Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hiking Survey

Ashley and I recently received an email for a request regarding our hiking blog. We receive multiple emails a day for wide range of things, but this one was unique as it was a college student at the University of North Alabama asking for help regarding a hiking survey she was doing studying trail ethics, so we told her we would help her out and allow a guest post in the hopes she might get some more information for her survey. If you are interested and have free time, here is information about the survey and a link to the survey at the bottom.

My name is Mary Katherine Osborn and I am a senior at the University of North Alabama (UNA) seeking to further my career in psychology at a graduate level. Graduate schools are extremely competitive and require a great deal of research experience. At UNA, students take on a research project in which the professors help them through the research project start to finish. With a love for the outdoors, I chose to do my project on hiking. I am also receiving a degree in biology from UNA and I have a great concern for the “health status” of nature. My concern led me to study trail ethics and how people, particularly hikers, view ethics depending on several variables including demographics, religion, and hiking experience. I enjoy hiking immensely and want others to enjoy it as well and I see the importance in preserving it for others. Upon completing the study, we plan to present our results as a paper at a national scientific convention and depending on the results, and we make seek publication of the results in a scientific journal, related to psychology. In addition, it will provide us with some guidance as to which variables to examine more closely in future studies.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grandfather Mountain Mile High Swinging Bridge

One of the great hikes at Grandfather Mountain is the trail to the mile high swinging bridge. The hike to the mile high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain is spectacular as it offers stunning views over the North Carolina high country. The hike is a loop that utilizes the Bridge Trail, the Grandfather Trail and the Grandfather Trail Extension, and is a must do for those that visit Grandfather Mountain. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: The entrance to Grandfather Mountain is located on US 221, two miles north of Linville, North Carolina, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. The street address for the entrance is: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646. The road to the summit is referred to as Grandfather Mountain Entrance Road, Linville, NC. Once inside Grandfather Mountain follow the road to the Grandfather Mountain trails parking area, there is a sign for the parking area just before you reach the Top Shop at the end of the road. For a map of the location where Grandfather Mountain is click Here. For a map of trails at Grandfather Mountain click Here.

Description of Hike: The hike to the mile high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain is a loop that utilizes several trails. The trail is well maintained however much of the trail contains uneven rocks and roots from nearby trees. From the parking area take the Bridge Trail 0.4 miles to the Top Shop area. It is at this point that you cross the mile high swinging bridge (Actually it is more than a mile high), to Linville Peak which is 5,303 feet in elevation and provides great views of Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding North Carolina Mountains. Return back across the bridge and cross the parking area and take the Grandfather Trail to proceed back down to the parking area. In just under 0.4 miles from the Top Shop area at the mile high swinging bridge you will intersect with the Grandfather Trail Extension which will take you back to the the Trails Parking area at Grandfather Mountain. From the trail intersection to the Parking area is 0.6 miles for a total hike of approximately 1.6 miles roundtrip and approximately 350 feet of elevation gain. We would classify this as a moderate hike due to the intensity of the terrain. There is a fee per person to enter Grandfather Mountain, for current costs click Here. If you want a longer hike you can hike to MacRae Peak which is located at an elevation of 5,845 feet. This will add an additional 1.2 miles roundtrip and an additional 400 feet in elevation gain for a total hike of 2.8 miles and 800 feet of elevation gain, which we classify as strenuous. For more information click on our MacRae Peak hike below, additionally the trail designated in Yellow on the Google Map below is the trail to MacRae Peak. There is a fee per person to enter Grandfather Mountain, for current costs click Here.

Further Thoughts: The hike to Grandfather Mountain's mile high swinging bridge is a must do when you visit Grandfather Mountain. The terrain the hike goes through is unparalleled and the views continue to get better the higher up the mountain you go, with the best views being found on Linville Peak. We found the trails at Grandfather Mountain were well marked and were well maintained by park staff. Additionally, since this is a popular hiking trail at Grandfather Mountain, you will likely see other visitors out enjoying the trails. If you are here on a windy day, one of the cool things is listening to the bridge hum as the wind hits the bridge. For a video of the winds when we did this hike, click Here

The mile high swinging bridge was built to give visitors easy access to the breath-taking view from Grandfather Mountain's Linville Peak. The 228-foot suspension bridgespans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation. Surveys by the staff at Grandfather Mountain have shown that the journey to the other side of the mile high swinging bridge is always considered the highlight of a trip to Grandfather Mountain.

The  mile high swinging bridge was originally constructed in 1952 and was rebuilt in 1999 using the original towers. The cables, floor boards and side rails were all replaced using galvanized steel. One of the main advantages of the modern building materials is that they do not have to be painted. Now Grandfather Mountain employees will not have to hang out over the gorge to paint the span. The 228-foot steel structure is America's highest suspension footbridge.

This is a must do hike for those that visit Grandfather Mountain.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 350 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 1.6 Miles (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 1.5 hours.


Mile High Swinging Bridge (This Post)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitats

One of the places we have had the opportunity to visit on our adventures in North Carolina was Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina has great hiking trails and offers amazing scenic vistas. Grandfather Mountain also offers a great chance to see North Carolina Wildlife in its natural habitat (Zoo). Grandfather Mountain has seven environmental habitats for black bearsriver otters, cougars, bald eagles, golden eagles, and white-tailed deer. The Museum and Wildlife habitats are a great place to visit when you come to Grandfather Mountain.

Directions to Trailhead: The entrance to Grandfather Mountain is located on US 221, two miles north of Linville, North Carolina, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. The street address for the entrance is: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646. The road to the summit is referred to as Grandfather Mountain Entrance Road, Linville, NC. Once inside Grandfather Mountain follow the road to the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum and Wildlife Habitat. For a map of the location where Grandfather Mountain is click Here. For a map of trails at Grandfather Mountain click Here.

Description of Hike: The Grandfather Mountain environmental habitats are large enclosures that allow visitors to see animals in natural settings. Unlike the exhibits found in city zoos which bring in plants and boulders to recreate an appropriate setting, these enclosures were built around the animals' actual native habitat. Viewing areas give visitors an up-close perspective of the animals as they live in the wild. Separated from the animals by moats or elevated above the habitats on large retaining walls, these viewing areas allow you to stand only a few feet away from animals you probably won't see in your everyday life. A special aquarium-like viewing area allows you to enjoy watching the playful otters above or below the water. There is a fee per person to enter Grandfather Mountain, for current costs click Here.

The pathways at the Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitats are well maintain with minimal elevation gain. The entire loop is less than half a mile walk. There are informative exhibits around the Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitat explaining about the animals. This is a fun hike in Grandfather Mountain that is enjoyable for the whole family.

Further Thoughts: We really enjoyed our visit to the Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitats. It was neat to see all the animals in a natural setting. The bear exhibit was probably our favorite, but a close second was when we got to see the Mountain Lions at Grandfather Mountain. We found the staff at Grandfather Mountain helpful and very friendly. For those that are interest you can also get a behind the scenes tour of the habitats, for more information click Here. There is also a foundation that supports Grandfather Mountain, for more information about the foundation click Here.

Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Very Easy), Distance: 0.5 Miles (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 30 minutes.


MacRae Peak

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Wildlife Habitats (This Post)

View Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitat (Zoo) in a larger map

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Videos of Loggerhead Sea Turtles Hatching at Emerald Isle

Here are a couple of videos taken of Loggerhead Sea Turtles hatching on Emerald Isle North Carolina. Emerald Isle has a dedicated group of volunteers that watch over the nests sea turtles lay at Emerald Isle. The nest usually hatch between 50 and 70 days after they are laid.  To see our nighttime pictures of what the nighttime hatch looks like, click Here. Three days after a nest hatches the volunteers excavate the nest to see if there are any turtles that did not make it out of the nest and to count the number of turtles that hatched. These videos are from the excavation process three days after the nest hatched. This nest had between 92 and 93 turtle eggs that hatched and there were 9 sea turtles that we waiting to leave when the nest was excavated.

The United States Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting season runs from about May to November. Nesting takes place nocturnally and at 2- to 3-year intervals. Three or four clutches may be laid in a season at intervals of approximately 12 days. Clutch size averages around 115 eggs with incubation requiring 49 to 68 days, about 55 days being average. The hatchlings generally emerge at night.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Blowing Rock (Blowing Rock North Carolina)

One of the places we had the chance to visit on a recent trip was The Blowing Rock which is just outside of the town of Blowing Rock North Carolina. This is a fun little adventure that allows you to stop and see some of the beauty of the North Carolina Mountains as well as learn about the local folklore surrounding the legend of the Blowing Rock.

Directions to Trailhead: The Blowing Rock is located just outside of the Town of Blowing Rock North Carolina. From the Town of Blowing Rock North Carolina take the 321 South (Blowing Rock Boulevard) toward The Blowing Rock. The turn off will be on your righthand side in roughly 1.5 - 2 miles. Click Here for a map to The Blowing Rock.

Description of Hike: This is an out and back hike on a well maintained short trail system. The trail system at The Blowing Rock is mostly paved with minimal elevation gain. The entire trail system is approximately 1,200 feet long and thus is very family friendly. Business hours vary by season and weather conditions, click Here for a list of business hours and prices for admission to the Blowing Rock. To download a copy of the trail map for The Blowing Rock click Here.

Further Thoughts: This was a fun short hike that offered great views of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Although the trails are short and some would call this a tourist trap, in our opinion The Blowing Rock is worth a visit due to the spectacular views and scenery it provides visitors. The price for admission when we visited was $6 per adult which was reasonable. We enjoyed learning about the legend surrounding The Blowing Rock and took in the tremendous views the trails offered.

It is said that a Chickasaw chieftan, fearful of a white man’s admiration for his lovely daughter, journeyed far from the plains to bring her to The Blowing Rock and the care of a squaw mother. One day the maiden, daydreaming on the craggy cliff, spied a Cherokee brave wandering in the wilderness far below and playfully shot an arrow in his direction. The flirtation worked because soon he appeared before her wigwam, courted her with songs of his land and they became lovers, wandering the pathless woodlands and along the crystal streams.

One day a strange reddening of the sky brought the brave and the maiden to The Blowing Rock. To him it was a sign of trouble commanding his return to his tribe in the plains. With the maiden’s entreaties not to leave her, the brave, torn by conflict of duty and heart, leaped from The Rock into the wilderness far below. The grief-stricken maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit until one evening with a reddening sky, a gust of wind blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms. From that day a perpetual wind has blown up onto The Rock from the valley below. For people of other days, at least, this was explanation enough for The Blowing Rock’s mysterious winds causing even the snow to fall upside down.

Overall our visit and hike at The Blowing Rock was fun and we would recommend it to others. There is a very tranquil feel to the air in the North Carolina Mountains and we look forward to visiting again soon.

Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Very Easy), Distance: 0.25 Miles (Very Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 20 minutes.

View The Blowing Rock in a larger map

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Outdoor Recreation Provides Boost to Economy

Here is an interesting press release that might be worth a read with regards to the impact on the economy that outdoor recreation has: Enjoy!

Backwoods CEO Shares Key Findings from 2012 Outdoor Industry Association Report
 $646 Billion Spent on Outdoor Recreation Last Year, Supporting 6.1 Million Jobs 

AUSTIN, Texas (August 13, 2012)—Backwoods’ CEO, Jennifer Mull, a member of the Outdoor Industry Association board today shared key findings from the 2012 Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) report that was released earlier this summer. The report aims to illustrate how outdoor recreation is a larger and more critical sector of the American economy than most people realize. Within the report are facts about the 140 million Americans who spent $646 billion on outdoor recreation last year, supporting 6.1 million jobs for Americans and creating $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenue. The report outlines the overall impact on the nation, and OIA is now analyzing the data further to create a new report that will be available in early 2013 with valuable statistics on the impact of outdoor recreation broken down by each of the 50 states. Commissioned by the OIA, this report is a follow-up and expansion of the previously distributed document and data from 2006. 

“The findings here show just how important this is [outdoor recreation] to our local and national economy and proves that the outdoor recreation industry can continue to be a growing generator of jobs and serve to strengthen the economy if we make the effort to invest in America’s parks, waters and trails. The research provides valuable insight on why investing in the outdoors benefits the entire community, from the jobs that are created and sustained, to the activities people participate in,” Mull, said. “Not only is the outdoor industry an economic driver and jobs generator, it’s the key supporter of local activities that help fund projects that keep our parks and trails open in the first place.”

Outdoor enthusiasts, as the report states, are not confined to traditional demographics or activity segments, they seek “meaningful” outdoor experiences in their own backyards and in different places across the country. Outdoor recreation includes people of all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and income levels throughout America. The report points out that garages filled with bicycles, dirt bikes, backpacks, boats, skis, tents, hunting rifles and fishing gear show a continued affinity with the outdoors, even in the midst of The Great Recession the country experienced since the last report from 2006. In fact, an analysis of comparable activities demonstrates that the outdoor recreation economy grew approximately 5 percent annually between 2005 and 2011, when many other industries contracted.

The report takes a conservative approach in tracking direct annual spending by Americans in pursuit of outdoor recreation across 10 activity categories (bicycling, camping, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, off-roading, snow sports, trail sports, water sports and wildlife viewing) and it is not inclusive of every activity that could be recognized as outdoor recreation.

Additional findings from the report are listed below: 

-The $646 billion is divided into two categories, $120.7 billion spent on apparel, footwear, equipment, vehicles, accessories and services, and $524.8 billion spent on food/drink, transportation, entertainment, activities, lodging and souvenirs/gifts.

-More than 725 million annual visits to state parks provided a collective $20 billion to communities surrounding state parks nationwide.

-Nearly 35 million people visit national wildlife refuges, supporting almost 27,000 private sector jobs and producing about $543 million in employment income.

-The National Park Service estimates $32 million would be lost per day if budget cuts shut down the parks.

-Americans spend nearly as much on snow sports ($53 billion) as they do on Internet access ($54 billion).

-Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips ($81 billion) than they do on airplane tickets and fees ($51 billion).

-Annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation is only third to “financial services and insurance” and “healthcare,” ahead of gasoline, pharmaceuticals and household utilities. 

-More American jobs depend on trail sports (768,000) than there are lawyers (728, 200) in the U.S. 

America is globally recognized as the leader in outdoor recreation. Advancements in technical apparel, footwear and equipment for outdoor activities are driving innovation and entrepreneurism, while creating a demand for highly skilled workers in areas like technology product design, manufacturing, sustainability and global commerce. These advancements have lead to diverse career opportunities that exist beyond product-related jobs. When Americans spend time in the outdoors, their spending directly supports professions like guides and outfitters, lodging operators, park managers and rangers, concessionaires, small business owners and many more.

“Our focus at Backwoods has always been getting individuals and families more involved in opportunities to explore the natural resources in their own backyards and across the globe,” Mull, said. “By choosing to spend more time outdoors, you’re not only creating memories that will last a lifetime, your financial support helps generate economic security and sustainability for generations to come.”

The report reminds readers that outdoor recreation is a growing and diverse economic sector that is a vital cornerstone of successful communities that should not be ignored and that the economic, social and health benefits of outdoor recreation are undeniable.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Patsy Pond Nature Trail (Croatan National Forest)

Ashley and I recently had the chance to do some hiking in Coastal North Carolina. One of the trails that we did was the Patsy Pond Nature Trail in the Croatan National Forest. This is a fun short trail that offers a great chance to see North Carolina wildlife in Coastal North Carolina. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: The trailhead to hike the Patsy Pond Nature Trail is located on Highway 24 midway between Cape Carteret and Morehead City, in the community of Ocean.  The trailhead parking area is 1/2 mile west of Croatan High School and across the highway from the NC Coastal Federation office. There is no cost for parking at the trailhead.

Description of Hike: The Patsy Pond Nature Trail area is a well maintained and well marked set of dirt hiking trails that are relatively flat. There are three loops set up for hikers to chose from. There is the green trail loop which is 0.75 miles roundtrip, there is the blue trail loop which is 1 mile roundtrip, and there is the yellow trail which is 1.9 miles roundtrip.  Ashley and I did the yellow loop which provides a great view of the larger patsy pond and is the loop that we would recommend to others. The trails in the park are marked well, with signs indicating the trail. The markers are color coordinated according to the trail that you hike. There are interpretative markers around the green and blue trails that provide information on the wide variety of plants and wildlife that are found in the Croatan National Forest. For a printable map of the trails click Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike in Coastal Carolina. Even though we went during the summer months we had plenty of cloud cover as we went in the morning. We saw toads, frogs, lizards, and plenty of deer tracks, however the best wildlife encounter we had was with a turtle that was crossing the trail. We took some pictures with the large turtle and helped him across the trail. When we went there was only one other car at the trailhead and when you go on  this hike, you have the chance to have the trails to yourself.

The Patsy Pond Nature Trail is part of Croatan National Forest. It winds through an area referred to as Longleaf Pine Flat Woods, which is an open woodland of longleaf pines with low growing herbs and shrubs. There are natural ponds and sinkholes, native flora and fauna along the trails. Encompassing 160,000 acres of coastal forest and wetlands, the Croatan National Forest is North Carolina's only large coastal forest and one of the few places where the pocosin (a subcategory of wetland) can still be found. A network of access areas features camping, 43.1 miles of hiking trails, fishing, picnicking, nature walks, boating, and more. The Patsy Pond Nature Trail(s) are open during daylight hours only. Additionally, if you go hiking here during hunting season which is October to February and April to May, you are encouraged to wear highly visible orange vests or hats.

A wide variety of wildlife inhabits this area. When hiking here you have the opportunity to see songbirds, wading birds, osprey, wild turkey, woodpeckers, white tail deer, gray fox, grey squirrel, flying squirrel, black bear, lizards, turtles, and snakes. Bottom-line is to make sure to have your camera ready as you never know when you will encounter wildlife.

RatingGreen Trail: Elevation Gain: < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 0.75 Miles Roundtrip (Very Easy). Blue Trail: Elevation Gain < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Easy). Yellow Trail: Elevation Gain: < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 1.9 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 0.5 - 2 hours.


Patsy Pond Nature Trail (This Post)

View Patsy Pond Nature Trail in a larger map

Monday, August 6, 2012

Loggerhead Sea Turtles Hatching at Emerald Isle

Sometimes things just work out right and the stars to align to see something wonderful in life. During our annual family trip to the outer-banks of North Carolina we had the opportunity to see Loggerhead Sea Turtles  Hatch and make the journey from their nest to the Atlantic Ocean. The whole event lasted about an our of waiting and was over in about 15 minutes as they went to the ocean. This particular nest had between 80 to 100 eggs hatch. The United States Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting season runs from about May to November. Nesting takes place nocturnally and at 2- to 3-year intervals. Three or four clutches may be laid in a season at intervals of approximately 12 days. Clutch size averages around 115 eggs with incubation requiring 49 to 68 days, about 55 days being average. The hatchlings generally emerge at night. Limited information indicates that turtles reach sexual maturity in 12 to 30 years. These pictures are a little grainy, due to the fact it was dark and red lights were used to observe the turtles due to the fact they will travel toward white light, but they definitely came out great and can give you a glimpse of what these turtles look like.