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Don Hendershot

The Smokies are known for their spring ephemerals. Hundreds of species of wildflowers, like bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, trout lily, trilliums and more impatiently claw their way through the brown leaf litter under the sparse spring canopy. more

Aug 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Rankin Bottoms

Photo special to Smoky Mountain Livin

About an hour’s drive from Waynesville, North Carolina, and you’ll be up to your ankles in mud, swatting mosquitoes and listening to cicadas hum from the willows and cottonwood trees of Rankin Bottoms Wildlife Management Area. more

Jun 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Perfect storm

Don Hendershot

A confluence of events that came together in the Southern Appalachians in the fall of 2016, which precipitated this unprecedented fire season: Decades of fuel buildup, drought, warm temperatures, low humidity, wind and then ignition. more

Features

Louisiana waterthrush

Don Hendershot

The Louisiana waterthrush is one of — if not the — first wood warblers to return to nesting grounds in the Southern Appalachians. If you hear his song streamside, it’s worth your effort to seek the little songster out and watch him. more

Mountain Explorer

If you’re hiking in the mid-to-low elevations of the Smokies this winter keep your eyes peeled for a splash of green. This may be the best time of the year to find two unique native orchids of the Southeast and Southern Appalachians. more

Feb 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Bear cub in the Smokies

JON & REGINA PHILLIPS/J & G PHOTOS

Spring means bear cubs in the Smokies. more

Dec 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

King of the forest

Creative Commons Photo

Klandagi, or “lord of the forest,” was the Cherokee name for cougar. The Cherokee revered the big cat; that and the owl were the only two animals to reach the seventh (highest) level of purity and sacredness. more

Aug 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer 1 Comments

Clingmans secret tunnel

Deb Campbell

Hikers, outdoorsmen, photographers, and locals reveal their favorite treasures of “the back of beyond”—from secluded trails and fishing streams to quiet overlooks and picnic spots. more

, , Features

dept_leconte.jpg

Creative Commons

Summer heat and humidity can drive anyone to extremes. In the mountains, finding reprieve can be as simple as an altitude adjustment. Mount Le Conte offers a peak experience—and cool temperatures—at its 6,593-foot summit. more

Jun 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

dept_wildflowers1.jpg

U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo

As the bare canopy of Eastern deciduous forests allows the sun to shine through and warm the fecund earth each spring, ephemerals push through the leaf litter toward the sun, and the grays and browns of the forest floor erupt in color. more

Apr 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

It’s a beautiful late winter day and the hills are alive with the sound of, well—hoarse ducks? If your late winter sojourns take you into wet areas, keep your ears open for the croaking or “quacking” of wood frogs, Rana sylvatica. more

Feb 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

dept_owls.jpg

U.S. Geological Survey/Photo by Dennis Demcheck

Owls have had plenty of time to get under our skin; fossil records date back 60 million years and Paleolithic era drawings of owls on cave walls in France represent some of the earliest recognizable avian drawings in the world. more

Dec 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Witch Hazel

Betty Shelton • SmokyMountainPhotos.com

Picture that perfect fall afternoon hike: The sun warms the air from high overhead in an endless Carolina-blue November sky; the creek next to the trail murmurs softly. more

Oct 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Like a hawk

Manjith Kainickara photo

Each September, the skies over Southern Appalachia set the stage for one of nature’s most beautiful and spectacular dances—the migration of the raptors. more

Jul 30, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Blooming rhododendrons

Keith Callahan photo

This time of year, the outlook is bright in the mountains. After all, about a dozen Rhododendron species flower throughout the Smokies, painting our higher elevations in shades of pink, purple, scarlet, and white. more

Jun 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Bugle boy

Holly Kays photo

Do I stay or do I go? And if I stay, do I just sleep through it all? The Southern Appalachians are home to a large and diverse fauna, and as winter sets in, that fauna gets to work surviving. more

Nov 1, 2014 12:00 AM Features

Grassy Ridge Bald at Roan Mountain

Brian Stansberry/Creative Commons

The Southern Appalachians are a paragon of biological diversity. The Appalachians are the country’s most significant biodiversity hotspot east of the Rockies, and the Central and Southern Appalachians are unrivaled in the U.S. for aquatic diversity. more

Aug 1, 2014 12:00 AM Features

ruby throated hummingbird

Donated photo

Many old-timers envision a place with friends just down the road ready to lend a cup of sugar or watch the kids for a few hours. But the concept of a true neighborhood is much more complex than imagery of groomed lawns and white picket fences. more

Feb 1, 2014 12:00 AM Features

Cherokee fish weir

Becky Johnson photo

Paddlers, fishermen, or those who have enjoyed a cool swimming hole, have probably seen a fish weir—though they may not have recognized it. Fish weirs are structures built within a stream or river that are designed to route and ultimately trap fish. more

Aug 1, 2013 12:00 AM Features

Drawing flies all year

Jeff Kennedy illustration

Fish tales have been recorded since at least 200 A.D. when the Roman author Claudius Aelianus penned On the Nature of Animals. Aelianus describes what he calls the Macedonian way of catching fish. It is, perhaps, the first account of fly-fishing. more

Feb 1, 2013 12:00 AM Features