Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heath Tunnels

If you go hiking in the southern Appalachians you will hike through a heath tunnel. All of the common heath plants (azaleas, mountain laurel, rhododendron) tend to grow thickly and create vast, woody barriers to hikers. Trails in such places are generally hacked through laboriously (sometimes based on bear trails). This almost always produces a tunnel through the vigorous growths of heath plants.

During the spring and early summer flowering season, it is a pure delight to hike through such a tunnel. Flame azalea, white mountain laurel, pink catawba rhododendron--they all lend blazes of color to the trails and environs. And when the plants are not in bloom, it's still a great pleasure to hike through the heath tunnels that mark the trails of our southern peaks.

Cool-ass rhododendron tunnel leading to the even cooler summit called Pickens Nose.

Black Mountain Crest Trail.

Trail to Mooney Falls.

I had to stop at that spot. Just beyond was a cliff (hidden by rhododendron) dropping hundreds of feet off Ridgepole Mountain in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area.

Boogerman Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Side trail in Panthertown Valley.

I don't even recall where I took this shot.
Panthertown Valley in the snow.
Mountain laurel.

Trail to Granny Burrell Falls in Panthertown Valley.

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