Blog & Itineraries

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). Prior to 1900, synchronous fireflies were known only to a privileged few in the Appalachian Mountains. Once the word got out, people came to the Great Smoky Mountain Park to see the fireflies’ spectacular light show on an annual basis. The site at Elmont can become so crowded during peak firefly times that some of the magic is lost to those who don’t enjoy crowds. They have even started a lottery for the privilege of being bused to the location. The good news is that synchronous fireflies also display at various locations in Graham County. The Joyce-Kilmer Memorial Forest is one of the newly discovered locations to view one of the only species of firefly in the United States that can synchronize their flashing light patterns. During the first week of June, on a quiet, dark, rain-free evening, drive up to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking lot. Bring a flashlight covered with blue or red cellophane in order to retain your night vision. Park your car and creep up the trail to sit on a bench and watch the woods light up. At first, everything is pitch black, then, as suddenly as if someone had flicked a light switch, the woods light up like a Christmas tree. The lights continue flashing for about a minute and a half, then just as suddenly, everything is pitch black once again. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the area normally occurs within a two-week period in mid-June from dark to about 11:00pm. It depends on the weather and the progression of spring. An additional treat is that you will also see the wonderfully named Blue Ghost Firefly in the forest. This firefly is much smaller than the average firefly, about the size of a grain of rice. They appear for about one month of the year, usually June, and are most often seen around ten o’clock at night. Their blue-green light rarely blinks but glows continuously as the small firefly travels through the air and underbrush. This firefly can actually control the intensity of its light, from low to brilliant. It is easy to imagine that it could have been the inspiration for Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy. Photograph courtesy of NPS read more

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. What exactly is a delayed harvest? Here in North Carolina it refers to a period of time, October 1 through the first Saturday in June, that is one of the most anticipated fishing seasons of the year. Fly fishing is a challenging and fascinating endeavor. The Sports Fisherman attempts to trick the trout into thinking that the carefully constructed fly is actually an insect. The fly is chosen based on what insect is currently emerging and being consumed as food by the trout. The fisherman must also make the fly “behave” as closely as they can to the actual live insect. It is a triumph when the trout goes for the fly and is caught. During delayed harvest, specific bodies of water are ruled as areas that may be fished only with artificial lures with one single hook. No natural bait may be possessed and no trout may be harvested or possessed while fishing these waters between October 1 and the first Saturday in June. This year the date delayed harvesting ends is on June 1, 2019. When trout fisheries are heavily stocked and strict “catch and release” rules are implemented it allows novice fishermen to get out and test their skills in an environment where fish are plentiful and competition from live bait fishermen is nonexistent. Artificial bait is defined as any living or dead organism (plant or animal), or parts thereof or prepared substances designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell. This includes not only insects, but corn or bread or even artificial baits that have an attractant in the rubber! Trout are raised in hatcheries and released on specific dates into all hatchery supported waterways. In North Carolina, Commission personnel will stock approximately 930,000 trout – 96 percent of which average 10 inches in length. The other 4 percent exceed 14 inches in length! The delayed-harvest section at Snowbird starts at a foot bridge just above the Junction at the end of Big Snowbird Creek Road and extends about 2.8 miles downstream to a concrete bridge known locally as Chestnut Flat Bridge. On the first Saturday every June, when delayed harvest officially ends for the year, only anglers under the age of 16 can fish between 6 A.M. and 12 P.M. After that, anyone can fish and keep up to 7 fish per day, with no size or bait restriction. Whether you choose to fish in Hatchery supported streams, explore the rugged and enchanting headwater creeks and blue-line for beautiful Brook Trout or prefer fishing in the numerous lakes in Graham County, you can be assured that you will want to return again and again. read more

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

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

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

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! read more

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. read more

Forest Bathing

Come to Graham County if you are at a crossroads in your life. If you have discovered that your life is too hectic. If you are recovering from an illness or you want some time to just think, then it is time for you to experience “Forest Bathing”.

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Wildflower Walks

This spring many people have been asking if the wildflowers are blooming in the areas that were burned by forest fires last fall.

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Itinerary for the Bird Watcher

Bird watching, often called birding, is the largest spectator sport in America. The rich and abundant bird life in Graham County arises from the varied climate and topography. Summers are warm and winters are mild.

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