A closeup of a leaf on a potentially blight-resistant American chestnut hybrid showing the leaf’s distinctive canoe shape and curved teeth. Photo Courtesy of The American Chestnut Foundation.  Scientists are Restoring Appalachia’s Most Important Tree: The Chestnut.  The small mound of pollen that Paul Sisco pours from a pill vial comes from an American chestnut…

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Lead photo by Brenda J. Wiley 20 years ago, Gorges became a state park instead of a hydroelectric dam, thanks to the efforts of one inspiring leader. Today, it’s still one of the most beautiful and best-kept secrets in Southern Appalachia. Bill Thomas, taking in the views at Gorges State Park, thought about what this…

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What role do print maps play for outdoor adventurers in the digital age?  Pisgah Map Company’s Pete Kennedy has a few ideas. Pete Kennedy has never worried about his ability to make good maps. When the first batch of his first product arrived from the printer a decade ago, he could see that, of course,…

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Thanks to collaboration from a variety of groups, North Carolina may double the number of Wild and Scenic Rivers this year Here’s a sign of just how loaded North Carolina is with spectacular, free-flowing mountain creeks: a gem like the North Fork of the French Broad River is not even that famous. After heavy rains,…

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Paddlers, filmmakers, and local citizens team up to nominate the Nolichucky as a Wild & Scenic River. That the Nolichucky River is both wild and scenic seemed obvious enough on a brilliantly clear day last fall when I walked into its namesake gorge east of Poplar, N.C. The water level, which fluctuates widely in this…

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I’m not totally sure I’d be around to write this now if, before setting out on a backpacking trip last January, I hadn’t recently binge-listened to survival podcasts. The message repeated during each episode in ominous, Rod Serling-like tones: it’s seldom one poor choice that leads to wilderness tragedy but a whole series of compounding…

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The Backpack Tax

If hunters and anglers pay for licenses, should other outdoor enthusiasts pony up, too? It’s a Saturday in summer and, as usual, Pisgah National Forest is slammed. Parked cars line the stretch of U.S. 276 that runs through the forest. Campgrounds and picnic areas are packed. Dumpsters overflow. Mountain bikers and hikers navigate perilous paths…

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LouAnn Watkins just wants drinking water without cancer-causing toxins. A 2016 test of her home’s well water found levels of a potent carcinogen, hexavalent chromium, more than four times the level that had recently prompted “do not drink” warnings from the state. The culprit? Watkins and other residents suspect the network of ash ponds at…

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Are speed records wrecking the a.t.?

How fast is too fast? It’s a common question on the Appalachian Trail. That was especially true when I hiked a section in mid-July, because I asked it of just about everyone I met. Harvey Lewis, a schoolteacher from Cincinnati, was just then wrapping up an unsuccessful assault on the A.T. thru-hiking record. Such attempts…

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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service guts protections for the last red wolves in the wild. Ron Sutherland drove for hours through the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, alternately inching forward and braking to scan swaths of cropland as long as jetliner runways. He was determined to make a good stab at seeing a red…

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Outdoor recreation generates more jobs and revenue than oil, coal, fracking, and natural gas. But the outdoor industry is just beginning to flex its political muscle. There’s a powerful new political player: the outdoor adventurer. The economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry surpasses all others in the South. It generates 500 times more revenue…

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Several local and regional outdoor organizations have worked closely with the Pisgah Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service to unveil Project 2018. The project will add new backcountry mountain biking loops and a hiking/biking path to a popular trailhead, and it will also upgrade and reroute unsustainable trails. Much of the trail work will…

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What They Are And Where To Experience Them A mountain bike loop that plunges into one of the wildest corners of the Southeast. Trails to stunning natural bridges that welcome rather than forbid horseback riders. A backpacking route that takes trekkers across a prime stretch of the Cumberland Plateau without worries that it will be…

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