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May Day Flowering at Pisgah National Forest – A Photo Essay

Posted by on May 5, 2018 @ 11:18 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 0 comments

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 Pisgah Ranger District: Daniel Ridge Trail following the Daniel Ridge Creek, and the Andy Cove Nature Trail at the district Visitor Center. I was not disappointed at either...

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Cruisin’ Little River Road for Wildflowers – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 @ 6:25 pm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Tennessee | 0 comments

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 begin until 6:00 PM. So I planned to arrive in the morning and spend the day exploring various of the dozens of quiet nature trails looking for Spring wildflowers, and...

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Bradley Fork and Cabin Flats Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 10, 2018 @ 6:08 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Bradley Fork and Cabin Flats Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This is one of my new favorite Spring wildflower hikes in the Smokies. The flowers are brilliant along both the Bradley Fork and Cabin Flats Trails. The Smokemont region of the Smokies is one of the most convenient, located just a short few miles northwest of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center off Hwy 441. It is four miles up Bradley Fork to Cabin Flats Trail, then another 1.1 miles to campground 49 at Cabin Flats. All the while the sounds of the stream will be your constant companion. I hiked this section of the national park on Friday, April 6,...

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Pinnacle Mountain Trail and Ridge Trail, Table Rock State Park, SC

Posted by on Dec 23, 2017 @ 6:52 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, South Carolina, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Pinnacle Mountain Trail and Ridge Trail, Table Rock State Park, SC

This park sits right on the cliff’s edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment that drops down from the mountains in western North Carolina to the upcountry of South Carolina. The park is more than 3,000 acres of trails, lakes, cabins and camping. Pinnacle Mountain Trail is the most challenging within the park, with a climb that exceeds 2,300 feet. The lower section follows Carrick Creek, while the upper levels offer fantastic views into the South Carolina Upstate, with massive rock outcroppings along the way. Ken and I hiked Pinnacle Mountain at...

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Playing in the Snow at Roan – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 @ 8:33 am in Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Roan Highlands, Tennessee | 0 comments

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 morning of December 10th. I was not disappointed. To be honest, it couldn’t have worked out better. The road crews had done a fabulous job of clearing all the back country...

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Natural Bridge and Raven Rock Trails, Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina

Posted by on Dec 9, 2017 @ 2:19 pm in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, South Carolina | 1 comment

Natural Bridge and Raven Rock Trails, Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina

Another of the fun and exciting South Carolina state parks that line the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, Keowee Toxaway offers two hiking trails that take visitors over a natural bridge and through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, land once traveled by Cherokee Indians. Much of the trail follows the shore of Lake Keowee through the healthy oak/hickory forest that surrounds it. The trail’s namesakes are interesting features, but the highlights of this hike are the terrain and the views. I hiked Natural Bridge and Raven Rock...

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Oakridge Trail, Congaree National Park

Posted by on Dec 3, 2017 @ 11:44 am in Congaree National Park, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Oakridge Trail, Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park, located in the heart of South Carolina, is a land of towering trees, of floods and fire, of woodland paths and water trails used by people for more than 10,000 years. This rare, old growth forest became a national park in 1976. These ancient trees have witnessed wars, slavery, freedom, and destruction. There are 25 miles of hiking trails in Congaree, including Oakridge. Passing through a rich stretch of old growth forest, along the way you will cross a number of sloughs, or small creeks that carry floodwaters into and...

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Old Sugarlands Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Nov 20, 2017 @ 11:07 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 1 comment

Old Sugarlands Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the more enjoyable trails I have hiked recently in the Smokies, Old Sugarlands follows West Prong of Little Pigeon River for a mile and a half, then turns to the east and ascends the western flank of the LeConte Ridge another 2.4 miles to a pastoral setting known as Cherokee Orchard. This trail receives surprisingly little use despite being surrounded by a hub of activity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Park Headquarters. Once you reach the top, you can extend the hike 1.8 miles round trip with a visit to historic Bud Ogle Cabin, or...

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

Posted by on Oct 26, 2017 @ 7:19 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Tennessee | 2 comments

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, where I turned onto Newfound Gap Road for a climb up into the Tennessee Smokies. First stop was Maloney Point where the sun was casting light above the ridges, but had not yet...

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Rich Mountain Loop at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 @ 10:30 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Rich Mountain Loop at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This was the first trail I hiked in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was back in 2008 or so, well before I started this website. So I thought it must be time, nearly 10 years later, to do it again and tell you about it. Rich Mountain Loop is a combination of three trails: Rich Mountain Loop Trail, Indian Grave Gap Trail, and Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. Most people hike the loop clockwise, but the direction really doesn’t matter. It is no more difficult, or easy, whichever you choose. After circling the northeastern edge of Cades...

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Raven Cliff Falls and Gum Gap Trails, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Posted by on Aug 30, 2017 @ 10:45 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Easy Hikes, South Carolina | 1 comment

Raven Cliff Falls and Gum Gap Trails, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

The air is nearly always cool at Caesars Head State Park in upstate South Carolina. It sits right on the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment where refreshing breezes from the piedmont waft up and over the massive walls of rock. This hike is a casual stroll through hardwood forest on a sand and clay pathway to the Matthews Creek gorge and a suspension bridge over the precipice of Raven Cliff Falls. Expect something different, and enjoyable, in each season. I hiked this route to Matthews Creek on Monday, August 28, 2017 beginning at 9:45AM and...

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McCullough Gulch Trail, White River National Forest

Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 @ 12:08 pm in Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes, White River National Forest | 0 comments

McCullough Gulch Trail, White River National Forest

This trail follows the McCullough Creek drainage up the gulch beneath the massive summit of 14,225′ Quandary Peak. It starts on an old mining road south of Breckenridge, CO, then changes to single track trail as it climbs the gulch. You’ll pass through pine and fir forest, get splashed by White Falls, marvel at the colorful granite, and count the variety of summer wildflowers along the way. Watch too for mountain goats among the talus, a common sighting. Picturesque Upper Blue Reservoir sits at the top of the drainage offering a...

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West Ridge Trail from Loveland Pass, Arapaho National Forest

Posted by on Jul 27, 2017 @ 11:15 am in Arapaho National Forest, Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 1 comment

West Ridge Trail from Loveland Pass, Arapaho National Forest

The easier of the trails at Loveland Pass, West Ridge surrounds two sides of the bowl that makes up the Loveland area and the I-70 corridor over the Continental Divide. Still, at 11,990 feet, this is no piece of cake for folks like me who are used to mountains no more than half the elevation. Several ski slopes are visible from the ridge. Look too for cute rodents to peek out of their ground holes, like pica, chipmunks and marmots. My brother Dave and I hiked the short West Ridge Trail on Saturday, July 15, 2017 beginning at 7:30AM and ending...

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Vail Pass to Uneva Ridge, Eagles Nest Wilderness

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 @ 10:51 am in Colorado, Eagles Nest Wilderness, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes, White River National Forest | 1 comment

Vail Pass to Uneva Ridge, Eagles Nest Wilderness

This marvelous example of Rocky Mountain vistas starts, oddly enough, directly beside Interstate-70 at Colorado’s 10,585′ Vail Pass. The trail winds through forest and meadow, then climbs steeply above treeline to Uneva Ridge, 1,500 feet above. Along the way you will enjoy breathtaking views of four distinct mountain ranges as you pass into Eagles Nest Wilderness, and experience the high mountain air. If you still have some energy left, you can continue to either Uneva Pass, or Uneva Peak, another solid 500 feet higher. Regardless...

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Rocky Mountain Summer at Hagerman Pass – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 @ 1:23 pm in Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, San Isabel National Forest | 0 comments

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 Dave started with an overnight emergency room experience. The good folks at Vail Valley Medical got me back on my feet though, and by the next day I was ready to go...

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The Land Between Two Wildernesses – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 @ 2:55 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 5 comments

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 Balsam Road. You can make a very nice 9-mile loop out of the Flat Laurel Creek Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail, staying between 5,000-6,000 feet elevation the whole way....

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Hikes To Explore Colorado’s Western Slope This Summer

Posted by on Jun 23, 2017 @ 11:40 am in Colorado, Hiking News |
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Hikes To Explore Colorado’s Western Slope This Summer

Colorado’s Western Slope is rich in backcountry hikes. Knowing where to find them — and what to expect on a trail — just got easier with a new guidebook by Grand Junction outdoor writer Bill Haggerty. The Falcon Guides “Hiking Colorado’s Western Slope” has details on more than 45 trails in Western Colorado. It doesn’t have just the standard route descriptions. Haggerty includes historical tidbits, geological information, suitability for canines, and observations gleaned from a lifetime of hiking in...

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Just Another Day at Stunning Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jun 20, 2017 @ 6:59 am in Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Roan Highlands, Tennessee | 5 comments

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 the ridge are among the best you will find anywhere, and the flowers are, to put it mildly, simply gorgeous. This visit was on June 15, 2017. I arrived at 6:45AM with bad...

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Sugar Creek Gap, Nantahala National Forest

Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 @ 10:24 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 0 comments

Sugar Creek Gap, Nantahala National Forest

Remote. This little slice of Nantahala National Forest is truly far from anything. Once you are a mile into the woods from the trailhead, there is next to no evidence of human activity. It’s hard to know how many folks come here to hike, but there aren’t many boot prints in the mud. There are, however, plenty of deer tracks… and wildflowers. Wow, are there wildflowers. From Sugar Creek Gap there are great views of the Blue Ridge to both the north and the south, then the hiking is through a dense forest comprised of mostly...

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Baxter Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 @ 2:21 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes | 0 comments

Baxter Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Baxter Creek Trail has a well-earned reputation as one of the hardest hikes in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Starting at the Big Creek picnic area near Waterville, NC it climbs more than 4,000 feet over 6.2 miles, roughly 700 feet/mile. That will get your attention. Look for stunning forest scenes, waterways that keep the forest green, seasonal wildflowers, and sweeping vistas from the summit of 5,842′ Mt. Sterling. Take plenty of food and water, and energy, because you will definitely need it. But also take your time and...

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

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 @ 10:03 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Shining Rock Wilderness, Vista Hikes | 1 comment

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 Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses is pierced by the Art Loeb Trail, a favorite of anyone who visits the Pisgah Ranger District. My hiking pal Ken and I have walked this region...

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Middle Prong Trail at Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on May 15, 2017 @ 10:51 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Middle Prong Trail at Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Perhaps the finest creek side trail in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Middle Prong Trail actually follows Lynn Camp Prong. Lynn Camp and Thunderhead Prong join to form Middle Prong just below the trailhead. You will walk alongside Lynn Camp Prong for the entire length of this hike, passing dozens of swift cascades and two exciting waterfalls. Look for a wide variety of wildflowers in spring and a splendid leaf peeping show in autumn. I visited Tremont on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 beginning at 7:30AM and ending about 10:00AM. My...

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Abrams Falls Trail at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on May 12, 2017 @ 12:00 pm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 2 comments

Abrams Falls Trail at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the most popular hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Abrams Falls at the west end of Cades Cove has the full Smokies package all in one. Here you can find rich, bountiful forest with a floor of colorful spring wildflowers, a rushing creek that provides refreshing nourishment for all the plants and wildlife, good exercise as you climb up and over Arbutus Ridge to enjoy majestic mountain views, the stunning reward of a picturesque plunge waterfall, and a touch of Smokies history from the Cherokee and settlers who called...

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

Posted by on May 4, 2017 @ 10:13 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 4 comments

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 varieties of hardwood trees, wildflowers, and understory vegetation will keep you enthralled for hours. My brother Dave and I hiked the loop trail on May 2, 2017 with little in...

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Tennessee Smokies on My Mind – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 @ 10:32 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Tennessee | 5 comments

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, refreshing water that comes from the snow melt high above. And so it was that I loaded up my Subaru to head to the Tennessee Smokies on April 13th. I just forgot to consider one...

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Yellowstone Prong, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 @ 2:01 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Difficult Hikes, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Yellowstone Prong, Blue Ridge Parkway

Yellowstone Prong has some of the most rugged terrain in all of the Pisgah Ranger District. Paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway from Looking Glass Rock Overlook at milepost 417, and climbing the drainage from Skinny Dip Falls to Yellowstone Falls, this hike in, along, and above Yellowstone Prong may be the most challenging mile I have undertaken. You will scramble over car-size boulders in the prong. You will whack your way through rhododendron thickets and climb over massive hemlock and oak deadfall. Best of all, you will enjoy incredible...

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Earliest Spring Wildflowers at Little Bradley Falls – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 25, 2017 @ 11:01 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Water Hikes | 0 comments

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 lots of bloodroot. Several more varieties will follow in succeeding weeks, but these are the first to pop out and display their finery. I hiked the Little Bradley Trail the...

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Indian Creek and Juney Whank Loops at Deep Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 @ 9:51 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 3 comments

Indian Creek and Juney Whank Loops at Deep Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Deep Creek is one of many popular recreation areas found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Camping and picnicking are in abundance, as well as plenty of waterways for fishing and tubing. The assorted hiking trails also make it a fun destination for you and me. This hike, a combination of two different small loop trails affords the opportunity to visit the three famous Deep Creek waterfalls, to explore the nearby forest, and to follow the refreshing streams that flow through the area. Ken and I visited Deep Creek on Tuesday, February 28,...

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