Voices from the trail: A.T. thru-hikers talk about trail names, motivations, and the on-trail experience

My pack was plenty heavy as I set out north on the Appalachian Trial from Carvers Gap, but with my phone on airplane mode and three days in the woods ahead of me, my steps felt light. The sun was warm and bright as a friend and I climbed those initial balds, my dog running joyful circles through the grass. The trail soon gave way to still-bare forests whose floors were alive with wildflowers, the sinking sun casting an enchanting glow over the whole scene.

A fox sighting is always a delight

In the natural world here in the Blue Ridge, there are certain visual images that rivet the attention of human beholders. One such is a timber rattlesnake suddenly encountered in the wild. That sight literally galvanizes the senses. The vibrating rattle-tipped tail sounds its uncanny almost-musical warning … you freeze in mid-step, holding your breath but unaware that you are doing so … the hair on the back of your neck stands on end … the event remains imprinted in your memory bank.

Outdoor adventure park proposed in Dillsboro

Construction on an outdoor adventure park offering everything from rafting to ropes courses could begin in Dillsboro as early as April if the Jackson County Commissioners give final approval to the project following a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 20, at the Jackson County Justice and Administration Building.

Shining Rock receives grant for outdoor classes

Shining Rock Classical Academy will be able to construct an outdoor classroom on its campus this year thanks to a $10,000 grant from Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina — the state’s leading parental school choice advocacy organization.

A growing mark: Outdoor school opens world’s largest wilderness medicine classroom in Cullowhee

Just north of Cullowhee, at the curvy, gravel terminus of Cane Creek Road, sits the building containing the world’s largest wilderness medicine classroom. 

Landmark Learning, a nationally accredited school offering a variety of courses in wilderness medicine, started using the building in May, though there’s still heavy equipment in view as fine-tuning continues. The 8,000-square-foot building contains a 2,400-square-foot classroom, a commercial kitchen, and a student lounge. Up an even steeper hill than the one that leads to the main building is a pair of dorm-style cabins and a terraced camping area, which together can accommodate 36 people.

Resolve to be active in 2017: WNC runs and rides offer ample options for fitness goals

January is universally recognized as the time to make a fresh start, throw away last year’s used-up calendar and dream up a new set of aspirations for the 12 months ahead. And when it comes to New Year’s resolutions aimed at becoming more active in 2017, Western North Carolina offers a dazzling array of options.

A look back at 2016: Backcountry adventures, birthday celebrations and a wildfire season to remember

For those who love the outdoors, it’s not hard to list the reasons why Western North Carolina is a spectacular place to live, and from that standpoint, the year 2016 certainly didn’t fail to deliver. The curtains are now closing on 2016, but the year will get its proper send-off with this roundup of favorite moments and memorable stories from the past 12 months outdoors.

Great outdoors rakes in tourism dough for Macon

As outdoor recreation tourism continues to climb upward in Macon County, community stakeholders are trying to do a better job of tracking their visitor feedback and providing better services. 

National treasure: National Park Service celebrates 100 years

When President Woodrow Wilson scrawled the signature that brought the National Park Service into being — 100 years ago, on Aug. 25, 1916 — many of the parks now integral to America’s national identity had yet to be created. 

SEE ALSO: Thousands of acres added to the Parkway for Park Service centennial

There was no Great Smoky Mountains National Park, no Blue Ridge Parkway, no Appalachian Trail. No Grand Teton or Olympic or Mammoth Cave or Acadia National Park. At the time Wilson signed the Organic Act, only 35 national parks and monuments existed, with America the only country to have any.

Tackling the Beast: Prepping for a 60-mile mountain bike challenge isn’t easy

out frBy Jamie Arnold • Contributing writer

It’s a 95-degree Sunday afternoon. Most folks are at the lake, or lounging on the couch with a cold beer. Me? I’m on my mountain bike, grinding my way up a 5,000-foot mountain, all because my buddy Don decided to add the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell to his bucket list.  

Following the vein of cheap tattoos, lost wallets and accidental scars, a beer-induced challenge ended with both of us registered to compete in the infamous July 31 event. Now, two months later, we’re winding our way up a dusty brown gravel wall. A loud truck rumbles past, throwing even more gritty dust into the stifling 90-degree air. I glance down at my wheels to see the slow, never-ending gravel treadmill as I pick my way up the mountain.  

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