Malee Baker Oot

Malee is a freelance writer, outdoor enthusiast, and overzealous amateur photographer. She currently lives just outside Washington, DC with her sassy coonhound Baby Ruth.

The First Adventure

Six miles seemed like a doable distance. After all, the ride would be entirely flat. When I plotted the route to our backcountry campsite, Google Maps assured me that I could walk the entire way in about two hours. Cycling there should be a piece of cake. But, when I planned the three-day family getaway to Virginia’s False Cape State Park, there was one detail I hadn’t fully considered. Half the riders in our group were under the age of six – and their bikepacking skills were still to be determi

The Southeast’s Best State Parks for Trail Runners

Lace-up and pile on the miles at these scenic gems With some of the oldest mountains on Earth, and traversed by long-distance footpaths like the Appalachian Trail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the Pinhoti Trail, the Southeast is a spectacular destination for trail runners to log miles, especially in the region’s state parks. Here are just a few of the best places to hit the trails. Stashed away in a rugged corner of the Cumberland Plateau, Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is a portal to an exten

Ski an Old Coal Town That Nearly Became a Ghost Town

Just 50 years ago, the town of Davis seemed likely to become a ghost town. The story of the West Virginia hamlet read similar to other coal towns in the US: once-rich natural resources were depleted until the land ran dry and no work was to be found. But the region’s natural assets saved Davis once again. Thanks to its high altitude and abundance of snow, Davis went from a coal town to a ghost town to a thriving ski town. Perched at 3,100 feet, it’s probably no surprise that this highest town in

How the Humble Pepperoni Roll Became an Appalachian Staple

There are a lot of stereotypes attached to Appalachia and plenty of preconceived notions about the region’s culinary contributions. In fact, moonshine might be Appalachia’s most illustrious artisanal export. The region is often typecast as isolated, backwards and lacking diversity. But that’s not the reality. The mountain-riddled region extending from southern New York to northern Mississippi has been shaped by a mélange of cultures, from Appalachia’s original inhabitants, including the Cherokee

8 Haunted Trails in National Parks You Can Hike (if You Dare)

America’s national parks preserve some of the country’s most spectacular natural assets. And these protected areas also often have a rich past – but sometimes, that past is terribly tragic. Morbid historical events in many of these parks have inspired spooky legends that endure today, from tales of murder to mysterious illnesses. Though these haunted trails are great for Halloween hiking, they’re also fascinating places to check out year-round, especially for hikers on the hunt for spooky spect

Rolling On The Rivers: Best Paddling Trails in the Southeast

The Southeast holds some of the oldest and most biodiverse rivers on the planet. Home to everything from marshy coastal creeks to rapid-rippled mountain streams to slow-rolling blackwater rivers, the region is also especially rich in aquatic life, holding more than half the freshwater fish species found in the United States, and more amphibians than any other corner of the country. This means plentiful options for on-the-water adventures. For paddlers keen

Tackling Heat Inequity: For many US cities, building climate resilience also requires reckoning with their racist past

DURING THE SUMMER OF 1995, a sluggish air mass settled over the Midwest for a week, smothering the region with a stifling combination of high dew points and blistering temperatures. For five days in mid-July, temperatures hovered around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat index peaked at more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicago was the epicenter of the disaster. At the end of the heatwave, more than 700 of the city’s residents had died of heat-related illness. The majority of the fatalities were

The Wilder Side of the Outer Banks

The sun is just beginning to rise as I steer away from the Atlantic Ocean toward the wetland-dappled Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. It’s a Thursday morning and there’s little traffic. In the rearview, sunlight is spreading over groves of loblolly pine, and along the road, snow-white egrets are browsing the marshlands cradling the Roanoke Sound. The landscape rapidly dissolves into water as I cross the Roanoke Sound and then the Croatan Sound on Route 64, heading west toward the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. After the small town of Mann’s Harbor, the landscape instantly becomes wilder, the road edged with sawgrass marsh studded with spindly ghost trees, claimed by encroaching saltwater. I’m hoping to get to the refuge early enough to spot one of the region’s red wolves, among one of the most endangered carnivores on earth.

Paddle, Hike, or Drive To These 6 Sites for Adirondacks Camping in New York

Designated as “Forever Wild,” New York’s Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. A collage of forests, sprawling wetlands, serpentine rivers, and high peaks, the park was protected in 1892 – and today, encompasses more than 6 million acres, including 1 million acres of wilderness. The mammoth park is dappled with more than 300 lakes and ponds, and perforated by nearly 6,000 miles of rivers and streams. On dry land, the protected area is traversed b

5 State Parks for Camping on the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is an ecological wonder. The third largest estuary on the planet, the Bay stretches for more than 200 miles, cradled by Maryland and Virginia, and edged by more than 11,680 miles of tidal shoreline. A highly-productive ecosystem, the massive estuary harbors more than 3,600 species of animals and plants, including rare marine creatures like Atlantic sturgeon, basking sharks, and North Atlantic right whales. Of course, the Chesapeake Bay is also an economic powerhouse, churning

Pitch Your Tent at These 10 Rad West Coast BLM Camping Spots

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 245 acres of public land across the United States – nearly 12 percent of the entire country. While some land under the agency’s purview is dedicated to managing natural resources like ores and timber, the BLM also oversees more than 35 million acres of what they call “National Conservation Lands.” That includes national monuments, wilderness areas, and national scenic trails. Most of these National Conservation Lands are in the West and focu

The 8 Hardest Mountain Biking Trails in the US, From Moab To Tahoe

From the red rock deserts of the Southwest to the leafy summits of the Blue Ridge Mountains, America’s most striking natural features have also inspired some of the country’s most extreme mountain biking trails. Studded with bone-rattling rock gardens, technical stretches of slickrock, adrenaline-charged drops, and ledges to inspire vertigo, these rides are not for beginners – or the faint of heart. With routes across 20 different states rated as Epics by the International Mountain Biking Assoc

The 6 Best Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls and Swimming Holes

Shared by North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is anchored by one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth. As a peak-rippled portion of the extensive Appalachian chain, the Great Smoky Mountains are home to a staggering array of flora and fauna scattered between pine, spruce, and fir forests, among others. And they’re all fed by generous rainfall. In fact, the Smokies have the highest annual rainfall in the southeastern United States, with higher elevations receiving

5 Backpacking Trips for Beginners Ready to Explore

Ready to make the leap from casual hiker to full-on backpacker? The Blue Ridge is full of accessible escapes that are just remote enough for first forays into backcountry overnights. From spruce groves in the mountains to isolated wetlands near the coast, here are a handful of beginner-friendly destinations with easy-to-follow routes and minimal elevation change. Spread over the flanks of Spruce Mountain, a knob-studded ridgeline in West Virginia’s branch of the Allegheny Mountains, the Spruce

Celebrate a Return to Travel with These 15 Iconic Hikes • Mindful Escapes

After a year of hunkering down, borders are opening and travelers are ready to rediscover the world. These 15 iconic hikes, detailed by travel writer Malee Baker Oot, offer a chance to celebrate the world from a new perspective. The planet is crisscrossed with epic trails, from the Alps to the Andes. There are snowy summit trips for fleet-footed peak-baggers, long and leisurely rambles for wildlife lovers, and everything in between. While the options are almost infinite, here are a few epic hik

The 8 Best Ski Resorts on the East Coast

The East doesn’t lack for mountains — or formidable winters. Still, east of the Mississippi River, massive mountain chains — like northern New York’s Adirondacks, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia — have been drawing skiers for nearly a century, since the days slopes were serviced only with rope tows and solely reliant on the natural powder provided by Mother Nature.

These Are the 10 Biggest Ski Resorts in the World

For skiers, these places are the stuff of dreams. Winter wonderlands with infinite alpine acreage, where snowfall is a sure thing, and skiers have limitless opportunities to carve fresh tracks in untouched powder. Beyond the sheer size, the planet’s biggest ski resorts are also nestled into some of the most spectacular mountain chains on earth – the Alps, the Dolomites, and the Rockies. Of course, these life-list getaways also have been plenty of après ski amenities – meaning serious pampering i
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