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125 Gators...126 Gators...127 Alligators in Okefenokee Swamp

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125 Gators...126 Gators...127 Alligators in Okefenokee Swamp

When I decided to kayak 10 miles out to a platform campsite in the middle of a Georgia swamp I figured I'd see some gators. I had no idea I'd see well over a hundred!

127 gators. That's how many alligators I'd seen since I set off from the Suwanee Canal entrance of Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia at 10am on April 14. I know because I kept count.

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The Lightning Storm and the Stone: Standing Indian Loop on the Appalachian Trail

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The Lightning Storm and the Stone: Standing Indian Loop on the Appalachian Trail

Standing Indian Loop on the Appalachian Trail: How a myth, a storm, and friendship can electrify your perspective

A long time ago, in the area where Franklin, NC now sits, local Cherokee told a story of a winged beast that swooped down from the skies and stole children. Heartbroken and desperate, the local villagers sent a warrior to the highest mountain to keep watch for the winged monster and to discover its lair. The warrior found the lair, but it was in a place in the mountains inaccessible to humans, so the Cherokee villagers prayed to the Great Spirit for assistance. The Great Spirit heard their pleas and sent thunder and lightning to destroy the winged monster. The lightning scarred the surrounding mountains but the warrior, afraid for his life, tried to abandon his post. To punish his act of cowardice the Great Spirit sent a bolt of lightning to the mountain summit, leaving a bald and turning the warrior to stone. From that day forward the mountain was called Yunwitsule-nunyi which means "where the man stood." 

Today we call it Standing Indian Mountain. The bald is still there, as well as the rock scars on the sides of the nearby mountains, but the rock shaped like a man is crumbling, forgotten to all except those that know to look for it.

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Winter Olympic Sports - Finding the Hot Spots to Try Cold Sports in North Carolina

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Winter Olympic Sports - Finding the Hot Spots to Try Cold Sports in North Carolina

Even though NC might not be a mecca for winter sports, here are some spots to try out those cool Winter Olympics moves

Growing up in a place where snow days are called whenever patches of ice form on the road it took me a long time to appreciate winter sports. What is this snow? What is this sled or skate or ski or board? If you've never been exposed to something - anything really, much less frigid temps and an insane urge to go outside and play in the ice - then it can be hard to relate to something. And yet winter sports seem so appealing. Is it the elegance of figure skaters, the frightening speed of luge, or seeing someone seem to fl in the ski jump? And yet the lack of winter weather can make winter sports seem so inaccessible.But not anymore! Check out these hot spots for cold sports in North Carolina!

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The Call of the Long Distance Trail

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The Call of the Long Distance Trail

How long distance trails can become embedded in our psyche

I don't know when I first heard about the Appalachian Trail. It seems like I've always known about it, like it was some seed of knowledge that was embedded deep in my psyche before I was even born, but I must have learned about it at some point. Most likely I was just exposed to bits and pieces of information about the trail and so I learned about it piecemeal. Even the first time I set foot on the trail - on a day hike in Virginia with one of my best friends from college - I hadn't quite grasped the true meaning of the trail. I understood it existed and I understood you could hike it. I even understood that you could thru-hike it if you were crazy enough to love mountains and pain and you disliked showers and soft beds, but I certainly didn't grasp that there was an entire culture of people who lived and breathed the trail.

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10 Challenges You Should Do Instead of the Tide Pod Challenge

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10 Challenges You Should Do Instead of the Tide Pod Challenge

Forget eating detergent and instead try these awesome outdoor challenges!

You all know I L-O-V-E a good goal or challenge, from running streak challenges, writing streak challenges, year-long goals, monthly goals, and everything in between. My pea-sized attention span needs something to latch onto and tackle to prevent me from jumping around from one shiny thing to the next (oooh shiny!) And while the challenges I tackle tend to be oriented around a personal goal - be a better writer/runner/hiker/biker/climber/person/etc. - I can enjoy watching a good fad challenge like the next person who is bored at work (I mean...stuck in traffic. No no I mean waiting in line at the coffeeshop! That's the one.) Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Or the Mannequin Challenge? Or even the Harlem Shake Challenge? Ah, good times. But I do draw the line at certain challenges - like the recent Tide Pod Challenge. Here are my votes on challenges to avoid and challenges to tackle (spoiler: they involve the outdoors, shocking!)

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Bullhead Mountain

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Bullhead Mountain

Exploring trails at private mountain retreat in the snow

This recent snow from the "bomb cyclone" or whatever cute name we're supposed to call it calls to mind the trip McCrae and I made to Bullhead Mountain a few weeks ago. It had snowed a few days before we drove up to a small town outside Boone to stay at a mountain cabin owned by McCrae's uncle and aunt, and in the morning when we pulled on our warmest hats and coats the drifts lay deep in the mountain shadows.

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