Check out the Triangle’s newest nature preserve with trails, working farms

The Triangle Land Conservancy‘s newest nature preserve, the Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve, is now open. The 405-acre property, at 4409 Mial Plantation Rd., Raleigh, offers nine miles of walking and biking trails that connect to the Neuse River Greenway. It’s the eighth nature preserve for the Triangle Land Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to...

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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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Studies show North Carolina’s river otters are thriving, and that’s good news for all of us

Most people would agree: River otters are adorable. But beyond their playfulness, the otters have an important role in determining the health of a river system. At N.C. State University, scientists this year released studies on river otters that they plan to use as baselines for future research. The first study examined the toxicological effects that metals, such as...

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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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Hellbender Regional Trail aims to connect Transylvania to Buncombe to Madison by foot, bike

Picture this: Riding your bike to work from Henderson County to Asheville, safely, on a paved path protected from the roar and cars of highways I-26 and U.S. 25. Or walking on a wide, safe, tree-shaded greenway from Enka to Waynesville instead of driving on U.S. 19/23. Or actually mountain biking from downtown Asheville to the trails of Bent Creek Experimental Forest...

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23 miles of hiking trails await across North Carolina’s beautiful Piedmont Environmental Center

The Piedmont Environmental Center in High Point, North Carolina, could be the perfect place for families to start to explore nature while staying close to several cities, including Greensboro. The Piedmont Environmental Center connects the High Point Greenway with Greensboro’s Bicentennial Greenway where walkers and cyclists can wind their way on wooden paths along a...

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Planning effort seeks to form WNC regional multi-use trail network

The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization has a plan that would create a 150-mile-plus trail network through Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties in North Carolina that is now out for public comment. The group has been working with local governments and community stakeholders over the last year to develop plans for the...

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North Carolina climate plan released

After 11 months of stakeholder engagement and collaborative work, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has submitted the N.C. Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan to Gov. Roy Cooper. The plan was required by Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and is the state’s most comprehensive effort to date. Based on science and stakeholder input, it aims to address North...

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SAHC adds 448-acre Chestnut Mountain property in Haywood County

Chestnut Mountain is a unique habitat and clean water conservation project paired with exciting potential for outdoor recreation. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has purchased 448 acres at Chestnut Mountain near the Town of Canton, NC, permanently protecting sources of clean water and forested habitat in an important wildlife corridor. SAHC plans to give the...

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Conservation easement protects resources in Macon County

  A recently conserved piece of land in Macon County, NC includes a federally significant marsh, a scenic view and a portion of the Nantahala River. Mainspring Conservation Trust has conserved more than 205 acres in the Rainbow Springs area of the county’s western portion, and that land is now part of a larger node of privately conserved property that totals...

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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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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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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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DuPont, Friends seek input on management of wildly popular forest

Horse safety and the need for trailer parking, overcrowded hiking trails, the desire for single-track mountain bike trails and more trail etiquette education at DuPont State Recreational Forest are just some of the issues swirling around the much loved, multi-use state forest, which is entering its 20th year. The 12,000-acre state forest in Henderson and Transylvania...

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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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U.S. Forest Service releases draft Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan for public comment

Drafts of the Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) are now available. A formal 90-day public review and comment period is scheduled to begin on February 14,2020. The proposed plan is built on significant public engagement and the best available science to guide forest management for the next 15 years. It recognizes the multiple uses...

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Catawba conservation purchase to become part of new trail system

  A 68-acre conservation purchase in Catawba County, North Caroina is expected to become part of the planned Wilderness Gateway State Trail, which is intended to meander thorugh Catawba and Burke counties and along the Rutherford-McDowell county line. The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina bought the property from landowners Becky and Wayne Welch. It is...

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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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Environmental analysis completed and decision signed for Twelve Mile Project on Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has completed the environmental assessment process and made a final decision on the Twelve Mile Project on the Pisgah National Forest’s Appalachian Ranger District in Haywood County, North Carolina. Once implemented, the project will help maintain a healthy and diverse forest that supports wildlife, provides a sustainable output of timber,...

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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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RiverLink’s RAD Watershed Plan addresses Asheville’s most impaired waterway

Out of view of the paddleboards and kayaks that meander with the lazy flow of the French Broad River, an orange tube skims oil from a creek’s surface. The tube is a last line of defense preventing oil from flowing directly into the river. The creek is Town Branch, a waterway long believed to be the most polluted stream in Western North Carolina. “Many people still call...

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Wilderness Gateway State Trail to be 100 miles and connect Chimney Rock to South Mountains

Can there ever be too many hiking trails in Western North Carolina? State trail planners, conservation groups, local governments and outdoors enthusiasts tend to think not. At least that seems to be the case as another series of long-distance trails are now in the works by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The Wilderness Gateway State Trail should be about 100...

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Mountain Bog Protected in Burke County, NC

  A 17-acre bog in Burke County is now protected for conservation following purchase by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. The Jonas Ridge property borders the Pisgah Loop Scenic Highway and was purchased from landowner Hazel Shell with funding from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Southern Appalachian mountain bogs are rare and contain...

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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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Coyote Sightings Peak in October-November

Hearing or seeing more coyotes these days? You’re not alone, say biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. According to them, it is common for North Carolinians to report seeing and hearing coyotes more often in October and November. Fall is the time of year when young coyotes – those born in early spring – are leaving their parents’...

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North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park adds 900 acres for new recreation, camping, trailhead

Hanging Rock State Park encompasses 8,605 acres, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. Now, the state is tacking on another 900 acres. NCDPR celebrated the new addition to the state park in Stokes County. “This is truly a day for celebration,” said Secretary Susi H. Hamilton in a news release. “Future visitors to Hanging Rock State Park will...

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Armadillos roll into Western North Carolina

Flexible bands of skin on its back hold the hard pieces of its roly-poly shell together. Scales cover much of its body, interrupted by the shaggy, grey hair that covers its belly. Deserving a spot alongside the platypus as one of the world’s strangest mammals, the latest arrival to the Tar Heel State is doing its part to keep the Asheville area weird. Since May 17, the...

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