A Day in the North High Country on the BRP – A Photo Essay

The first day of October I took a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the high country north of Asheville, NC. The mountains here exceed 6,000 feet and the views seemingly go forever. It’s a captivating drive up, with plenty of pullouts so you can ooh and aah at the scenery. I tried to time my climb to catch some of the golden hour not long after dawn. My first stop...

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Snowy Range Scenic Byway, Medicine Bow National Forest – A Photo Essay

The Snowy Range Scenic Byway crosses the Medicine Bow Mountain Range and includes nearly 30 miles of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest portion of Wyoming Highway 130. It passes between the towns of Centennial and Saratoga, but it’s what is in between that is spectacular. Originally a wagon road built in the 1870s, the road was paved in the 1930s and designated...

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Devils Tower National Monument – A Photo Essay

Devils Tower, an important landmark for Plains Indians tribes long before the white man reached Wyoming, was called Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge by the Sioux. A number of legends describe the origin of Devils Tower. “One legend tells of seven little girls being chased onto a low rock to escape attacking bears. Their prayers for help were heeded as the rock...

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial – A Photo Essay

“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.” — Sculptor Gutzon Borglum America’s presidential history is alive in stone. Majestic...

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Needles Highway at Custer State Park, SD – A Photo Essay

The Needles Highway in western South Dakota’s Custer State Park is more than a 14-mile road — it’s a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen with fields of bright wildflowers, and rugged, almost other-worldly, granite mountains. The road’s name comes from the needle-like granite formations which...

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Return to Badlands National Park 50 Years Later – A Photo Essay

Back in the 1960’s when I was in my mid-teens, my family took a cross-country western vacation that included stops at many of the scenic and picturesque national parks along the way. Included among those was Badlands National Park, the first stop on our trip. I remembered all my adult life the fascination I had with the Badlands, and promised myself I would return...

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State Capitol, Charleston, West Virginia – A Photo Essay

West Virginia was founded in the midst of the American Civil War, the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state. An enabling act was approved by President Abraham Lincoln admitting West Virginia to the Union, on the condition that a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery be inserted in its constitution. President Lincoln issued a proclamation...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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