It’s National Lighthouse Day! Few images are as evocative as a lighthouse standing sentry on a rocky shore, the guardian of mariners and passengers as they navigate the formidable currents, fierce storms and shifting shoals of America’s coastal and inland waterways. Although their form and appearance vary according to region or the body of water they guard, the lighthouse remains one of the most recognizable images of the maritime world. You can find many of these historic and majestic buildings on public lands across the country. Just follow the light.
One of the most daunting tasks facing visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Wildflowers and forests? Endless mountain views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked much recently, be cautious. Five miles roundtrip is a good maximum distance for novices. Just remember to take plenty of water and your sense of adventure, and don’t forget to tell someone where you’re heading. Photo by Stavros Mitchelides (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Like waves rolling on the ocean, layers of ridgelines at Great Smoky Mountains National Park extend out to a stunning sunrise. On the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the park and a premier destination for photographers. Inspired by Ansel Adams and a lover of national park, photographer Zack Knudsen captured this amazing moment in the park a few weeks ago. Photo courtesy of Zack Knudsen
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States where black bears can live in wild, natural surroundings. Bears inhabit all elevations of the park – with an estimated 1,500 bears living in the park. Bear cubs are usually born in the winter and emerge from their dens in late March or early April. Bears can run 30 miles per hour, can swim very well and are good tree climbers like this baby bear pictured here. Bears can live 12-15 years or more, but animals that have access to human foods and garbage have a life expectancy of only half. Do your part by using the park’s bear-proof dumpsters and disposing of all garbage properly. Photo by Sidney Cromer (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Land and sky collide as wispy clouds creep between rolling mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The drifting clouds and forested peaks create layers of white and green, stretching out to the horizon. The parkway is only 469 miles long, but the views are endless. Photo courtesy of Joshua Moore.
Created on March 3, 1849, the Department of the Interior was sometimes called the “Department of Everything Else.” Today, Interior’s mission is a diverse mix of duties ranging from managing the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage to pursuing cutting-edge science to benefit the pubic and honoring trust responsibilities to American Indians, Alaska Natives and affiliated island communities. Of course, we’re known best for public lands like Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, one of the most visited national parks in the system.
Located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is anything but dismal. With more than 111,200 acres of seasonally flooded wetland forest and the 3,100-acre Lake Drummond at its center, the refuge contains some of the most important wildlife habitat in the mid-Atlantic region. In the winter, the lake provides a resting place for thousands of migratory birds including Tundra Swans and Snow Geese. In the summer, it’s home to Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. It’s also an amazing place to witness the start of a new day. Photo courtesy of Tom Hamilton.
Grandfather Mountain looms over the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, frosted in the white and blue shades of winter. Thought to be one of the oldest mountains in the Appalachians, Grandfather Mountain’s imposing size forced engineers to develop a difficult solution to completing the Parkway. Linn Cove Viaduct carries the road over the shoulder of this wonderful mountain, preserving its unique geology and providing stunning views. Photo courtesy of Jim Ruff.
Early morning sun creates a tunnel of light along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. As fall colors fade and snow covers the upper elevations, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers amazing views of rolling mountains trimmed with frost and fog. This is a park that keeps you coming back. Photo by Michael Sherburne (www.sharetheexperience.org).