The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is a place of winter beauty and challenge. Much of the parkway is located at high elevation, where the climate is colder and wetter than in the surrounding communities of the foothills. Snow can come suddenly and in large amounts. Thick frost can coat the trees and massive icicles present their own hazards. Be sure to check the road conditions before coming to explore one of the best drives in America. Photo by National Park Service.
On a windy day 115 years ago at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first successful airplane flights. With courage and perseverance, these self-taught engineers relied on teamwork and application of the scientific process. What they achieved changed our world forever. Never forget to dream big. Photo of Wright Brothers National Memorial by Bill Kohutanycz (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Some sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway have already seen snow this year, but we couldn’t let fall come to a close without one more amazing photo of autumn splendor. The forested mountains of North Carolina and Virginia are the perfect showcase for changing leaves and amazing sunrises. Each turn on the road and trail overlook provides a breathtaking view. Photo by Ric Chamblee (www.sharetheexperience.org).
There’s no wonder why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one our most popular national parks for hiking. The rolling mountains along the North Carolina – Tennessee border are gorgeous in all seasons, but the transition to bright fall colors is a sight to behold. In golden sunset light, the beauty of this place is overwhelming. Photo by Jerome Ginsberg (www.sharetheexperience.org).
All this week, we’re celebrating 50 years of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Trails System. This stunning photo is from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – which was established on October 2, 1968. Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens and completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail (or A.T.) stretches 2,180 miles from central Maine to northern Georgia. As it winds through the Washington Mountains in western Massachusetts, it grazes the headwaters of the Westfield Wild and Scenic River, a partnership river also created and managed by citizens in surrounding communities. The A.T. was one of the first trails in the National Trails System, along with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Today, the system includes 11 national scenic trails, 19 national historic trails and over 1,200 national recreation trails throughout the country that link historic sites, wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and wilderness areas. Whether it’s a short day hike or an epic thru-hike, there are plenty of opportunities to #FindYourWay along one of your nation’s amazing trails. Photo by J. Smilanic (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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.