A look back at 2016: Backcountry adventures, birthday celebrations and a wildfire season to remember

For those who love the outdoors, it’s not hard to list the reasons why Western North Carolina is a spectacular place to live, and from that standpoint, the year 2016 certainly didn’t fail to deliver. The curtains are now closing on 2016, but the year will get its proper send-off with this roundup of favorite moments and memorable stories from the past 12 months outdoors.

Great outdoors rakes in tourism dough for Macon

As outdoor recreation tourism continues to climb upward in Macon County, community stakeholders are trying to do a better job of tracking their visitor feedback and providing better services. 

National treasure: National Park Service celebrates 100 years

When President Woodrow Wilson scrawled the signature that brought the National Park Service into being — 100 years ago, on Aug. 25, 1916 — many of the parks now integral to America’s national identity had yet to be created. 

SEE ALSO: Thousands of acres added to the Parkway for Park Service centennial

There was no Great Smoky Mountains National Park, no Blue Ridge Parkway, no Appalachian Trail. No Grand Teton or Olympic or Mammoth Cave or Acadia National Park. At the time Wilson signed the Organic Act, only 35 national parks and monuments existed, with America the only country to have any.

Tackling the Beast: Prepping for a 60-mile mountain bike challenge isn’t easy

out frBy Jamie Arnold • Contributing writer

It’s a 95-degree Sunday afternoon. Most folks are at the lake, or lounging on the couch with a cold beer. Me? I’m on my mountain bike, grinding my way up a 5,000-foot mountain, all because my buddy Don decided to add the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell to his bucket list.  

Following the vein of cheap tattoos, lost wallets and accidental scars, a beer-induced challenge ended with both of us registered to compete in the infamous July 31 event. Now, two months later, we’re winding our way up a dusty brown gravel wall. A loud truck rumbles past, throwing even more gritty dust into the stifling 90-degree air. I glance down at my wheels to see the slow, never-ending gravel treadmill as I pick my way up the mountain.  

Nonprofit forms to teach survival skills during summer camp

out frThe wilderness is where one can find peace and clarity while also finding inner strength and determination. 

That is the basis for Radical Inclusion, a new nonprofit formed by Waynesville couple Nicole Taylor and Jess Dunlap to provide an affordable summer camp experience for youth while teaching them survival skills.

Operation box turtle: Waynesville vet works to give baby turtles a leg up

out frJoel Harrington has always been a fan of turtles. Of all animals, really — he is a veterinarian — but Harrington has had at least one pet turtle ever since he was a kid. And if the collection of Eastern box turtles covering his lawn on a recent sunny afternoon is any indication, the affinity hasn’t faded. 

What matters most in life: Local triathlete on road to recovery following accident

out frAll he heard was the sound of an engine.

“I came over the rise, a place I’d ridden hundreds of times before,” Kevin FitzGerald recalled. “I remember seeing a flash of brown, the roar of a truck and…boom…lights out.”

Feeling the vibe: Mountain bikers converge in WNC to learn, network and explore Tsali trails

out frThe parking lot at Tsali Recreation Area was full of bikes Friday evening — more than 100 of them, strapped to the backs of sedans and SUVs, tied into beds of pickup trucks, license plates running the gamut from Florida to Virginia to Mississippi. Gears were spun, wheelies popped, hoorahs yelled as mountain bikes shot down the trail or gathered in a shiny metal line to await the start of the group ride.

SEE ALSO: Fake it till you make it

“I’m kinda excited,” said Rob Burgess, prepping his bike in the parking lot. “Tsali is one of the epic trails.”

Feeling alive: Waynesville chiropractor reflects on decade as professional mountain climber

out frThe little storefront that serves as home base for Todd McDougall’s chiropractic office looks just about how you’d expect such an office to look — reception desk at the front, neutral walls and an exam room with padded table inside. But the smattering of framed mountain snowscapes on the wall of that exam room give a clue as to what “normal” looked like for McDougall before setting up shop in Waynesville. 

“I would look back after those years, and I had climbed over 60 mountains over 20,000 feet,” McDougall said. “That was six times a year I was at 20,000 feet, and that’s kind of a lot.”

Franklin banner issue causes tempers to flare

fr bannersFranklin officials thought the controversy over banners would end when the board of aldermen passed an ordinance last year allowing them to be hung over Main Street to promote upcoming events.

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