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Holly Kays

From boonies to boomtown and back again, the Hazel Creek community’s complicated history comes to life in a new book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association. more

Oct 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

The Elkmont Historic District in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is getting a makeover, with work now underway to restore some buildings and demolish others. more

Aug 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Phenology training

NPS photo

Spring came to the Southeast three weeks early this year, and a burgeoning citizen science effort in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park aims to put a bead on whether seasonal patterns are shifting for good. more

Jun 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Indigo bunting

Holly Kays photo

It was only 8 a.m. when I parked my car in a dewy meadow near Franklin, North Carolina, but the bird banding crew I was meeting had already been at work for hours. more

Jun 1, 2017 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

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

Mountain Explorer 1 Comments

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

Tsali Recreation Area

Max Cooper photo

I pulled into my parking spot at Tsali Recreation Area with a fair number of nerves in tow. The lot churned with vehicles bearing out-of-state plates, their owners tuning up the bikes they’d brought with them or filling small backpacks. more

Feb 1, 2017 12:00 AM 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

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Kristina Plaas photo

A kaleidoscope of color defines fall in the Smokies. The hue of a tree’s leaves tell the story of the natural history of each species. more

Oct 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

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

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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

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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

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