Archive for the 'Outdoor Adventures' Category
Every Nantahala rafting adventure begins at the put-in area across from the Duke Energy power plant on Wayah Road (above). Rafts are launched, boarded and the riders are given safety instructions before beginning the eight-mile whitewater float through the scenic Nantahala Gorge — “Land of the Noonday Sun” as the Cherokees named it.
Each year, more than 200,000 paddlers raft the Nantahala, the river that National Geographic Adventure and ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series called the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the US.
Trips can be scheduled with a number of Nantahala outfitters. A variety of trips and boat choices are offered and each company adds its own personal touch.
A day of drizzle did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for Friday’s grand opening of the new wave shaper on the Nantahala River. It was the first major event leading up to the 2013 ICF World Freestyle Kayaking Championships and the World Cup of Freestyle Kayaking less than a year away — two events that will place Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge on kayaking’s center stage.
The playboaters above were demonstrating the wave for the grand opening crowd and will continue to practice their maneuvers over the coming weeks, providing feedback to the wave’s designers and engineers. The submerged high-tech structure has adjustable concrete components that allow fine-tuning of the wave’s flow pattern. The goal is to create a freestyle kayaking venue that will continue to attract the world’s top athletes for years to come.
Henry Singer, age 4, gets a little boost from his father Rob during Bryson City’s third annual “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.”
The first Saturday of October every year has been named Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). IMBA, along with the National Park Service and other sponsors organize the event, and this year over 200 events were hosted nationwide.
Bryson City Bicycles hosted the local event at the Deep Creek area of the National Park. Fourteen local kids braved the chilly October morning to take the ride along Deep Creek. Ranger Doug talked to the group about his police bike, wildlife in the park, and how to treat the park with respect. After the ride, kids participated in bike riding games like paperboy, slowest rider, cone slalom and stop on a line. The day wrapped up with prizes and snacks.
Photo by Scott Baste
A group of colorful rafts emerge from the morning mist. They’ve just begun their eight-mile journey down the wild and scenic Nantahala River.
The first few minutes of a Nantahala rafting trip are rather calm and uneventful, giving everyone in the boat time to get settled and practice paddling. Guides will take this time to discuss maneuvering techniques and teamwork. But just around the bend is one of the most exciting whitewater features on the river — Patton’s Run. And that’s when the fun begins.
For more about whitewater rafting in the Smokies, including a directory of outfitters, visit the Travel Guide to Bryson City and The Great Smoky Mountains.
While their horses enjoy the cool water, these riders drink in the beauty of Fontana Lake and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 800 miles of trails, and most are open to horseback riding. Water features — streams, cascades, waterfalls — are plentiful, including the massive Fontana Lake with its more than 240 miles of shoreline.
Photo courtesy of James Clark, Deep Creek Boarding Stables
This week’s Postcard from the Smokies begins our fourth year of publishing these weekly highlights of living and playing in the Smokies. If you’re a relatively new reader, we invite you to browse through earlier postcards here.
Chip Penlan, a hiker from Memphis, stops to admire the view from the heights of the Appalachian Trail. In March, he and fellow hiker Tyler Stanley trekked over 50 miles from Deep Gap, at the GA-NC state line, to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. While some dedicated “thru hikers” attempt to cover all 2181 miles of the AT in the same year, Chip and Tyler are like most, chipping away at the trail in more manageable segments over time.
Stretching from Springer Mountain in North Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the trail passes through 14 states. North Carolina has 88 miles of AT not counting the more than 200 miles that follows along the Tennessee border. The trail runs for more than 71 miles through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, entering from the south at Fontana Dam and exiting in the north at Davenport Gap. The highest point anywhere along the trail is at Clingmans Dome (6625 ft.). The trail also passes by other notable landmarks in the Smoky Mountains such as Charlies Bunion, Rocky Top and the historic stone fire tower atop Mt. Cammerer.
Most people usually take seven days to hike the Smoky Mountains section. But it can be broken into two 3 to 4-day segments at the Newfound Gap or Clingmans Dome midpoint.
The AT is maintained by thirty different trail clubs and multiple partnerships. And it’s managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do cross towns, roads and rivers.
Photo by Tyler Stanley
The first wave of racers bursts off the starting line as the second wave moves into position. It’s the start of the annual ‘Knobscorcher’ mountain bike race at the Tsali recreation area near Bryson City.
The Knobscorcher is one of four popular mountain bike events held at Tsali each year and one of 10 races in the South Eastern Regional Championship Series where racers throughout the southeastern US compete for cash, prizes, and the honor of being the best cyclist in this part of the country. Amateurs, experts, and professionals all hit the flowing, 15 mile cross country course. Amateur groups rode one loop and experts and professionals sprinted two for a total of 30 race miles. There was even a kids course.
The SERC series, 12 Hours of Tsali, Tsali Xterra, and Tsali Challenge are all organized by GoneRiding, a mountain bike event organizer out of Ocala Florida.
Thanks to Andy Zivinsky and Diane Cutler of Bryson City Bicycles for their assistance with this week’s Postcard.
Except for a few kayakers, the Nantahala river is relatively quiet in the Fall. But an event planned for mid-September 2013 will be unlike anything the river has ever experienced. That’s when the Nantahala Gorge hosts the World Freestyle Kayaking Championships.
The event will attract up to 500 paddlers from forty to fifty countries and thousands of spectators to the Bryson City area. The Gorge was selected by the International Canoe Federation, the sanctioning body for all world championship and Olympic canoe and kayak events.
The Nantahala will also host a Junior World Cup Freestyle event in 2012 as a test event for the World Championships in 2013. To compliment the 2012 World Cup on the Nantahala, two other World Cup Freestyle events will occur in the Southeastern United States during 2012. The Nantahala Gorge has been home to several national slalom championships over the years, but this high-profile event solidifies the area’s status as a paddling destination.
Last year, a new outdoor adventure got off the ground — literally — when the Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours began offering rides on their 1/2 mile-long network of ziplines throughout the treetops in the Nantahala Gorge. Part eco-tourism, part adventure tour, zip lines provide an opportunity to soar through a forest with a unique perspective of the land below. Today, it’s one of the most popular outdoor activities in the area, with their three hour rides routinely selling out. Above, a group of riders await await their turn on a sky bridge.
The Summer vacation season got off to a great start this Memorial weekend. Bryson City’s motels and campgrounds were filled, there were great crowds at the Heritage Festival, and Deep Creek had a steady parade of holiday vacationers floating and bouncing along on brightly-colored “tubes” (the old-fashioned black truck-tire inner tubes have all but disappeared).
Since the Park Service does not rent tubes, the Hannah family of Hope Mills, NC rented their tubes at the Deep Creek Tube Center and Campground, where they were camping. The Tube Center is just one of several tubing vendors along West Deep Creek Road near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and on the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee.1 comment
Unlike whitewater kayaking, which appeals to more adventurous individuals, lake kayaking is a more relaxed experience available to everyone. Along Fontana Lake’s north shore, kayaking provides a unique view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where sightings of bear, river otter, deer or bald eagles are not uncommon. Interested? Visit the Bryson City website for information about kayaking in the Smokies, including outfitters.
Innkeeper Scot Warf (Charleston Inn) took this photo as he glided into the cove below the Goldmine Loop trail near the eastern end of the lake.
Whitewater rafting is great fun. But it’s even more fun with a group of friends. That’s especially true on the Nantahala where a few short stretches of smooth water provide breaks from the rapids and a chance for friendly banter between rafters.
Each year, more than 200,000 paddlers ride the eight mile course that snakes through the scenic Gorge. With its Class II and III rapids, the “Nanty” is a family river, suitable for just about every generation (children must be at least seven years old or at least 60 pounds). Yet it’s challenging enough to have been chosen as the site for the upcoming 2013 World Kayaking Freestyle Championships.
National Geographic Adventure and ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series named the Nantahala River the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the US.
Trips can be scheduled with a number of Nantahala outfitters. A variety of trips are offered and each company seems to add its own personal touch. All outfitters provide approved life jackets and most provide a wet suit and/or paddling jackets during the cooler months.
Photo courtesy of Adventurous Fast Rivers Rafting
It’s no surprise that visitation to the Smokies rises and falls with the temperatures. Most people simply prefer the warmer months with the wealth of outdoor activities available from March thru October. But the hardy individuals that weather the cooler temperatures are treated to an entirely different and equally beautiful Smoky Mountains landscape. The colors are more subtle, even monochromatic. And with the leaves on the ground, they can see much deeper into the woods revealing a striking array of patterns and textures …like the crosshatch pattern of Poplar trees and shadows in this week’s Postcard.
When hiking deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the last thing you expect to find is a piece of office equipment. Yet that’s just what Sharon McCarthy discovered last Fall when she and fellow hiker Judy Gross reached the peak at High Rocks, high above the North Shore of Lake Fontana.
In her excellent “Smoky Scout” online hiking journal, Sharon explained, “High Rocks is the site of a long-removed fire tower, but the view is still there. The short trail up seemed endless as we fought our way through more blackberry brambles and overgrowth. We topped out at the rocky bluff upon which the tower once stood. The foundation and the caretaker’s cabin remain, although the cabin is extremely deteriorated and there are currently no plans to rehab it. Since I was here last year, someone has made a statement by placing a chair on top of the rocks, inviting valiant hikers to pause and enjoy.”
Photo by Judy Gross
From late March thru November, the remote and rustic LeConte Lodge is a busy place with the arrival of overnight guests. Most are hikers who have have completed the seven mile, 4000 foot trek on Trillium Gap trail to the top of Mt. LeConte (elevation 6593 ft.). Others will have taken the equally challenging Boulevard or Alum Cave trails. Needless to say, all are hungry and looking forward to the evening meal prepared by the Lodge’s cook Doug McFalls.
But in the off-season, when things are quiet at the lodge, Doug is still there in his role as winter caretaker …and the only person to witness the winter wonderland created by last week’s snowfall. On the morning of December 21 when he took this photo, the temperature was 12 degrees and the snowfall measured 32 inches.
While in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, LeConte Lodge is a privately-owned business. The Lodge is so popular that, when reservations are opened on October 1 each year, many of the bookings are immediately filled. For more information, visit their website.
For more of Doug’s photos, visit his solar-powered “Life on LeConte” blog.
Not all of Deep Creek’s mile-long tubing course is fast-moving water. At the end of the upper “whitewater” section, Deep Creek widens at a deep swimming hole that provides a refreshing pause from tubing.
The Deep Creek Recreation area is just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Bryson City. There’s camping, picnicking, hiking trails, trout fishing and three beautiful waterfalls. Tubes can be rented from several vendors near the park entrance. Where else can you have a day of great fun for less than five bucks?
April signals the beginning of whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. From now through October, more than 200,000 paddlers will ride the eight mile course that snakes through the scenic Nantahala Gorge just west of Bryson City. With its Class II and III rapids, the “Nanty” is a family river, suitable for just about every generation (children must be at least seven years old or at least 60 pounds). Yet it’s challenging enough for the US Olympic Kayaking Team, which often trains there.
National Geographic Adventure and ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series named the Nantahala River the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the US. Watch GMA video.
Trips can be scheduled with a number of Nantahala outfitters. A variety of trips are offered and each company seems to add its own personal touch. All outfitters provide approved life jackets and most provide a wet suit and/or paddling jackets during the cooler months. And like the family pictured above, all rafters are required to have safety instruction before they are allowed on the river.
Photo by J.R. vanLienden
From the very top of the Smokies at Clingmans Dome, Sharon McCarthy (aka “Smoky Scout”) surveys the mountains that have become very familiar to her over the past year. She’s in the process of hiking all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to raise money for the Girl Scouts in North Carolina.
Sharon anticipates that her final hike will be the Old Sugarlands Trail near the Sugarlands Visitor Center on April 11. Including the additional miles she’s walked to access each of the trails, she will have hiked more than 1000 miles altogether. It’s a feat that will reward her with membership in the elite 900 Miler Club, a group that has added just 250 hikers since its founding in 1995.
You can read Sharon’s journal on her blog “Great Smoky Mountains Girl Scout Challenge“. And while there, why not support the Girl Scouts with an online contribution?
Photo by Jim McCarthy
Here’s an adventurous way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — join Jerry Span and the Fontana Hiking Club for their “75 Hikes on the 75th” series of hikes.
Participants have the option of joining any number of the hikes throughout the year (schedule). And the more ambitious hikers who complete the entire program will enjoy the added benefit of becoming members of the 900 Miler Club, an elite group of folks who’ve hiked all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Some of the backcountry trails are a bit more challenging than others. Above, hikers Graham Averill (front) and Jeremiah LeRoy (back) negotiate a log crossing on the Cold Spring Gap Trail north of Fontana Lake in western Swain County. Photo by Jerry Span.
The Dragon — the curvy stretch of US Highway 129 connecting North Carolina and Tennessee at Deal’s Gap — elicits contrasting responses from visitors to the Smoky Mountains. “Flatlanders”, unaccustomed to serpentine roads, have been known to turn several shades of green after negotiating the road’s 318 continuous curves in just eleven miles. But motorcyclists love it, and consider it one of the best motorcycling and sports car roads in the world.