Everyone has their own unique personality and approach to life.  This section gives 10 Top Five lists of interesting books, movies, famous people, and environments that have impacted my life.  This section will not be used in class for any purpose; it is simply for reading pleasure.  Enjoy.
    Top Five Books That Have Inspired Me
            5.      Between a Rock and a Hard Place  by Aron Ralston
                               Aron and I have many similarities and I envy his ability to have taken his experience and put it out there in a book so quickly.  Aron was hiking in the canyonlands of the Southwest when a boulder fell from above and pinned his arm against the canyon wall.  He survived for six days trapped before amputating his own arm to free himself.  I love that Aron was so free to write his thought process while approaching death.  Very captivating!  Aron's story has been turned into a critically acclaimed movie, "127 Hours."
    Aron Ralston
           4.      Gertrude     by Hermann Hesse
                                Hermann Hesse has a way with words that really appeals to me.  Most people wouldn't think that a novel about love, rejection, friendship, and music would be on my top five list; however, Hesse's chapters flow almost poetically and I feel a connection to several of the characters in the novel.
           3.        Into the Wild          by Jon Krakauer
                                Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into Thin Air (narrowly missed my top five), tells the story of Chris McCandliss.  Chris, or Alex, or Supertramp, or whatever he wanted to be called, lived life free of possessions and attachment.  He went on great adventures of survival in wild places, including Alaska.  Alaska was his ultimate adventure and it ended up being his last adventure.
    Into the Wild
           2.         Walden            by Henry David Thoreau
                                 Thoreau certainly doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat with his style of writing, but at Walden Pond he built a cabin and lived for two years writing his experience down.  Thoreau describes everything from his shelter, to the plants, to his daily thoughts and wanderings.  I often consider my property my own Walden Pond.
           1.        Siddhartha         by Hermann Hesse
                                 Hesse, my favorite fiction writer, makes the top five again.  Siddhartha is a character in India that begins life in a wealthy family, leaves the family to pursue answers to his questions about the purpose of life.  He experiences many different lifestyles and talks to many religious people, but none of it seemed to bring him the peace he sought.  He eventually finds peace living with a ferryman alongside a river where they ferry people from one side of the river to the other.  He learns that the river is the teacher he had sought and completes his life at peace.
    Top Five Movies to Watch
           5.        Gorillas in the Mist 
                             Gorillas in the Mist is based on the 1983 book by naturalist Dian Fossey.  Dian Fossey devoted her life to the study of primates while traveling into the deepest regions of Africa.  It was mountian gorillas that eventually got all of her attention.  She fought for their survival and inspired millions.
    Gorillas in the Mist
           4.         Rescue Dawn
                            Not that I ever wanted to know what being held captive in a strange country was like, but Rescue Dawn keeps you captivated and hoping that good will prevail over evil - of course there are plenty of blurred lines between good and evil in this movie.  Christian Bale displays it all; comedy, arrogance, fear, anger, insanity.  Great drama, based on a true story.
    Rescue Dawn
          3.          The Cove
                             A former student of mine told me about The Cove and another student let me borrow a copy of it.  I was stunned.  It is the most powerful documentary I have ever seen about one single issue - the slaughter of dolphins in a hidden cove of Taijii, Japan. 
    The Cove  
          2.           Into the Wild
                              Along with the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder, this is a gripping true story of Chris McCandless.  I also selected Into the Wild as a top five book by Jon Krakauer.  The movie does an honest job of representing the characters surrounding Alexander Super Tramp.
    Into the Wild
            1.          Star Wars Episode V : Empire Strikes Back
                              Every Star Wars geek has a favorite episode, but for me Episode V has it all.  Yoda trains Luke, Luke discovers the true identity of his father, Han and Leia fall in love before Han is frozen in carbon.  The soundtrack, the script, the settings are all masterful work by George Lucas.
    Star Wars
    Five Awesome Places I Have Been in the United States
            5.         Haleakala National Park  (Hawaii)
                                  My parents took our family to Maui to celebrate their 40th Anniversary.  When I think of "awesome" places, they have to inspire shear awe at the beauty and energy of a landscape.  Haleakala crater at sunrise brought awe.  It was cold and extremely windy, fogged over, and excitingly unbearable...then the sun appeared as a light in the fog below us for a moment before exploding at the horizon, blowing all the clouds away to reveal the crater in colors of red, orange, yellow, and black.  This is something I really want to do again in my lifetime.
            4.         Acadia National Park           (Maine)
                                    What a great variety of landscapes Acadia has to offer.  Rocky coastlines covered in fog coming in from the North Atlantic and waves smashing against boulders.  A hike up on Cadillac Mountain revealed a beautiful gorge.  Summertime weather in the 70's make Acadia a beautiful respite from the hot North Carolina summer.
    Acadia coastline
            3.         Yosemite National Park        (California)
                                     My brother would laugh that I've included Yosemite since he was with me when things didn't go quite as planned.  Yet, the grandeur of Yosemite is extraordinary.  It's really been since my trip there that I have grown so attached to John Muir and the reading about his passion for Yosemite is inspiring.  There are no parks in the East that compare to Yosemite, but it seems that you need to, as Muir did, hike there for years to even begin to see it all.
           2.          Great Smoky Mountains National Park          (North Carolina/Tennessee)
                                      Going to school at UNC-Asheville, I often went to Great Smoky.  Everytime I go I say to myself, "Why don't you come here every weekend?"  There are trails with trees that rival the largest in the world.  I love the idea that around any corner in the park you are likely to find a tree that is a champion of its species.  Sitting on one of the many rocky overlooks along the trails to peek out of forest and across these Southern Appalachian mountains really helps to slow the days down.  I recommend going often for all North Carolinians.
    Great Smokey Mountains
          1.          Olympic National Park             (Washington)
                                 The Hoh rainforest was the place that really cemented in me that I needed to go to the Amazon.  It's not that they are even closely similar, but dominance of green over all other colors drew me in.  Douglas firs as big as redwoods, ferns everywhere, and moss carpeting the forest floor.  There was hardly a centimeter of area not covered in something green.  At sunset I stood on the bank of the Hoh river and watched a group of 30 or more elk grazing on the other side, it was majestic.  
    Hall of Mosses  
    Five Famous People That Have Inspired Me
          5.           Aldo Leopold
    Aldo Leopold
                         Aldo Leopold is known as the founder of wildlife ecology.  Reading his biographies, and in particular, "A Sand County Almanac;" which is one of the best writings on ecology, has helped to shape how I view the world.  Some of my favorite quotes of Aldo Leopold are:
          "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
             "Out of the clouds I hear a faint bark, as of a faraway dog. It is strange how the world cocks its ear to that sound, wondering. Soon it is louder: the honk of geese, invisible, but coming on.  It is warm behind the driftwood now, for the wind has gone with the geese. So would I--if I were the wind."

    "The flock emerges from the low clouds, a tattered banner of birds, dipping and rising, blown up and blown down, blown together and blown apart, but advancing, the wind wrestling lovingly with each winnowing wing. When the flock is a blur in the far sky I hear the last honk, sounding taps for summer."
               My favorite Aldo Leopold quote:  "The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."
            4.         Rachel Carson
    Rachel Carson
                       Through much of her professional career Rachel Carson was known for her writings on ecology, but now she is most famous for her book "Silent Spring" which details the damaging effects of pesticide use.  For me, Rachel Carson is particularly inspirational in how she motivated youth, and especially young women, to pursue science as a career.  Embedded within all of Carson's writing was the view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly.  Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer.  Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.  Some quotes from Rachel Carson are:
             "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
               "To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be."
               My favorite Rachel Carson Quote:  "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."
           3.          Chico Mendes
    Chico Mendes
                       Chico Mendes grew up in a family of rubber tappers (also known as seringueiros).  Rubbing tapping has been practiced for generations in the Brazilian Amazon.  It is a process by which one harmlessly extracts sap from rubber trees, which is then used in such products as car tires, pencil erasers, and even Tupperware.  Rubber taping is one of the many ways in which the resources of the Amazon are exploited without permanently harming the ecosystem.  It is a sustainable agricultural system.  Chico Mendes led a fight to preserve rainforest for the seringueiros.  Cattle ranchers opposed the protection of rainforest from thier operations and had Mendes murdered in 1988.  His death made Chico Mendes a martyr, a symbol for the world to rally behind in order to preserve the Amazon.  Some quotes from Chico Mendes are:
                   "At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity."
          2.          John Muir
    John Muir
                       John Muir is the most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist.  As a wilderness explorer, he is renowned for his exciting adventures in California's Sierra Nevada, among Alaska's glaciers, and world wide travels in search of nature's beauty.  As a writer, he taught the people of his time and ours the importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage.  His writings contributed greatly to the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks.  Some quotes by John Muir include:

    "A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease."

    "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

          1.         Henry David Thoreau
                      Thoreau grew up with a close bond to his older brother John, who taught school to help pay for Henry's tuition at Harvard.  While at Harvard, Henry read a small book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, and in a sense he never finished exploring its ideas -- although definitely on his own terms.  When Thoreau was 28 he wanted to write his first book.  He went to Walden Pond and built his cabin on land owned by Emerson.  While at Walden, Thoreau did an incredible amount of reading and writing, yet he also spent much time "sauntering" in nature.  He seems to have wanted to use words to force his readers to rethink their own lives creatively.  He certainly spent his life rethinking his, always asking questions, always looking to nature for greater intensity and meaning for his life.  Some quotes by Thoreau include:

    "As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."

    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."



    Top Five Ways to Exercise
               5.              Playing Soccer
                             I began playing soccer when I was about 5 years old.  It is a beautiful game.  I'm not as quick as I used to be, but it is still a lot of fun to knock a ball around.  My favorite two moments playing soccer were (1) Scoring a nice left-footed, upper 90, shot to beat Page on Senior Night.  The win sealed a conference championship for East Forsyth; and it was on my birthday; and (2) Playing barefoot on Sundays at the village of Sao Francisco in the Amazon.  I would paddle almost two hours with Helio, who worked at the hostel, up to the village to play for a few hours and paddle back.  It was an amazing way to connect with the people.
              4.              Canoeing
                             Canoeing can be a tough upper body, core, and cardio work out, but most of the time I prefer to stroll around swamps or paddle through some class 2 and 3 rapids.  Canoeing rivers is a great way to cover some ground, challenge yourself, and be in nature.  In the picture below, I'm standing up while paddling in Merchant's Millpond.  Standing up gives you a greater view over all the bald cypress and tupelo gum tree stumps and mounds.
               3.             Running
                              There is something peaceful about running alone for miles and miles with only your own thoughts to keep you moving.  I find it a perfect way to begin a day or unwind after a long day.  It is also the best cardio workout for me.  I like to run around Salem Lake or on my own running trail, called Dorian's Chase (named after a ferret that chased ducks); here I'm participating in a family run - my grandpa clearly won.
     Family Race
               2.             Playing Basketball
                               I didn't start playing basketball until I was a teenager.  Basketball combines aerobic running with anerobic jumping for a total body workout.  Basketball has become a form of expression for me with creative dribbling and passing skills.  It's all about having fun and trying to win.
     KMS Student v Staff Game
               1.            Hiking
                               Hiking beats your body up, so it's hard to call it my favorite way to exercise - but all the pain is completely worth the experience of being high on a mountian or deep in a swamp, alone on a trail.  We are really lucky to live in North Carolina where we have easy access to an incredible diversity of hiking trails.  Great Smokey Mountains National Park is a perfect place for day, weekend, and week-long hikes.  I try to go to Great Smokey a couple of times a year.
     Bamboo Grove
    Top Five Sports Teams to Cheer For
              5.              USA Women's National Soccer Team
                                Women's soccer has come a long way in the past 15 years and the USA is leading the transformation.  Players are more physical, have stronger strikes of the ball, and are more tactically sound nowadays.  Going to see the gold medal game at the 1996 Olympics was a highlight for me.  It also helps that I have a crush on Carli Llyod.
     Team USA
               4.              USA Men's National Soccer Team
                                I tend to prefer to watch teams that play with real solid possession of the ball like Brazil, Spain, and Argentina; but cheering for your country adds a bit more emotion to it.  The men's team is right on the brink of being able to compete with any team in the world - I think it is an exciting time for USA soccer.
     Team USA
              3.             FC Barcelona Soccer Team
                               Barcelona seems to be able to draw in the best players in the world when they are in the prime of their career.  I first switched from a Real Madrid fan to a Barcelona fan when Barcelona picked up Ronaldinho.  Now it is Lionel Messi.   I think these kinds of players run a little more free and attack defenders at the club level rather than for their national teams. 
               2.             Brazil Men's National Soccer Team
                               My favorite soccer moment of my life that didn't involve me playing was celebrating in Parintins during the Boi  Bumba Festival in the Amazon while Brazil won the 2002 World Cup.  They call it "O Jogo Bonito" - "The Beautiful Game."  They don't refer to the game of soccer itself, but to a style, a flair, a passion, a creativity, a love of the game.
               1.             UNC Men's Basketabll Team
                               Basketball is the most exciting sport to watch, in my humble opinion, and there's nothing finer than to be in Carolina!  What an amazing part of the country to be in for college basketball (UNC, NCST, Duke, Wake, et al)!  People debate this, but comparing Carolina to Duke or Wake - I look at it like I've chosen to cheer for the everyday person.  Carolina is the state school, Duke and Wake are where doctors and lawyers go; it costs $40,000 or more a year to go there.  As far as basketball goes, I respect Duke, The Cameron Crazies, and Coach K because Cameron Indoor and the UNC-Duke rivalry are the epitome of why college basketball is tops in sport.
    Top Five Coolest Native Trees to the Piedmont
             5.              Flowering Dogwood           (Cornus florida)
                               I felt that my list would be missing something if the North Carolina state tree were not included.  Dogwoods are well known for their early flowers (white, yellow, red, or pink); but for me the dogwood is best on display in the fall when the leaves begin to turn a crimson red dotted with the little red berries.
              4.              American Sycamore            (Platanus occidentalis)
                               Sycamore, poplar, and cottonwood are the three largest eastern trees, but the sycamore is distinguished best by its beautiful flaking bark.  It certainly is not that flashy in the fall with its muted yellow to brown change, but the size and bark along with the big sycamore fruits make is a remarkable tree.
            3.               Black Walnut                     (Juglans nigra)
                               Black Walnut is most prized for its valuable wood, but it is a beautifully designed tree.  Dark black bark, compound leaves sparsely spread in the canopy, and often some unique twists and branches make it stand out in a creekside forest. 
     black walnut
            2.              Sourwood                          (Oxydendrum arboreum)
                               The sourwood has so many characteristics that make it a wonderful NC tree.  The early summer dangling white flowers remain on the tree for weeks, the curving shape allows it to squeeze in the tightest of forest areas, and the brilliant red fall color really brightens a mountainside.  If that were all that was awesome about the sourwood it would be in my top five, but the leaves also have that great sour taste when chewed on that helps to push it to the top.
           1.               Shagbark Hickory              (Carya ovata)
                               Hickories are underrated trees in the piedmont forest.  Wildlife depend on the nuts, they provide tremendous shade, and the wood is of top quality.  The shagbark hickory is the most interesting of the hickories - especially when really large.  The bark layers and peels of to make old trees look like old men with long sgraggly beards.
     Shagbark Hickory
    Top Five Influential Scientists
             5.              Galileo Galilei
                              Galileo was the central figure in the scientific revolution of the 17th century.  He is known for defending and making known the Copernican system, using telescopes to examine the solar system, inventing the microscope, dropping stones from towers and masts, playing with pendula and clocks, being the first real experimental scientist, advocating the relativity of motion, and creating a mathematical physics.  Some quotes from Galileo include:

    "I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."

    "Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not."
             4.              Jane Goodall
    Jane Goodall
                              Jane Goodall is the world's foremost authority on chimpanzees.  She has observed their behavior for over 50 years in the jungles of the Gombe Game Reserve in Arica.  Jane Goodall is an inspirational woman that shows that with imagination and determination one can break free to live a life of adventure and accomplishment.  She has written many books that have helped to educate both children and adults.  She is certainly one of the most inspirational figures alive during my lifetime.  Some quotes from Jane Goodall include:

    "Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference."

    "There are an awful lot of scientists today who believe that before very long we shall have unraveled all the secrets of the universe. There will be no puzzles anymore. To me it'd be really, really tragic because I think one of the most exciting things is this feeling of mystery, feeling of awe, the feeling of looking at a little living thing and being amazed by it and how its emerged through these hundreds of years of evolution and there it is and it is perfect and why."

            3.               Charles Darwin
                              Darwin is most known for his work on natural selection and that has certainly been a key foundation in our understanding of evolution.  Darwin valued nature and spent much of his days hiking and exploring, including his trips to South America to wander the rivers of the Amazon, sail around the treacherous southern tip, and doing scientific studies in the Galapagos.  These adventures are what makes Darwin a hero for me.  Some quotes from Darwin include:
         " How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children."

          "A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives - of approving of some and disapproving of others."

             2.               E.O. Wilson
    E.O. Wilson
                              E.O. Wilson has been a Harvard professor for four decades.  During that time he has written 20 books and discovered hundreds of new species - mostly ants.  He is considered to be one of the world's greatest living scientists.  Dr. Wilson's research interests include evolutionary biology, sociobiology of social insects, and ethical philosophy.  E.O. has done field research throughout North, Central, and South America as well as many areas of the Pacific islands.  E.O. Wilson's lifework commands much respect from me.  Some quotes from E.O.Wilson include:

     "If those committed to the quest fail, they will be forgiven. When lost, they will find another way. The moral imperative of humanism is the endeavor alone, whether successful or not, provided the effort is honorable and failure memorable."

    "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction."

             1.               Albert Einstein
                              Einstein is undoubtedly the most known scientist in history.  He completed an astonishing range of theoretical physics publications.  The most well known of these is Einstein's 1905 paper proposing the special theory of relativity.  Later in 1905, Einstein showed how mass and energy were equivalent expressing it in the famous equation:  E = mc2.  This equation became the cornerstone in the development of nuclear energy.  Nuclear energy is possibly the energy of the future, but as of yet it has only been used to destroy the lives of millions in the form of weapons of mass destruction and it has created a tremendous amount of radioactive waste that scientists have not come up with a legitimate way to dispose of.  However, it was Einstein's work in his later years that is most fascinating to me.  He worked at Princeton University until the end of his life on an attempt to unify the laws of physics.  He spoke up about the use of nuclear weapons and was a proponent of peace.  Some quotes from Albert Einstein include:
    "I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.

    The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

     Top Five Major Scientific Breakthroughs
     5.  Mendel's Pea Plant Experiments
    Gregor Mendel dedicated his life to understanding how genetic traits are determined.  His research laid the foundations of a tremendous advancement in agriculture; through the selecting of desirable traits.  Geneticists after Mendel used his work as the beginnings of understanding chromosomes and genes as well as their role in genetic traits.
     Gregor Mendel
    4.  Invention of Photovoltaic Solar Panels
    I wouldn't normally include an invention as a major scientific breakthrough, but I believe that the second most significant problem facing our planet (after habitat loss) is air pollution that leads to climate change.  The demand for electricity is only bound to increase as humans further progress, but that demand must be met with zero air pollution emissions or our planet and ourselves will face dire consequences.
     Solar Panel
    3.  Human Genome Project
    The Human Genome Project has mapped out the entire set of 23 pairs of chromosomes down to the gene, dna, and amino acid level.  This provides the structure of every trait in our genetic makeup.  The possibilities for using this information to treat illness, select traits, or understand our genetic history are endless.
     Human Genome Project
    2.  Charles Darwin's Study of Finches of the Galapagos Islands
          Darwin conducted observations of the different species of finches on the islands.  Darwins' observations provided the research that supported his theory of natural selection.  His work unleashed the framework for how species came to exist in each habitat.  It makes sense, as we study genetics, that favorable traits can be passed down to out compete less adapted traits.
     1.  The Quantum Leap
       In the early 1900's four primary scientists were blowing the minds of people with their ideas about the behavior of sub-atomic particles.  Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrodinger opened up a new branch of science called Quantum Physics.  It's amazing how the different fields of science all piece together to explain "life."  The biologists at the cellular level, the chemists at the molecular level, the physicists at the atomic level, and now quantum physicists at the sub-atomic level; each helps the next understand their field better.  It is with this reasoning that I put quantum physics as the top scientific breakthrough, because the deepest explanation of how our universe works that we have.
    Top Five Places to Hike in North Carolina
              5.            Hanging Rock State Park
                                   Part of this is biased since I have a great view of Hanging Rock State Park from my house, but the trails in the park are really well done.  The park offers sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, views of the piedmont plateau that stretch for miles.  Eighteen miles of trails may not sound like a lot, but the trails in the park are designed to offer a good variety of what Stokes county has to offer hikers.
    Lower Cascades
              4.            Stone Mountain State Park
                                    Stone Mountain itself is an awesome 600 foot granite dome, but the park has Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock along with a few magnificient waterfalls.  I've been on Stone Mountain at some near perfect times as well as some scary times.  I love thunderstorms, but being exposed on bare rock is a little daunting.  I love snow, but climbing Stone Mountain while it is covered in snow and ice is scary.  But that's what makes Stone Mountain a fantastic place to hike in North Carolina.
    Stone Mountain
            3.             Pisgah National Forest
                                     Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina is often referred to as the "Land of Waterfalls."  Pisgah covers over one million acres in North Carolina.  I've had some great hikes in places like Shining Rock Wilderness Area, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and to quite a few waterfalls in the Brevard/Transylvania County area.  Pisgah National Forest is North Carolina's greatest forest.  There has been mixed management over the history of the forest, but there is the potential for progress that is being made now to result in one of America's greatest forests.
             2.             Linville Gorge Wilderness
                                     The Linville Gorge is actually a part of Pisgah National Forest, but I wanted to separate it out because it is so special.  It is the Grand Canyon of North Carolina.  The Linville River, over hundreds of thousands of years has carved out one of Eastern America's most scenic and rugged gorges.  Trails follow the cliff edges with fantastic views of the river valley and the opposite cliffs. The east and west ridges are dotted with many small canyons to explore. These contain interesting creeks, canyon walls, occasional waterfalls and lots of rugged beauty.  The Linville Gorge is widely thought to be the most difficult hiking in North Carolina, and one of the most wild places in the Eastern United States.
     Linville Falls
              1.             Great Smokey Mountains National Park
                                   I feel I have a connection to Great Smokey; I went to school in Asheville and spent a dozen or more weekends hiking the park.  Since moving back to North Carolina in 2004, I keep feeling drawn into the Smokies.  There are trails that can get you anywhere in the park, but the park is so vast that it still feels like I have a lifetime of exploring left to do there.  I've been slowed down because I keep wanted to go back to places that I've already been.  Right now Gregory Bald is on my list to return to, as is Mt. Sterling, and the Forney Creek Trail.  The trails are well established but well cared for, the mountain streams amid ferns and mosses are gorgeous, and the areas of old growth forest are one of the few remnants left on this continent.
     Great Smokey Mountains