Backcountry Science: A Living Thermometer

Out of all the characteristic plants found across the Appalachians, rhododendrons are easily near the top of our region’s list. Rhododendrons are seemingly everywhere, lining the sides of streams and rivers in the region and even cloaking the faces of cliffs and bluffs on our mountains’ ridges. In spring and summer, these plants come alive with…

Brumley Mountain Trail: Low Gap to Buzzard Rock

Length/Type: Approximately 3.0 miles total, out-and-back; Difficulty: Moderate (gentle grades, some route-finding and light boulder-hopping at the trail’s end); Other Considerations: The overlook at the turnaround point for this hike is exceedingly steep and potentially dangerous. Take special care when spending time at Buzzard Rock. A detailed trail map is available via the Virginia Department of Forestry website. It’s hard to go…

Backcountry Science: Rime Ice

This past weekend formed one of the first major examples this season of a somewhat common winter phenomenon in the central Appalachian high county: rime ice. Often mistaken for “snow” in trees and other objects exposed above the surface, rime ice (sometimes shortened to just “rime”) instead occurs most often not in a snowstorm but…

Devil’s Bathtub Named A 2016 Leave No Trace Hotspot

If you’ve been paying attention to the hiking scene in Southwest Virginia over the past couple of years, you’re probably already aware that the Devil’s Bathtub Trail, located in Scott County, Virginia, is an absolute mess. The trail itself might be beautiful and in a remarkably pristine portion of the Jefferson National Forest, but social…

Pine Mountain Trail (Birch Knob to Blowing Rock Cliffs)

Length/Type: Approximately 4.0-5.0 miles total, out-and-back (multiple turnaround points exist along cliff system); Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (some steep climbs, poor footing in several stretches); Other Considerations: The road leading to the trailhead is closed seasonally, most often January-March or when weather conditions prevent safe travel. A detailed trail map is available via the park’s website. The 44 mile-long Pine Mountain…

Backcountry Science: Why Don’t Streams Freeze in Winter?

Today’s post is the first in a recurring series of pieces on the science behind common natural phenomena experienced in the Appalachian backcountry. Each post will take a seasonal theme, with this post the first in a series of pieces on the science behind winter in the southern and central Appalachians. Other posts in the…

Rocky Fork State Park, TN

Tennessee’s newest state park isn’t in the Cumberland Mountains, so it might seem a bit weird to profile it here, given this site’s focus. But Rocky Fork State Park, the newest addition to Tennessee’s park system, isn’t your typical state park. Located on the western side of the Blue Ridge Province above Johnson City, TN, the…

Big Falls and the Pinnacle (Pinnacle State Natural Area Preserve)

Length/Type: Approximately 1.8 miles one-way, out-and-back; Difficulty: Easy to moderate (easy grades and footing; well-maintained trails); Other Considerations: The Pinnacle has multiple trail options beyond the one described here, which can be pieced together into a longer day hike, if desired. A detailed trail map is available via the Virginia DCR website. Out of all the counties in Southwest Virginia, Russell County…