Sunday, June 07, 2009


Here in the Southeast, our mountains are pretty much walls of green. They are covered from base to summit, end to end, cove to ridge in the most vigorous temperate forest one could imagine. These are forests to rival any in the world. the Great Smoky Mountains alone there are over twice as many species of trees as there are in the entire continent of Europe. We have trees and shrubs and flowering plants of a dizzying variety.

And I challenge anyone to show me anything as beautiful as a mature cove hardwood forest of the southeastern USA. These forests are majestic. They are peaceful. They are packed from root to canopy with life.

And so, since it's such a rare treasure here in the South, most of us hikers and backpackers and waterfall wanderers are constantly searching for that isolated summit that is exposed, that is bereft of our precious forest cover. We search for them on the highest points, and along clifftops, and even on the false summits. When we find them we are actually happy to have them.

An unobstructed view is precious in our southern highlands.

And so, in my rambling in what we call our high country here in the East, I am always on the lookout for rock. For places where the bones of our ancient mountains are exposed to offer up the panoramas for which we hunger.

My hat's off to Southern rock.

Water keeps eating away at the most stubborn of caprock. It doesn't matter what it is or how high it is or how long it's been here. Eventually it'll all erode away and end up as sand on the coast.

Just before I took this photo a group of young rock climbers came picking their ways up the cliff face just beyond. Not my cup of tea, but I admire the folk who do that kind of thing. It takes nerves and guts and strength.

I love standing out on these rocky peaks. Nothing like looking at a 6,000-foot southern monster to make you feel small.

From Little Lost Cove Cliffs you can see the majestic peak of Tanawa/Grandfather Mountain. The highest in the Blue Ridge (5,964 feet above sea level.)

From the lower of the two Little Lost Cove Cliff peaks looking at the higher one.

A gnarled Table Mountain Pine struggling to earn a living on this exposed peak.

This is why there are so few panoramic views in the Southern Appalachians. Almost endless forests--among the most diverse and vigorous on the planet.

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