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.

Seven Spectacular Rail Trails for Fall

These former rail routes feature generally easy grades, lots of rich history, inviting pit stops and plenty of fall foliage. The Appalachian Mountains were the first formidable obstacle to America’s railroading boom—a vexing challenge for engineers. Still, by the late 1800s, the region was crisscrossed with rail lines, linking remote, mountain-cradled communities and expediting the extraction of the region’s natural resources—especially coal and timber. But, this railroading boom was relatively

Fall foraging along the Potomac River — Potomac Conservancy

Flowing more than 400 miles from the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia to Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River shapes a wide variety of habitats, winding through a landscape rich in biodiversity. For centuries, the wide array of plant communities along the river has been vital for sustaining regional wildlife, from monarch butterflies to black bears. The seasonal availability of wild fruits, grains, seeds, and nuts provides essential calories for wildlife at critical times of the year—for instance

The Southeast’s Disappearing Grasslands

These native habitats, and their ecological benefits, are nearly gone. But there are efforts to save what’s left. Nestled in the suburbs of Baltimore, there’s a scrap of land that could be the backdrop for a classic Western film, a patchwork of rock-riddled grasslands and savannahs studded with stunted blackjack and post oak trees. This swath of habitat contains the largest intact barrens remaining on the East Coast. Now protected as the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, this strip of

Lights Out

Dark skies are scarce in the United States, especially east of the Mississippi River, where light pollution hinders views of the cosmos, particularly in urban areas. Nationally, about 99% of the population experiences a phenomenon known as sky glow, the illumination of the evening sky over inhabited areas. In the United States, there are 85 Dark Sky Parks certified by the International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona-based nonprofit that seeks to preserve the night sky by reducing light pollut

5 ways trees are affected by the climate crisis – and how they help combat it — Potomac Conservancy

Trees and forests are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Forced to contend with increasingly frequent droughts, wildfires, and severe storms, forests are profoundly affected by the warming planet. But, they are also one of the best ways to help combat the effects of a changing climate—locally as well as globally. In the Potomac River region, the climate crisis is already altering weather patterns, causing heavier precipitation and higher seasonal temperatures. For instance, in Washington,

Am I "outdoorsy" enough? — Potomac Conservancy

Outdoor recreation can be joyful, challenging, and deeply rewarding—and comes with incredible physical and mental health benefits that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. In fact, just last year, the United Nations General Assembly even adopted a resolution officially proclaiming ‘access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment’ to be a universal human right. But, is spending time outside for fun truly accessible to everyone? According to the Conserving and Restoring Am

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
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