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December, 2020

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Roanoke Appalachian news

Winter Forecast

What will the winter season provide for the Appalachians here in Roanoke? As you know, long-term  forecasts deal with probabilities and averages and are no better than the data and models they use. It's not surprising that many long-range forecasts often tend toward an "average" winter, and this one is no different. No one is sticking their neck out to say brutal or warm winter; the consensus of meteorologists is for near average, maybe slightly milder in Roanoke. This, however, does not take into account daily or weekly fluctuations. In our experience, an average winter in Roanoke consists of cold, wintry periods followed by mild snaps, which cancel to "average." So, if you're in Roanoke to do some hiking, do a little research and see if you can choose one of those mild snaps. Then, the time you do spend on the trail will be well worth it!

McAfee Knob Parking

Parking at the McAfee Knob trail-head has become a battle between police and visitors. In our experience, if a visitor does not get to the lot by 9 am, they are shut-out, with little choice of parking afterwards. Recently, a spree of towing was enforced, not on the main 311 route, but on a side road connected to 311. Many visitors balked because the Old Catawba Road lacks any "No Parking" signs. Cars parked on 311 next to no-parking signs were left alone. Following this incident, it appears police have made changes at the location to help visitors better understand parking. A sign and cones placed during busy periods are to inform those looking for a space not to use certain places on Old Catawba Road, or be vulnerable to towing. In any case, it is wise to plan a hike to McAfee at times that are not crowded, and get there as early as possible if you desire parking.

Planetary Conjunction

We always keep our eyes opened to the celestial skies for interesting opportunities. A spectacular one is due this month for all to see. As reported in many articles, the appearance of Jupiter and Saturn meeting in our skies should motivate many night-sky spectators. Though, this is not a truly night-time event, the best time to see it will be at dusk. Bring binoculars or a telescope and look westward after sunset, where the sun set, and watch the co-joined pair appear as darkness falls.

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Rescue Alert

It happens every year, people are rescued on trails throughout the Appalachian region. Photos were recently released showing scenes from a rescue near Mt Rogers in November. Rescuers went to great lengths to reach the patient who was successfully transported and cared for. Sometimes it can be something as simple as an ankle injury which turns into a rescue scenario such as the one in PA last May. These events remind us that we all need to be wary and plan for hiking activities. It may not be wise to go-it-alone on long hikes where there are few travelers to come upon when in distress. Winter conditions may also be a consideration. At the very least, advise people of where you are going to hike or get a knowledgeable friend or experienced guide to assist your journey along our magnificent Appalachian trails!