The U.S. Forest Service encourages visitors to the National Forests of North Carolina to use caution when recreating this winter because of additional hazards in the woods.
Natural settings have inherent risks and winter weather can increase the danger. Falling trees and branches are an ever-present hazard; the addition of snow and ice makes tree failure more likely. Visitors should be especially cautious when entering areas burned by recent wildfires because fires may have killed or weakened trees. Fire and the freeze-thaw cycle can loosen rocks which can roll onto roads and trails. Motorists and hikers should also be aware of the potential for icy conditions on shaded areas of roads and trails.
Know before you go. Many places in the forest do not have cell phone service. Plan and prepare accordingly. Check with the National Weather Service before your trip so you know what weather to expect but be prepared for changing conditions. Contact your local Ranger District office to get the latest information about current trail conditions and seasonal closures.
* Know your limits and choose activities that are appropriate for your physical condition.
* Use appropriate tires and footwear and adjust your speed or pace where there is snow or ice.
* Carry emergency kits containing water, food, blankets, and matches.
* Dress in layers which can be adjusted to the conditions and bring extra clothing in case you get wet.
You can click here for more outdoor safety tips.
If the wildfire recovery in the Southern Appalachians is anything like what I saw in Rocky Mountain National Park a couple of years ago, we may see quite an abundance of wildflowers next spring. While hiking to Granite Falls in 2014 we passed through a zone that was burned by the Big Meadows Fire during the prior year. We were expecting to see total desolation, but in fact we were treated to some relatively unique photographic opportunities. There were literally thousands and thousands of wildflowers sprouting along the forest floor, which marked the beginning of the natural renewal process.