Entries For: July 2012
Biltmore could be made to prove what America did not yet understand - that trees could be cut and the forest preserved
That was a quote from Dr. Carl Schenck, a German forester who came to work for George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s. He brought with him the seeds of what became the first school of forestry in the United States. This history and the concept of sustainable forestry is captured at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest.
I took my two granddaughters to the Cradle of Forestry mostly because I hadn't been there for a long time. It consists of a building and two one-mile trails.
The Biltmore Campus Trail winds through the Biltmore Forest School where Schenck held his classes. This shows Schenck's office, house and the student quarters. From what I can surmise, he was the only teacher. He lectured, held hands-on "labs" and even preached on Sundays. His was the ultimate one-room, one-teacher school house for college-aged students.
The Forest Festival trail shows how Pisgah was managed. But, let's be real - as they say - all the kids and their adults flock to the portable sawmill and the logging train.
The plaques around the sawmill point out how dangerous a sawmill was. You could lose a finger or even a whole hand. Isn't that gruesome? And my older granddaughter had to take a picture of the sign.
In the building, there are serious and fun exhibits on managing forests today. But I noticed that most visitors came without children.
This excursion would be coupled with a visit to Looking Glass Falls and other Blue Ridge Parkway sites.
So would a visit to the Cradle of Forestry be a good excursion for the ATC Biennial, next year?
This weekend, Asheville is celebrating Bele Chere - three days of music, art, food and booths by nonprofits. And like most people, we walked around, looked at art and ate. But I also talked to environmental nonprofits to see what their issues were.
The Dogwood Alliance had a "case against KFC". Their argument was that KFC was destroying southern forests, in particular, the Green Swamp in North Carolina. Now, you have my attention. I am writing my book on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail; I am steeped in the swamp, so to speak.
But where is the Green Swamp and who owns it? The people staffing the booth couldn't tell me. Was is public or private? They had no idea other than it was someplace in eastern North Carolina. We know that; it's not in the mountains.
I checked it out on the web. Some of the Green Swamp is owned by the Nature Conservancy.
Now, I'm fairly certain that the Nature Conservancy is not letting KFC or anyone else take trees from the Green Swamp. So there must be other parts of the Green Swamp that are private.
According to the Dogwood Alliance, International Paper manages the other land in the Green Swamp. But who are the owners of the Green Swamp land? Why aren't they identified? I couldn't find the answer on the website of the Dogwood Alliance or anyplace else.
Why go after those who buy the wood rather than the companies who cut down the trees in the first place?
And why are the people who staff the booths so clueless?
For 11 months, Hannah worked in the Waynesville office. She did a lot of PR work for Friends, ran tables at various events, and helped Holly in many other capacities. She also helped me scout hikes that I lead for Friends. But the Americorps program only lasts 11 months and it was time to say goodbye.
The Americorps program is the Domestic Volunteer Service program, formed out of the old VISTA program. Volunteers work in various nonprofits groups and get a "living wage" stipend. Nonprofits get a chance to employ an eager college graduate for a while without making a long-term commitment.
Hannah is the woman on the right (as you're facing the picture) in the top row. We wish her luck and thank her for her service. She'll be staying in Asheville as she moves on in her life and career.
Did you plan to go hiking with Carolina Mountain Club? Did you listen to the rain and thunder and decide to turn over and sleep a little longer, instead?
If so, you missed a great hike. I was scheduled to lead a hike today. It was raining when I got up, raining when I got ready for the hike and still raining when I got to Westgate, our meeting point.
But I had listened to the weather forecast and they said that the storm was heading eastward and our hike was heading westward to Big Creek in Smoky Mountains National Park. Five other hikers obviously thought the same way. By the time we left Westgate, it was drizzling. By the time, we got on I-40, it was dry. And it stayed dry the whole hike.
Big Creek must be the easiest 10.6 miles in the park. The trail follows an old road and it climbs ever so gently for maybe 1,000 feet. We talked, looked at flowers and even saw a black snake. Maggie was getting ready to go on a backpack in California. Lee told me about an awesome rafting trip she had taken.
OK, we also gloated and felt sorry for all the people who didn't hike today.
When we got to campsite #37, we saw a family with three adults and three children camping. They were spread out with several tents, rain flies and homemade tables. They said that they had come in last night for a "little vacation". The woman didn't like the fact that I took a picture of the campsite.
On the way back, we stopped at Midnight Hole, a large pool created by rocks that had tumbled just right. It was early afternoon and there were dozens of people playing in the water and jumping from rocks. See above. It was like Coney Island in the Smokies.
So the six of us had a wonderful time. There's always a reason not to go hiking - too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too far, too long, too easy (yes, I've heard hikers saying that some hikes were too easy to bother with). But time to hike is precious, so next time, just come.
This past Monday, I hiked the whole Black Mountain Trail in Pisgah National Forest.
Coming down the trail, I was surprised to see a brown carsonite sign with a white MST sign. The official MST is miles away around the Blue Ridge Parkway. Where did this sign come from? It looked very official.
Once upon a time, there was an MST alternate. Years ago, as the MST around the Parkway was being built, Friends of the MST and Carolina Mountain Club designated other trails to guide hikers through Pisgah. The MST Alternate was marked with blue circles. Obviously some circles turned out to be marked white.
A couple of years ago, the MST Alternate was decommissioned. There was no need for it. The official MST was now fully built in the Pisgah District and signed correctly. You can find the details in Walt Weber's book.
But somehow the signs were never corrected. I'm going to alert the officials in Pisgah District but I'm not going to hold my breath on them replacing the the signs any time soon.
Get a map. Don't get lost.
As you know, Great Smoky Mountains National Park suffered great damage from a storm a couple of weeks ago. This is the latest assessment of the trails that were affected. There is plenty of hiking on other trails. So you should probably stay away from the extreme western end of the park.
BACKCOUNTRY STORM-DAMAGED TRAIL STATUS
ALL TRAIL USERS ARE ADVISED TO BE ESPECIALLY OBSERVANT TO HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH FALLEN, BROKEN OR WEAKENED TREES AND OTHER POSSIBLY HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS. (CS stands for Campsite.)
The following trails are closed to all traffic:
Scott Mountain (campsite 6 is open and accessible only from Crooked Arm/Indian Grave Gap)
West Prong from Tremont Road to CS 18. (Open from Bote Mountain to CS 18. CS 18 is open.)
Rabbit Creek + CS 15
Ace Gap Trail
Beard Cane + CS 11 & CS 3 (Remains closed from 2011 Tornado Damage)
Goshen Prong Trail + CS 23
Today we had the largest group ever at a Friends of the Smokies hike. It may have been the hike or the distance to the trailhead or the promise of a ranger talk at the end.
We started out at Purchase Knob, also known as the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center. It's a 535 acre site with a building which houses scientists and welcomes school children. For a contrast to this comfortable, modern structure, we walked to the Ferguson Cabin, one of the first dwellings at the top of the Knob. See the picture above which features some of the hikers on the trip today.
Then we made our way to Cataloochee Divide Trail. Rosebay Rhododendrons were still in bloom, as were bee balm and fly poison plant, which looks like bottle brush.
We passed by the Swag and had lunch at Thunderbold Knob on the Cataloochee Ranch property. I had never been to this spot, always aiming for the top of Hemphill Bald.
Back down, we took the nature trail at the Swag. It featured Dan's Hideway with a platform, a few chairs and a hammock. Dan Matthews is one of the owners of the Swag.
Hannah E., the Americorps intern, was celebrating her last hike with Friends of the Smokies by resting on the job and enjoying the hammock.
Back at Purchase Knob, Ranger Paul Super gave us a brief talk on what goes on at the learning center. Scientists study the climate and climate change at Purchase Knob and how it may affect certain plants like the common cone flower. They can then create rain models. Ranger educators hosts middle-school children and engage them in research and data collection based on the work of scientists.
The Science Center is open May 1 to October 31. You may visit if you call ahead. Otherwise, you can always stop by the building by walking from Cataloochee Divide Trail.
The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be to Mt. Cammerer on August 9. Hope to see you on the hike. To register, call Holly at 828.452.0720
Today I had the privilege to hike with a woman who finished all the trails in Pisgah National Forest.
Sawako J. should really be proud of this accomplishment. The trails in the Pisgah District are rugged, steep and not always well-marked. But it is only by finishing a hiking challenge like the Pisgah 400 that you really learn the area.
According to her records,
"There are 122 trails on the latest P400 list and the total is 456.9 miles."
But of course, to finish 456.9 miles, you must repeat many sections that you've already done, so she may have hiked 600 miles.
Sawako reports that "the first trail I did was #358 Graveyard Field Loop trail on September 27, 2007."
Today's hike, her last, took us up Club Gap Trail and on Black Mountain Trail - 10.6 miles and 1,800 feet of ascent. This is a typical all-day hike in Pisgah. Of course, one of the challenges and joys of doing all the trails is that there are short bits of trail that you would never do unless you're doing all the trails.
Her favorite summer hike was #102 Big Creek to #353 North Mills River where she enjoyed many wet creek crossings.
Her favorite winter hike was # 117 Slick Rock Falls, #601 Sunwall and #132 North Face trails to see three different faces of Looking Glass Rock up close. If you are lucky
you can see rock climbers in action.
Carolina Mountain Club administers several hiking challenges. For the Pisgah 400, it's real simple. Buy the National Geographic map #780 for the Pisgah Ranger District and hike all the trails on the map. There's a form on the CMC site which lists all the trails. Keeping good records is key to success.
When you're done, let the contact person for this challenge know that you've done them. No one checks. It's all on the honor system.
Another year of Family Nature Summit has come and gone. Of course, it was a great week. How can you not have a good time with a bunch of friendly, active people next door to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The hikes were fabulous. I learned a lot of the history and culture of the area and my granddaughter had a great time. She caught up with her friends and made new ones.
It would be difficult to pick out one highlight. But if I could only choose one, it would be Tuesday. I had gone to a program with a park ranger where I learned that picas live in the tundra. The animal that Hannah and I saw around Beaver Meadows a couple of days before could not have been a pica; it probably was a groundsquirrel.
I couldn't wait to pick up Hannah from her Junior Naturalist program to tell her that but she beat me to it. Her group had gone up to the tundra where she saw marmots and picas.
She greeted me with "Grandma, we didn't see picas the first day. They only live up in the tundra."
If there are highlights, there must have been a lowlight. I dropped my camera into the stream and it died. I've written enough about this but I was so lucky to be able to use people's cameras and photographs. Thank you!
I'm home now in Asheville, North Carolina with a pile of laundry. My husband is driving Hannah home to Ohio with her own pile of laundry.
It's time to turn back to my life in the Southern Appalachians. Next week, I'm helping a friends finish her Pisgah 400 hiking challenge and I'm leading a hike for Friends of the Smokies. And I have to keep working on my book on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Could this be the last full day of Family Nature Summit?
Hannah was in a trash fashion show last night, showing off the recycled jewelry that she made the first day.
This morning, I went on a hike to Bridal Veil Falls in the West Creek Research Natural Area of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is just outside of Estes Park from the Cow Creek Trailhead. We went through the McGraw Ranch. The ranch was bought by the National Park Service in 1988 and turned into a site for the Continental Divide Research Learning Center. Scientists stay in the refurbished cabins and study the Rocky Mountains environment.
The trail started out wide and open through ponderosa pines and aspens, then climbed gently along side Cow Creek. The last part was rocky but we reached the waterfall at about 10:30 am. We scampered around the rocks and climbed to the top of the waterfall, not the safest thing to do but the views were beautiful.
The walk back was an easy stroll and a good way to end today's activities. As you know, my camera died so I was dependent on the kindness of others for photos.
It turns out that Hannah's group also went to the McGraw Ranch but I didn't see her.
Then they finished their journal and practiced their skit for tonight.
This is camp, so the last evening is always skit night. Hannah's group sang In the Tundra, the mighty Tundra, to the tune of In the jungle, the mighty jungle. Then they showed a slide show of all the people and activities of the week.
We leave early tomorrow morning.
Next year, it's Bar Harbor, Maine. Acadia National Park, here we come.
Fourth day! Is Family Nature Summit coming to an end?
I spent the morning with Junior Naturalists, Hannah's group.
Twelve kids, all who finished the 2nd or 3rd grade, and two teachers walked to Moraine Park Visitor Center and History Museum. The walk was as important to the kids as the museum. We took a back way from the YMCA and walked about an hour or so. For some children, it was a piece of cake, for others, it was a struggle.
The museum was well-done for children. Lots of big, big print and pictures describing the varying terrain of Rocky Mountain National Park - Montane forest with pondarosa pine, subalpine with spruce, pine and fir and the tundra.
The building itself used to be the Steads Ranch. A fireplace and a typical room with a bed upstairs show what it was like in the late 1800s.
Then we walked back and met Bruce L. by the stream to do aquatic studies. I started taking pictures of Bruce and the children and dropped my camera in the creek. Dead in the water though I'm trying to dry it out by putting in a ziplock full of rice. But with the help of some friends, I was able to resurrect my pictures.
Enos Mills Cabin
Enos Mills (1870 to 1922) is the John Muir of the Rockies. He came to the Rockies as a 14 year old and soon built a cabin near Lily's Lake, just outside what is now the National Park. He could see Longs Peak out of his one window.
He became a guide and naturalist and an advocate for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park.
His granddaughter and greatdaughter are still keeping the flame of Enos Mills going.
You can learn about Enos Mills from their website or from one of Mills many books. He was also an accomplished photographer and I bought a print of his cabin in winter. I plan to write an article on this visit.
Thank you to Chris Meyer for the pictures of the cabin and Longs Peak.