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Holly Kays

Searching for Winter

Holly Kays photo

As someone who loves snow and warm hats and the orderly changing of seasons, it had been a disappointing winter. I’d seen barely a flake of snow, and daytime temperatures often felt more on par with what you’d expect from a typical April. Read more

Mountain Explorer

Billie Faircloth is an architect, but not of the blueprint-and-build variety. She’s spent her career asking why people build the way that they do, and how those decisions affect the ecosystems where materials are harvested and buildings built. Read more

Mountain Explorer

With more than 11 million people visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year, mishaps are bound to happen. Read more

Mountain Explorer

A conversation with the Smokies’ shutterbug

Kristina Plaas photo

Knoxville-based photographer Kristina Plaas got bitten by the photography bug at a young age, and she’s channeled that passion into a unique role at the nation’s most-visited national park. Read more

Sweet Appalachia

Underground Time Travel

Holly Kays photo

Getting to Mammoth Cave National Park isn’t easy, especially in the dark. From Western North Carolina, anyway, the trip involved hours of off-highway driving through hills punctuated by struggling Kentucky coal towns before reaching the park. Read more

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Christine Hoyer has always loved the outdoors and backcountry exploration. After a first career in research psychology, she decided it was time for a change and quit to volunteer on the Appalachian Trial. Read more

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Hiking with Nana

Holly Kays photo

It was a perfect summer day along a gorgeous riverside trail when our multi-generational entourage—two dogs, five people—set off for a high-elevation adventure in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. But my enthusiasm was mixed with nervousness. Read more

Mountain Explorer

Firefly talk

Radim Schreiber photo

A Great Smoky Mountains National Park entomologist since 1997, Becky Nichols knows a lot about the park’s nearly 10,000 insect species, but perhaps the most celebrated of the six-legged creatures is the synchronous firefly. Read more

Mountain Explorer

The Smokies’ Fish Master

Gary Verholek photo

Since joining the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a fisheries technician in May 1994, Matt Kulp has yet to find a reason to leave. Kulp took a break from the field for a conversation about trout, water quality and habitat restoration. Read more

Mountain Explorer

dept_coneflower.jpg

Creative Commons

For centuries, gathering sochan—also known as the green-headed coneflower—has been a rite of springtime for the Cherokee people. Read more

Mountain Explorer

A review of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s handling of the devastating Chimney Tops 2 Fire in November 2016 found no evidence of negligence by park staff but revealed several shortcomings in the park’s disaster preparedness. Read more

Mountain Explorer

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. Read more

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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. Read more

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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. Read more

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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. Read more

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. Read 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. Read more

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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. Read more

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

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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. Read more

Mountain Explorer