Backcountry Science: Things That Scream Bloody Murder In The Night

It’s that time of year again: “cougar” season, where residents and visitors all across Appalachia report hearing a mountain lion, cougar, or panther scream out in the night. Tales like this are common across the mountains, especially from hikers spending the night deep in the woods only to be awoken by the sound of what…

Backcountry Science: Let’s Talk About Wildfires

If you live anywhere in the Cumberlands, it’s probably not shocking to hear that wildfires have become a serious issue over the past few days. A staggering number of fires – from small fires to large blazes – are currently burning across the region, particularly eastern Kentucky and adjacent portions of far southwest Virginia. News…

Backcountry Science: Leaf Peepin’

Fall is here. College football is underway. Local grocery stores are already jam-packed with Halloween gear. You’re starting to hear about pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. And…leaf season is coming. We all know that the Appalachians are famous for our fall color, but you probably didn’t know that we have one of the most vibrant and prolonged…

What The Heck Is That Over There? (Birch Knob Edition)

Have you ever climbed a local mountain and wondered what in the world you’re seeing? What’s that mountain way in the distance? Is that a lake on the horizon? Which direction faces towards home? Distinguishing landmarks in the jumbled mass of mountains that is the Cumberlands can be a bit tough unless you have a…

Let’s Talk About Waterfalls

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of safety risks on the trail? Bears? Snakes? Bees? Poison Ivy? How about getting too close to the edge of a towering cliff at a scenic viewpoint? While all of these things can pose varying levels of risk in particular situations, one of the…

Backcountry Science: Cougar Tales

“My cousin saw a cougar in his backyard last week.” “I saw a momma panther and three cubs cross US-23 the other night.” “You’d better be careful if you’re going hiking. My sister’s friend knows a guy whose brother’s coworker was attacked by a mountain lion while hiking on the Appalachian Trail.” If you live…

Have you seen a snake in far southwest Virginia recently? Let us know!

As we’ve written about recently, it’s snake season both on and off the trail in southwest Virginia and the surrounding Cumberland Mountain region. Since that earlier post, we’ve received a ton of comments and photos of snake sightings from local trails. And, most encouragingly, most of these folks have reported leaving snakes be and not killing…

Backcountry Science: What Is A Topo Map?

There are a ton of skills that are key to a successful and safe hike. Careful planning, knowing how to use a compass, and letting someone know where you’ll be hiking are all part of that list. But one of the most neglected skills among many hikers is being able to read and navigate using…

How Not to Get Lost on the Trail

Our most recent posts on two local trails – the Devil’s Bathtub and Jenny Falls – have received a ton of attention (thanks to those of you who have shared them!). It appears that lots of folks in our region are discovering local trails for the first time, which is outstanding. Along with this interest, we’ve…

Backcountry Science: Hiking and Snakes and Bears – Oh My!

Spring has come to the mountains, which means that hundreds of folks both inside and outside the region are hitting the trails and getting into the woods. At the same time, though, much of the region’s wildlife is also getting out and about. Within the past few weeks, for example, two of our region’s most…

Backcountry Science: Staying Warm During Winter Hiking

This weekend is turning out to be one of the coldest periods of the season for the southern and central Appalachians. On top of the cold, several snow events are also bearing down on the region, creating a winter wonderland for outdoor activities. With cold and snow, though, comes the constant threat of high-elevation winter hiking: hypothermia….

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…