Blue Ridge Communities Look Inward for Access to the Outdoors When Lorenzo Rodriguez arrived in Big Stone Gap, Va. from California several years ago, he saw an opportunity. The community of 5,200 residents is surrounded by the Jefferson National Forest, and the Powell River flows right through downtown. “Coming from a big city, we would…

Read More

Awesome: The Surprising Science Behind How We Experience the Outdoors A cold front is sweeping over Pickem Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest, blasting a gale-force wind through the cliffs crowning its summit. The weather has my attention, but the trio of kids I’m hiking with are too busy to notice. They’ve got other business.…

Read More

Appalachia, Va. Rebuilds A Footpath and an Identity Skip Skinner still remembers hiking up to Lost Camp as a kid. The “camp” was Skinner’s name for a spot nestled up a hiking trail above the town of Appalachia, Va., where a hand-built log shelter had been erected against the base of a cliff. The steep…

Read More

A steep mountain road Brings a Runner Back to His Roots “You OK, son?” It’s mid-October of 2003—one of those crystal-clear fall afternoons that never seems to end—and an older man in a sedan has pulled up beside me on Georgia Highway 180 Spur. The two-lane blacktop snakes its way up Brasstown Bald, the highest…

Read More

A largely undiscovered oasis in the coalfields is helping communities rebuild. My hiking partner and I have been walking the Kentucky-Virginia border for an hour across the crest of Pine Mountain, tiptoeing over a knife-edge of sandstone to a rockshelter below the summit. The outcrop is massive, with a hollowed-out area large enough to fit…

Read More

Southern rivers are some of the world’s most biologically diverse. Snorkelers are taking the plunge to see for themselves. Casper Cox sits neck-deep in the middle of the river, a purple snorkel strapped around his head. “We’re all attracted to beauty,” he says to the camera, pausing for effect, “and there is an enormous amount…

Read More
Fireflies In The Mountains

A Synchronous Firefly Discovery Raises Questions About How We Experience the Outdoors Night falls in the cove where I’ve set up a camera and tripod, one of those places where the sun sets early thanks to steep terrain and thick tree cover overhead. But the darkness doesn’t last. Not long after twilight, the entire forest…

Read More

Most of us don’t know. Here’s a quick guide to the health of the water you paddle, fish, swim, and drink. Kentucky’s Stoney Fork isn’t supposed to run an otherworldly shade of translucent red, but that’s what Matt Hepler found in late March last year. Hepler, a water scientist, says the color was due to…

Read More

Locals and rural folks know a lot more about the outdoors than we often assume. “I guess you could say we spent our youth on this river.” A trio of fishermen are leading me down an abandoned railbed in Virginia’s Guest River Gorge, talking about waterdogs. Or, more appropriately, we’re talking about hellbenders, a giant…

Read More