Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wilderness Etched by Man

When you're hiking the mountains of the South, quite often you will see some kind of man made structure on, or near the summits of many peaks. In some cases, you will come to an abandoned fire tower. I quite like these, as they didn't really do anything to harm the summit, and they served a good purpose. It's sad to see them slowly falling apart. Here in the eastern USA, the Forest Service seems content to just allow them to rot, and they don't treat them with any respect at all, not even as historical pieces of architecture.

The Mount Sterling Fire Lookout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Another type of structure often encountered are stairways and fences. The stairways are to allow easier access to summit features and to waterfalls. These are okay in some places and don't bother me. In fact, I've encountered a few such stairways and fences that are quite pleasing to look at. And the fences are there to keep the morons from dancing around the edges of cliffs and waterfalls and plunging to their deaths. Sometimes the fences work, and sometimes they don't.

Stairway beside Stone Mountain Falls in Stone Mountain State Park (NC).

One time I climbed a peak in West Virginia called Potato Knob. It's not a very high mountain, but the climb was quite tough. It was what is known as "Class III" climbing. Not dangerous, really, but pretty much straight up and hand over hand in places. When I reached the top I found a park bench! What the hell? I then realized that there was a much easier trail to the top and I assume that was the one used to haul in the lumber, hardware and tools.

Park bench on the summit of Potato Knob, West Virginia.

And in a few cases the man made stuff is bare bones. On the summit of Mount Craig, the second highest peak in the eastern USA, there are logs placed to keep hikers from venturing onto sensitive sub-alpine plant habitats. These seem to be doing the job and I've rarely encountered hikers straying off the path to trample the fragile plant communities.

Trail logs on Mount Craig, North Carolina.

At any rate, here are some of the things I encountered when I climbed mountains in late 2004:

One of the cooler towers I've visited, on Moore's Knob in Hanging Rock State Park (NC). It was once a fire lookout but was altered into this fine viewing platform. A really neat place.

A fence to keep the morons from falling off the second highest cliff in the eastern USA on Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC.

The roof of the summit house on top of Sharp Top Mountain at the Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

The Icewater Springs Shelter along the Appalachian Trail just below the summit of Mount Kephart in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The parking lot and tower on the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern USA. This tower no longer exists, having been replaced by the as-yet-unopened new tower. This was a cool tower of unusual design. I was sad to see it replaced. (This is a telephoto shot taken from Mount Craig.)


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Love the geometry of the stairs, Bob. Look up Starved Rock. You might find a pleasant surprise.

HemlockMan said...

Yes, stairs on mountains are very cool. The striking geometry against the amazing slope. Two other great staircases I've encountered on mountains were on a set of waterfalls in West Virginia, and the ones heading down into a gorge in Georgia.

I'll probably post those in the next installment of my blog.