Holly Kays

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A portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Pisgah National Forest is closed to camping due to bear activity.

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Swap Panthertown trail tales during an informal gathering 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at Whiteside Brewing Co. in Cashiers.

A wall of wind hurtles through the asphalt-covered mountain gap as I exit my car, popping open the trunk to rummage through the sea of stuff for any last-minute additions to the loaded backpack lying atop the mess. 

The air is chilly for early May, barely clearing 50, and I’m tired. It’s 4 p.m. on a Friday, the end of a long week made longer by ongoing complications from a home improvement project. I made a point of declaring that, regardless of the circumstances, I would be going backpacking this evening, but if I’m honest with myself, the treadmill of sifting and planning and losing and finding the gear I’d need to make it happen left me wondering if a brief overnight adventure was really worth all the effort. 

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Volunteers are needed to help with the upcoming Special Olympics season on the Qualla Boundary. 

Learn about the Smokies Herbarium during a Zoom presentation 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, June 18, presented by Janie Bitner, a volunteer with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Natural History Collection. 

Black Balsam Knob in the Pisgah National Forest is one of seven spots nationwide that Sierra Designs ambassadors have chosen to celebrate National Trails Day. 

Help clean up Richland Creek from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 19, in Waynesville. 

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The Waynesville Recreation and Water Park will be closed on Saturdays, June 12 and July 10, for swim meets this summer. 

Mainspring Conservation Trust has hired two new positions, expanding the regional nonprofit’s staff to 12 people. 

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Learn more about Made X Mtns, a new regional brand for Western North Carolina, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at Fire Mountain Outpost in Cherokee. 

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The N.C. Department of Transportation’s crews, contractors and volunteers have collected more than 6 million pounds of litter from roadsides, more than the total weight collected during all of 2020. 

Brandon Light, a student in Haywood Community College’s Forest Management Technology Program, has been named the college’s Academic Excellence Award winner. 

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Every month, the Tribal Council agenda starts the same way. The chairman calls the meeting to order, and then there’s a prayer, a roll call, a call for requested changes to the agenda and a unanimous vote to deem the ever-present list of new proposed ordinances read and tabled. That’s not how the June 1 meeting went. 

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Blue Ridge Parkway rangers will host a new outdoor interpretive series dubbed “Fridays at the Folk Art Center” at 7:30 p.m. every Friday this season at the Folk Art Center in Asheville. 

A partial solar eclipse will be visible across the northern hemisphere on Thursday, June 10, hitting Western North Carolina around sunrise. 

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Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, 84 are currently abnormally dry or experiencing drought — but the far western region is so far exempt. 

A free film screening and panel discussion dealing with disaster preparedness and climate-related severe weather will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin. 

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day at Chimney Rock State Park on Saturday, June 12, with climbing, yoga, live animals and more. 

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After multiple work sessions and a public hearing, Jackson County commissioners may designate an additional $444,000 in the 2021-22 budget for law enforcement and emergency response salaries. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. However, the General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member between the three school board races underway this year. 

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Visitors to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness on the Nantahala National Forest should take extra precautions after recent reports of bear encounters in the area. 

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Base Camp On the Go will be making the rounds this week, providing free outdoor fun in various Haywood County locations through June 11. 

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The 2021 Assault on Blackrock trail race raised $4,100 for the Southwestern Community College Student Emergency Fund. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. The General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member among the three seats up for election this year.

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After five years heading the agency, Jennifer Abshire will retire as director of the Jackson County Department of Social Services on July 1. Following a closed session discussion June 1, county commissioners unanimously approved the social services board’s decision to hire Graham County DSS Director Cris Weatherford to take her place.

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The morning fog is barely lifting at 8 a.m. when a group of five women meet outside Kathy Odvody’s home in Waynesville. I add my fully loaded backpack to the pile accumulating in the rear of Outdoor Mission Community’s lumbering 15-passenger van, and after a brief exchange of names we buckle in for a 36-hour wilderness adventure. 

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Sarah Dearmon was the only person who spoke during the May 27 public hearing for a proposed Sylva town budget  that calls for an 18 percent increase over the general fund from 2020-21. But her comments directly addressed the main debate board members and town citizens have grappled with during this year’s budget process. 

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Tiffany Henry will be Jackson County’s next director of economic development following a unanimous vote from county commissioners May 18. The vote followed a 25-minute closed session discussion at the end of the board’s regular meeting.

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Despite a raging pandemic, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos’ revenues for October 2020 through March 2021 delivered a larger per capita payment to tribal members than the last June distribution based on pre-pandemic earnings. 

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Western North Carolina teenager Evy Leibfarth will represent the United States in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo this year after placing first in two Olympic Team Trials competitions in April. 

The first trails at Canton’s Chestnut Mountain Park will be ready to ride before the leaves drop this fall thanks to an overwhelmingly successful fundraising effort from Asheville YouTuber Seth Alvo. 

Rex Mann’s father was the kind of storyteller whose voice would make everyone in the room stop what they were doing, come and listen. 

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During the Primary Election next week, Cherokee voters will decide which candidates vying for seats on Tribal Council and the Cherokee Central Schools Board of Education will progress to the Sept. 2 General Election. 

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Note: The initial story published May 26 was based on incorrect budget documents from Jackson County that reflected a total budget of $87 million. However, the county later released corrected documents showing a total proposed budget of $78.9 million, representing a 6.27% increase over the 2020-21 adopted budget and a 2% decrease over the amended budget — not the 17.5% increase originally reported. 

Jackson County Manager Don Adams presented a proposed budget May 18 that represents a 6.27% increase in total spending over the 2020-21 adopted budget but a 2% decrease over last year's amended budget.

It would reduce the current tax rate from 38 to 36 cents per $100 of value, but most homeowners will likely receive a higher total tax bill. Due to increased values following this year’s revaluation, the revenue-neutral rate would be 34.47 cents per $100.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is appealing an April 16 decision from District Court Judge James A. Boasberg that paved the way for the Catawba Indian Nation to develop a casino in Cleveland County.

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The pedestal of the Confederate soldier statue in Sylva will get a $14,000 makeover following a 4-1 vote from the Jackson County commissioners. 

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Tiffany Henry will be Jackson County’s next director of economic development following a unanimous vote from county commissioners May 18. The vote followed a 25-minute closed session discussion at the end of the board’s regular meeting.

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The outdoor industry has for years been on an upward trajectory in Western North Carolina, and a regional branding campaign unveiled May 18 aims to boost it even further. 

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During a May 11 work session, Jackson County commissioners discussed a plan to use $400,000 from the general fund — previously allocated to the Cullowhee Volunteer Fire Department — to fund personnel and per-call pay at five other fire departments in the county. 

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are falling toward the lowest levels seen since the pandemic took root. 

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Early voting is underway for the June 3 Primary Election in Cherokee, which will determine the final slate of candidates progressing to the Sept. 2 General Election. 

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Cherokee scholar Thomas Belt received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Western Carolina University last week during commencement on Saturday, May 15.

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“My name is Tommy Thomas. I’ve been fly fishing 30, maybe closer to 40 years now,” says the man wearing a reel of fishing line as a necklace, by way of introducing himself to the couple dozen people gathered for a morning fly fishing class May 7 at Lake Junaluska Dam.

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Early voting is underway for the June 3 Primary Election in Cherokee, which will determine the final slate of candidates progressing to the General Election Sept. 2. This year, all 12 Tribal Council seats are up for election, as well as School Board seats for Wolfetown, Big Cove and Birdtown.

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In a pair of actions taken during Tribal Council on Thursday, May 6, Tribal Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and to stop testing Housing Improvement Program residents and applicants for the drug. 

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Carmaleta Littlejohn Monteith has worn an impressive number of titles over the course of her life. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will pursue a new casino project in partnership with a publicly traded gaming company, following a vote during Tribal Council Thursday, May 6. 

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For the fourth straight week, the rate of vaccinations has decreased in the four-county area, with just 0.5 percent of the four-county area’s population receiving a first dose between May 3 and May 10. 

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The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has lifted a recommendation against long-distance hikes on the A.T. for the first time since the pandemic struck last spring.

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Austin San Souci was just 2 years old the first time he rode a bike. 

“He never had training wheels. He just took off,” said his father, Tyler San Souci. “We sort of supported that all along.”

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