FROM THE TOP: While geocachers are usually looking for small containers stashed in precise locations, this group of local geocachers scoured an area above the Beaucatcher Cut to remove trash from the area a few years ago. The photographer, geocacher Graeme McGufficke, notes that the area is no longer accessible by foot. Photo by Graeme McGufficke

Geocaching community finds its way to Waynesvill­e

Less than 20 years old, geocaching is a new sport that’s gained a lot of ground in its short existence. Western North Carolina is prime territory for geocachers, who use GPS devices to find and hide containers stashed in precise locations around the world. The Haywood County Fairgrounds will host one of the country’s premier geocaching events on Saturday, May 27.

TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS: Asheville residents took to the streets of downtown on Saturday, April 29 in solidarity with the national People's Climate March. Photo by Max Hunt

In Photos: Asheville residents rally for People’s Climate March

Asheville residents turned out in scores to show solidarity with the National People’s Climate March on Saturday, April 29. The procession marched through downtown, waving banners and signs, and chanting slogans urging government leaders to recognize climate change data. The marchers, which ranged in age from small children to older residents (and a couple dogs), […]

GREEN THUMBS UP: Buncombe County Master Gardener Volunteers are ready, willing and able to help local residents with a wide range of plant and gardening questions and conundrums. Photo courtesy of Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Get growing help this season from local Master Gardener volunteers

The Garden Helpline of the Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers is now open to provide information, advice and and even a little handholding for anyone with a gardening-related question. The service is free, and volunteers are available by phone or in person at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension office.

QUALITY CONTROL: Two pollutants make up the bulk of the air quality monitoring oversight by the NC Department of Environmental Quality: ozone and fine particulates (PM2.5). From Bryson City to Lenoir, there are 11 ozone monitoring sites and five sites for PM2.5. The WNC Air Quality Agency conducts monitoring operations in Buncombe County, which also includes an urban air toxics monitor at A-B Tech. New this year is a sulfur dioxide monitor near the Duke Energy Progress plant in Skyland. Image from  Google, mapped by NCDEQ

Air apparent: monitoring air quality in the mountains

We all have to breathe to live, and the good news is that here in Western North Carolina, the quality of the air we all share is much better than it was just a few years ago. Across North Carolina, government employees are monitoring air quality and the associated health risks to make sure they stay within specified legal parameters. Meanwhile, citizen volunteers are also collecting data and working to make more information available to the public.

Western North Carolina farmers markets are springing up! At early spring markets, find fresh greens, spring onions and asparagus; meats, cheeses, baked goods, value-added farm products like preserves, and a wide selection of plant starts and, of course, flowers.

Springtime tailgate markets popping up: Where to shop this season

(Go to the bottom of this article for a listing of local tailgate markets) When the springtime flowers start popping up in the mountains, the tailgate markets are never far behind. Though the full harvest is still around the corner, many markets have already begun selling fresh, local foods in outdoor locations around the region […]

OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

BUILDING CULTURE: From the ancestors of the Ani Katuah to the first European settlers and later tobacco farmers, the evolution of human settlement and existence in the Southern Appalachians can be traced through the structure and buildings they erected to support their ways of life. The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University documents the evolution of built structures in its latest exhibit, Shelter on the Mountain, on display through May 28. Photo of an open cathedral-like hayloft of the 1951 gambrel-roof barn built by Delbert and Charlie Shelton in the Shelton Laurel community. By Earthsong Photography/ Don McGowan

Rural Heritage Museum highlights history of WNC barns

From the Ani Katuah to white settlers and tobacco farmers, barns and buildings have played a central role in defining the culture of the Southern Appalachians. Shelter on the Mountain: Barns and Building Traditions of the Southern Highlands traces the evolution of local building practices.