Randy Johnson, author of Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, suggests the best ways to explore the mountain in this interview with Carolina Today.
In the late 1970s, when owner Hugh Morton closed the mountain’s trails after a hiker had died, I proposed a backcountry management program to make the trails safe and persuaded Morton to hire me to reopen the deteriorating paths. I often hiked the mountain alone as trail manager and one of the mysteries that frequently crossed my mind was the strange death of Worth Hamilton Weller.
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One of my favorite waterfall hikes in the southern Appalachians is the Rainbow Falls Trail in western North Carolina, just south of Lake Toxaway. Beginning in Gorges State Park, the 4-mile (round-trip) trail soon enters Pisgah National Forest, where it follows the Horsepasture River (a designated Wild and Scenic River) along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Four waterfalls occur along this stretch of the river, including Rainbow Falls, a near-vertical cascade about 125 feet high with a large plunge pool at the base. Few waterfalls in the southern Appalachians are as spectacular (and powerful) as this one.
Yosemite National Park made the evening news on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. American rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the top of El Capitan by ascending Yosemite’s Dawn Wall. The climbers’ years of preparation, 19-day free-climb, and personal stories riveted television audiences nationwide. News programs also gave audiences a rare treat: panoramic views of the park’s natural beauty that included cascading waterfalls, granite formations, and snow-dusted trees.
Yet Yosemite almost did not become a national park.
Waterfalls are constantly changing. A rapid surge in stream flow following a heavy rain can turn a modest waterfall into a raging torrent of water. Dry periods can transform a waterfall into a trickle of water (much to the disappointment of waterfall enthusiasts). A slight breeze can elicit a shimmering spray, and if the light is right, a colorful rainbow. If passing clouds obscure the sun, the brightly reflective waterfall changes to softer hues, and the rainbow vanishes into thin air.
Controversy rages over fire policy in Linville Gorge, which was the first designated Federal Wilderness in the East with the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Currently, the policy is to suppress any fires that threaten manmade structures, but to allow lower-intensity lightning-strike fires to burn. The latest management plan proposes prescribed burns in the Gorge to promote pines and rare plants and to reduce fuel loads. Homeowners in the Gingercake Acres development, perched on the eastern rim of the Gorge, understandably worry about risk to their homes. Advocacy organizations like Save the Linville Gorge Wilderness argue that fire destroys the wild character of the landscape. Skeptics scoff that the Forest Service maintains only an illusion of control over something as unpredictable and powerful as fire.
I think most of us are “destination-oriented”—focused on the trail’s end, the scenic vista, the waterfall. Many of our hikes have points of interest such as these, because we love them too. By using our book, you can become a “journey” person as well, someone who sees something new and exciting around each bend in the trail. We want you to start seeing the forest intimately, instead of a background of green noise.
As we continue to bind ourselves to the electronic universe it is more important than ever to reconnect with nature, and North Carolina’s national forests are an ideal destination to enjoy the the scenic splendor included within. So make some time to get back to nature on nature’s terms. Not only will it refresh your mind and exercise your body, it is a spiritually renewing experience to see the unimproved works of God laid out before us.
Our Holiday Sale is now underway! If you need some gift ideas for the folks on your list, our Southern Gateways catalog is a great place to start. Southern Gateways is where we collect of all our general interest books about this region we call home.
Our North Carolina icons this week is the Appalachian Trail. It’s number 6 on Our State magazine’s list of 100 North Carolina Icons.
We start our series with icon number 1: the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our State Magazine says, “Travel any one of the Parkway’s 252 North Carolina miles and you’re guaranteed a beautiful drive.” We have three different books that will help you explore the Blue Ridge Parkway in three different ways.
Well, it’s the last day of our celebration of National Wildflower Week. We’ve given you a lot to read about so far, so now that it’s Friday, let’s look at some pictures of flowers! These beautiful images come from another backlist favorite, Wild Flowers of North Carolina, by WIlliam S. Justice, photographer and botanist, C. …
How to treat the landscape to ensure we can continue to enjoy the bounty of wildflowers the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.
Continuing our celebration of National Wildflower Week: check out Bruce Sorrie’s new Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region.
This spring, UNC Press published 4 books for the inaugural season of Southern Gateways Guides, our newest series. Southern Gateways Guides offer a fresh, comprehensive, and always reliable approach to the South. From outdoor and nature guides, to beautifully illustrated references on flora and fauna, and travel guides to exciting destinations, these insightful books have something for …
Do you like hiking? Do you like contests? Do you like contests where you’ll receive cool prizes just for hiking? Cool prizes like the North Carolina Birding Trail 3-Volume Set? Orrrr a MSR PocketRocket Stove? Or how about a Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Self Infalting Sleeping Pad? Yeah, we do, too! That’s why we are extremely pleased to announce that Joe …
If you’re in the Triangle over the next week, we’ve got so many great events lined up we can keep your dance card full! Book talk & Nature Walk with David Blevins and Michael P. Schafale Wild North Carolina: Discovering the Wonders of Our State’s Natural Communities Sunday, April 3, 2011 3:00 PM North Carolina …
It’s EPIC SALE TIME! Over 700 UNC Press books are on sale! Read more about the huge deals here.
Joe Miller, author of Backpacking North Carolina: The Definitive Guide to 43 Can’t-Miss Trips from Mountains to Sea, shares his wisdom about the many diverse hiking opportunities the great state of North Carolina has to offer. Visit his blog at getgoingnc.com or follow him on Twitter @JoeAGoGo to learn more about his experiences with the …