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.
Working with others, the U.S. Forest Service may be one step closer to restoring the American chestnut tree to the mountains of western North Carolina.
Beginning in 2009, agency researchers and partners planted close to 1,000 potentially blight-resistant American chestnut trees in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, as well as in national forests in Tennessee and Virginia. Two additional plantings were established in Tennessee and Virginia a year later. The goal is to test their resistance to Chestnut blight.
Since then, more than 80 percent of the American chestnut backcross hybrid saplings planted in the three national forests have survived. Most of the trees are healthy, growing steadily and showing differing levels of resistance so far, which is encouraging for the hopeful people working to return the tree to its native range.
As they enter their fifth year, the once-young seedlings have reached an average height of 8 feet and overcome what Forest Service scientist Stacy Clark, Ph. D., calls “planting shock” by developing a strong root system and adapting to their new environment.
When glacial ice flowed through the area that is now Wisconsin, more than 12,000 years ago, it sculpted a variety of features into the landscape. Those features — some of which are in the state’s most beautiful natural areas — are highlighted along a 1,000-mile foot path called the Ice Age National Scenic Trail which extends from Door County in the east, south to Walworth County and then back up to the north woods, and west as far as the Minnesota border.
In 2005, Rick and Roberta Bie set a goal to hike the entire Ice Age Trail in 10 years, covering 100 miles each year. THey actually completed it in eight.
Tackling the trail in separate segments throughout the years, as the Bies did, is called section hiking. It’s an approach that allowed the couple, both now 51, to fit their trek into their lifestyle.
“The trail is still somewhat of a work in progress,” Roberta said. “It takes you from busy roads to very peaceful forests, to some of the most picturesque areas of the state. We got to see what Wisconsin really is about, and I went to places I never would have gone, if I hadn’t done this.”
The couple also learned about Wisconsin’s history of conservation and exploration — and that they work well as a team, as they planned out their routes, what equipment was needed and what they would do if they encountered a bear.
Our National Park System has become a bloated, underfunded, kowtowing shadow of the ideal for which it was created, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who lays out his case in a report that casts a withering portrait of Congress as a poor overseer.
In that 208-page report, Parked! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures, the Republican from Oklahoma blames years of political self-aggrandizement for a park system that carries an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog and which is showing serious signs of decay and, in some areas, insignificance.
But the senator, well-known for pointing out “pork” in the federal government, also describes an overly bureaucratic National Park Service that he paints as a cumbersome agency that spends more on administration and overhead than on the parks themselves.
“… only half of the funds appropriated by Congress even go to the park superintendents, while the national headquarters and regional offices consume more of the NPS budget than facility maintenance projects,” the report charges. “Beyond the staff and funding at the individual park units, there is an expansive amount of administrative and specialty support offices and programs.
Whether the details of Sen. Coburn’s report are used to attack the Park Service’s budget remain to be seen. Action on the report could prove interesting, in that it might ferret out wasteful spending by the agency … or provide justification for a better-funded Park Service.
It turns out that the White River National Forest over the last four years has been a relatively safe place to break the law.
A nearly four-year shortage of law enforcement officers in the nation’s most visited national forest, combined with the distraction of competing priorities like wildfire mitigation, has led to a 76 percent decline in the number of citations issued since 2009. That has meant fewer tickets written for everything from lighting an illegal campfire to smoking pot on federal property.
U.S. Forest Service records released through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the number of citations issued in the White River National Forest fell from 1,057 in 2009 to just 364 last year. So far, there have been 268 citations issued in 2013.
The main reason for the drop, according to Forest Service officials, is that three of the four law enforcement positions in the White River National Forest have been vacant for most of the last three years.
At times, that has left a single Forest Service police officer to enforce federal law on 2.3 million acres of land spanning parts of nine western Colorado counties.
Being closer to nature, relishing the wonders of the woods or simply getting away from it all are easy goals to achieve when on a good hiking trail.
As hikers and backpackers who frequent Louisiana’s abundant trekking paths attest, the state is full of interesting places to hike.
But five hikes have been singled out as the best by members of the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society and the Louisiana Hiking Club and explained by two experts who have tramped across the state’s paths, encompassed years of on-trail experience, and have an active role in hiking and outdoor organizations.
Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to explore the natural landscape of the Chattanooga area, and getting out with others can make the experience even more enjoyable. A number of hiking clubs in the Chattanooga area make it easy to get out and hike by providing outings, trip leaders and hiking companions—all you have to do is show up.
For three years now, the Chattanooga Hiking Meetup has been organizing weekly outdoor adventures in the tristate area for all ages and abilities. The goal of the club is to explore the natural beauty of the region and develop a social network for people with similar outdoor interests. Activities include hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling and biking, ranging from easy to strenuous.
“This is a great way to get out hiking with others,” Rhonda Bulman, Chattanooga Hiking Meetup organizer, said. “We want people to feel like they are part of the group, even if they are new to the club.”
Best of all, the club is free and open to all ages and skill levels.
Events are generally scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays, and hikes can range from 2 miles to 20 miles in order to provide a variety of hikes for different skill levels. Each outing is led by a trip leader who knows the trail and has already hiked it themselves, Bulman said.
Outdoor activities are planned throughout the year in East Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) took a page from history to plot a path forward by holding a “Jeffersonian dinner” at Millstone Farm, Connecticut. Jeffersonian dinners, as they are called, are a way to pull together people with a common interest for the purpose of furthering a goal. In this case, the focus of conversation was the Norwalk River Valley Trail, its importance to Wilton and implementation strategies.
“I have spoken to a number of people who are enthusiastic about the trail and had very good ideas on implementation,” said Greg Jansen, who organized the event. “The dinner sets forth the outline of how to bring these separate ideas together into one conversation; in this case to strategize making the trail reality.”
The dinner was hosted by Jesse and Betsy Fink at their Millstone Farm property. For the Finks, with their recent donation to jump start trail construction, hosting the dinner was just another means to help bring the trail forward.
“We liked the concept of hearing the perspective of people of varying backgrounds on a common topic,” Ms. Fink said. “The single conversation around the dinner table allows participants to explore and refine their individual thoughts and recommendations.”
The proposed Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) will provide a 38 mile route (including loops) for cyclists, hikers, and walkers from Calf Pasture Beach on the Long Island Sound in Norwalk, Connecticut, north to Danbury, Connecticut. NRVT will connect to rail stations, schools and offices, offering clean, green transportation as well as recreational opportunities.
The path alongside Rose Creek naturally follows its rocky bank and gentle contours as it approaches the Eastern Continental Divide in North Carolina.
For centuries this wild and lush land served as prime buffalo and elk hunting grounds for Native American tribes.
And about 230 years ago, chestnut and massive oak trees dwarfed Revolutionary War patriots who traveled this trail on their way to Kings Mountain and a battle that historians say changed the New World.
Until now, there has been no way for the public to hike Rose Creek from the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. But nine years ago, several North Carolinians came together with the state to change that. The group cobbled together nearly 1,600 acres to create Rose Creek Trail and two other walking routes, Saddle Mountain and Little Table Rock, along the parkway.
All three opened to the public this weekend.
Directional signs along the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado have been disappearing, according to Maura McKnight, executive director of Headwaters Trails Alliance.
It is the assumption that people have been obtaining the signs, which feature the Continental Divide Trail logo, to serve as mementos. But the missing signs have been causing some hikers to get turned around on the trail, according to McKnight.
Luckily, Headwaters Trails Alliance is involved in a partnership with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to maintaining and protecting the trail, which spans 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada.
Missing signs is something that plagues the entire trail system. After locating where the signs were taken from, the Alliance began making new markers using wood blocks and a branding iron donning the trail’s logo.
Wilderness policy is an often-divisive arena. In this arena, the Scotchman Peaks straddle many boundaries.
The scenic mountain range between the Clark Fork and Bull rivers has more geopolitical lines dotting its map than a United Nations seating chart. About 20,000 of Scotchman’s 88,000 roadless acres lie in the Panhandle National Forest on the Idaho side of the border. The Kootenai National Forest in Montana has the rest. Three counties in two states have jurisdiction of the area.
The Friends of Scotchman Peaks hope to change that. In the process, they hope to reframe the wilderness debate in the United States.
“We’re wondering – can we do this? – can we identify a place as an inspiring, appealing candidate for wilderness and make it go?” asked Doug Ferrell, a Trout Creek construction designer and founding member of Friends of Scotchman Peaks. “A lot of the wilderness community is wondering if we can pass a true wilderness bill anymore. Scotchman is a great candidate. It’s rugged, well-supported and needs protection.”
The Scotchman Peaks have many of the qualities that make wilderness a hard sell. You can’t see them from the ground – there’s no highway turnout where snow-capped peaks or sparkling waterfalls can wow tourists. Almost every trail into the area involves thousands of vertical feet uphill before any postcard vista appears. Scotchman is also too rocky, too wet and too worthless to develop.
It seems only fitting that this hike should end the same way it began, on a cold rainy day in October. A year ago, during a family camping trip at Shenandoah National Park, she joined her father and me on a short hike that included a section of the Appalachian Trail. When we returned to the Big Meadows Lodge to warm up, she said “I’d like to hike the whole thing.” She said those words with a quiet resolve that we have many times before witnessed.
Once it was clear that she was unshakable in that resolve, we worked hard to support her, protect her and prepare her for one of the most physically demanding, emotionally draining and perhaps most fulfilling experiences of her young life.
We knew that hiking the Appalachian Trail was typically an adult adventure. Younger children have completed it, accompanied by parents or adult companions. She wanted to be the youngest solo thru hiker. We knew from the beginning that there is no award or official record for this endeavor. Guinness World Records and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy naturally would discourage such endeavors by the underage. We knew if she accomplished her quest, at 15, she would have the status of youngest solo thru hiker within the hiking community and most importantly, she’d know that she’d done it.
Daniel Adamson, The Guardian
The climb from the monastery had taken two days, a steady, breath-by-breath progression up through the woods under full packs. Suddenly, the path broke from the trees and we were on the exposed granite summit of mainland South Korea’s highest peak, Cheonwangbong. To the north we could see the crooked spine of the Baekdu Daegan, a mountain ridge and watershed that runs the length of the peninsula.
I was there with my partner, Somi, who was brought up in downtown Seoul and had pushed hard for a couple of weeks on a beach in south-east Asia. Instead, I’d persuaded her to hike along this ridge, exploring the shamanic shrines and Buddhist temples that have been built along the Baekdu Daegan over the past 1,000 years.
It might have been at the top of that first big climb that Somi began to look at me accusingly. Clouds of blame were gathering on the horizons of our holiday. Still, even she had to admit that this was something special. Down in the valley a Buddhist nun had shown us a stone idol of a goddess called Songmo Halmae – a kind of holy matriarch who had stood on this peak for hundreds of years, watching over the Korean nation, until she was hurled into a ravine by Christian fanatics in the 1970s. It was a primitive, archaic-looking stone thing, eyes fixed on nothing, dark with candlesmoke. I could see why she had frightened the Christians.