Team Ruebel hits the trail: Hiking is a bonding force for father-daughter duo

Once Jay Ruebel started seeing the billboard, which advertised the 28.3-mile Trailblaze Challenge hike, it seemed like he couldn’t stop seeing it.

Jay likes challenges, and he knew who he wanted to conquer this one with — his 16-year-old daughter, Gracie. Jay’s wife and other daughter both enjoy short hikes, but Gracie’s the one who’s into long excursions and multi-day treks. It’s how they hang out.

To try a tri: Race day is a whirlwind for a first-time triathlete

As I stood freezing on the dock above 67.3-degree Lake Logan, the main thought running through my head was a question: Why did I put myself up to this?

Wearing only a swimsuit, I was surrounded by a bunch of wetsuit-wearing athletes who were more intense than I would ever be, and here I was, set to swim, bike and run alongside them in the Lake Logan Sprint Triathlon. My stomach growled, either from hunger or nervousness — it was hard to tell — but either way it seemed an affirmation that I should have slept rather than waking up at 4:30 a.m. to come out here and embarrass myself.

What’s a naturalist?

Trying to answer that question, the first source I resorted to was, of course, the Oxford English Dictionary. Therein I encountered the following clues, none of which seem unlikely:

Early book gives vivid descriptions of WNC

Those who read this column regularly are aware of my interest in the early descriptive literature of Western North Carolina. Whenever possible, I like to collect copies — first editions or reprints — of these often rare books. And I like to share some of the descriptions via this column from time to time.

Making it awesome — Cherokee unveils 10-mile mountain biking system

When Ed Sutton first came to Cherokee in November to break ground on a new trail system, his directive was clear.

“We told him his marching orders were just make it great. Make it awesome,” said Jeremy Hyatt, natural resources and construction director for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Becoming a trail town: Sylva embraces the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

White dots will soon pepper the sidewalks of downtown Sylva as the town sets out to claim its identity as a trail town and mark the official route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which runs through Sylva on its way from Clingmans Dome to the Outer Banks.

The trail traverses the state of North Carolina, offering a walking route 1,175 miles long that, true to its name, takes hikers from the state’s highest mountains to its interface with the sea. And a section of the trail travels right through downtown Sylva, something that Sylva attorney and Friends of the MST board member Jay Coward is urging town leaders to capitalize on. He also has plans to speak to the Dillsboro Board of Aldermen.

Forest management planning process moves forward

While a draft forest management plan is still nearly a year away, a group of recently released documents gives a glimpse into how the U.S. Forest Service might ultimately manage the 1.2 million acres in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest over the next 20 years.

The day lily is a beautiful, hardy outlander

How many naturalized plants do you recognize from your vehicle this time of year as you drive around taking care of business? My guess is that it’s more than you might anticipate. By “naturalized,” I mean those that were deliberately introduced as medicinals, edibles, ornamentals, etc., but have “escaped” from cultivated situations and become part of our regional or national flora. Some of these — like kudzu, privet, multiflora rose, etc. — are so invasive we’d just as soon they went on back to where they came from.

Life on the road: Asheville couple trades stability for life of mobile adventure

Ching Fu and Jerud Crandall had professional careers and a comfortable home when they left it all behind in 2015, trading their stable lives in Asheville to roam the continent in an RV. Now they’ve been on the road for more than two years, adventuring through Canada, Oregon, Utah and everywhere in between. 

“Our priorities were being outdoors and doing the outdoor activities we wanted to do and exploring outdoors, and it was a much lower priority for us to have a nice house and a nice car and eat at fancy restaurants and be physically luxurious/comfortable,” Crandall explained. “But the way we were living (in Asheville) we were physically very comfortable, and we carved out time to do the outdoor activities.”

Play me that mountain music

With Memorial Day right around the corner, the fun in the sun of summer in the mountains is here, ready to surprise and delight any and all.

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