The best travel films for hikers and nature lovers to watch during self-quarantine

While some may miss the bustling chaos of city life during the worldwide lockdown, others sheltering in place can’t wait to break out of their cabins and into the great outdoors — void of walls and screens. It may be awhile before we can break free and run wild — and in less than 6 feet of one another. But in the meantime, we can turn to storytellers and movie...

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“Through the Great Southwest:” A Documentary about The Arizona Trail

Through the Great Southwest is a newly released documentary film in which Darwin Rakestraw makes his directorial debut, in partnership with the Arizona Trail Association. The film follows the community behind the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) that spans the length of Arizona, between Mexico and Utah. A trail deeply diverse in geography and history, the AZT...

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Research indicates high levels of microplastics in WNC waters

Jason Love got interested in microplastics by way of mussels. A wildlife biologist by education and training, he’d long been interested in the reasons behind the decline of Southern Appalachian mussel species, and in particular that of the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe. He was interested while working in his previous position as site manager for Coweeta...

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Farmworkers are risking their lives to feed a nation on lockdown

You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom. As strawberry-picking season kicks into high gear in April and May, farmworker advocates fear that a lack of worker safety protections, combined with a lack of access to health care and crowded living conditions, could lead to a major COVID-19 outbreak in farmworker communities across California. As other crops are harvested...

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As temperatures rise, Arizona sinks

Arizona is sinking. The combination of groundwater pumping and warmer temperatures is shrinking aquifers and lowering water tables. And as the land subsides, fissures open, 2-mile wounds that devour infrastructure and swallow livestock. Four of Arizona’s five economic pillars — cattle, cotton, citrus and copper — use huge amounts of water, while the fifth, the state’s...

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The Best Backpacking Tents According to Thru-Hikers

To pinpoint the best backpacking tents, look for sage advice from thru-hikers who’ve tracked the toughest, longest miles with their gear. Thru-hikers haul their kit for thousands of miles through a spectrum of weather, terrain, wildlife, and obstacles. At a trek’s end, gear is either a benediction or extraneous dead weight. A handful of impressive thru-hikers help you...

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Hiking voted best recreation activity at Lake Tahoe

After the final tally of votes, hiking is the most beloved outdoor recreational activity at Lake Tahoe. Hiking beat out skiing/snowboarding in a close vote in the championship round to claim the recreation crown. It was a heavy-hitting semifinals with kayaking and mountain biking just falling short and finishing third and fourth, respectively. Other activities in the...

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‘Forest bathing’ is path to peace

Shinrin-yoku. The term originated in Japan. In the 1980s this label was attached to a physiological and psychological exercise. It translates to “forest bathing” — simply absorbing and appreciating the atmosphere of a forest. You don’t have to immerse yourself in some far-off wilderness. Just walking in any natural environment and making an effort to connect with your...

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It’s Important to Keep Talking About Climate Change Now

In the midst of a pandemic with an immediate and visible toll on human life and the economy, other ongoing crises have fallen lower on the public’s radar. But environmentalists are finding ways to keep climate change relevant by advocating loudly for an agenda that protects people as well as the planet. A consensus seems to be emerging from environmental groups that...

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The deep science state

Since President Trump took office in 2017, environmental protection has been under assault. As of December, 2019, the administration had completed at least 58 rollbacks of environmental rules. The good news is that government scientists and lawyers are inserting statistics and data about the dire consequences of proposed rule changes into the technical documents that...

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Some common sense tips to keep you (and others) safe when hiking

Good hygiene and maintaining the appropriate social distance are central themes in this checklist of recommendations for hikers during this time of COVID-19: Keep your hands clean. Use wet wipes and hand sanitizer. Better yet, use biodegradable soap and water to scrub your hands, well away from water sources, of course. Don’t share anything. Your utensils, cup, bowl and...

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‘We’re closed for your hiking business.’ Communities near national parks urge non-locals to stay away.

Josh Berman, a Spanish teacher from Boulder, Colo., had been looking forward to his rafting trip with his 12-year-old for more than a year. As a father of three daughters, he annually alternates taking each one on an outdoor adventure. This year’s 45-mile rafting trip on the Green River from Colorado to Utah was easily the most off-the-grid excursion yet, and he and his...

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Keeping the doorstep green: Canton likely to receive 448 acres for outdoor rec

  If all goes as planned, Canton, NC will soon have a 448-acre park for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor recreation activities just a mile from town limits. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy hopes to close on the property, known as the Chestnut Mountain Tract and currently owned by Canton Motorsports LLC, within the next couple months....

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Is life during coronavirus how we will live during climate change?

So will this animation around COVID-19 translate to a climate revolution? The difficult thing about climate change, versus coronavirus, is that, until very recently, it appeared to be a far-off probability versus an impending threat. It’s really hard to get people to do things that are challenging or even just inconvenient to preemptively address a distant, not-certain...

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How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be

“How hard will that hike be?” That’s a question that all dayhikers and backpackers, from beginners to experts, think about all the time—and it’s not always easy to answer. But there are ways of evaluating the difficulty of any hike, using readily available information, that can greatly help you understand what to expect before you even leave home. Whether you’re new to...

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No, Sheltering in Place Doesn’t Include Hiking in Crowds

In locked-down America, the outdoors is one of the only places left to go. And everyone seems to be going. Leaders and health officials around the country are struggling to balance the need for separation with the need for escape and exercise. Southern California’s always-jammed roads were eerily quiet the first weekend of a statewide lockdown meant to slow the spread of...

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The Leave No Trace Recommendations for Getting Outside During Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly altering our daily life. It is important to be aware of the most current information from the CDC on these changes, and that goes for changes to the way we spend time outside as well. To keep ourselves, our communities, and our outdoor spaces safe and healthy during this time, please consider these recommendations. Where COVID-19 is...

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How To Be A Climate Activist During The Coronavirus Pandemic

April was supposed to be a huge month for climate action. The plan was to have a month of global mobilization with thousands of protests and events planned by almost 1 million different organizations working together. Activists had hoped to build on the success of last September’s worldwide climate strikes, which saw 8 million people take to the streets to demand action....

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Spring Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The promise of refreshing walks in the woods, colorful blooms, and a greener landscape on the Blue Ridge Parkway are bright spots during these stressful times. If you’re headed out to appreciate the diverse wildflowers that herald the season’s arrival, here are tips for the best viewing and staying safe. To plan your wildflower excursions, look to the trees for signs of...

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A Backpacker’s Guide to Maps

Overview maps normally have a scale of between 1:50,000 and 1:100,000, meaning that one unit on the map (e.g., an inch, a centimeter, a thumbnail) equals 50,000 or 100,000 units in the field. While planning a trip, use these small-scale maps to develop a general understanding of the landscape, including the main watersheds, road systems, and trail networks. They aid with...

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Despite the coronavirus, you can legally thru-hike the Appalachian Trail right now. But should you?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic that has dislodged the United States’ social order and crippled its economy, the question of whether or not to attempt a thru-hike has become an actual life-or-death conundrum—and a question of what it means to put strangers before yourself. A week ago, concerns about the coronavirus and thru-hiking centered mostly on supplies. With...

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Is It Safe To Go Hiking? Yes, With Caveats

With so many of us stuck at home self-isolating or temporarily unable to work, people may be thinking about going for a hike. But is it safe? “Of course, but maintain a safe distance from others. There is no issue with going hiking with the people you live with,” says Chunhuei Chi, director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University. If you go hiking with...

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The National Park Service is selling out to telecom giants

There aren’t many places people can go these days to escape completely from the ubiquitous influence of social media, smartphones, Big Tech and telecom companies. The blank spots on the coverage maps are constantly shrinking, though not equally, and not everywhere. In many cases, the expansion of broadband coverage is necessary; telecom providers too often underserve...

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Bonneville Shoreline Trail runs into dispute between trail advocates and environmentalists

Utahns of all political stripes enjoy trails that connect their communities to the outdoors, but efforts to expand one of the state’s premier trails threaten to divide two groups of stakeholders that are normally allied on public lands issues: trail users and wilderness advocates. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which contours along parts of the Wasatch foothills, tracks...

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Coronavirus advice for Appalachian Trail hikers from trail organization: distancing and soap

Coronavirus concerns have led the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to issue guidance for hikers already on the Appalachian Trail – like thru-hikers who started their 2,180-mile treks before or despite guidance on self-confinement and social distancing. “For Appalachian Trail hikers, distancing yourself from other hikers and maintaining good hygiene is the best defense for...

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Transylvania County Tourism announces $100,000 toward Ecusta Trail

At the Transylvania County, NC Tourism (TCT) Board of Directors’ annual retreat, a motion was passed to set aside $100,000 from the organization’s fund balance for the development of the Ecusta Trail. TCT previously pledged support of the rail to trail conversion back in June of 2015, emphasizing the benefit that the trail would have on the community. After nearly a...

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Biltmore Estate Grounds, Gardens and Conservatory – A Photo Essay

While a walk around the 250 rooms of Biltmore House will thrill you with art and craftmanship and history and architecture, your visit to Biltmore Estate isn’t done until you get outside and explore the gardens and Conservatory, and the 20 miles of hiking and biking trails available. Because my brother and I were there on gift passes, we weren’t able to visit...

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What Do You Mean You Haven’t Been to Biltmore Estate Yet?

Hard to believe I’ve lived in Western North Carolina for 15 years now, and had never visited the world famous Biltmore Estate. My brother managed to score a couple of gift passes, so we decided it must be about time to go after all these years. Now I might actually spring for the price of admission just to go back some day. Built by George Vanderbilt, heir to the...

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How hiking can make you mentally and physically stronger

Serendipitously, her last name is Bliss. Perhaps that’s not such a coincidence when you realize the immense joy Lauralee Bliss has discovered during her 10,000 miles of hiking. She’s traversed some of the most beautiful, secluded parts of this country, trekking the entire Appalachian Trail two times. Bliss has also completely tackled the Colorado and Florida Trails,...

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Blue Ridge Parkway roads and trails swell to 15 million visitors in 2019, budget shrinks

Nancy Midgette, in her volunteer role as a “Craggy Rover,” acting as a helping arm to the Blue Ridge Parkway rangers at Craggy Gardens, learned she can talk for four hours straight. That’s about how long she spent talking to visitors on her four-hour shifts last summer at Craggy Pinnacle, just north of Asheville, pointing out the mountaintop names in the distance from...

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