Sunday, February 01, 2009


A truly spectacular mountain here in North Carolina is Looking Glass Rock. As NC mountains go, it's not that high--only a tad under 4,000 feet in elevation. However, it's a pluton and has some tremendous cliff walls, making for some of the most challenging rock climbing in the eastern USA. I'm not into rock climbing, but I appreciate the sport and I do enjoy hiking to the tops of these mountains.

The first time that I climbed Looking Glass Rock the hemlock trees were still healthy, and the sucking insects that were soon to infest them had not stricken them a mortal blow.

I look back on that hike and have mixed feelings about seeing the forest in its more or less intact state. I've since gone back, and the hemlock mortality is pretty much 100%. But on that high summer day, when I made that initial hike, the forest was dark and green and pleasing to see.

I will miss it terribly.

The trail, passing through a classic hemlock and cove hardwood forest.

You may be able to make out the "H" painted on the surface of the exposed rock. This is to mark it as a helipad. It's used for rescue missions when folk get lost or injured on or around Looking Glass Rock.

The trail as it delves deep into the shadowed woods.

This poor hemlock tree lived a long, difficult life clinging to a steep cliff face, only to be laid low by a tiny bug brought here from the other side of the planet. (I haven't been back to check, but I am sure it's now dead.)

This is the reason most people hike to the summit of Looking Glass Rock: the view.

The water was pouring over the cliff edge the day I was there. Here it was, gurgling away at the event horizon. I almost fell off that day.

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