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. 

The sacred animal that walks like a man

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in an April 2003 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

Bears have always held a special attraction for human beings. In a chapter titled “Killing the Sacred Bear” in his monumental study The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (1922), Sir James George Frazer traced the reverence for bears among the Ainu people of Japan and the Gilyats in Siberia. 

‘Enjoy yourself’: WNC duo runs with outdoors-inspired sunglasses brand

For Nick Provost and Peter Moyle, co-owners of the startup outdoors brand Gnarcissist Gear, it all started with granola bars in high school history class. Moyle was new at Smoky Mountain High School, and he and Provost became friends over the shared snacks, strengthening their bond as they both took jobs at Cataloochee Ski Area. 

“We worked together all the time, carpooled all the time,” said Moyle, 27. “That’s how this whole ideation came about was talking in the car about what we wanted to do someday.”

Reroute planned for Blackrock Trail

The infamously steep trail leading up to Blackrock from Pinnacle Park will soon find itself with a gentler incline following the planned reroute of 0.37 miles of the most severely angled piece of the pathway.

Eye of the beholder: Outdoor photographer shares love of the craft

Catch him if you can.

For the last few years, Steve Yocom has made quite a name for himself as one of the premier outdoor photographers in Western North Carolina and greater Southern Appalachia. If it wasn’t for his wild and wondrous images of the great outdoors, of iconic spots or off-the-beaten gems, you’d truly have no idea where he was at any given time.

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