Protected Joshua Tree cut down in park during government shutdown

Joshua Tree National Park has not had it easy during the partial government shutdown. Reports of off-roading, graffiti, overflowing toilets and illegal camping have all come from the park. Now, officials are reporting the most disturbing news of all. Vandals have cut down a protected Joshua tree in order to access sensitive areas of the park where vehicles are banned. In response to the destruction, park superintendent David Smith announced that the park would close indefinitely until officials can be sure that the resources inside of the park are protected. Joshua Tree National Park covers 1,235 miles. During the partial government shutdown, there are only eight law enforcement officers patrolling the park.

75-year-old Canton, NC resident completes Appalachian Trail

Seventy-five year old Richard “Old Scout” Smith of Canton, NC completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail last month, walking a “flip flop” from Harper’s Ferry, WV to Maine’s Mount Katahdin, then taking public transportation back to Harper’s Ferry and walking south to Springer Mountain in Georgia. He completed the 14-state, 2,190-mile hike in 7 months. Smith told the Cherokee Tribune he chose to flip-flop to avoid the crowds and have more private time. Smith also told the Cherokee Tribune that he was motivated to complete the hike because he wanted to show his grandkids that no matter their age they can accomplish anything they want. “I hope at some point in their lives, when they are faced with a challenge that seems impossible, they will look back on my hike and think, “if Pop could hike 2,190 miles at age 75, surely I can overcome this challenge,” Smith said.

Endangered while euthanized on NC beach with plastic bag found in throat

A young, endangered sei whale that came ashore near Wilmington, NC has been euthanized. The animal was extremely thin, wasn’t with its mother though should have been, and had no food in its stomach. When a necropsy was completed, parts of plastic bags and seaweed were found in its throat. Biologists don’t know if the plastic bags were the cause of the whale’s death. Sei whales usually grow to be 60 feet long, weigh up to 100,000 pounds and can live to be 70 years old. Marine mammal stranding’s on land increase during the winter months. Last week, at least one dolphin and two whales died on the beaches in the Outer Banks.