Outdoor Updates: Mysterious seeds are arriving in mailboxes across the southeast. Do not plant them

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Mysterious packets of seeds are arriving in mailboxes across the southeast. Do not plant them

People around the country, including in the southeast and mid-Atlantic, are receiving packets of seeds from China that they did not order. Experts are warning the public not to plant the seeds because they could be a pathway for introducing invasive species, insects, and plant diseases.

According to a news release from the N.C. Department of Agriculture, the seeds are likely a product of an international internet scam known as “brushing,” in which foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings. 

New report shows some NC beaches tested positive for fecal matter in 2019

An analysis of North Carolina beaches showed that 93 of 209 beaches tested were deemed potentially unsafe for at least one day in 2019. Beaches were considered potentially unsafe if fecal indicator bacteria levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Beach Action Value” associated with an estimated illness rate of 32 out of every 1,000 swimmers, the report says.

The beaches in North Carolina with the highest number of potentially unsafe days were Colington Harbour Beach in Dare County (6 unsafe days out of 33 days tested), Pamlico River- City Park in Washington in Beaufort County (5 unsafe days out of 19 days tested), Public Beach Southside of Dawson Creek Bridge in Pamlico County (5 unsafe days out of 20 days tested), and Ragged Point in Beaufort (5 unsafe days out of 34 days tested.)

Woman killed in rare shark attack off the coast of Maine

A woman swimming off the coast of Maine has been killed in a shark attack, the Maine Marine Patrol announced on their Facebook page. The woman was swimming near Bailey Island and White Sails Lane when onlookers say she was attacked by “what appeared to be a shark.”

Kayakers brought the woman to shore where she was declared dead at the scene. There has been only one other unprovoked shark attack in Maine. Experts say that the shark likely mistook the woman for a food source. 

Kelty launches video series to help beginning backpackers hit the trail

Feel the urge to escape into the backcountry but aren’t sure you have the skills to pull off a backpacking trip? Backpack brand Kelty has released a series of videos aimed at introducing novices to the joys of backpacking. The 8-part video series explores backpacking for beginners. 

The videos-for-newbies will be released once a week. The first video, which explains how to properly pack and fit your pack, is up on their website now. 

Construction begins on new visitor center at Tennessee’s Henry Horton State Park

Visitors to Tennessee’s Henry Horton State Park will soon have brand-new facilities to enjoy. On July 15, construction began on a new two-story visitor center and a new 6,381-square-foot restaurant. The visitor center will feature a 2,154-square-foot exhibit and interpretive area, as well as a conference room, office space, a gift shop and an information desk. The restaurant will seat 120 people indoors and 52 people outdoors.

“Our state parks are a great source of pride for Tennessee, and this project underscores our commitment to providing Tennesseans with modern facilities to accompany the natural beauty at Henry Horton State Park,” Gov. Bill Lee said. 

717 acres added to North Carolina’s DuPont State Recreational Forest

Conserving Carolina added 315 acres to the N.C. Forest Service, south of the main body of DuPont State Recreation Forest (DSRF), the organization said on their website. It is the second phase of the Continental Divide Tract- a long-sought conservation priority that provides the “missing link” between DSRF and a vast conservation corridor spanning over 100,000 acres.

Last year, during the first phase of the project, the organization added 402 acres to the forest. Now complete, the tract includes 717 acres of new public land. “The incorporation of the Continental Divide tract will enhance [DSRF] further by protecting water quality, preserving an important wildlife corridor and creating future opportunities for public recreation,” said Conserving Carolina’s executive director Kieran Roe. 

Sierra Club to remove John Muir monuments over ties to white supremacy

The Sierra Club has announced they will remove monuments to its founder, John Muir, over his racist history. Muir, a renowned conservationist, founded the club in 1892. On their website, the Sierra Club said that as the country confronts the troubling history of Confederate statues, “it’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history.”

Muir, who played a crucial role in preserving the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Forest, made derogatory statements about Black and indigenous people, The Hill reports. The organization said Muir’s words “continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.”

Teen falls 30 feet while hiking at Hanging Rock

A 17-year-old male is in critical but stable condition after falling 30 feet while hiking at Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, N.C last Saturday. Rescue crews were dispatched to Hanging Rock Trail where the teenager had fallen. He was airlifted to the hospital.

A Public Information Officer for N.C. State Parks said it wasn’t known how or why the boy fell, but that he was fortunate he didn’t fall further and was lucky to be alive. 

Nepal announces they will re-open to trekking and climbing in the fall

Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism has announced it will issue trekking and climbing permits for autumn, 2020, Alan Arnette, who runs a mountaineering blog, shared on his website. Nepali press are reporting that climbing permits will be issued for some of the highest peaks in the world, including Ama Dablam and Manaslu. 

The country also announced that Kathmandu’s airport will open for “selected” international flights beginning mid-August. The verdict is still out on whether climbing during COVID is wise or safe, as climbers share close quarters while at base camp. 

Wednesday, July 22

Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosting hiking series focused on diversity and equality

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association are hosting a series of hikes called ‘Smokies Hikes for Healing,’ which use the backdrop of the park to provoke conversations about race and racial bias.

Eight hikes will be held August through December. During the hikes, a facilitator will lead discussion around race and help participants learn to identify biases through a deeper level of self-awareness and reflection, WKRN reports. Space is limited to 10 participants per hike. To learn more or to apply to participate visit smokieshikesforhealing.org. 

Viral video shows black bear sniffing hiker’s hair

A heart-pounding video showing a black bear walking directly up to a hiker and sniffing her hair has taken the Internet by storm. The hiker and her friends were hiking in an ecological park in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico, when a bear approached, stood on its hind legs, and began sniffing the woman’s hair. The hiker appears calm and stands motionless as the bear smells her head, takes a few light swats at her leg, and moves on. 

The hiker was praised for remaining calm during the incident, though experts point out that if a black bear approaches you should make as much noise as possible to scare the animal away.

Appalachian Ranger District appoints new District Ranger

The National Forests in North Carolina announced that Jen Barnhart will oversee management and operations as the new District Ranger on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, the agency said in a news release. Barnhart has most recently served as District Ranger on the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine.

“It is a privilege to be selected to serve on the prestigious National Forests in North Carolina,” Barnhart said. “I’m looking forward to serving a district of employees who are hardworking, knowledgeable and passionate about public land management.” 

Virginia’s famous Dirty Dancing lake is filling up after going dry 12 years ago

Fans of the famous movie Dirty Dancing travel to Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge to see landmarks made famous by the film. But one thing hasn’t remained the same—the lake where actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey practiced their signature move—the lift—dried up in 2008.

Recently, however, the lake has begun to fill up again. Its natural process of filling and draining makes the lake basin unique. “It’s about a third full right now and it seems to be holding,” Mountain Lake Lodge’s General Manager Heidi Stone told CNN. “The guests get very excited because for so many years it’s been dry and looked more like a meadow. It’s the prettiest when it’s filled with water.” 

Fun events planned at Sugar Mountain Resort this summer

Sugar Mountain Resort in Sugar Mountain, NC has a fun-filled calendar this summer. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the bike park is open. On August 8 & 9, the Downhill Southeast and NC Downhill Mountain Bike State Championships will take on the resort’s downhill tracks. 

On August 14-16, the three-day juried Avery County Fine Art & Master Crafts Festival will be held at the resort and is free of charge. All summer long, clay tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course are open to the public. Check out their website for more details. 

Authorities seek information on Tygart River hit-and-run boater

A man swimming in West Virginia’s Tygart River on Saturday, July 18 was struck and injured by a boat that then fled the scene, authorities said in a news release. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section is seeking the public’s help to identify the boater. The 22-year-old victim was struck around 4:35 p.m. near the east side bank of the river and sustained serious injuries.

Witnesses describe the boat that hit the swimmer as a white runabout speed boat that may have yellow zig-zag patterns on its sides. The boat was occupied by approximately five white, middle-aged individuals and was driven by a white male. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Marion County 911 Center at 304-367-5300 or the DNR District 1 Headquarters at 304-825-6787.

Photo: Scenic view of Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina by Vixterd courtesy of Getty Images

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