Hangin’ with the Elk at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Late September is an exciting time in Cataloochee Valley as the elk herd begins their annual mating dance ritual known as the rut. Cows, calves and yearlings live in loose herds or groups throughout most of the year, and are seen wandering the vast meadows of the valley all spring and summer. The bulls, however, live in bachelor groups or alone. It is rare to happen upon...

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With 765 wilderness areas, some are bound to have odd names

America’s hundreds of protected Wilderness areas have names as varied as their landscapes, with wide-ranging origin stories to boot. Names matter. The word “wilderness” still wrongly carries connotations of danger, desolation, even abandonment (consider the way we use it in popular idioms). This was all the more true in 15th- through early-20th-century America. The...

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California’s Historic Drought Is Now Officially Even More Historic

It’s been at least half a millennium since California has been this dry. The snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains — which provides nearly a third of the state’s water supply — is the lowest it has been in 500 years, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. The researchers compared blue oak tree rings during known time periods of precipitation,...

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The Forest Service just had to divert another $250 million to fight wildfires

Top administration officials wrote Congress this week to urge it–once again–to change the way it budgets for firefighting in light of the disastrous wildfire season in the western United States. The Agriculture Department just informed lawmakers this week that it will have to transfer $250 million to fighting the forest fires now raging, which brings this fiscal year’s...

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Appalachian Trail not just built for thru-hikers

The entirety of the AT in Great Smoky Mountains National Park goes from Fontana Dam in the south to Davenport Gap in the northeast. While it’s just a small section of the full Georgia-to-Maine trail, the part of the trail in the Smokies is 71 miles long. It usually takes about a week to complete. Backpackers need to get reservations and permits from the park service in...

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Man sentenced for trashing Uncompahgre National Forest land

A southwest Colorado man was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for trashing Uncompahgre National Forest land, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service and the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office announced. Benjamin Yoho, 41 of Telluride and Ouray, was convicted after a one-day bench trial before U.S. Magistrate David West in Durango on charges of...

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Truckee time travel: Hiking into history

The fastest way to see California’s iconic Donner Pass is to cruise Interstate 80 between Truckee and Reno. But if you really want to experience the environment and culture of one of the state’s most scenic and historically significant places it helps to get your feet dirty. And one way to get the most out of a trek through the region is to participate in the Donner...

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Historic China Creek Trail Restored in Blowing Rock, NC

The China Creek Trail, located on the Grandfather Ranger District in Avery County, North Carolina is reopened to hikers following trail relocation and restoration work. The 2-mile trail begins in Blowing Rock and passes through both Pisgah National Forest and National Park Service land. The China Creek Trail was relocated to follow portions of the historic Upper...

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Court clears Duke Energy plan to clean more coal-ash pits

A judge has rejected a bid by North Carolina’s environment agency to block Duke Energy, the country’s largest energy company, from removing toxic coal ash from more plants than required under a new state law. Duke Energy has asked to add three power plants to the list of four plants where they will begin scooping the ash, which is leaking arsenic, lead and other...

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Drought on the Pacific Crest Trail offers harsh lessons

If you couldn’t carry enough water to make it 20 miles, should you be out here? California is in the grips of a severe drought. Creeks that Flash remembered soaking her feet in years before were just rivers of sand now. How long before sections of the Pacific Crest Trail were basically unhikeable? Coming up were 40-mile dry stretches, with handfuls of volunteer...

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TVA to begin work on Fontana Dam

Tennessee Valley Authority will begin maintenance work on Fontana Dam on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Work is planned to continue through March 30, 2016. During this time, the dam will be closed to vehicle traffic. The dam will remain open to foot traffic. Hikers will need to walk behind the visitors center and then up the steps to access the dam. If you are planning a hike...

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Use of Electronic Cigarettes to be Subject to Same Rules as Smoking Tobacco in National Parks

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis issued a policy memorandum prohibiting the use of electronic smoking devices in all places where tobacco smoking is prohibited in national parks. “Protecting the health and safety of our visitors and employees is one of the most critical duties of the National Park Service,” said Director Jarvis. “We are therefore...

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Week of free access to South African national parks

From Tuesday until Saturday, September 15-19, 2015 South African citizens will have free access to most of the country’s national parks. This is in celebration of the 10th annual South African National Parks week currently running under the theme “Know your national parks”. The week was officially inaugurated by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa at...

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Colorado hiking trail closed because too many people are taking selfies with bears

Waterton Canyon, near Denver, is closed because of bear activity. The popular trail was closed Aug. 28, 2015 because two momma bears, each with twin cubs, and other bears were actively foraging in the canyon. Part of the problem is not the bears, but people trying to get the perfect picture of them. “We’ve actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as...

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Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness straddles the North Carolina / Tennessee line near the southern borders of the states, with about 75% of its 17,000 acres contained in NC. Six trailheads provide access to more than 60 miles of trail within the designated wilderness, which typically follow ridge tops or drop into the shady drainages. Perhaps the most atypical trail...

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Tips on getting your four-footed friend ready for hiking

October is national adopt-a-dog month, according to the American Humane Association, the perfect time to pick up a new hiking partner. But before you hit the trail it’s vital that you prepare your pup. Start with a simple 5-mile stroll. A test hike. He passed, and now you’re on to something a little tougher. This, say veterinarians, is a good approach....

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Mount Monadnock a hiking challenge despite its looks

From a distance, New England’s beloved Mount Monadnock looks distinctly unthreatening. Veteran hikers seeking a challenge might be dubious at first, but this balding geezer of a mountain is plenty rugged. Monadnock rises 3,165 feet in Cheshire County, near the town of Jaffrey in New Hampshire’s southwestern corner. The name comes from a Native American term...

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Scotchman Peak hiking trail closed due to aggressive goats

The popular trail to the summit of Scotchman Peak north of Clark Fork, Idaho, has been closed temporarily because of recent incidents with aggressive mountain goats, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests has announced. The news is no surprise to groups that have been posting signs and trying to educate hikers for several years regarding the consequences of feeding the...

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2015 Appalachian Trail Family Hiking Day set for Saturday, Sept. 26

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, its Appalachian Trail Community partners and 31 AT maintaining clubs invite families to take a hike on the AT during the fifth annual Family Hiking Day on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. Held trail-wide on National Public Lands Day, Family Hiking Day is a program developed by the ATC to introduce and welcome families of all ages and abilities...

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80 Years Ago, Construction Began on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The project began when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the newly constructed Skyline Drive in Virginia in 1933. Then U.S. Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia suggested to the president the road should be extended to connect with the recently established Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roosevelt convened the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee...

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Dothan, AL Forever Wild hiking, biking trails to open Oct. 3, 2015

The winding, shadowed, natural trails on Dothan, Alabama’s new Forever Wild property are exactly what city officials envisioned when they began putting together the complex land deal a few years ago. Part of Dothan ’s Forever Wild trails will be open to the public Oct. 3, 2015 with a grand opening and a few planned activities. Work is still being done that will...

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Evidence Found of Climate Change Positive Feedback

A new study has confirmed the existence of a positive feedback operating in climate change whereby warming itself may amplify a rise in greenhouse gases resulting in additional warming. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that in addition to the well understood effect of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s temperature, researchers can now confirm...

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NC rangers charge four people for poaching plants

State park rangers in western North Carolina apprehended four people recently for plant poaching at the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in Mitchell County. It was the first such incident in state parks in recent years, though officials say poaching of galax, gensing and other plants is becoming more of an issue. Four people were given citations Aug. 28, 2015 by Ranger...

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A Day on the Cataloochee Divide – A Photo Essay

Two of my favorite places in the eastern section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are Purchase Knob and Hemphill Bald. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I volunteer every 10 days or so at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center on Purchase Knob. And Hemphill Bald simply has one of the most outstanding views in the eastern Smokies, overlooking Cataloochee...

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Wild horses out West in conflict with National Forests

Threat to Arizona’s Salt River Horses Spurs New Battle Over Western Lands Soon after federal officials announced the imminent capture of 100 or so horses within the boundaries of a national forest near here — to be sold at auction, “condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of” — a resourceful cadre of self-appointed guardians issued a desperate call for action....

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Enjoy solitude by hiking to high-elevation Marjorie Lake

The hike to beautiful Marjorie Lake includes a network of lakes and trails all within a mile or two of each other that all start from one trailhead next to Washington Lake in Utah. The Lakes Country Trail is located at an elevation of 9,680 feet. The trailhead can be located from the parking lot near Washington Lake and its campground facility. The rolling, rocky, easy...

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Glacier’s popular Highline Trail gets a facelift

The first mile of the Highline Trail is unforgettable. It’s also heavily used. “The Highline is probably one of the most popular trails in the park,” said Denise Germann, spokeswoman for Glacier National Park. All that use is leading to some wear and tear on the trail, which is why it will be having some work done to it this fall. The Highline Trail...

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Hiking is a perfect form of exercise

Hiking is essentially walking and walking is considered to be one of the most perfect forms of exercise for your body. The fact is hiking helps to shed pounds, maintain mental health and prevent heart disease, all while allowing the experience of the outdoors rather than being stuck in the basement or at the gym. It’s really true – a beneficial exercise does not have to...

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Shocking study finds there are fewer trees now than at any point during human civilization

In a blockbuster study released in Nature, a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth. However, in no way do the researchers consider this good news. The study also finds that there are 46 percent...

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Bugs Mean Warmer Arctic May Be Methane Sink

In addition to melting icecaps and imperiled wildlife, a significant concern among scientists is that higher Arctic temperatures brought about by climate change could result in the release of massive amounts of carbon locked in the region’s frozen soil in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. Arctic permafrost is estimated to contain about a trillion tons of carbon,...

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