Over the past few years, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program has been installing a network of kid-friendly hiking trails, called TRACK Trails, on and in communities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. And now, through a grant provided by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the program is partnering with the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association (NCRPA) to open 10 new TRACK Trails in city/county parks in Western North Carolina.
Kids in Parks and the NCRPA have celebrated the grand opening of the Statesville Greenway TRACK Trail at the Statesville Fitness and Activity Center. Thirty-eight local grade-school children attended the Grand Opening as part of the after school programming offered at the Statesville Fitness and Activity Center. Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh addressed the children before the ribbon cutting, telling them “Getting outdoors is good for you, and this new trail is a great way to explore the outdoors. This trail is for you.”
The Statesville Greenway TRACK Trail follows Fourth Creek Greenway for 2 miles and offers an easy and scenic walk for kids and family to enjoy. The trail links the Statesville Fitness and Activity Center to the Statesville Park and Soccer complex, which features picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a disc golf course, and more.
The Kids in Parks program has been working with the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association to expand their network of TRACK Trails in Western North Carolina. The partnership allows the Kids in Parks program to work with municipal parks departments to install TRACK Trails on their sites, linking local communities with TRACK Trail locations in North Carolina’s State Parks, on other public lands and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced plans to implement a complete closure of the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road to all vehicular traffic on Monday, December 3, and to impose a partial closure on Tuesday, December 4. During that time, Park forestry technicians will treat hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA)-infested hemlock trees with a horticultural oil sprayed from large truck-mounted units as they have been doing since 2004. In the event of heavy rain or freezing weather, the operation will be rescheduled. To check the status of the road closure, visitors can call the Park’s general information number at 865/436-1200 or follow the roads status on Twitter at www.twitter.com/smokiesroadnps.
During the full closure on December 3, only hikers will be allowed to travel the Loop Road. Bicyclists will not be allowed to enter the Loop Road for safety reasons since there will be heavy equipment on the road making it unsafe for bicycling. Park personnel will be working at the entrance and exit areas of the Loop.
The spraying operation on December 4 will only impact the western end of the Loop Road. Motorists and cyclists will be able to enter the Loop as they normally would, but will have to detour across the Loop via Hyatt Lane (the second gravel crossroad) to exit Cades Cove. Hikers can continue through the closed portion. The detour will shorten the length of the trip to an 8-mile tour of Cades Cove. The Hyatt Lane bypass will eliminate access to the Cades Cove Visitor Center and Cable Mill area as well as the several trailheads located on the western end of Cades Cove: Abrams Falls, Cooper Road, Rabbit Creek, and Wet Bottom Trails, and Gregory Ridge trailhead.
The Great Eastern Trail — America’s newest long-distance trail for outdoorsy folks looking to bike or walk from Florida to the Finger Lakes of New York — will stretch through Chattanooga.
“So much of Chattanooga’s story is about our geography and about embracing our mountains and the river. This is just another way of being able to connect to that,” said Rick Wood, director of the Chattanooga office of the Trust for Public Land.
Warren Devine, a Great Eastern Trail board member and a volunteer for Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail Conference since 1998, said the trail will build on Chattanooga’s outdoor reputation.
“Chattanooga is by far the largest city that a long-distance trail passes through,” Devine said.
The Great Eastern Trail passes through nine states between New York’s Finger Lakes and Alabama’s Flagg Mountain. About 1,400 of the planned 1,800 miles are open for hiking.
A map is a simple thing, but without it even the most adventurous types might end up walking the same trails.
Stratham Hill Park, ME now has a map including all the public and private trails in the park, town forest and surrounding lands.
“When I talked to most people hiking, they mostly go the same route and don’t explore the other trails out there,” said Parks and Recreation Director Seth Hickey. “One of the things we are hoping to gain out of this is that people will have an understanding of how comprehensive the trail system is now… We are hoping people will have more confidence exploring new areas of the trail and adjacent properties.”
With 15 trails in all, spanning over nine miles, the network is comprehensive for hikers, walkers, bikers, and dogs alike.
The town does not maintain these trails, but Hickey said the park has an excellent network of volunteers who maintain the trails on their own accord.
“After (Hurricane) Sandy came through, those trails were cleared off in a couple of days. People went through with leaf blowers too,” Hickey said. “You build it and then people will chip in and help out with the maintenance of it all, which is really great.”
“A clear head will find itself,” begins the 1946 U.S. Forest Service safety flyer “What To Do When Lost In The Woods,” a manual made for hikers and campers whose suggestions might also be heeded by creative types who have lost their way.
The practical advice in this pamphlet was found in a Colorado cabin by Jen Christiansen, art director of information graphics at Scientific American, who tweeted about it. Soon, artist Austin Kleon noticed that many of the suggestions of the Forest Service might also serve as good lessons for creators, so he tracked down the full PDF of the pamphlet at the Oregon State Library.
After previously pondered wisdom on originality, the role of intuition, the science of creativity, the origin of good ideas, and the power of purpose, the U.S. Forest Service shows us that the art of saving your life — much like the art of being lost and found — can begin in the woods or in the heart, wherever you are.
After one hundred years of climate change, only 25 out of the 150 glaciers recorded at the Glacier National Park in Montana still exist.
Dr. Dan Fagre, who leads the U.S. Geological Survey Team responsible for researching glaciers in the park, predicts that its glaciers will completely disappear in the coming decades. He believes they are melting because of natural climate changes ‘accelerated’ by human influence.
‘The mountains are still very beautiful and they are a legacy of glaciers carving them and sculpting them,’ he said. ‘But there would most definitely be an irony that it was a glacier-less Glacier National Park.’
The disappearance of the ice is likely to further affect the wider ecosystem and could threaten species of fish adapted to living in waters kept cold by the glaciers, he added. The USGS warned as much as 44 billion tons of nitrogen and 850 billion tons of carbon could be released into the environment as permafrost thaws over the next century.
These photographs, known as glacier pairs or repeat photographs, show the tangible effects of the rising climate believed to be caused by the accumulation of so many pollutants. As these pictures show, places where the ice was once many meters thick have been replaced with sediment, pastures and lakes.
Foresters are on the watch for a potential invasion of an insect that has decimated millions of acres of forest across the West and in Canada, with continued evidence showing the mountain pine bark beetle is on the march into Nevada and the Sierra.
The danger, Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said, is significant.
“It’s a serious deal and everybody is keeping an eye on it,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely here. We’re just doing everything we can to control it at this point.”
More than 11,000 trees across 16,300 acres of Nevada are infested with the beetle, with Elko and White Pine counties in eastern Nevada particularly hard hit. But the beetle is found in western Nevada as well.
Pockets of beetle-infested trees — particularly lodgepole pines — have been located in parts of the Carson Range and in the South Lake Tahoe area.
Seniors who fit in the most daily physical activity – from raking leaves to dancing – can have more gray matter in important brain regions, researchers have reported. Here at Meanderthals, I vote for hiking.
The scientists have images that show people who were the most active had 5 percent more gray matter than people who were the least active. Having more little gray brain cells translates into a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, other studies have shown.
“People really want to know what they can do to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Cyrus Raji of the University of California in Los Angeles, who presented his team’s findings to a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
MRIs showed the differences were in areas of the brain like the hippocampus, which is heavily damaged in Alzheimer’s disease.
“By strengthening this area, an active lifestyle can reduce risk for Alzheimer’s,” Raji said. “Virtually all of the physical activities examined in this study are some variation of aerobic physical activity, which we know from other work can improve cerebral blood flow and strengthen neuronal connections.”
In the 1800s, the E.T. Clemmons Stagecoach Line ran a route in North Carolina from Morganton through Old Fort and up the mountain to Black Mountain, Swannanoa, and into Asheville on a road called the Western Turnpike. In 1880, once railroad tracks were laid up Old Fort mountain, the company’s last and largest coach, the Hattie Butner, was retired. The old roadbed that she traveled day after day, however, still exists and is steeped in history.
On Saturday, December 1st, the museum will host a moderate winter hike down this historic path, which was also used as a Native American trade route and later by General Rutherford as he moved into the Swannanoa Valley and further west burning Indian settlements.
The Swannanoa Creek and Tunnel Hike is part of the museum’s exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. A Civil War battle was held along this road, which closely parallels the Swannanoa Creek. Along the way, hikers will see the gravesites of two soldiers who lost their life during the battle.
The length of the Appalachian Trail, a famous footpath that spans from Georgia to Maine, is constantly changing. During this past hiking season, the official length was 2,184.2 miles.
For many thru-hikers, it was 2,184 miles to mend blisters, create a trail name, meet challenges and explore the wilderness. But for one Maine couple, it was 2,184 miles to learn about each other and discover if their relationship was ready for marriage.
“We said, if we make it to the end, then we’ll get married,” said Holly Todd, who lives in Swanville, ME with her fiance, Neil LeBlanc.
Just before beginning the AT on March 20, the first day of spring, LeBlanc proposed to Todd on the Belfast footbridge. She said yes. But they still had a long trail ahead of them before even thinking about a wedding.
“It’s not like you’re putting your relationship aside during that time,” said Todd, “because you definitely have to be there for each other. But you can’t expect to be romantic out there, even though there are a lot of romantic spots. You have to kind of have this mindset the whole time that you’re going to finish this, just be goal-oriented and get the job done.”
The Westford Conservation Trust has just released an updated version of its popular trails booklet – the first revised copy in two years. 300 booklets have been printed, and will be available for as long as they last.
The trail booklet is a must-have, say hikers, for navigating where to access the trails and view wildlife.
While much in the 50-page booklet has remained unchanged, the new edition has several important improvements. Most exciting are the new, detailed trail maps. Using Mass GIS, a mapping technology similar to Google Earth, the highly detailed maps feature for the first time topographic contour lines indicating uphill and downhill areas, “great for hikers.”
The maps also depict parking areas and trail features and markings. Throughout the booklet, maps are printed on the right-hand page, with text describing the trail and terrain on the left.
A new map features the Stone Arch Bridge trail, a popular half-mile trail following an abandoned railroad line over a bridge of huge granite boulders that were designed to fit together without mortar.
Recent snowfall at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon means the popular ranger-guided snowshoe walks will resume for the season.
Park ranger Dave Grimes said the walks will begin this weekend at 1 p.m. and continue every Saturday and Sunday through April 28. Walks also will be offered daily during the holidays from Wednesday, Dec. 26 through Tuesday, Jan. 1.
The snowshoe walks last about two hours and cover about a mile of moderately strenuous terrain. Participants explore the forests and meadows along the rim of Crater Lake. Grimes said participants should be at least 8 years old, be in reasonably good physical condition, and come prepared with warm clothing and water-resistant footwear. No previous snowshoeing experience is necessary.
Snowshoes are provided free of charge, and there is no cost for the tour. The park does not collect entrance fees during the winter months.
Space on each tour is limited so advance reservations are required. For more information and to sign up, call the park’s visitor center at 541-594-3100. The visitor center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on Dec. 25. Groups of 15 people or more (such as school groups, outdoor clubs and church groups) may be able to arrange for a separate tour just for their group. Group walks are available on weekdays as well as on weekends.
Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.
Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off.
When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.
The DuPage County Forest Preserve District near Chicago agreed this week to temporarily provide 5 acres of land to Canadian National railroad at Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne, so the company can make railroad track improvements. In exchange, CN will provide the district $3.1 million in preserve facilities and land enhancements.
“They are not using any district land permanently,” said the office of natural resources director. “After the work is done, they are building new facilities on existing district resources and then creating habitat on existing land.”
Workers will fill in a flood plain along Brewster Creek, which means they will need to use part of the land for compensatory water storage. The district will get to keep that storage area once work is done, he said, and forest preserve workers will collaborate with CN to make the area a functioning wetland habitat.
When the rail work is complete, CN will restore the site and perform both wetland mitigation and habitat improvements. Forest officials said that’s essential because Pratt’s Wayne Woods contains important habitat for wildlife that rely on open areas.
At the beginning of the trail the author had his doubts. In front of him was a leafy veil of supersized foliage and twisted vines, hanging like beaded curtains once the rage during the Summer of Love. Wet mud and leaves had turned the path underfoot into a skating rink.
His guide was more certain. “Segment 6,” he said, pushing aside the thick growth. “This is definitely the start of Segment 6.”
On a wet and gusty morning, they were tramping along the Waitukubuli National Trail on Dominica, the Caribbean island celebrated for its natural mindset. The 184-kilometre route runs north-south, divided into 14 segments connecting UNESCO World Heritage sites, the eastern Caribbean’s highest peaks, cascading waterfalls, a sulphurous boiling lake, and paths first cut by the indigenous Kalinago people.
For hikers, Dominica is the Promised Land.
The trails, the terrain, the mountains — every part of Dominica, in fact — is a colossal botanical experiment. In every direction there are rainforest-draped mountains snuggled up against one other. In between, there are fertile valleys and never-ending foliage. The island is untouched by chain properties, casinos or duty-free shops.
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