Blog & Itineraries

Hunting

Every Fall we receive numerous phone calls from people who have questions about hiking during the hunting season. Throughout the fall, hunters are seeking deer, wild turkey, wild boar and bear in the forests of Western North Carolina. Visitors may notice trucks along the sides of the backcountry roads, surrounded by people dressed in camouflage and often, orange caps. Dogs wearing leather collars can be spotted trotting through the woods, seemingly lost and hungry. Some of the more common questions we are asked are answered below: Q. How do I know when it is hunting season? A. Do an internet search before you plan your hike. For example, search for hunting seasons in Western North Carolina. Q. If I know it is hunting season, is it safe to hike? A. Certainly. Many hunters actually appreciate hikers in the woods because they keep the animals moving from place to place. It is wise to wear something colorful that stands out when you are hiking at this time. That way you are not mistaken for a prey animal. Bright orange is best, but any bright color that is not usually seen in the woods is fine. Avoid wearing browns and greens or camouflage. Q. other than bright clothing, what else can I do to avoid hunters during hunting season? A. Stay on the established trails and make noise. Talk with your fellow hikers as you travel along the paths and make yourself noticeable. Head for the tops of mountains where you can be easily seen from a distance. Q How do I know if hunting is allowed in the area I wish to hike? A. Once again, the internet is your friend. Many hikers choose to hike in National and State Parks, Conservation areas or City Parks where hunting is often prohibited. There are a number of states where hunting is prohibited on Sundays. Also, avoid hiking at a time when hunters and the hunted are most active, usually dawn or dusk. Instead, plan your hike in the middle of the day. Q. What if I see a hunter on the trail? A. Hunters and hikers have a mutual love of the forest that has made us conservation allies. Hunters are often passionate protectors of the environment, and without them, our beloved hiking trails and national forests may not even exist. If you see a hunter ahead of you on the trail, quietly approach and greet the hunter, tell him you are hiking and where you plan to go. Be courteous and if the hunter requests that you wait or choose a different path because he is tracking an animal, consider doing so. Q. I’ve run across dogs with radio collars as I have been hiking in the wilderness. They look so hungry. Are they lost? Should I take them into town? A. Hunting dogs are normally very friendly and they are drawn to humans because their owners have been feeding them throughout the year. The owners are tracking their dogs and have trained them to wander through the woods looking for prey. Do not take them home with you! Do not feed them, no matter how tempting. Many of these dogs are very valuable and you could be arrested for theft. In most cases, the animals will walk with you for a little while and then veer off the trail into the woods. Q. What if the dog is injured or seems lost? A. The best thing you can do is to take down the phone number of the owner that is on the collar of the dog. Call and tell them (or leave a message) that you spotted their dog at a specific location so that they can go retrieve them. Q. I like to hike with my dog, but is that safe to do during hunting season? My dog is very obedient and always comes when I call him. A. Keep your beloved fur baby on a leash while you are hiking in areas where hunting is allowed. You dog may smell hunting dogs or the animals they are seeking and take off on a focused hunt themselves. Additionally, hunting dogs are trained to hunt, and they might decide that your dog is just the prey they are looking for. It is just too risky. All told, it would be wiser to keep your dog at home during hunting season. Hunters and hikers, anglers and campers, photographers and wild foragers are all users of our public lands and none of them want to lose access to the public land that supports animal conservation. Environmentalists don’t want to lose our nation’s clean water, clean air, and unspoiled spaces. Hikers, campers, and the businesses that support them don’t want to lose trails, rivers, and campsites. Treat each other with courtesy and understanding as you interact and have fun!  Author: Kim Hainge
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Early Cemeteries

Early Cemeteries

Over the centuries humans have dealt with death in many different ways. Much can be learned from a visit to a graveyard. Death of a loved one, especially when it was unexpected, is always devastating and the engraving on the gravestones can teach us about the history and culture of an area. There are numerous cemeteries along the Lakeshore Trail, many just off the trail corridor by a few feet. Have you ever wondered why? In 1910 the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company began logging big trees in the Hazel Creek drainage area. They built the mill town of Proctor. The company moved out of the area in 1928. The Great Smoky Mountain Park purchased the land in 1934. Then in 1944 nearly 600 families were removed from this area due to the construction of a huge dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The Fontana dam was built to supply electricity to the Alcoa, Tennessee plant near Knoxville in support of the Nation’s wartime demand for metal for building airplanes. When the dam was constructed, Fontana lake was created and the water flooded the valley towns. More than half of the 600 families that were forced to leave their homes came from the area between Hazel Creek and Bryson City. That meant that they would have to leave behind their loved ones’ graves. In these earlier times when there were no large group cemeteries, people used to have burial plots near their family homes. These graves were usually marked with rough stones, rocks, or wood. Some of these graves were covered over with water, some relocated, but the majority were left where family members can still return and visit. In early days, graves were mostly marked with the deceased’s name, age, and year of death. Gradually, churchyard burials evolved. Large, square-shaped tombstones were prepared from slate (1650-1900) or sandstone (1650-1890). The inscriptions carved on slate used to be shallow yet readable. Public cemeteries evolved in the 19th century. Eventually, people started giving importance to the gravestones, headstones, footstones, etc. as a means to memorialize the dead. Headstones were sometimes engraved with a small epitaph or a few words about the deceased whether written by the individual himself or by someone else. Plus, they bore details like the date of birth and date of death of the departed loved one. During the Victorian era (1837-1901), Queen Victoria’s loss of her beloved husband Albert in England changed the customs and practices associated with death here in North America. This period of time was marked with elaborate tombstones and headstones. The cemeteries appeared more like parks as they had lavish and decorated gravestones. The North Shore Cemetery Association was and is a non-profit group organized for the purpose of preserving the graveyards and general history of the Fontana Basin. “Organized in 1977, with an immediate aim to gain general access to the cemeteries of the North Shore in conformity of the contractual agreements that formulated in 1943 between Federal, State and County Agencies. Another aim of the Association was the planning of decorations for the cemeteries along the North Shore of Fontana Lake as were held in the area before 1943 and the removal of families. It was and is made up of former residents and their descendants who lived in this area and whose land was taken for the building of the Fontana Dam and Basin area.” The Fontana Marina in Graham County has schedules telling when it is possible to take a pontoon boat out to the various cemeteries and recollect the past as you wander, respectfully, between the graves. If you go on a “Decoration Day”, you may be lucky enough to hear some of the old family stories from the descendants of the families that were forced to leave their homes. A visitor will note the numerous gravestones marking the loss of children in the mountain graveyards. Before the time when vaccinations became available, disease took the lives of many newborns and youngsters. Many of the gravestones for the babies had no names and are simply marked with the words “Infant”. While hiking the Lakeshore Trail, or when exploring on your own in the Park, remember that most of the cemeteries are not marked. Generally, if you see a trail going off to the side of the main trail with a “No Horses” sign, that trail usually leads to a cemetery. Wander respectfully and read the epitaphs on the stones. Each one tells a story, and gives us a tiny look at what it was like to live in these mountain communities.    Kim Hainge, author  
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Maple Springs Overlook

Maple Springs Overlook

Once again, it’s time for the autumn leaves to delight us with their beautiful colors and fragrance. Come to Graham County for some spectacular leaf color display. A little-known location for viewing the changing colors, as well as watching both the sun set and the moon rise, is called Maple Springs Overlook.

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Fireflies In The Forest

Fireflies In The Forest

Fireflies in early summer can create memories that last a lifetime. Graham County, North Carolina, is the home of two very special species of firefly; the Synchronous firefly (Plotinus Carolinas) and the Blue Ghost Firefly (Pauses reticulate).

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Delayed Harvest in Graham County

Delayed Harvest in Graham County

Love to fish for trout and looking forward to fishing in Graham County? Graham County contains one of the very few hatchery supported streams in North Carolina that has a delayed harvest; Big Snowbird Creek. Sports Fishermen come from all over the country to take advantage of this golden opportunity.

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Native Flame Azaleas Light up the Mountains

Native Flame Azaleas Light up the Mountains

If you love beautiful flowers and great music, plan to attend our annual Flame Azalea Festival this year. Graham County is home to a one-of -a kind variety of native flame azalea and the history and beauty of this extraordinary plant is celebrated.

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Bas Shaw Grave at Big Poplar Turn

Bas Shaw Grave at Big Poplar Turn

Graham County is rich in history and if you are a history buff, you should consider exploring some of the historical sites of the area while you are here. One of the easiest sites to visit is the “Bas Shaw” Gravestone off 129 (The Dragon).

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SCCA HILLCLIMB

SCCA HILLCLIMB

Robbinsville, NC – Have you ever wanted to go blasting up that back country, winding mountain road at full speed, crossing the double yellow line, with no fear of oncoming traffic or police?

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Winter Mountain Get A Ways

Winter Mountain Get A Ways

When you envision renting a mountain cabin, you usually don’t think about doing it in the winter. However, consider what holidays fall between January and Easter. Often, the time when we most need some quiet recharging is in the dark of the winter, after all the holidays conclude and the bleak months stretch out endlessly before you. I discovered this myself one February when I rented a mountain cabin in Graham County. Picture yourself stretched out on a comfy couch with your favorite book, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and some hot cocoa on the night stand. It’s quiet. If you look out the window you can see the surrounding mountains and streams. Details that you miss when the leaves have not yet fallen, seem to jump out in stark relief. You might see an owl perched in a maple across the way. Gazing back at you! Numerous places are available to rent in the winter, sometimes at reduced rates. In this crazy busy world we live in, stepping away from the chaos for a weekend or even longer can give you a new perspective on life, relationships and career. The Druids called this time of the year “The return of the light”. Around February 2nd is the time when our creative juices begin to flow once more and we begin to see new possibilities. It is much easier to realize this when you have a day or two of stillness and can un-plug. Bundled up in a warm jacket, long walks on a brisk day can be invigorating. If you are lucky, you can experience the taste, sound and feel of a freshly fallen snow. Whether alone, with a loved one for a romantic getaway or with your family, the winter woods have so many surprises to offer. Did you know that Brook Trout are most plentiful in the winter mountain streams? Tracking the footprints of birds and small animals in the snow is fun for the whole family. If you are lucky, frozen fog and hoar frost will form on the tops of the mountains and you will be very glad you brought your camera. A variety of rental cabins and homes are available in Graham County. You can have your pick of a small, secluded hideaway in the deep woods or a large home with many rooms on the lake shores. If you enjoy hiking there are Bed and Breakfast accommodations and Inns that you can make your home and return to after you spend the day in the wilderness. The trails in Graham County are delightful in the cold months and range from simple strolling trails to the opportunity to hike for days on the Appalachian Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail or the Bartram Trail. Sunsets and Moonrises are more easily seen and are rumored to be the most striking during the winter months. You can watch them without having to peer through branches filled with leaves. The trunks of the trees stand out like the masts of sailing ships, moving back and forth in the wind. Our Travel and Tourism office is open year-round and staff can help you design the perfect time away. You can pick up maps, brochures and access the times for River Releases while you are there. Check out the Graham County Travel website and browse through the available rentals and lodges. Treat yourself to some rejuvenation and recovery and return home refreshed and filled with new inspiration. You may find you like Graham County so much, you’ll decide to stay!
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Wolf Laurel in Winter

Wolf Laurel in Winter

Winter in Graham County holds secrets for lovers of beauty.  Bring your cameras and dress warmly!  Wear long underwear.  For those of you who have never experienced the mountains in winter, you are in for a delightful discovery.  There is little that compares to a winter walk in the woods.  To begin with, quite often the temperatures of the air, water and earth differ greatly.  When that happens, fog, mist and ice do unusual things. Cheoah Lake, Lake Santeetlah, Calderwood Lake and Lake Fontana will consistently have “smoke on the water” and the views from Stecoah Gap in the winter are outstanding.  From October through January you have the added bonus of being able to view the moon rising from Stecoah Gap.  On some winter days you can watch fog creep down the mountains, twisting and turning as if stretching long tendrils out to capture you. My favorite winter drive and hike starts at Wolf Laurel Trailhead.  If you hike to the Hangover from the trailhead, you will be treated to a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  To reach Wolf Laurel when there is snow and ice or the potential of snow falling, you must have a four-wheel or all-wheel drive car.  U S Forest Service Road 81-C begins at the intersection of the beginning of the Cherohala Skyway and Joyce Kilmer Rd.  Follow 81-C and bear to the right on what is called Wolf Laurel Road.  Wolf Laurel Road will end at the Trail Head.  The drive in the snow is exquisite, hiking up the trail into the Wilderness holds wonders.  This hike is not for the faint hearted.  Make sure you bring warm blankets, food and water in case of emergencies. For everyone, whether hiking the wilderness or strolling along the lake shore, there are visions of beauty.  On a day when the ground is covered with pristine snow everything seems brand new.  Close up or far away, the trees show their bones.  The infinite variety of the textures and color of bark catch your eye and the rocks that are usually hidden by leaves and vines in the summer are laid bare.  All is not white, grey and brown, however. In the winter, greens pop.  This is the time of year when perennial ferns and mosses really shine.  They are so easily overlooked at other times of the year.  Running Cedar, Club Moss and Partridge berry can be seen contrasting with the fallen brown leaves.  The green mosses that cling to the rocks of streams just beg to be photographed.  Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel keep their green leaves throughout the winter months and provide wonderful backgrounds for pictures of the mountains and hillsides. The winter birds can be easily photographed as they forage for tiny insects in the bark of trees.  Animals can be spotted miles away and they leave clear footprints in the snow.  Best of all, you need have little concern about snakes or stinging insects.  They aren’t out! Take advantage of the special gifts a cold, winter day brings.  Stretch your legs, capture pictures of ice crystals and hoar frost, and then reward yourself with some hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace.
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