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Holly Kays

Lost in the Blue Ridge Triangle

Holly Kays

Like its mysterious cousin the Bermuda Triangle, the Blue Ridge Triangle — apparently — causes inexplicable disorientation for hikers attempting to traverse its domain in North Carolina’s Middle Prong Wilderness. more

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Picture-perfect Alum Cave Trail, marked by smooth tread and tightly constructed steps and bridges, is the result of two years of backbreaking work involving 50,000 hours of work from a continuously rotating crew of 50 people. more

Mountain Explorer

It was 20 degrees, snowing, and I was alone with my dog in a trackless middle of nowhere. I couldn’t have been happier. more

Jan 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Winter Pinnacle

Cataloochee Ski Area

Few things bring out the child within like a blanket of white and some good old-fashioned fun in the snow. more

Dec 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Alone in the woods

Holly Kays photo

There’s always that moment of no return: the instant you are forced to admit that whatever foolhardy plan you’ve been batting around, there’s no longer any option to back out. more

Aug 1, 2016 12:00 AM , Mountain Explorer

Whether explorers or stewards, park creators or residents—countless people have left their mark on the Smokies. Yet the Great Smoky Mountains Association has gone ahead and counted 100 such people who it has deemed the most influential. more

Aug 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Courtney Lix has penned plenty of words about the Smokies and the people who shaped their history. But over the course of time and words, she came to a realization. more

Aug 1, 2016 12:00 AM Good Reads

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NPS photo

It’s not too often that celebration of a century on Earth gets commemorated with a vow to hike 100 miles. For the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, however, that’s exactly what the plan is. more

Jun 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

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Holly Kays

As the days get warmer and longer, I find myself thinking about childhood and the periscope I once campaigned so diligently for my father to build me. more

Jun 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Hiker on the A.T.

Holly Kays photo

The thru-hikers are easy to spot. I pick out three of them right away, spread out on a bench outside the outfitter’s store at Nantahala Outdoor Center. more

Apr 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Being careful about the where and when of choosing a hike in the Smokies is nothing new to Terry Maddox, who recently retired from 26 years as executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Association. more

Apr 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Winter can be a long, cold affair in the mountains, but the annual emergence of early spring wildflowers signals that warmer weather is on its way. Celebrate winter’s end with one of these flowery trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. more

Feb 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

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Holly Kays photo

From hard hats to oversize coverall waders to—scariest of all—slacks and a blazer, I’ve worn some pretty interesting costumes in the line of duty as a journalist. more

Feb 1, 2016 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

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Chimney Rock State Park Photo

When an announcement shot across my desktop proclaiming that Old St. Nick would pay a December visit to Chimney Rock State Park, I paid attention. He’d spend the day rappelling the Chimney, the release explained, perfecting his technique. more

Dec 1, 2015 12:00 AM Departments

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Warren Beilenberg photo

For birders of all stripes, the Christmas Bird Count is as much a part of the holiday season as unwrapping presents on December 25. The diverse landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park make the season even more special for birders. more

Dec 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Arti in the woods

Holly Kays photo

It was late summer in the Smokies, and high-country greenery flourished. With each step I took down the trail, leaves and grass absorbed more and more of the traffic noise from the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. more

Oct 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Fall view

Kristina Plaas photo

With crisp blue skies and a riot of colors in the treetops, fall in the Smokies is a photographer’s paradise. But with more than 800 square miles to chose from, where should an aspiring shutterbug start? more

Oct 1, 2015 12:00 AM Outposts

Virginia Creeper Trail

Courtesy of Abingdon Convention & Visitors Bureau

The sky was blue and cloudless as the van filled with people and their rental bikes en route to Whitetop Mountain, but I was suspicious. Though the morning held the promise of a perfect October day, I’d grown wise to the ways of Appalachian weather. more

Oct 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Monarch butterfly

NPS photo

A little white sticker on the ground might not seem like an exciting find, but when journalist Jaimie Maussan found the 14-year-old tag on the floor of a Mexican forest, he quickly realized he held something amazing. more

Oct 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Synchronous fireflies

Spencer Black photo

If epiphanies tend to come in moments of silent solitude, early June at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be the last place you’d expect to have such an experience. more

Jun 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

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