Time for Litter Pickup and Pictures on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Those of you who have known me for awhile are aware that, since retirement, I have been what the National Park Service calls a VIP. Sounds pretentious, but really all it means is Volunteer in Parks. I help out at two, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Up on the Parkway I pick up litter, clean out storm drains, and do general tidying at one...

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Mythology Makes the Search for Grass of Parnassus More Fun – A Photo Essay

Mount Parnassus is a mountain of limestone in central Greece that towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and offers scenic views of the surrounding olive groves and countryside. Mount Parnassus is named after Parnassos, the son of the nymph Kleodora and the man Kleopompus. According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Dionysus and the Dionysian...

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The World Is Still Out There in Spite of Coronavirus – A Photo Essay

Does 2020 seem like a lost year so far? If you’re like me it has. I’ve been self-isolating since mid-March because of coronavirus. I only venture out to get groceries for my dad and myself. I have been hiking a grand total of once since March, and that time was only after entering Phase II of the grand reopening. Obviously soon after, positive cases began...

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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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Snowy Balds at Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

There was a snowstorm over Roan Mountain the last Friday in February, 2020. Seeing Roan Highlands covered in a blanket of snow is always a highlight of WNC winter. So on Sunday, March 1st I set out for this glorious destination high above the little town of Bakersville. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in winter. This makes three in a row now. As...

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Jones Gap Trail to Jones Gap Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap State Park sits on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in upstate South Carolina very near the state line with its neighbor to the north. Along with Caesars Head State Park, these two share an area known as Mountain Bridge Wilderness. The Jones Gap Trail follows the Middle Saluda River from the park visitor center along an old roadway built by Solomon Jones in the 1850s....

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Hiking Above the Clouds at World’s Edge – A Photo Essay

August 2005 saw the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now Conserving Carolina) and The Nature Conservancy purchase a 1,568-acre tract of land south of Lake Lure known as “World’s Edge” for $16 million with the intention of transferring the land as the first to be added to the new Chimney Rock State Park. World’s Edge contains a mile-long set of steep...

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Rocky Ridge and Stone Mountain Trails, DuPont State Forest

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina, Stone Mountain is the highest point in the state forest at 3,620 feet. Appropriately named for the exposed granite slab that traverses its summit, Stone Mountain offers a near 270° view of the surrounding terrain to winter hikers. Since the first time I went, nearly 12 years ago,...

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Tarklin Branch Trail to Wintergreen Falls and Thomas Cemetery Trail, DuPont State Forest

Located in the Guion Farm region of DuPont State Forest, this hike will take you to one of the lesser known, but equally memorable, of the exciting DuPont waterfalls. You are surrounded by majestic pine forest nearly throughout, with a walk along Grassy Creek for good measure. Most of the way is excellent double track surface, but that means you should listen for the...

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An October in Western North Carolina – A Photo Essay

Throughout the month of October, I traveled and hiked the high country of Western North Carolina seeking the seasonal change and corresponding forest color. One of the great things about the mountains is how you can follow the change as it lowers in elevation, starting with the highest peaks and ending in the lowest river valleys. My brother has been in the process of...

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That Day Tropical Storm Barry Came to Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Cloudy and very windy. That’s what greeted me the morning of July 14, 2019 as I first stepped from my car at Pounding Mill Overlook (milepost 413). Those who know me also know that I’ve been picking up trash and otherwise maintaining this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway for each of the last 10 years. As I walked around to survey the accumulated trash since...

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Overnighting in the High Country on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

There’s not much more beautiful than the high country along the Blue Ridge Parkway in June. The days are long. The forest has completed its greening and the heath bushes are in bloom. If you catch the sights in the evening or very early morning you can even avoid the crowds. I’ve been on the shelf for a few weeks with an ankle injury while hiking, and was...

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Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Located at milepost 316.5 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls moves in several distinct steps, beginning in a twin set of upper falls, passing through a small twisty gorge, and culminating in a high-volume 45-foot plunge. The Linville River flows from its headwaters high on the steep slopes of Grandfather Mountain and cascades through these falls as it begins a...

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Schoolhouse Gap and Chestnut Top Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sure, there are lots and lots of wildflowers in April at Whiteoak Sink and on the hillside at the Townsend Y to make this hike seriously entertaining. But there is a lot more to the Schoolhouse Gap/Chestnut Top combination hike than abundant spring flowers. The views into Townsend from the Chestnut Top ridge are notable, and the forest that surrounds you throughout is...

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Meigs Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With the perpetual crowd at The Sinks location in the Smokies, it was surprising to me that hardly anyone hikes this trail that starts at the popular waterfall along Little River Road. Another surprise was the abundance of spring ephemeral wildflowers found along the trail. I counted more than a dozen varieties, and plenty of each. Once you reach Meigs Creek, it’s...

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December Walking on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

The Blue Ridge Parkway frequently closes for snow and ice in late Fall and Winter. While it’s disappointing you can’t traverse the roadway by vehicle, the fun news is that you can still access your favorite overlooks on foot, without any traffic. It is so peaceful. Most access roads to the Parkway are maintained during snow season, so you can get to the...

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Halloween at Max Patch – A Photo Essay

Few places in the Southern Appalachians are more scenic than Max Patch along the Appalachian Trail on the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. Even more so when the magic of Fall coloring surrounds the mountaintop. You can see my complete trail report for Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge, and learn about an unexpected adventure I had a few years ago on my first...

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The Year That Fall Never Arrived – A Photo Essay

Like a child anticipating Christmas, this year has had us waiting… waiting… waiting for the leaf peeping season to begin. Combine a very wet summer with a September where the warmth never ended, and it’s like the year that fall never arrived. This day, October 12, 2018, was the first day all autumn where the overnight temperature dropped into the...

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Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cosby section of the Smokies park is mostly known for its long, arduous treks to high country destinations like Mt. Cammerer and Inadu Knob. But there is another trail there that is more moderate in difficulty. A good day hike on Gabes Mountain Trail is the 4-mile round trip to Hen Wallow Falls, a 90-foot, multi-tiered cascade. This is cool, dense forest, some of it...

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A Day with the Azaleas at Andrews Bald – A Photo Essay

Andrews Bald is the highest bald in the Smokies, standing just under 6,000 feet. Every year in the month of June, the flame azalea and rhododendron show arrives for all those willing to hike a couple miles to see. You start at Clingmans Dome and take the Forney Ridge Trail to reach Andrews Bald. Here is a complete trail report that describes the hike. In addition to the...

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Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag, Ozark National Forest

The hike on Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag is one of the most popular in Arkansas. Aside from the remarkable views of the Buffalo River Gorge, it’s a nice, easy four-season hike that offers wildflowers in spring and summer, and the bright crimson and gold leaves of fall. It takes a little work to get to due to the very remote nature of the location, but...

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Gore Creek Trail, White River National Forest

This trail climbs from East Vail into Eagles Nest Wilderness alongside Gore Creek. There are some short steep sections that wind through meadows and aspen groves which change to spruce-fir stands as the elevation increases. Also look for a wide variety of wildflowers in season. Particularly during spring runoff, Gore Creek rages down the drainage with its series of fast...

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Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

Named for Butch Cassidy, the late-19th century western outlaw who hung out in these parts, Cassidy Arch stands on a precipice overlooking the Grand Wash in Capitol Reef. Cassidy Arch Trail climbs 670 feet from the wash to a slickrock bench high above the canyon. Iconic landmarks like Capitol Dome are visible along the trail that hangs on the canyon ledge. Better wear...

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Being a Tourist at Bryce Canyon National Park – A Photo Essay

The mornings were spent hiking at Bryce Canyon, but the afternoons and evenings we played tourist just like thousands of others. We rode the shuttle. We checked out all the overlooks. We oohed and aahed. We took lots of pictures. The first three miles inside the park is where you will find Bryce Amphitheater. The most iconic — but also most popular — views...

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Swamp Canyon Trail, Bryce Canyon Wilderness

You can’t really tell from the overlook, but there’s a lot to like down in Swamp Canyon. For one, this is part of Bryce Canyon Wilderness, so it is definitely less crowded than the majority of the national park. There are great views of Wightman Bench and Swamp Canyon Butte from down in the canyon. Wildflowers and wildlife are abundant during the green...

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Bristlecone Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bristlecone Loop, accessible from Rainbow Point at the southern-most end of Bryce Canyon National Park, meanders through a spruce-fir forest atop the highest portion of the park, reaching elevations over 9,100 feet. This short and easy stroll passes by bristlecone pines up to 1,800-years-old and experiences vistas reaching into Dixie National Forest and Grand...

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Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Golden hour is special for any place with picturesque scenic beauty, especially if you also happen to like photography. There aren’t many places more stunning during the golden hour — that time right after sunrise and right before sunset — than Bryce Canyon. There are even viewpoints named for these wonderful times… Sunrise Point and Sunset Point....

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