Ancient Cherokees found protection from the cold

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in a September 2002 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

It’s only late summer but I’m already thinking about winter. We have heated and cooked with wood for quarter of a century now, so having a supply of kindling and firewood on hand has always been a priority. 

Ice rink in Maggie Valley opens next week

It’s a perplexing dichotomy. Maggie Valley has been portrayed as a town that rolls up the sidewalks once the leaf-lookers leave each fall, even though it’s home to two popular winter attractions — Cataloochee Ski Resort and Tony’s Tube World draw thousands each year to the western end of Haywood County — but now a third reason to visit the Valley will further test tourists’ appetite for winter wanderings.

This must be the place: That time the trees all came falling down

This week marks just over 20 years since The Great Ice Storm of 1998. In early January of that year, I was 12 years old and a seventh-grader living on the Canadian Border of Upstate New York. 

Many ways down the mountain: Adaptive ski program opens doors at Cataloochee

The sky is a flawless, cloudless blue over Cataloochee Ski Area as Mark Brogan, 37, suits up for a morning on the slopes. A U.S. Army veteran who was previously stationed in Alaska, Brogan has a longstanding love for the outdoors and for the unique thrill that comes with a snowy slide down the side of a mountain. 

All set up with rented gear and an instructor, Brogan delays his journey to the lift long enough to hold his 19-month-old son Connor in front of the ski school lodge as his wife Sunny snaps a picture. 

Deep freeze: Frozen waterfalls offer rare winter spectacle

It was cold, but I was prepared. Leggings and Underarmour, sweatpants and sweatshirt, parka and hiking pants, an array of hats, gloves and scarves — it was safe to say I’d dressed for the forecasted high of 27 degrees.

I’d spent much of the past week indoors, wrapped in blankets against the single-digit chill that assaulted my apartment and dreaming of warmer days. But as the weekend drew near, a realization dawned — all this cold had surely created some beauty out of Western North Carolina’s abundant waterways. I made a decision: I would brave the cold, and I would go find a frozen waterfall.

Tourists taste Maggie Valley as season grows ever longer

For all of its bluster and bikers and bling in the summertime, Maggie Valley can be one sleepy little town in the winter.

Traditionally, many businesses in the tiny settlement close during the off-season, a habit no doubt acquired during the heyday of Ghost Town in the Sky, the mountaintop amusement park that since 1965 closed every winter as well, until it closed for good a few years ago.

Forget the frenzy, settle in with a book

For many of us, Christmas preparations require the endurance of a marathoner and the speed of a lab rat on amphetamines. We hoist a tree in the den, decorate our homes, dash off greeting cards to people we last saw two years ago, race through the mall buying presents and stocking stuffers, plan and prepare a Christmas dinner that would buckle a lesser table, and get sloshed at parties while wearing the hat of an elf. The culture pumps holiday Red Bull into our veins: some radio stations are belting out Bing Crosby before Thanksgiving, by the second week of December films like “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” jam the television, and every church in town offers a concert.

Braving the storm: Backcountry rescuers save lost hikers in snow, frigid temps

It was around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, when the two hikers stepped out of their red Ford Edge and into the parking lot at Big East Fork Trailhead. After the stunning vistas the Blue Ridge Parkway had offered on their drive from Asheville, David Crockett, a 23-year-old UNC Charlotte student, and his friend Sultan Alraddadi wanted to see those mountains up close.

They’d found the hike on AllTrails, an app that outlined an 8.1-mile loop that climbed Chestnut Ridge, continuing west to butt up against the Art Loeb Trail before returning east via the Shining Creek Trail. 

Waiting in a winter wonderland

My wife was stranded in Mississippi. She was supposed to get home late on Friday night, but then the big snowstorm came. We ended up with 4-6 inches, which in the North would be considered a flurry. In the South, it means we have to shut her down for a spell.

While I was in the Food Lion — which felt like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, except with people clutching gallons of milk instead of glasses of cheap champagne — my wife was getting the terrible news that her flight to Charlotte had been canceled and the kids were getting the awesome news that school was closing early.

When frost comes, we know winter has arrived

The first frost serves as a given year’s most distinctive dividing line. It’s hard to pinpoint just when winter becomes spring, when spring become summer, or when summer becomes fall. But the winter season has arrived when the first frost occurs.

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