Snowy Range Scenic Byway, Medicine Bow National Forest – A Photo Essay

The Snowy Range Scenic Byway crosses the Medicine Bow Mountain Range and includes nearly 30 miles of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest portion of Wyoming Highway 130. It passes between the towns of Centennial and Saratoga, but it’s what is in between that is spectacular. Originally a wagon road built in the 1870s, the road was paved in the 1930s and designated...

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Devils Tower National Monument – A Photo Essay

Devils Tower, an important landmark for Plains Indians tribes long before the white man reached Wyoming, was called Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge by the Sioux. A number of legends describe the origin of Devils Tower. “One legend tells of seven little girls being chased onto a low rock to escape attacking bears. Their prayers for help were heeded as the rock...

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial – A Photo Essay

“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.” — Sculptor Gutzon Borglum America’s presidential history is alive in stone. Majestic...

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Needles Highway at Custer State Park, SD – A Photo Essay

The Needles Highway in western South Dakota’s Custer State Park is more than a 14-mile road — it’s a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen with fields of bright wildflowers, and rugged, almost other-worldly, granite mountains. The road’s name comes from the needle-like granite formations which...

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Return to Badlands National Park 50 Years Later – A Photo Essay

Back in the 1960’s when I was in my mid-teens, my family took a cross-country western vacation that included stops at many of the scenic and picturesque national parks along the way. Included among those was Badlands National Park, the first stop on our trip. I remembered all my adult life the fascination I had with the Badlands, and promised myself I would return...

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State Capitol, Charleston, West Virginia – A Photo Essay

West Virginia was founded in the midst of the American Civil War, the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state. An enabling act was approved by President Abraham Lincoln admitting West Virginia to the Union, on the condition that a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery be inserted in its constitution. President Lincoln issued a proclamation...

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May Day Flowering at Pisgah National Forest – A Photo Essay

What better way to spend May Day than wildflower hunting on Pisgah National Forest? We always think of the national park in the Smokies as being the go-to destination for Spring wildflowers in Western North Carolina. However, Pisgah National Forest is right up there. As you will see from the gallery below, there is quite the wide variety. I picked two destinations in the...

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Cruisin’ Little River Road for Wildflowers – A Photo Essay

What to do if you’ve got half a day to kill on the Tennessee side of the Smokies? Well, if it’s April, the obvious conclusion is a wildflower hunt along Little River Road between Sugarlands and the Townsend-Y. On Saturday, April 21st, I had an invitation to the annual Great Smoky Mountains National Park Volunteers Appreciation Banquet, but it wasn’t to...

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Playing in the Snow at Roan – A Photo Essay

There was a major snowstorm over the Great Smoky Mountains on December 8-9, 2017, particularly on the Western North Carolina side. Seeing Roan Highlands covered in a blanket of snow has always been a goal of mine ever since the first time I walked the Appalachian Trail across Round, Jane, and Grassy Ridge balds. With that in mind, I set out for the Highlands on the...

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In Search of Fall Color in the Smokies – A Photo Essay

There is no denying 2017 has been a disappointing year for fall foliage in the Smokies — so far. That’s why I titled this essay In Search of… you really have to look hard to find much beyond a few patches of yellow. The oranges and reds have been nonexistent. I started the day before dawn from Cades Cove driving toward Gatlinburg on Little River Road,...

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Rocky Mountain Summer at Hagerman Pass – A Photo Essay

Highway 4, west out of Leadville, CO offers a driving adventure that takes you past lakes, among a various assortment of summer wildflowers, and over a high mountain pass that tops out just short of 12,000 feet. I needed the drive rather than hiking the first day after recovering from a newly discovered adult-onset allergy to cashew nuts. The annual visit with my brother...

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The Land Between Two Wildernesses – A Photo Essay

I like to do most of my summertime hiking in the high country to avoid the heat, and the bugs. It’s like getting extra, added months of spring. So when the first week of summer rolled around, I thought of that section of Pisgah National Forest that lies between Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hwy 215, and Black...

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Just Another Day at Stunning Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

Ho. Hum. Just another day at Roan Highlands. Now, obviously I’m being facetious. Roan Highlands is probably my favorite place to go in all of Western North Carolina, especially in mid-June when it is catawba rhododendron and flame azalea time. It’s exciting to hike on the iconic Appalachian Trail, the views of Tennessee and North Carolina on either side of...

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Scanning the Horizon from the Black Balsam High Country – A Photo Essay

When looking for some WNC high country scenery and perhaps refreshing cool air on a warm day, one of the first destinations I think of is the Black Balsam area at milepost 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are half a dozen mountains here that stand above 6,000 feet, with encompassing 360° views from their treeless summits. This land that lies between the Shining...

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The Green, Green, Greening of Spring – A Photo Essay

Pisgah National Forest comes alive in early May. It seems as though the greening happens almost overnight. Daniel Ridge Loop Trail is an amazing place to experience the changing of the forest from its sleepy, drab brown hues to the vibrant verdant that fills the senses. The creek along the pathway is the most picturesque in Pisgah Ranger District in my opinion, and the...

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Tennessee Smokies on My Mind – A Photo Essay

Every April I like to make a two-day trip to the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I usually stay overnight at the Cades Cove Campground. It is a glorious time in the Smokies. The spring ephemeral wildflowers are busting out all over. The weather is warming and the days are getting longer. The rivers, creeks and streams are usually full of cool,...

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Earliest Spring Wildflowers at Little Bradley Falls – A Photo Essay

Some of the earliest wildflowers of the new season can be found on the Green River Game Lands near the North and South Carolina border. The elevation isn’t quite as high here as it is in most of the mountains of WNC, so the flowers get a little bit of a head start. Look for chickweed, rue anenome, wake robin trillium, blue and Canadian violets, robins plantain and...

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New Year’s Eve at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Cataloochee Valley in the Smokies is of course most popular during the green seasons. People come from far and wide to experience the wildflowers in Spring, the myriad of hiking trails in Summer, and the exciting elk rut and colorful foliage in Fall. But Winter too has its appeal. Perhaps the best reason to go to Cataloochee in winter is the solitude. The crowds are...

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Autumn Drive from New Mexico to Colorado – A Photo Essay

The final day of our recent trip to New Mexico, my brother Dave and I returned to his home in Colorado. Along the way we stopped for some sight seeing in Los Alamos, NM, Pagosa Springs, CO and near Leadville, CO. When we originally left Colorado a few days before, the weather had been summer-like, and we had enjoyed the turning of the aspen trees to their brilliant...

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Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico – A Photo Essay

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is comprised of rugged, wide open plains at an average elevation of 7,000 feet, dotted by volcanic cones, and cut by steep canyons with rivers tucked away in their depths. The Río Grande River carves an 800 foot deep gorge through layers of volcanic basalt flows and ash. Among the volcanic cones in the Monument, Ute Mountain is...

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve protects the tallest sand dunes in North America, and a whole lot more. From the San Luis Valley floor to the crest of the 13,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains — the park and preserve contains ecosystems ranging from sand sheet to dunes to tundra — each supporting specially adapted plant, animal and...

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Fall Foliage Time on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

There aren’t many places in Western North Carolina better for Autumn leaf peeping than the Blue Ridge Parkway. On Monday, October 17, 2016 I set out to demonstrate that by taking a little tour between mileposts 410 and 420. But first I had to get there. I went up the Pisgah Ridge on Scenic Hwy 276, passing the Cradle of Forestry along the way. I arrived at the Cold...

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Foggy Morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Every couple weeks or so during the green seasons I travel up to milepost 413 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Friends of the BRP has a volunteer program called Adopt-an-Overlook that I have participated in for six years. I am responsible for keeping Pounding Mill Overlook clean and green, trash free, and desirable for the tourists. Saturday, August 13, 2016 was one of those...

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Summer Solstice on Sam Knob – A Photo Essay

The summer solstice occurs when a planet’s rotational axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the Sun. Most cultures have marked this occasion in some ritualized manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on the summer solstice. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen...

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Walking the Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Perhaps the most popular feature in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is a throwback to 19th century living. Think of it as an outdoor museum. Cades Cove is a wide, verdant valley surrounded by mountains that today is teeming with wildlife and spring floral beauty. The 11-mile Loop Road around the valley provides an opportunity for motorists,...

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Spring Comes to the Smokies – A Photo Essay

The Smokies can always be counted on for fulfilling the promise of spring renewal. One of the best spots for finding early blooms of exotic native wildflowers is on Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the national park. Along the pathway is a diverse array of flowery goodness including the multi-acre mystical fringed phacelia garden, seemingly home to a host...

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Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

The Appalachian Trail splits the states of North Carolina and Tennessee through most of the breadth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hugging the state line as it traverses the rugged and remote ridges, the AT is a favorite destination for day hikers and thru hikers alike. There is a three and a half mile stretch from Newfound Gap to the summit of Mt. Kephart, and...

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Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is a great way to get a slow-motion view of the wonderful vistas that whiz by at 45 mph in your car. The Parkway is closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic. The only concern really is perhaps slipping on snow or ice. This latest in the Photo Essay series looks at a 4-mile stretch of the BRP between mileposts 412 and...

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World’s Edge at Chimney Rock State Park – A Photo Essay

August 2005 saw the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy purchase a 1,568-acre tract of land south of Lake Lure known as “World’s Edge” for $16 million with the intention of transferring the land as the first to be added to the new Chimney Rock State Park. World’s Edge contains a mile-long set of steep slopes on the eastern edge...

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Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Leaf peepers head to Graveyard Fields in late September for the annual ritual of Autumn color in the high country. Located at mile 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Graveyard Fields is one of the earliest locations to begin the chromatic display, as well as one of the most intense. From the bright red of the blueberry and sumac bushes, to the multi-colored hues of the maple...

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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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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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