Walks & Hikes: North Carolina Mountains, is the latest title from Swain County-based guidebook author Jim Parham, and with 59 hikes organized by location, habitat and peak season, it wasn’t hard to find an outing to match my criteria: low enough elevation to feature April wildflowers, dog-friendly and as close to Waynesville as possible. 

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