Early summer, a couple of years ago, I arrived in these mountains. Typically the season of fresh starts, spring was to close out my first year here. I ended up traveling much of March, and, upon my return to Asheville, the fullness of April washed ov more

Apr 1, 2016 12:00 AM Blog

Sandhill Cranes

iStock/stuckreed Photo

The dead of winter may not seem like the best time to attend an outdoor performance. However, for those willing to brave the January chill, the stars of the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge promise one spectacular show. more

Dec 1, 2015 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer


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 •

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

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

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


Margaret Hester photo

The unknown long has spooked man’s mind, and the woods, whether unexplored or shrouded in darkness, invite one to ponder just what awaits in the wilderness and how many ways a person can die. more

Oct 1, 2014 12:00 AM Features

Ila Hatter

Holly Kays photo

I spent a significant part of my childhood wanting to be Sam Gribley, the boy in Jean Craighead George’s “My Side of the Mountain” who runs away from the city to live in a hollowed-out hemlock tree. more

Oct 1, 2014 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer 1 Comments

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

Arboretum exhibit

N.C. Arboretum photo

A new exhibit coming to The North Carolina Arboretum introduces visitors to the functions of shelters and how animals and humans have adapted to different environments through a diversity of structures. more

Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM Departments

NC Arboretum bonsai garden

N.C. Arboretum photos

Surrounded by the lush folds of the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains in Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum is adjacent to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and is nestled in one of the most beautiful natural settings in America. more

Jun 1, 2011 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Ijams Nature Center

Ijams Nature Center photo

In November, Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tenn., opened the Ross Marble Quarry, including multi-use trails, undisturbed woodlands, rocky outcrops, a stunning quarry gorge, and multi-use trails. more

Jun 1, 2011 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Anyone with enough money can purchase a fancy plate of food, but it takes real moxie to go back to pre-agrarian practices and eat stuff right off the ground. Alan Muskat is one such daring soul. more

Apr 1, 2011 12:00 AM Features

Unpaved roads

Michael Meissner illustration

We follow a long, hot highway from New Mexico to North Carolina. The paved road shimmers, taking us from mesa, dirt road, and desert into the moist, green South. I am a Southerner, ready to re-embrace my heritage of slow life, rain, and loamy soil. more

Jun 1, 2010 12:00 AM Good Reads

Summer in the mountains of Southern Appalachia means enjoying the great outdoors. But as a child growing up in the flat lands of eastern North Carolina, many of my earliest memories of summers are tied to the Outer Banks. more

Jun 1, 2010 12:00 AM Blog


Jeff Humphries photo

An evening chill was setting in as a breeze swept down Chastine Creek in northeastern Jackson County in western North Carolina, but I wasn’t ready to leave. Goosebumps and a few shivers were not enough to drive me from the sound of running water. more

Jun 1, 2010 12:00 AM Features

N.C. Arboretum

Ashley T. Evans photo

Whether it’s a meadow covered in spring wildflowers, a forest teeming with colorful blooms of the rhododendron, or a grove of towering hemlocks, the Smoky Mountain landscape is defined by an incredible array of plant life. more

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 AM Features


Donated photo

For eighth-graders in one western North Carolina county, science class means getting your hands wet and mucking around in streams and creeks. It’s called Kids in the Creek, a hands-on water quality education program that works with middle schoolers. more

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 AM , Features

Fall migration has begun. Tens of millions of songbirds, raptors and shorebirds that nested across North America are returning to their wintering grounds in Central and South America. The Appalachians offer many opportunities to witness this odyssey. more

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 AM Mountain Explorer

Nature offers us some wonderful summer entertainment, an orchestra of birds, frogs and insects with their own musical melodies. In late April and certainly by mid-May, migrant birds in the Southern Appalachians have begun to bridge the musical void. more

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 AM Features