Linville Falls

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April 20, bright and clear the next day, about a mile from where I camped the evening before …

A picture tells a thousand words. Here, we have a jaw-dropping view of Linville Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachians. But note all the dead trees. I got something of an education into this when I visited that Arboretum in Asheville several days earlier. There, numerous displays pointed out the complex relationships between various trees and certain species of insects. In some instances, both tree and insect seemed to benefit. In others, the insect would kill their host.

Bill Bryson in his 1998 book on his adventures and misadventures on the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods, lists a number of instances of this occurring practically overnight. For instance, in the Smokies, 90 percent of Fraser firs are sick or dying.

All along my drive, at various outlooks, I would read more signs educating me on endangered species of trees. The Appalachians represents one of the earth’s most spectacular hardwood forests, with a seemingly infinite variety of trees, with its population shifting with every rise and dip and turn. Face one way and you are looking into leafy spring, another into winter, down into massive giants, up into stunted wind-swept dwarfs. This way into blooms, that way into barren rock. And everywhere it seems, lichen – on rocks, on trees, seemingly bubbling out of a fermenting earth.

A wilderness unto itself, from Georgia to Maine, it is within easy driving distance of the dense population centers of the east coast. Man has yet to overrun it. Into the 21st century, it remains an anachronism, stubbornly primeval.

Yet the Appalachians of our pioneering forebears or even our grandparents is not the same as the Appalachians that we experience today. Who knows what our kids and grand kids will encounter, especially with the uncertainties of climate change.

Still, arboreal killing fields and all, the Appalachians cannot help but inspire and uplift. My short walk along the trail at Linville Falls is testament to that …

The Blue Ridge Parkway is maintained by the National Park Service, but it is also bordered by Forest Service Land. In case you’re wondering the difference between the Park Service and the Forest Service, this sign says it all …

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Finally, my favorite flower …

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One day, I will compose an ode to the humble dandelion. In the meantime, a moment of silence for the mighty Fraser Fir …

 

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