As I've mentioned here many times, one of my all-time favorite spots in the southeastern USA is the Black Mountains of North Carolina. We really do have some genuine high country here in the South, and these are the very highest of our peaks. Hike up there and you are in a very different kind of place than you find yourself in most of the region. Everything about them is different. Since the climate on these high peaks is similar to that of southern Canada, you will find a completely different experience from what you are accustomed.
Since the weather is like that of a thousand miles north, then the vegetation is also going to be unique. Firs make up the bulk of the forest along the spine of the Blacks, which is how they got their name. From a distance these gigantic summits look black from the dense forests of dark green balsam and spruce trees. Through the late 1960s and into the 1980s these fantastic forests were leveled by the twin effects of acid rain and the invasive pest known as the balsam wooly adelgid. These were similar to the monstrous plague that are currently destroying our hemlock forests. In the case of the balsam adlegid, though, they swept through the forests and pretty much killed them down to the last old tree. Since they can only invade older trees with seamed bark, the saplings that came up behind them were spared. Are these bugs gone, now? Did they eat themselves into oblivion? So far, the balsam forests have recovered and seem quite healthy. But the adelgid could return, and the energy companies are always screaming to be allowed to pollute the air. So stay tuned.
From the high ridge that rises up from the Montreat area, there are a number of bare summits that afford wonderful grandstands of the Black Mountains. I was fortunate enough to be able to create some good panoramas from my visit there last week.
|Some of the major peaks of the Blacks. This was created from shots taken on Pinnacle. This is the highest ridge line in the eastern USA. It doesn't get any higher than this in the south (or the entire east, for that matter).|
|I stitched this one from photos taken on Graybeard Mountain, just beyond Rocky Knob.|