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They stood in a line, trigger fingers poised, eyes fixated on the target.  It was early morning, and the predawn sun had not yet peaked over the tops of the eastern range. An antlered male elk had his head down,…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:53

Feast your eyes on wild turkey facts

The domestic, farm-raised turkey most Americans eat on Thanksgiving Day is nothing like the wild turkey feasted on by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. And with that big turkey meal approaching, here are a few facts about the tasty game…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:49

Tuscola wins annual FFA dirt competition

Tuscola High School students placed first among the 13 competing teams at the 2012 Area Land Judging contest hosted earlier this month by the Future Farmers of America.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:48

Funding helps turn teachers into rangers

Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has received a $12,000 grant from Verizon to empower teachers with science and technology. Next spring and summer, the grant will fund two teacher workshops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:45

Build it and they will come

Back in spring of 2011 I wrote about a wetlands restoration project at Lake Junaluska - www.smokymountain Candace Stimson, in order to fulfill her Low Impact Development degree at Haywood Community College, unearthed Suzy’s Branch behind Jones Cafeteria and…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:42

Snow guns get ski season off with a bang

As superstorm Sandy hurled itself toward the Northeast, soon to leave a wreckage of flooded streets, sunken boardwalks and dangling electrical lines, the folks at Cataloochee Ski Area were firing up the snow machines — to take advantage of the…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:15

Christmas bird count is counting on you

Tune up your listening ears and wipe down the binoculars: the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is calling all birders to participate in the Christmas Bird Count on Friday, Dec. 14.
A $50,000 grant will fund improvements to the red wolf exhibit and build a covered pavilion at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:11

Hometown biologist honored for saving quail

A biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, who hails from Haywood County and has played a leading role in establishing bobwhite quail habitat in the state, has been honored for his work.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:10

Mingus Creek and more on guided hike

A guided hike of the Mingus Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be held Saturday, Dec. 15, followed by a trip to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for history lessons and holiday shopping at the gift shop.…
After four endangered red wolves were killed by hunters who possibly mistook them for coyotes while night hunting, a North Carolina judge has temporarily halted spotlight hunting of coyotes in five eastern counties where the world’s only wild population of…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:03

Park bracing for devastation of ash trees

The first backcountry emerald ash borer infestation has been confirmed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:01

Power birding at Tessentee (again)

Don’t know why, but the last two birding trips to Tessentee Bottomland Preserve in Macon County — one last Sunday and one in November a year ago — have been rushed affairs, allowing about two-and-a-half hours of birding from 9:30…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 13:56

Sweet single-track coming to WCU

Outdoors enthusiasts and diehard mountain bikers are waiting in anticipation the winter opening of a seven-mile mountain biking and hiking trail in the Sylva and Cullowhee area. The trail will be the first of its kind accessible by foot, or…
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:59

Little Tennessee heralded for wildlife spotting

The Little Tennessee River in Macon County landed a spot on the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s “top nine” list of spots to enjoy wildlife and wildlife-associated activities in the state.
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:58

Is the chestnut making a comeback?

Volunteers and scientists planted 200 American chestnut seedlings in the Nantahala National Forest that are hopefully blight resistant in efforts to restore the mighty giant to its rightful place as king of the Appalachian forest.
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:57

Land trust protects entrance to protected area

In November the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 89 acres at the southern end of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in a move to protect vulnerable conservation lands and pristine views. The tract, in the Highlands of Roan, adjoins…
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:51

Over the fiscal cliff – and into the abyss

First Mate McConnell: “Cap’n the ship is headed straight for that iceberg and there’s no way we kin stop her in time!” Captain Boehner: “Don’t worry mate. I have a plan.” FM McConnell: “What kin we do?”
The mountains rising above the valleys have long been the main attraction for tourists planning a trip to Western North Carolina, but a regional initiative between local government and private entities is looking to capitalize on the recreational potential riding…
Recreational Equipment Inc. donated $5,000 to support the Smokies Trails Forever program and helped fund a crew and 106 volunteers to preserve and protect the iconic Chimney Tops trail. The Chimney Tops trail, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:03

New speciality plate looking for support

Show your support for the Mountain to Sea Trail by being one of the first 300 people to buy a specialty Trail license plate. Once the Trail has pre-sold 300 plates, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will start producing…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:02

Appalachian Trail ambassadors sought

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy seeks to fill 15 volunteer positions as Appalachian Trail community ambassadors. These ambassadors will support the AT Community program and their designated communities with outreach, education, local projects, events and initiatives.
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:59

The day the sun stood still

Ladies and gentlemen, return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. Spaceship Earth will be screeching to a stop at 6:12 a.m. EST, Dec. 21. After we’re stopped, feel free to unclick; go to the restroom; get up and stretch…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:58

Gear Guide 2012: Blackrock Outdoor Company

Hammocks by Eagle’s Nest Outfitters — $55 to $80 These hammocks are a great gift for anyone simply looking to relax or hit the trail with an ultra-light, overnight shelter. Within seconds, you can be swinging from your favorite backyard…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:56

Gear Guide 2012: Nantahala Outdoor Center Wesser

GoPro Hero3 Camera: Black Edition — $400 If you’re tired of showing boring vacation photographs and videos to friends and family, try strapping a camera to your head. With this new camera form GoPro, you’ll be able to show them…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:55

Gear Guide 2012: Outdoor 76 Franklin

Outdoor 76 t-shirts and “828” caps — $22 to $26 If you fish local, hike local or kayak local, then you might as well support local outfitters or organizations that protect the resources that make those activities possible. Outdoor 76…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:54

Gear guide 2012: Mast General Store

Sawyer Squeeze Filter — $60 This may be the best, and last water filter, you ever buy. The new filter by Sawyer is guaranteed for up to one million gallons of crystal clear, ready-to-drink H2O. And, there are no obnoxious…
For outdoors enthusiasts, Christmas brings but fleeting respite from the cold, dark days of winter — with the promise of spring hikes still many months off. If it’s impossible to bring them to their favorite trailhead or mountain top, the…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Historic Appalachian Trail shelter gets a lift

The Nantahala Hiking Club recently renovated an 80-year-old Appalachian Trail shelter about a mile north of Burningtown Gap in Macon County.
The Franklin Young Professionals were recently awarded a plaque for their participation in the N.C. Big Sweep river cleanup this fall.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has once again launched a year-end fundraising campaign called the 469 Challenge. Inspired by the miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469 Challenge is an effort to bring in one donation for every mile…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Project to engage farmers in biofuel industry

A $130,000 grant from The Biofuels Center of North Carolina is providing seed money aimed at developing the clean energy industry in Western North Carolina. The Field to Fryer to Fuel project, led by AdvantageWest, will pilot a new business…
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great wilderness of about a half-million square acres. It has been the mission of the Park to preserve the thousands of species of plants and animals that live there and, where and…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

WNC lakes join list with mercury warning for fish

Two more lakes in the region are now under a fish consumption advisory due to mercury contamination. Unsafe levels of mercury have been detected in fish species in Nantahala Lake in Macon County and Lake Chatuge in Clay County, leading…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 14:58

Classes and workshops

Wildlife program seeks help with classes Wild South’s Wildlife Outreach Initiative, along with Mountain Wildlife Days, are in the process of scheduling wildlife education programs for both adults and students during the 2012-13 school year. The programs emphasize on close-up…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 14:54

Ready, set, ski! Races begin at Catalaoochee

Cataloochee Ski Area is opening its winter race series beginning 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, for middle school competitors, followed by high school races at the same time on the following day, Wednesday, Jan. 9. The race series occurs weekly…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 14:50

New hiker shelter finished on the AT

Hikers of the Appalachian Trail now have a new shelter where they can rest their bones. The U.S. Forest Service announced Dec. 18 the completion of the Long Branch Shelter, located in the Standing Indian Basin in the Nantahala National…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 14:46

When it’s good to be threatened

I wrote about wood storks, Mycteria americana, back in August of this year after a trip to Isle of Palms in South Carolina ( It was really cool to see these large prehistoric-looking birds cruising over the marsh in undulating…
You’ve been training for months. You’ve skipped the kids’ piano recitals and parent teacher conferences; you’ve bailed on dinner with the in-laws (several times) and nights out with the friends — all to adhere to your strict training schedule to…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 04:03

Contest captures state’s natural beauty

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has announced the winners of the eighth annual Wildlife in North Carolina magazine outdoor photo competition.
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 04:01

Friends, feathers and fellowship

Friday, Dec. 28, was the date of the eleventh annual Balsam Christmas Bird Count (CBC) — 11 dates but 10 actual counts as the 2009 CBC was cancelled due to inclement weather. This year’s weather was much better for the…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 03:59

Forests and water could be doomed in 2060

A comprehensive U.S. Forest Service report released last month examines how expanding populations, increased urbanization, and changing land-use patterns could impact natural resources, including water supplies, nationwide during the next 50 years.
Nestled deep in the mountains between Sylva and Cashiers, the scenic U.S. Forest Service Balsam Lodge is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a makeover. Throughout the summer and fall, portions of the lodge were restored by student carpentry…
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

New soil and water expert named

Waynesville native John Ottinger has been named District Conservationist for the Haywood and Madison counties Soil and Water Conservation District.
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

Food cables help backpackers ward off bears

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has provided $800 from its specialty license plate funds to help secure backpackers’ food from bears along the Appalachian Trail within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

A closer look

Only you can apply the brakes to slow down the Courthouse Timber Sale and get everyone to take a closer look. This sale – scheduled for nearly 500 acres in the Pisgah National Forest near the foot of Devils Courthouse…
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

Carrying the torch through history

It’s all started with a phone call. A lifelong thirst for adventure led Ronald R. Cooper to a love of backpacking, where he soon began hiking around the Grand Canyon and beyond. But, he was in search of a new…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 04:10

Local food on the rise

Last year was a promising year for local food production and farm education in WNC, according to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. ASAP provided some year-end figures to paint a picture of different milestones and achievements in 2012 and the…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Global warming series aims to inspire change

A six-week discussion course on climate change called “Global Warming: Changing Course” is being put on by the Western North Carolina Alliance Thursday evenings starting Jan. 24. Learn about the history and science of global warming, personal values and habits…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Lake Junaluska a top spot for winter birding

The Highlands Plateau chapter of the Audubon Society will go birding at Lake Junaluska on Monday, Jan. 21, to mark the first watching excursion of the New Year. The lake is ideal for attracting winter birds and waterfowl. The group…
The Haywood Waterways Association has named their endowment fund the “Joetta Rinehart Endowment Fund” in honor of one of the organization’s supporters. Rinehart was actively involved in Haywood Waterways, serving on its board of directors and as treasurer.  The Endowment…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Deputy superintendent retires from GSMNP

Kevin FitzGerald, deputy superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2006, retired this month after 34 years with the National Park Service. While stationed at park headquarters on the Tennessee side of the park, he and his wife…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Freeze your icicle off at winter bike race

Riders are invited to compete and spectators are invited to watch at the Icycle Mountain Bike Race at Fontana Village on Jan. 26. The seven-mile course consists of varied terrain with rocks, roots, creeks and open passing lanes that make…
Proposed logging below Devil’s Courthouse in the Pisgah National Forest is being widely decried among outdoor recreation groups and environmental advocates.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Up in flames?

I sit this morning being bathed in luxurious rain. The kind of life-affirming, life-giving rain the Smokies are noted for. A quick run to town watching the rain cascading down the asphalt, clear here and muddy red there, being sucked…
Its bolts are rusting, floor planks are rotting, and its windowpanes shattered. The roof is pocked with holes that let in the rain and snow. Even the some of the guardrails have gone missing from the 60-foot-tall lookout tower —…
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:48

Big investment made in local bio-fuels

A consortium of Western North Carolina public agencies and private organizations will receive a grant of $766,000 from the N.C. Bio-fuels Center, to advance the bio-fuels industry in the region.
Swain County farmers, landowners, and other interested individuals are invited to share their thoughts and idea on a new farmland protection plan to support agriculture in Swain County.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:37

I feel the earth move…

It may not have shaken the Richter scale like the stampede of Republican lawmakers and their realtor and developer lobbyists in Raleigh back in 2011, clamoring to cut funding for the state’s Landslide Hazard Mapping program, but there were more…
Have you ever been told by the evening news to expect three inches of snow overnight, but after stocking up on bread, toilet paper and flashlight batteries, you walk out the next morning, snow shovel in hand, to find only…
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 00:00

Outdoors news briefs

Rains cause wastewater spills in Haywood Beginning Jan. 14, and due to the heavy rains, Waynesville had several wastewater overflows. One took place at a manhole adjacent to Richland Creek at Howell Mill Road. An estimated 600,000 gallons spilled out…
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 00:00

The hype on hybrids

Editor’s note: Naturalist Don Hendershot is writing a series of columns exploring the use of alternative energy and fuels.   Hybrids are supposed to offer the best of both worlds, quiet electrical propulsion for stop-and-go driving and the power of…
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 00:00

Chattooga at the crossroads

A recurring debate between camps in the Chattooga River controversy is how many paddlers would actually come to the river. The paddling community claims it won’t be very many, nor very often. They say they need at least two days…
Wednesday, 20 June 2007 00:00

How ‘bout the trout?

By Michael Beadle Fishing for something fun to do this weekend? Head downstream to the Maggie Valley Fairgrounds for the 18th Annual Smoky Mountain Trout Festival on Saturday, June 23.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007 00:00

Electric vehicles

Most people tend to think of electric (EVs) and hybrid (HEVs) vehicles in the same sphere, but the two are quite different with their own sets of pros and cons. Electric cars are powered solely by batteries that must be…
Wednesday, 20 June 2007 00:00

Donors honored for conservation easements

The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust honored those that donated land and conservation agreements in 2006 at a recent celebration.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 00:00

The drive to alternative fuels

Greenies, tree-huggers, granolas and old hippies are mothers, dads and grandmoms too. And there is a sincere desire to live and raise our children in a cleaner, safer, sustainable world. But until we greenies achieve the economical and political clout…
By Michael Beadle William Bartram only came through Western North Carolina for a handful of days in the spring of 1775. The record of his travels through Cherokee country (including present-day Highlands, Franklin and the Nantahala Gorge) wouldn’t be published…
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00:00

Soy ... the rest of the story

By Kathleen Lamont Soy is found in all kinds of foods we eat today, but do you know what’s in soy?
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00:00

New shelter graces Wayah Bald

After Ann McDuff was struck and killed while riding her bicycle in February 2003, her husband, Larry, spearheaded a money-raising effort to build a shelter in her memory along the Appalachian Trail.
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00:00

Green energy

Over the next few weeks in The Naturalist’s Corner, I’m going to be exploring different aspects of the alternative and green energy movement.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:47

Hiking club rolls out two new trail challenges

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, the Carolina Mountain Club Challenge committee has added two new hiking challenges this year to its lineup.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beginning a new program that allows nearby residents, business people, teachers and community members to see the everyday workings of the national park.
A 601-acre tract in Avery County near Roan Mountain has been purchased and conserved by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The tract is adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest and near the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The…
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:37

Arrrggghh – a wintry mix

Limeade, tequila and cointreau is not a wintry mix — that is a margarita; something you may resort to when a wintry mix turns your driveway into a sheet of ice. The ingredients for a wintry mix are a combination…
A large Appalachian Trail gathering is coming to Western Carolina University this summer, and local trail clubs hosting the week-long conference are recruiting volunteers to help during the event The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will hold is biennial meeting in Cullowhee…
By Jill Ingram • Guest writer, WCU public affairs office Covering long distances in and around Cataloochee Valley, a Western Carolina University student is researching the growing, and sometimes problematic, elk population in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The…
Wednesday, 30 May 2007 00:00

The Naturalist's Corner: Fuel for thought

Biofuels have been getting a lot of media and blogosphere attention lately, and with the price of gas at $3 per gallon and climbing that’s not likely to change. Whether you get your news from the Internet, the newspaper or…
By Michael Beadle Before you ask the most obvious question – why? – remember, it’s not a race or a sudden urge to drop out of society so he doesn’t have to pay his bills. Like the bumper sticker reminds…
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 00:00

Tag helps nonprofit reach $1 million mark

Motorists sporting Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park license plates have helped the organization top the $1 million fund-raising mark since the inception of the specialty license plates in 1999.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 00:00

From dogwood to blackberry winter

Frost warnings and advisories across the Blue Ridge tonight (May 18) officially announce this year’s “blackberry winter.” It is coming about six weeks after “dogwood winter” and will be a much more gentle reminder of Ma Nature’s cold side. The…
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 00:00

Trail head earns accolades

Who is he: Tobias Miller, who lives near Sylva, was honored this month as the 2006 employee of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Miller is the trails foreman for the North Carolina side of the park.…
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:36

Local fisherman lands silver at championships

Angler and Sylva native Josh Stephens recently earned a silver medal in team competition during the National Fly Fishing Championship in Bend, Ore., as a member of one of the Team USA squads competing.
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:34

Donation will go to Smokies priorities

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park was recently awarded $2,000 from Sustainability for Generations to Come, a Western North Carolina organization formed to support conservation efforts in the mountain region.
28 Western North Carolina farmers received nearly $150,000 total in grants to help diversify their farm businesses. The money was awarded by WNC AgOptions grant program, which is funded through the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Most of the awards…
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:30

Fees proposed for forest service recreation sites

The U.S. Forest Service may increase, or begin charging, fees at seven recreation sites within the national forests in North Carolina. The Sliding Rock Recreation Area, within the Pisgah National Forest and three shooting ranges in the Nantahala National Forest…
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:27

Hops finds a home in WNC soil and economy

A free program on “The Business of Growing Hops” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Haywood Community College.
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:26

The Rainbow to Nowhere?

What happens when you finally get to the end of the rainbow and there’s no gold in the pot? Perusing The Smoky Mountain News the other day, I ran across Becky Johnson’s piece about the $52 million dollar cash settlement,…
Although the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a protected expanse of land, all types of contamination — from air pollution to mercury contamination — manage to creep in. One of the more unusual suspects, but probably the most apparent,…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:04

Wild game on the grill at wildlife club dinner

The Wildlife Club at Haywood Community College is hosting a wild game dinner at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at the Haywood County Fairgrounds. There will also be a wild animal calling competition for both game and non-game species. There…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:02

Parkway chief to retire

Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis has announced that he will retire on April 1 after 41 years in the National Park Service. During his eight years at the Parkway, he faced continuous budget cuts, which reduced the number of full-time employees…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:01

Cataloochee road closed due to wash out

The gravel road leading into Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was washed out by recent heavy rains and has been closed just past Palmer Chapel.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:00

Vandals hit park with paint and profanity

Vandals hit an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as “the Sinks” — a popular roadside waterfall located on Little River Road on the Tennessee side of the park. They spray painted pictures and profanity along the…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:57

Great count in your backyard

Of course, you’re no longer confined to your backyard like you were back in 1997 when the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) launched. Sixteen years later and the GBBC is going global. Anyone around the world with Internet access can…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:56

More trail talk…

A regional trails map showing hiking trails, greenways, public lands, rivers and other outdoor recreation landmarks in the seven western counties has recently been completed by the Southwestern Commission — marking one of the first such publications for Western North…
For the past year, the National Forest Service has been taking inventory, collecting public input and meeting with outdoor interest groups to wrangle its expansive web of nearly 1,600 miles of trail in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests into…
The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee recently helped the town of Andrews protect and conserve its 930-acre watershed in Cherokee County.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:09

Smokies Association pushes for membership

The Great Smoky Mountains Association is launching a membership drive in honor of its 60th anniversary this year.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:08


Translation — Great Backyard Bird Count at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge; the tradition continues. Since a spur-of-the-moment GBBC at Black Bayou with my brother back in 2006, I have only missed two years of counting in Louisiana. It’s…