Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Old Tower

I miss the old viewing tower on the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest summit in the eastern USA. It was a curious building constructed of native rock with a unique timber framing supporting the platform at the top. There was something strange about it...the tower collected dampness inside the stairwell and climbing to the top was always a kind of moist, claustrophobic experience.

The state park service decided to tear it down sometime...I think around 2005 or 2006 (I've forgotten). For some reason I never took any closeup photos of the tower with my digital camera. Not sure why I didn't. Perhaps I thought it was here to stay. Unfortunately, apparently there were enough complaints that it wasn't handicap accessible, so it was demolished and a newer design was installed to replace it.

The new platform has a long, low ramp that allows wheelchairs easy access. However, the new tower is not very tall and it won't take long for the recovering balsam forests to block out the views. So the park service will probably have to chop down a whole bunch of fraser firs to allow all of those wheelchair-bound people to continue to enjoy the view.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos that I took of the tower from the summit of nearby Mount Craig, the second highest peak in the eastern USA. What a difference a few feet makes. Because Mount Craig is only the second highest, it didn't have a roadway carved into its flanks and a tower placed on its high point. Thank Jove for that difference, else it would be Mount Craig with its highest real estate raped by the hand of Man.

The old tower as it appeared from Mount Craig.
A cropped image. I think I have some old film photos of the tower up close. I'll have to dig through them to see.

On that day in November of 2004 I snapped this shot on the way back to that parking lot. I had almost bitten off more than I could chew. The long hike to Winter Star and back to my truck was more than I had bargained for. I barely got back to my vehicle before nightfall when the gates were locked. You can see all of the dead balsam trees in this shot...the forest had been devastated by an invasive pest (balsam wooly adelgid). These days the forests at the top have largely recovered.

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