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For years, Appalachian Trail thru-hikers have been stopping in Franklin for supplies, rest, and Internet access, but last week the town solidified its place as a trail destination. Mayor Joe Collins signed a proclamation accepting the town’s designation as an…
Voters in the Democratic Primary in Haywood County must choose which of the two candidates profiled here will advance to the November election. Republican candidate Bill Wilke is running unopposed in the primary and will automatically advance. Bobby Suttles, 65,…
The Jackson County Courthouse, Sylva’s most distinctive building, was built in a rush. C.J. Harris, a prominent industrialist and wealthy Sylva businessman, bankrolled the $50,000 project in 1914 in return for the county seat being moved from Webster to Sylva.…
Tony Elders didn’t realize quite how much on-the-job exercise he was in for when he was hired to oversee Jackson County’s new development regulations three years ago. He often must lace up his boots and take off cross-country, GPS unit…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Take a gander along the Smokies Scenic byway

The stunning beauty that surrounds U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park outside Cherokee draws thousands of tourists each year who come to enjoy the cool mountain summers or marvel at the vivid fall foliage along the route.…
There’s free wireless up for grabs to anyone ambling down Main Street in Waynesville, but it’s so obscure that even those who work downtown are oblivious to its existence. When tourists file into stores and restaurants asking where they can…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Bench holds tradition of balanced temperament

Steve Bryant was fresh out of law school and just learning his way around the courtroom when the judge hearing his case one day threatened to throw him in jail. The judge had announced a recess, and Bryant seized the…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Gun ban in national parks lifted

Loaded guns are now legal in national parks. The new rule is two years in the making. Previously, guns had to be unloaded and stowed in the trunks of vehicles when traveling through a park. While hunting or firing a…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Judicial candidates

There are three district court judge seats up for election this year. Candidates must designate which seat they are running for. The race is non-partisan. Two candidates for each seat will advance past the May primary to the general election…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

The nuts and bolts of the bench

The starting salary for a judge is $109,000, but can climb much higher for judges with a long tenure thanks to cost of living raises plus a bump in pay for every five years spent on the bench. Judge Steve…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

One fateful night

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. 320 pages On a sweltering summer night in 1972, three white teenagers in Washington, D. C., decide to cruise through a black neighborhood called Heathrow Heights. On a dare, the…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Swain starts to budge on Deal’s Gap debate

Despite Graham County pledging to end all emergency services to Deal’s Gap starting Jan. 1, its EMS director has already sent rescue squads to respond to tractor trailer wrecks in the Swain territory since the year began. Graham’s emergency services…
After months of hard work, Macon County’s steep slope committee shared its recommendations with the county’s planning board last week.Now the question is whether the committee’s work will survive with its core principles intact if or when it is adopted…
A landslide at the Waterdance development in the Tuckasegee area of Jackson County washed out a road and dumped a significant amount of mud and concrete into the Tuckasegee River in early February. Robbie Shelton, erosion control officer for Jackson…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Perfecting the art of shelving books

Some readers might recall that three weeks ago — in a column about relocating my long lost inscribed copy of James Still’s “Hounds on the Mountain” — I mentioned in passing that the book had reappeared as I was in…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

The Naturalist's Corner

Bird’s the word North Carolina’s state parks and Audubon North Carolina have joined together to celebrate the “Year of the Birds” in 2010. Birds grab our attention. Just ask my wife, who discovered, unexpectedly, the other afternoon that the Carolina…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Report shows Duke considered impact on Kituwah

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the company’s proposed substation, Duke Energy representatives claimed they were unaware of the project’s potential impact on the Cherokee’s most valued site. But Russ Townsend, historic preservation officer for the Eastern Band of…
After a day of discussions between the leadership of Duke Energy and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the dispute over the construction of a proposed power substation near the tribe’s most sacred site remains unresolved. Last Wednesday (Feb. 17)…
When it comes to landfills, rain isn’t just inconvenient — it’s dangerous. In 2009, the White Oak landfill in Haywood County had to contend with more than 35 million gallons of rainwater seeping into disposed waste. While 80 percent of…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Trash down, recycling up

The recession has been good news for landfills. Due to the economic downturn, less trash was thrown in landfills in North Carolina last year than any year in the past two decades. The biggest reduction in trash came from the…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

County and architect cross wires on library fee

Last week a confused set of Jackson County commissioners learned their new library may cost more money than they thought, but County Manager Ken Westmoreland said the administrative mix-up won’t result in a higher price tag than the one originally…
It’s a watershed year for the legal community in Western North Carolina as attorneys gear up for a hotly contested election for three open judge seats. There’s at least nine and possibly 10 candidates running for the three seats. Two…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Sylva market changes local foodscape

Armed with an e-newsletter and an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit, Eric Hendrix is determined to bring the fruits of the ocean to the mountains of Western North Carolina. “The goal is to consistently provide fresh fish in the mountains, because you…
Business owners with cyber sweepstakes machines in Maggie Valley received both good and bad news last week. Luckily for them, the town board passed a much lower business license fee than originally proposed and delayed the pay-up date till July,…
A bill before Congress could help save views along the Blue Ridge Parkway by setting aside $75 million over five years to buy adjacent land threatened by development. Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act was introduced in honor of the 75th…
Forget Asheville. Forget cities altogether. Angela Faye Martin’s impressive first full-length album “Pictures from Home” could only have materialized deep in the mountains. With no shortage of characters and inspiring natural beauty, the Smokies have served as an ever-giving muse…
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

‘Judge not,’ or so my mom always taught me

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in…
The threat of another landslide isn’t stopping volunteers from facing the mudslide head-on and helping wherever they can. Local volunteers are working in the absence of state and federal aid for residents who find themselves banished from their homes indefinitely.…
In rare good news for Swain County’s jail, a new agreement will soon usher federal prisoners into the often half-empty facility. Sheriff Curtis Cochran has worked for months to secure an official deal with the U.S. Marshals Service, which will…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Macon fly-over shows what’s at stake

There’s no way to prevent landslides in the mountains, but there is a way to make their impact on humans more predictable. That’s the message that N.C. Geologist Rick Wooten and the staff of the North Carolina Geological Survey have…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Cataloochee grows racing tradition

No one expected Franco Rossi. The Italian, raised in Milan in the shadows of the mighty Dolomites, stepped off the lift, unzipped his snowsuit, and mounted the start platform in bright yellow racing tights. He had driven just under three…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Topography and language

I enjoy using variants on the phrase “lay of the land.” One can “get the lay of the land” in a number of ways. If your hiking partner says that he or she is “going on ahead to get the…
A group of Christians paid a visit to Haywood County commissioners Monday night to urge them to pray to Jesus when opening each meeting. Commissioner Kevin Ensley, the sole commissioner who referred to Jesus during invocations, decided in late January…
Dozens of local businesses owed money by Ghost Town are mulling over ballots this week that will ultimately decide the amusement park’s fate. Ghost Town, which landed in bankruptcy a year ago, owes a total of $13.5 million. It hopes…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Geologists: Maggie landslide still unstable

While residents wait for answers and 16,000 tons of debris hangs precariously over the Rich Cove community, an army of people are assessing the aftermath of the latest landslide in Maggie Valley. Representatives from the North Carolina Geological Survey, the…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Nuts and bolts of landslide mapping

Macon County was the first to be targeted under a statewide initiative launched in 2006 to map areas prone to landslide in the mountains. Over a one-and-a-half-year period, a team of state geologists led by geologist Rick Wooten surveyed 770…
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 15:01

An American original

Devil’s Dream by Madison Smartt Bell. Pantheon, 2009. 352 pages. Although several biographies of Nathan Bedford Forrest have found publishers over the last 60 years, Civil War buffs, serious followers of fiction, and those who simply enjoy a great read…
Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe may not have done anything illegal, but he’s stepped into the middle of a controversy in the run-up to his re-election campaign. Ashe used state and federal money from narcotics seizures to operate an informal…
Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park was behind on its general liability insurance payments in the months leading up to a massive landslide that originated from its property. Ghost Town has been struggling with bankruptcy for the past year.…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Haywood acquires fiberoptic line

Haywood County recently dropped a lawsuit against Wynncom, after the telecommunications company agreed to hand over its fiberoptic network to the county for $6,500. Wynncom, based in Lexington, N.C., was hired to build a fiberoptic line for Haywood and be…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Making sure Swain County gets its due

The cash settlement now signed and sealed for Swain County in lieu of building the North Shore Road is a good thing, right? Well, it’s a good thing only if the entire $52 million comes through, and that’s something that…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

The Naturalist's Corner

Snow Day! Enough already with the “Enough already!” I know it’s snowing again. Yep school is closed again. I’ve got an idea — call in well. To paraphrase Blowing Rock’s mountaintop yogi, Tom Robbins, from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

A book about beer, food, and Gnometown cooking

Cooking with wine is familiar. Cajun chef Justin Wilson, one of television’s first real food celebrities, liberally tipped Chablis into his etouffe (who-wee), and Julia Child introduced America to the French style of cooking, deglazing and saucing with wine in…
A disagreement over Duke Energy’s placement of a power substation near Cherokee’s most significant cultural site has instigated a meeting between the top leaders of the tribe and the company. Principal Chief Michell Hicks, the tribal council, and the attorney…
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:10

Watching sleazy 80s movies late at night

“Don’t do it, Dan.” Michael Douglas is Dan Gallagher, and he is sitting across the table from Alex Forrest, played by the incomparable Glenn Close. Alex is beautiful, all right, but she is also not his wife, who is out…
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 17:04

Rich Cove may be a portent of things to come

Writing about the weather is usually about as exciting as a yawn. For 12 months, though, we in the mountains have been taking it on the chin time and again, and it’s got me wishing for a bit of a…
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 17:04

A taste of Appalachian poetry

This past weekend was given over to reorganizing the books in my home library. In the process, I relocated a volume of poems I had feared was long lost. My favorite “Appalachian” poets would be Robert Morgan, Kay Stripling Byer,…
Chris Carver found himself in the unusual position of being both rescuer and evacuee when a massive mudslide struck Rich Cove Road in Maggie Valley on Friday night. “I live there, right where it stopped,” said Carver, assistant chief of…
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 17:04

Sylva teen club closes quietly

A Sylva teen club that sparked controversy two months ago by disseminating a flyer inviting high school students to “come as wasted as you want” has closed its doors. In December, concerned parents brought 500 signatures to a town board…
What happens when a smart, talented young man desires to serve God, but is mostly driven by his fear of death and Hell? How is a conflicted heart torn by love and desire? And what happens when that heart finally…