A storm last year washed out a section of the Crystal Springs Regional Trail, prompting the county Parks Department to block that portion from public access. The roughly half-mile stretch hasn’t reopened.
While the closed-off stretch isn’t the most spectacular part of the Crystal Springs Trail – it runs near the freeway, and views of the surrounding hillsides are limited – it served as a connection between popular segments to Crystal Springs Reservoir and San Andreas Lake.
“If it was open, I would have more variety,” said Rose Chiu, a South San Francisco resident who has been using the Crystal Springs area to train for a half-marathon walk in Las Vegas.
To bypass the closure, trail users are detoured to a road through a residential area. Locked gates at both ends of the closed section of trail prevent visitors from getting onto the path and from using park benches at the southern end.
Parks officials say the closure was caused by a culvert failure. During heavy December rains, the trail gave way and became impassable.
Waynesboro is getting greener. The hiker shelter off Arch Street now has solar power. Many hikers stop at the shelter while walking the Appalachian Trail. Now, the hiking shelter includes a charging station for them.
Waynesboro Parks & Recreation and Sigora Solar handled the project. With the solar panel, hikers can now charge their cellphones, mp3 players and other electronic devices. There’s also a battery bank that stores the energy for nighttime use.
“Actually running power from a power line out into the middle of this field would’ve been really costly for the city. So instead we relied on donations to raise money for this project and it’s a more cost-effective way of putting in a little bit of power to keep them connected,” said Jeff Nicholson, sales consultant with Sigora Solar.
New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park is the second largest national park in the country, covering the north-western end of South Island. It is unusual for a New Zealand park in that there are no glaciers or active volcanoes.
It has been reserved mainly for its geology and botany, and the mountain ranges are similar to south-east Australia, rising just above the treeline. While less known than the alpine areas further south the park does contain some good tramping, with the best-known route along the Heaphy Track (one of New Zealand’s Great Walks).
There are several other marked tracks in the park that mainly follow valleys and cross passes—as is typical in New Zealand—such as Wangapeka and Leslie-Karamea.
Running down the park’s centre is the Douglas Range, a recently glaciated landscape with sharp arêtes, ridges and lakes. The southern end of the range is an easy but magnificent ridge walk with sweeping views. The northern end is more rugged and culminates in a series of steeply sloping, smooth buttresses that have been evocatively named the Dragons Teeth. A high sidling route was forged around the ‘teeth’ in the 60s and became known as the High Route.
The U.S. Forest Service has announced that portions of the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail at milepost 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed for upgrades. The agency expects to complete the work by late December.
The Forest Service will construct a board walk on the east end of the trail, which will be closed. Users can access the Upper and Second Falls via the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Also, users can park in the Graveyard Fields Loop parking lot and start at the west end of the loop.
In addition, the Blue Ridge Parkway will make improvements at the parking area for the Graveyard Fields in the near future. The work will include increasing the parking capacity and construction of a restroom facility. Dates for repairs at the parking lot have yet to be determined.
Funding for the project comes from a Scenic Byway Grant awarded to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The grant matching funds are provided by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to pay for the trail work. This work is a joint effort between the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.
DuPont State Recreational Forest, NC is installing a three-dimensional scale model of its major waterfalls in the Aleen Steinberg Center. An event to commemorate the installation will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the visitor center at 89 Buck Forest Road.
Designed and constructed by Apply Valley Model Railroad Club, the exhibit focuses on the main stem of the Little River and the major waterfalls: High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. It also will include the major trails, roads, bridges and facilities in those areas.
The visitor center and the scale model are the result of efforts by many public and private organizations, including the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Friends of DuPont Forest and WNC Communities, among others, said Jason Guidry, forest supervisor.
To learn more about the event, contact DuPont State Recreational Forest at 828-877-6527.
Twenty-four-year-old Brenna Irrer admits it openly: she just loves using a crosscut saw.
“There is nothing that compares with getting through a big tree,” says Brenna. “When you use a crosscut saw, you’ve really got to pick the right spot to cut. It takes a lot of planning.”
Brenna is the education and volunteer engagement coordinator for Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), and manages teams of volunteers who build and maintain trails in National Forest wilderness areas such as Nantahala-Pisgah, Cherokee, Chattahoochee, and Sumter in North Carolina.
A project of The Wilderness Society in Sylva, NC, SAWS is introducing a new generation of environmentalists to public land stewardship and pioneering a new brand of wilderness management in the Southern Appalachians.
The program coordinates crews of volunteers year-round, but particularly in the summer, to build and maintain public trails enjoyed by thousands of hikers and equestrians each year. This past spring and summer, volunteer crews helped relocate portions of the Turkey Pen Gap section of the Appalachian Trail, Beech Bottoms Trail, and Hawksbill Trail, and worked on others.
To help prepare for such intense projects, SAWS cohosts a yearly Wilderness Skills Institute offering extensive training in wilderness management and stewardship. SAWS also creates Wilderness Rangers who keep the wilderness protected and manage nonnative invasive species.
Central Pennsylvania is blessed with many natural wonders and a great network of trails for exploring those special wild places. If you want to see such a place and burn off a few Thanksgiving calories, then the hike to Big Valley Vista is perfect for you.
Accessible only from the westbound lanes of U.S. Route 322 as it crests the Seven Mountains region, the Seven Mountains Rest Stop is the trailhead for this hike. It features a nature trail along with spurs of the long-distance Mid State Trail, and leads hikers to an outstanding overlook called Big Valley Vista. This moderate hike is about 2 miles long.
At the rest stop’s parking lot, look for the large wooden map board near the gravel entrance driveway. The map shows the trails leading to Big Valley Vista. After examining it to orient yourself, bear right to a mailbox that sometimes contains maps and brochures and continue on to the yellow-blazed nature trail.
A short walk on this trail will bring you to an old overgrown sunken road that runs perpendicular to the trail, the old Bellefonte-Lewistown Pike, which offered horse-drawn carriage passengers in the early 1800s a route through the Seven Mountains. This pike followed the older Kishacoquillas Indian Path and is just one of several Native American paths whose traces can still be found.
Washington politics are infuriating, disappointing, enlightening, and entertaining. They rarely are dull. That is obvious based on what has transpired since October 1, when the federal government ran out of money.
* We saw a 16-day closure of the National Park System initially spurred by House Republicans…who then castigated National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis for how the parks were shuttered.
* We received a 208-page report from U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, that blamed the current state of the park system largely on those in Congress, but also on Park Service management.
* Most recently, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on Congress to support President Obama’s broad conservation agenda…or the president will use his executive powers to move forward on parts of it.
In a speech last week before the National Press Club, the Interior secretary pointed to the value of public lands when it comes to climate change, clean air and water, and local economies. She talked about preserving these lands for generations yet to be born, of the need to “think about what conservation legacy we will leave for the next 50 years, for the next 100 years.”
In short, she urged Congress to put up or shut up.
These are the days when hunter orange is the height of fashion in the woods. But more important than fashion, is the fact that this bright orange hue can enhance one’s visibility and safety during hunting season.
Hunters wear hunter orange clothing to be seen, and hikers should do the same. Canine companions should be outfitted with hunter orange as well. While in the woods at this time of year, hikers are advised against wearing dark earth tones, such as brown or black, which might appear as game. Likewise, white clothing should be avoided, as it could be mistaken for the flash of a whitetail deer’s tail.
Hunters generally know which areas are frequented by people, and they’ll often avoid such areas as they seek out habitat where game is likely to be found. It’s a good idea to stick to established trails and avoid bushwhacking during hunting season. Higher elevations can provide good hiking terrain and rewarding views – and such areas are likely to see less hunting pressure, as game tends to be found at lower elevations.
Fall also serves as a reminder of the importance of properly preparing for a backcountry hike. Days are shorter, darkness comes earlier and temperatures that may be mild at mid-day can turn wintry in a snap. Be sure to plan your route, leave your itinerary with family or friends, and carry adequate clothing and gear to be protected from the elements.
The hills and forests of the Ozarks in Arkansas offer a multitude of opportunities to get out and explore. What better way to soak in the scenery while the leaves are changing than a sweet, simple walk?
That’s how Kevin Cheri and Caven Clark feel. They are park rangers at Buffalo River National Park.
The brisk morning air and a cool layer of fog over the Buffalo National River add fall spice to an already gorgeous region.
The two park rangers stay in the office on most days, but occasionally step out for tours. They enjoy donning a jacket in the early hours of the day. For them, autumn offers the richest experience of any season.
Even when it’s a little cool there are great opportunities to come out and hike and see the park,” Cheri said. “It’s very popular for folks to come and see elk. You have the various photographic opportunities, people who just like to get outdoors and hike and just see mother nature and good clean fresh air. For all those reasons we get lots of people that come this time of the year.”
The 150 mi. Buffalo River runs through more than 94,000 acres of park land. It’s complete with ample parking and miles and miles of hiking trails for outdoor explorers at every level.
The Forest Service notice stapled to the wooden signpost was tattered and weatherbeaten, but its meaning was unmistakable: The path ahead was washed out, wiped off the map by a flood, and going forward was not an option.
Two days into my four-day solo trek on Mount Hood’s fabled Timberline Trail, I was going to have to turn around.
I had known this decision point was coming. The 5-mile segment between Cloud Cap Saddle and Elk Cove has been off-limits to hikers since 2006, when heavy rains came sluicing through the Eliot Creek drainage and swept away the footbridge — along with large swaths of real estate on both sides of the canyon.
Although finding a way across would be difficult and potentially dangerous — possibly even illegal — I knew other hikers had done it, and I had faith in my ability to navigate tricky terrain. But this official notice, posted at a trail junction just west of the old Cloud Cap Inn, was giving me serious second thoughts. “Eliot Creek crossing area,” it warned in no uncertain terms, “is very unstable and unsafe.”
Contemplating the choice before me — should I risk it? Or turn around and head for home? — I looked down at the trail. There, outlined clearly in the sand after an overnight rainfall, was a single set of bootprints. They were coming toward me, from the direction of the washed-out trail section. Somebody, it seemed, had made it through that morning.
None of the 10 students or their instructors fell on their faces while hiking through the leaf-covered Cascades trail, and for that, they said, the trip was a great success.
The picturesque hike on the trail, located near Tatnuck Square, was a new experience for the students from Youth Opportunities Upheld Inc.’s Education for Employment program.
While some said they had gone hiking before, none had ever been to the park.
“I had so much fun today it’s ridiculous,” Alexis Peckham, 18, of Worcester said to her friends at the end of the three-hour trip. She said the best part was having the opportunity to socialize with her classmates in a new environment, and she said she hopes to go hiking again.
The 10 students were just a fraction of the young people who have participated in outdoor activities with the help of the Appalachian Mountain Club‘s Youth Opportunity Program, which tagged Worcester as its newest Summit Site earlier this year.
The program has established partnerships with seven local youth groups, including Y.O.U. Inc., with the goal of helping to make outdoor activities and trips more accessible to urban and at-risk youth.
As waterfalls go, Bridal Veil Falls are fairly small and easy to find. They cascade above Highway 64 just a couple of miles north of the town of Highlands in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina.
The fun fact about Bridal Veil Falls is that, if your car is small enough, you can drive under the 120-foot “veil” of water. Our 10-year old Mini Cooper, whose name is D.B. — get it? D.B. Cooper? — easily fits into the wedge between water and mountain and made for a neat photo op. But if you drive, say, a big extended-cab pickup truck, the maneuver could get tricky.
The thing about Whitewater Falls, at 411 feet the highest in the eastern United States, is that you hear them long before you see them. As you glide along the footpath, the anticipation of seeing the falls grows, and the ground practically hums with unseen energy. An amalgam of fresh scents of rushing water and verdant forests fills the air. There are a thousand hues of green in these hemlock forests.
In a way, waterfalls, hypnotic and tantalizing, have the unique ability to send one into a contemplative mood. It just seems easy to pull up a rock and sit a spell and ponder the meaning of life. Somehow these cold, sweet falling waters provide answers to life’s conundrums in a peaceful and harmonious way.
The U.S. Forest Service announced that day-use fees will be waived at three popular sites in western North Carolina during Veterans Day Weekend.
“We wholeheartedly salute the men and women who represent the nearly 22 million American veterans who have served their country in the military,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “As we do throughout the year, we encourage veterans and their families to take advantage of their national forests and grasslands to enjoy all the benefits the outdoors provide.”
There will be no fees on Nov. 9-11 at Whiteside Mountain and Whitewater Falls in the Nantahala National Forest.
Fees are also waived Nov. 9-10 at the Cradle of Forestry in the Pisgah National Forest. The Cradle closes for the season after Nov. 10.
The fee waivers are offered in cooperation with other federal agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Day-use fees will be waived at all standard amenity fee sites operated by the Forest Service.
Would you like a cool way to raise your metabolism? Take up hiking.
Summer in Florida is too hot and humid for long walks in the woods. But we’re now coming into the best season of the year to explore the state’s many nature trails.
We know that regular exercise increases the body’s calorie-burning capacity. We also know that adding muscle increases metabolism, and hiking can do just that. Plus, hiking is a great distraction from eating.
Some of the fittest people you will see are hikers. And if you’re looking for something you can do into your old age, hiking may be the ticket. When you see an older couple enjoying the outdoors together, not only are they usually thin, but they also have great posture and walk with the quickness of much younger people.
Hiking also is a great stress reducer, and we can all use some of that. Hiking may be one of the healthiest ways to multitask. We can thoroughly enjoy the great outdoors, notice the details about the environment, have a conversation with our hiking partner, take deep relaxing breaths, laugh, maneuver the changing landscape, and burn calories. How terrific is that?
Blackrock Mountain summit, a 5,700 foot peak that overlooks the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, has been purchased by the Southern Applachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).
The Conservancy purchased the summit and more than 250 surrounding acres in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County to hold and manage as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands, the SAHC said in a press release. The 5,700 foot peak contains “rare spruce-fir forest and two headwater tributaries that flow down its slopes,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “We are so proud to have preserved this view for all to enjoy.”
The tract’s proximity to and visibility from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as its high-elevation forest and pristine headwater sources, made it a priority for conservation, Pugliese said. The Blackrock Mountain summit is visible from the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The entire property can be seen in the foreground view from the Plott Balsam overlook (Mile Post 458), the Waterrock Knob visitor center (Mile Post 451.2), and multiple locations along the parkway on the drive north from Waterrock Knob. The newly purchased tract adjoins The Nature Conservancy’s Plott-Balsam Preserve and the Sylva Watershed.
Joaquin Miller Park’s Palos Colorados trail has escaped permanent closure because of erosion, thanks to the efforts of Stan Dodson, community activist and board member of Friends of Joaquin Miller Park.
The Palos Colorados trail is a wooded trail that runs parallel to the Palo Seco Creek, from Mountain Boulevard winding north through Joaquin Miller Park. The trail also connects Dimond Canyon to Joaquin Miller Park.
“It’s a hidden gem. It’s a regional attraction,” Dodson said. “It’s not terrible, but it could be better. So why not make it better?”
A foot-and-a-half of rock was blasted by contractors, who transported their equipment by hand along a three-quarter-mile trail as narrow as 18 inches in some places. The work was completed at the beginning of October.
Other park improvements in the past year have included the rerouting of Cinderella trail, a favorite trail for mountain bikers, bypassing a straight downhill shoot that ended at the Sunset trail and creating a dangerous situation between bikers and hikers.