Tennessee saw its' first snow on December 1st, and what a glorious day it was in the Appalachian Mountains! The powder stashes were lurking along the higher elevations straddling the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. With some ski resorts opening a bit later than planned, it was an opportunity just waiting to strap the snowboard on and head for the hills.
Cover Photo By: Megan Burnette
Grab a Friend
No adventure is truly complete going solo. Having a friend to share the journey with raises every outdoor experience up a level, plus you can watch each other's backs in the face of danger. The neat thing about bootpacking Appalachia is there is no worry about avalanches.
A cold, windy day on top of East Coast mountains in higher elevations can still prove to be brutal. And if you are not adequately prepared, these mountains can be very dangerous. Extreme winds combined with single digit temps can quickly turn a fun sitch into a disorienting and treacherous one, so know your skill level and grab a buddy before heading out on a DIY adventure in snowy conditions.
East Coast Backcountry Checklist
Gloves & Liners
Performance Socks (I prefer Stance)
Boots (A must for bootpacking)
Steed of Choice (I ride switch on an outdated Roxy Silhouette that in my opinion ages better with time, though my peers will you tell you it's like an old embarrassing pick-up truck~ shrug)
Warm, cozy hat
Face Mask (Plenty of these around)
Let 'er Rip
Photo By: Megan Burnette
After a heavy snow, the best part about sunrise is throwing your snowboard into the truck and heading out for a snow day on the mountain! First tracks on the road and early bird (or only bird) on the mountain is a motto to live by, because if you know you know. There is no feeling in the world better than fresh tracks in fresh powder. Toss in a dose of treelines and earn-your-turn carves, and you can place all your bets it's gonna be one heck of a great day.
Let's just put this out there- adventure girl's days are the BEST THING EVER. Getting outside with the girls for some fresh air, trekking up a mountain, and exploring new ground together is priceless. As we get older and life takes us on new paths, it takes effort to keep and grow our friendships- so these moments are truly a blessing.
While our friends on the West Coast see upwards of 12"+ of that good-good snow, we salute you and will continue to watch the forecast here in Tennessee, dance our butts off for snowy weather, and seize every opportunity we can for a couple hours of that backcountry pow.
Mountain Biking is not only a challenging outdoor sport but also a culture of growth for any community it arises in. The community engagement that comes along with the mtb culture goes far beyond the sport. It starts with interactions at the local bike shop to networking in group rides, and eventually volunteering to build and maintain trails.
While freshly groomed trails are a perk for bringing tourism to our hometown region, it’s important to share and build our community together as locals. The local engagement at Winged Deer Park brings a sense of community to this area like no other. The park has evolved from lakeside movies and volleyball to emerging disc golf champions and one of the best after-work riding spots around the Tri-Cities.
Cover Photo By: Collin Wheeler
Roll the Bones
The sport of mountain biking is a great way to build confidence personally, as an athlete, and on a social level. Starting out on green trails and advancing by speed, climb, or drops are just a few examples of how you can build up your skill level. While building skills, you are also stacking the foundation of confidence that will not only carry over into your next bike ride but also throughout aspects of daily life. Completing that trail or hitting that jump you’ve been eyeing down will boost endorphins and have you feeling overall in a more positive mood.
Roll the Bones, a black diamond trail at Winged Deer Park, is a great confidence builder with long rock gardens, boulder drops, and plenty of ground to practice and grow in the sport.
It’s important to know your skill level when leveling up to black diamond trails like Roll the Bones. Seasoned riders will roll their bikes through the riding area first to assess the landing and level of comfort for hitting jumps and drops. It’s important to have your bike tuned ahead of time or rent one from a local shop who will do this for you.
YYZ is the park’s newest trail! This one is rated blue but can ride like a black with plenty of room to get speed and air. After an immediate rock roll and jump into the valley, you pedal up to a large boulder roll and three back-to-back jumps.
Have fun, know your limits, and make new friends to build skills with. If you don’t feel confident the first time, walk the bike back up and do it again. Community parks bring everyone together for a good time and are accessible for after-work evening rides or group meets. Winged Deer Park is close to town and a great playground to venture off to no matter what your skill level is.
The bike trails at Winged Deer Park have grown from pavement to boulder drops and big air jumps. This didn’t happen overnight, and it took dozens of sunrises and sunsets to grow these trails to where they are now. Volunteer organizations, like SORBA Tri-Cities, are why these mountain bike trails even exist.
Spend a day on the trails together, and ride away knowing each other on a whole new level. Biking is a fun way to meet new people and spend time outside. The best way to get to know the trails and the builders is to attend volunteer trail maintenance and building days. It is a great activity to make new friends, get to know the locals who make these trails happen, and appreciate the trails for more than just primo dirt. After a volunteer day, you will feel really good about taking a ride at the park knowing you contributed to the trail’s longevity.
.John Snyder, VP of SORBA Tri-Cities, has a passion for being on two wheels and keeping trails accessible for our community! Working with land managers and obtaining grant funding are only a small part of the formula for expanding a network of trails around the Appalachian Highlands region. Check out the video below to find out how you can get hands-on with building these trails!
It's FALL in East Tennessee, and the leaves are popping off in higher elevations! There are so many places to plan a scenic drive to, take a hike, or ride singletrack in through a wonderland of changing colors. No plans? Take a sporadic drive down the winding mountain roads of Appalachia this fall and witness the magic for yourself.
Don't know where to go and feeling spontaneous? Hop in the car with the fam, and let the road be your guide. When border hopping between East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, getting lost is actually preferred. It's where you lose the crowds and find the best views. Driving towards Asheville from Johnson City or vice versa like the Wagon Wheel song suggests, you could literally hop off any exit and end up on a back mountain road. Take the exit for Mount Mitchell and go see the colors from the highest point east of the Mississippi, or make your way towards the Blue Ridge Parkway for some of the best views you'll see in this lifetime. The hidden town of Chimney Rock is a true southern gem to explore. The farm nestled mountain country scenery will fill your heart and light your soul on fire as orange as the leaves that spread across these Appalachian hills.
What a time to be alive! This is the best time of year- pumpkin & apple everything, corn mazes, spooky classics and new releases like The Haunting of Bly Manor, and that warm cozy feeling that only comes with fall. Along with those lazy rainy days that are much needed and far too few, it's a great time of year to get outside and take a hike to see the foliage. The Appalachian Trail offers too many section hikes to name along the TN/NC border. Do an internet search and reach out to your favorite trail buddy to go on that backpacking trip you've been talking about for the last few years.
Mountain Biking has been stealing the show in the Appalachian Highlands. Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Bark is a hit, along with expansion on the Hampton Watershed trail system, and a rumor about a new bike park coming to Asheville. Nothing quite rides like biking in October through tangled arches of colorful falling leaves. There are many places to ride road & gravel, as well, like The Tweetsie Trail that starts in Johnson City and ends in Elizabethton. Be sure to stop in at Local Motion Cyclery for bike rentals and gear right on the trail. Just over the state line into Virginia, it's the busiest time of year to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail and no wonder why with dozens of colorful trees lining the way! Reserve your shuttle ahead of time.
Enjoy Appalachia, please respect local pandemic protocols and mandates, support small businesses during your visit like the ones in Tennessee's oldest town, and wave to everyone!
HAPPY FALL Y'ALL.
Traveler. Writer. Mom.