Bloggers, and that includes me, dream of being the next Julie Powell. She won a book and movie deal by chronicling her year-long effort to cook every recipe in Julia Child's seminal book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The movie based on Powell's blog and Child's life was Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep. So I dream, and meanwhile, the Web is full of outdoor blogs and social networks, but here are a few of my favorites, which focus on the Southern Appalachians, allow comments and are updated at least once a week.
Go Smokies is a social network created for "lovers of the Great Smoky Mountains," and it's hosted by knoxnews.com (the Knoxville News-Sentinel). The blog section is very active and chock full of individual opinions: "Are the bears getting out of hand?" attracted 40 comments (most members say that it's the people who are getting out of hand). On the other hand, a public hearing on the National Park Service got no comments. Public-affairs staff for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park peruse the site to gauge the mood of the locals.
This photo blog, sponsored by the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, offers content produced by Deep Creek Arts, a marketing firm from Whittier. You'll find blog posts about such topics as autumn colors, Fontana Lake and happenings in Bryson City.
Jeff Doran of Louisville, Ky., has been blogging about the Southern Appalachians since May 2008. He monitors other sites and checks out press releases from parks and forests in the Blue Ridge. His latest postings include information about the potential landslide on the Blue Ridge Parkway and instructions on sealing a tent. You'll also find ads for Smokies-area cabins, and Doran also sells hiking gear and Smoky Mountains-related books through his online, Amazon-affiliate store.
Tom Mangan had a great following when he lived and blogged in San Francisco. Now a Winston-Salem resident, he hikes in the Western North Mountains. He's opinionated and fun to read, especially since he brings a fresh view of the Blue Ridge.
"My ulterior motive for starting Two-Heel Drive was that somebody in the outdoors industry would notice the blog, put me on their payroll and essentially pay me to hike and blog." It worked: Mangan now has a full-time job writing Web-based gear guides.
Dan DeSetto, an electrical engineer from South Carolina, writes a very personal blog about his trips into the Blue Ridge. "I started my site as an easy way to share my hiking experiences with my parents in Florida and have been blogging since February 2009." His entries are long and detailed with lots of pictures. I don't know why he calls himself "Old Dan," but that's a distinctive URL.
Sharon McCarthy, a hiker and blogger from Charlotte, walked all the trails in the Smokies in a year, starting at age 50. Her blog focuses on her outdoor adventures in the Southern Appalachians.
"I started the blog because I hiked the Smokies as a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts. I wanted to let [the contributors] know what I was doing. I'm keeping it up because I'm still hiking, and it's fun to keep a record for when I get old." McCarthy is working on climbing all the mountains higher than 6,000 feet (the South Beyond challenge), so she's got lots more to blog about.
This blog from the Great Smoky Mountain Association has short entries on what's happening in the park. The blog includes many videos and outstanding pictures from readers.
This is my blog, in which I detail my hiking trips and muse on park and forest issues. Lately I've been preoccupied with my Elk Bugle Corp volunteer work in Cataloochee. But for the coming season, I'll be hiking at lower elevations.
Chris Nelson, a former writer for The News & Observer (Raleigh), blogs about public lands in North Carolina. His factual blog includes trail and road closings and outdoor happenings all over the state.
"I started this blog in May 2009 as a companion to my Web site, Carolina Outdoors Guide. You can search by park names, and anything I've blogged about it will show up along with Web site pages."
This excellent and opinionated blog on National Parks, written by freelancer Kurt Repanshek, is dedicated to everything and anything dealing with America's national parks. Repanshek and his colleagues sift through developing news events and press releases every day. With an emphasis on the facts, the site now has 100,000 readers. The Web site recently posted an interview with Jon Jarvis, the new director of the National Park Service. Says Repanshek, "It's truly a labor of love for my colleagues and me."
[Danny Bernstein, a hike leader and outdoor writer, can be reached at email@example.com. She blogs at www.hikertohiker.com/ThisHikingLife.
"Are the bears getting out of hand?" ask Go Smokies networkers; most members say that it's the people who are getting out of hand.]