During a time when we’re all looking for safe adventures in smaller towns with outdoor activities, Hendersonville, N.C., checks all the boxes. Located just south of Asheville, this Blue Ridge Mountain town is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest. Hendersonville’s vibrant downtown and creative culinary scene combine with its natural setting to make for a well-rounded destination. Hendersonville has one of the most welcoming downtowns in the region. Stop by the Visitor Center on Main Street for a map of shops, restaurants, museums and more. Photo by Sam Dean. MorningTake an informative hike at Holmes Educational State Forest. What was once a nursery developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s is now a living classroom with five miles of trails, including the “talking trees” trail that educates hikers about different species and their uses. The Gorge Zipline promises spectacular views of Green River Gorge. Photo courtesy of Gorges Zipline MorningGo full throttle at The Gorge Zipline. Billed as the steepest, fastest zipline in the country, the experience includes 11 ziplines, a sky bridge, and three rappels. As you cruise through the treetops, enjoy the pristine view of 18,000 acres of preserved Green River game land. Day 1 Fun FactWhen Hendersonville was established in the 1840s, one of its founders decreed that Main Street should be wide enough to turn around a wagon pulled by four horses. That early planning continues to serve the city well. Today the curvilinear Main Street is pedestrian friendly with public art, outdoor dining areas and flowering brick planters. Day 2 AfternoonEarn your pint of beer aboard Hendersonville’s pub cycle. HVL Pedal & Brews books tours to downtown breweries and tasting rooms. Five breweries lie within pedaling distance. Those averse to cycling shouldn’t fret—an electric motor will kick in if you give out. EveningBook a spacious room at Cascades Mountain Resort. Kids delight in the indoor pool with a 110-foot water slide, while adults enjoy the secluded hot tub. The hotel’s Old Orchard Tavern has a full bar serving craft spirits and an award-winning chef who wows diners with well-executed nightly specials. AfternoonHit the trail at the brand new Ride Kanuga mountain bike park. Founded by world-champion downhill racer Neko Mulally, the park features 12 downhill-specific trails suitable for all ability levels. Located on 1,400 acres at Kanuga Camps & Conference Center, the park’s trails descend from Wolf Mountain through old-growth forest. Cover photo: At Ride Kanuga, start at the top of Wolf Mountain and choose one of 12 trails — from beginner to expert — to reach the bottom. photo courtesy Ride Kanuga VisitHendersonvilleNC.org EveningDowntown Hendersonville is home to 25 independently owned restaurants. Choose from authentic Italian, funky tapas, traditional Carolina ’cue or farm-to-table fare that showcases some of western N.C.’s finest producers. For a nightcap, head to the rooftop bar at Shine or The Poe House, a cozy spot that’s a favorite of locals.
Many scientists have presumed that sharks and their kin have evolved little since they first appeared millions of years ago. But newly described, well-preserved fossils of a creature near the base of the shark’s family tree contradict that notion. The remains of Ozarcus mapesae—embedded within chunks of rock (one example, photo) laid down as sediments 325 million years ago in what is now north-central Arkansas—are the first of the shark lineage from that era to be preserved largely intact with body parts in lifelike arrangements. (The flexibility of the shark’s cartilaginous skeletons usually means such carcasses become flattened if they survive decomposition.) Although Ozarcus clearly lies within the lineage of sharks, rays, and their close relatives, high-resolution CT scans of the fossils (one example, digital image) reveal that the archlike structures supporting the creature’s gills (yellow in digital image) were arranged like those in bony fishes (osteichthyans), the researchers report online today in Nature. Furthermore, gill arches in the Ozarcus fossils were separated by small bits of cartilage found in some species of bony fish and their relatives but previously unknown in any living or extinct chondrichthyans. Ozarcus’s unexpected blend of traits indicates that sharks and their kin have evolved substantially since they first appeared. The last common ancestor of sharks and bony fishes probably didn’t have gill arches arranged like those in modern sharks—which, in turn, suggests that the oldest known species of bony fishes can likely provide more information about the earliest jawed vertebrates (a group that today includes humans) than early chondrichthyans can, the researchers contend.See more ScienceShots.