Rice Creek – Protecting the View from the Appalachian Trail


The view from the AT (Rice Creek tract in the foreground).

The view from the AT (Rice Creek tract in the foreground).

The Rice Creek tract is located 500 ft. from the AT and adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest.

The Rice Creek tract is located 500 ft. from the AT and adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest.

Located barely 500’ from the Appalachian Trail (AT), the beautifully wooded Rice Creek tract has been a conservation priority for the US Forest Service (USFS) and Appalachian Trail Conservancy for over 15 years. We purchased the 77-acre property near Rocky Fork in Unicoi County with the intent to later transfer it to the Cherokee National Forest.

With a top elevation of 4,300 ft., the tract is visible from the AT north of Lick Rock and around Sugarloaf Gap.
“This acquisition will provide permanent protection for the AT corridor,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “When the landowner decided to sell the tract, we were pleased to be able to purchase it to preserve the views and wilderness experience for hikers along the Trail.”

The purchase also protects bird habitat and a tributary of Rice Creek, which runs along the southern tip of the property.
Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous gift to enable SAHC to move quickly to purchase the tract. SAHC will eventually transfer the property to the Cherokee National Forest. In the short term,
we will manage the undeveloped land for forest health.

Feet on the Ground: Partners for Protecting the AT Corridor

Standing on the Appalachian Trail, looking towards the Rice Creek tract: (L to R) Morgan Sommerville of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, SAHC’s AmeriCorps Associate Caitlin Edenfield, and Dave Ferguson and Scotty Meyers with Cherokee National Forest.

Standing on the Appalachian Trail, looking towards the Rice Creek tract: (L to R) Morgan Sommerville of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, SAHC’s AmeriCorps Associate Caitlin Edenfield, and Dave Ferguson and Scotty Meyers with Cherokee National Forest.

“While working on this project, I hiked on the AT with our partners from the Cherokee National Forest and Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  Our mission – to  locate the upper boundary of the Rice Creek property and assess its visibility from the AT.  There is no substitute for hiking boots on the Trail when evaluating these issues!  Adjacent to the property boundary, the forest cover is mature and offers a relatively open view into the property, confirming that any construction on the upper elevations would in fact be visible from the Trail.  We stopped to enjoy the view from the AT, with the Rice Creek property prominent in the viewshed [photo below].  The trip was an excellent opportunity for collaboration, as well as a fun day of hiking.”

— Michelle Pugliese, SAHC Land Protection Director

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Big Rock Creek

Rhododendron thicket on the Big Rock Creek tract.

Rhododendron thicket on the Big Rock Creek tract.


Formerly operated as a camp and retreat, the Big Rock Creek tract adjoining the Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County, NC has been imbued with love and memories for decades. We purchased the high elevation 58-acre parcel in the Highlands of Roan to permanently preserve this cherished place west of Hughes Gap, just a half mile south of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Once occupied by TrailRidge Mountain Camp and later Camp Pleiades, the tract can be viewed from the AT south of Hughes Gap and from Roan High Bluff. Landowners Jacque Allen and Barbara Benisch, who operated Camp Pleiades for eight years, reached out to SAHC to preserve the land’s natural, recreational, and cultural  features.

“We loved the property for what it gave us — friends, fun, great memories, and summers in the mountains,” says Allen. “When we decided to sell the property we knew we wanted to protect it from development, and that is when we learned about SAHC. I am so glad to know that the place we so loved will always be taken care of and looked after by a great group of caring people.”

The Big Rock Creek tract is located west of Hughes Gap near the AT.

The Big Rock Creek tract is located west of Hughes Gap near the AT.

The tract rises to 3,940 ft. elevation on the north side, and four tributaries to Big Rock Creek flow through it. Big Rock Creek provides trout habitat and is part of the North Toe River watershed.

Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous contribution which enabled us to purchase the property. The owners generously agreed to sell the tract to SAHC below appraised market value.

“Preserving this remarkable property in the shadow of Roan High Knob will secure habitat and clean headwater sources as well as recreation opportunities for generations to come,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

We plan to manage the undeveloped land for forest health, and maintain a hiking trail through the property to the adjoining Pisgah National Forest and the AT.  The spirit of education and community that began with TrailRidge Mountain Camp and carried forward with Camp Pleiades will now be
honored by SAHC.

TrailRidge Mountain Camp

Coming off a TrailRidge backpacking trip in the 1980s, Michael Andry was the leader. (Photo courtesy /www.trailridge.info)

Coming off a TrailRidge backpacking trip in the 1980s, Michael Andry was the leader. (Photo courtesy /www.trailridge.info)

“For two months I slept in a hammock under a plastic tarp and showered from a solar-heated water bag. We had torrential rains and mud everywhere, but it was wonderful.”

Former SAHC President Michael Andry spent the summers of 1982 and ‘83 as a counselor at TrailRidge Mountain Camp, helping to build the camp’s trails and facilities and guiding youth outdoors.

“We built the trail that connects to the AT and particularly enjoyed the full moon camping trips on Roan’s grassy balds. For two summers, we had a grand old time roaming over those mountains. In fact, it was a major reason I moved to the Asheville area. Hearing about SAHC’s work in the Roan brought back a lot of old memories, so I was happy to become involved with the organization.”

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Camby Mountain

Camby Mountain, viewed from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.

Camby Mountain, viewed from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.

Peeking above a pastoral setting of rolling hills, panoramic mountain views surround the Drovers Road Scenic Byway. In the western portion of the Fairview Farming Community, Camby Mountain dominates the skyline.

Smith Farms Inc. partnered with SAHC to protect scenic Camby Mountain from subdivision and development. GD Smith, President of Smith Farms Inc., and his wife Janice Smith closed on a conservation easement with SAHC on the 58-acre mountainside above their farm in Fairview.

“The Smith family is doing a great thing for Fairview by protecting scenic views from the valley,” said Farmland Program Director William Hamilton. “We are so grateful to have a chance to work with them and secure the view of Camby Mountain from the byway.”

The property contains a prominent ridgeline and mountain face highly visible from Drovers Road Scenic Byway US-74A as well as from other public roadways and vantage points in the community.  The portion of the tract protected by conservation easement includes the upland, forested area rising above Smith Farms.

“Protecting this ridgeline is an important part of preserving the beloved mountain landscape of Buncombe County along the federally designated scenic byway between Asheville and Chimney Rock State Park,” added Hamilton.

Camby Mountain and other protected tracts within  the Fairview area.

Camby Mountain and other protected tracts within the Fairview area.


This project was made possible by a generous gift from Fred and Alice Stanback; funding from the Federal Scenic Byways program, Buncombe County, and the Conservation Trust for NC; and the generosity of the landowners. Altogether, SAHC has conserved approximately 1,500 acres in the Fairview area.

 “The Smiths’ foresight in protecting Camby Mountain from subdivision and development is a major step in securing the scenic beauty and natural landscape in southeast Buncombe County,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

Camby Mountain is near 1,830 acres of conservation easements and fee simple land held by SAHC, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, and the Nature Conservancy, including Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Flying Cloud Farm, Little Pisgah Mountain, Blue Ridge Pastures, and the Florence Preserve.

The connectivity afforded by protecting Camby Mountain at Smith Farms so near other large tracts supports diverse wildlife, including black bear and bobcat; smaller mammal species such as red fox; large birds such as wild turkey, grouse, barred owl, and red tailed hawk; small song birds and neotropical migratory birds; and a variety of species of amphibians and reptiles.

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Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm 2014


SAHC’s Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese, climbing Doggett Mountain during the 2013 Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm

It’s harvest time again —And, time for the second annual Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm! This year’s ride will take place on Saturday, October 11. Along the route, riders will pass pass through the scenic Sandy Mush landscape (enjoying views of 6,000 acres protected by SAHC).

This year, SAHC is sponsoring the safety stop at the Reeves Homeplace, where we are currently working on a new farmland conservation easement. The safety stop will be positioned before riders climb to the summit of Doggett Mountain.

As with all Cycle to Farm events, created by Velo Girl Rides, the Sandy Mush location provides participants with a tour of local farms by bicycle, stunning scenery of this beautiful area, tasty food samples crafted by the farms, and products for sale at every farm (including at the Finish, Addison Farms Vineyard).   And, of course, the Fabulous After Party!

CTF_by_VGR_horiz_brownIn addition to the farm stops, this is a fully supported ride with bike mechanic support at the start, support and gear vehicles on the course, event ambassadors to ride along and keep you on course, Fire/EMS personnel on the course, and a well-marked route.

Click here for the full event schedule, including packet pickup.

There are two Routes to choose from:

“Doggett Challenge” – Approx. 70 miles through beautiful country on (mostly) low-traffic roads

  • Challenging route with plenty of climbing (To the summit of Doggett Mountain!)
  • Approximate total elevation gain 6,300feet
  • See the route and elevation profile at RideWithGPS

“Metric Century” – Approx. 56 miles through beautiful country on (mostly) low-traffic roads

  • Less climbing, but still challenging
  • Approximate total elevation gain 4,600feet
  • See the route and elevation profile at RideWithGPS

Register Now: NOTE Registration for this event will close when all 200 spots are sold or at midnight on October 1, 2014, whichever comes first. For more info or to register, visit: cycletofarm.org/sandymush

Call for Volunteers: As a Sponsor, SAHC is helping to recruit volunteers for the Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm. Click here to sign up for a position at our safety stop, and/or contact michelle@appalachian.org to let us know you’re volunteering on behalf of SAHC.

Land Conservation along the Cycle to Farm Route



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Do Yoga, Help Preserve Our Mountains!

DoYogaLogoMed“Healing Our Backs with Yoga”TM to benefit local conservation work

Asheville yoga workshop Aug. 22-24 focuses on personal health, giving back to community


Lillah offers this special workshop to help the layperson learn to heal back pain through yoga.

Lillah offers this special workshop to help the layperson learn to heal back pain through yoga.

Local yoga master and conservation supporter Lillah Schwartz will offer a special workshop August 22 – 24 in Asheville, NC with proceeds benefitting conservation work of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC). The “Healing our Backs with Yoga”TM trainings are designed to help the layperson understand how to relieve their own back pain.

“I have been assisting students on their path toward healing for many years,” says Schwartz. “Supporting wellbeing on a personal and community level is my passion. My desire is to see more and more people understand how to avoid and heal their back pain, as well as to preserve the vitality of our mountains through supporting Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”

As a conscientious proponent of healthy environments as well as personal physical health, Lillah has been a long-time supporter of SAHC. Schwartz will donate 22% of proceeds from the “Healing Our Backs with Yoga”TM workshop to SAHC to support local land and water conservation.

“Lillah has a deep and heartfelt compassion for those who are suffering with back pain,” says Cheryl Fowler, Membership Director with SAHC. “She genuinely cares about the health and well being of her students, in addition to the conservation of land and water resources. We are very grateful to be receiving proceeds from this workshop and to have an advocate such as Lillah on our side. What a great force for the community.”

A national expert in yoga’s structural benefits, also known as ‘the back whisperer’, Schwartz offers this signature course to assist people with back, neck or shoulder conditions, helping them tap into yoga’s healing, strengthening power to find relief. Participants will receive guidance on which poses are specific to their body and back pain needs, learning how to correctly preform the poses so they gain the best results from practice at home.

Lillah Schwartz, the "back whisperer"

Lillah Schwartz, the “back whisperer”

“When you know the right stretches to do for your particular condition, then you can make progress and start healing,” says Schwartz.

This event will be co-sponsored by WNC Woman magazine and Ashevillage Institute. Interested students are welcome to attend the evening presentation on Friday, August 22 at 6:30 pm for only $30, before registering for the entire workshop.

For more information or to register, visit Yogawithlillah.com/healing-our-backs-with-yoga/ or call 828.273.9401.

About Lillah Schwartz:

Lillah Schwartz founded Asheville’s first yoga studio in 1981, which after three decades of service merged with One Center Yoga. Lillah produced two therapeutic DVDs for back, neck and shoulder conditions distributed both locally and nationally. She is currently releasing her first book, Healing Our Backs with YogaTM: A Layman’s guide to back pain relief, at her August 22 workshop on the same topic.

Trained in the Iyengar method of yoga, with a science background and a clear understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, Lillah also offers back care classes and private consultations throughout the year. Visit YogawithLillah.com to learn more.



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Benefitting SAHC through 1% for the Planet

Robbie McLucas donates to SAHC through 1% for the Planet

Robbie McLucas donates to SAHC through 1% for the Planet

We are extremely grateful to all our business and individual supporters for making local conservation possible. This year, SAHC benefited directly from 1% for the Planet, a global program that creates win-win-win situations for businesses, non-profits, and communities…

When he learned that SAHC was a direct beneficiary of 1% for the Planet, it was an easy decision for SAHC member and volunteer Robbie McLucas to join thousands of like-minded individuals and businesses who effect change by pledging to give one percent of their yearly incomes to environmental organizations.

With so many businesses in Western North Carolina dependent upon farming, outdoor recreation, and clean water, Robbie says that it only makes sense to help preserve them for future generations.

“The Highlands of Roan, the Black Balsams, the Seven Sisters, the Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Mountains played an important role in shaping the person I am today. They helped me to see the bigger picture of the impact our actions have on the planet. They’re why I volunteer my time with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and why 1% for the Planet makes my annual gift to SAHC much more purposeful.

As a real estate broker in Asheville, N.C, every day I see the vibrancy of my local economy, which is built upon small businesses, agriculture, artists, tourism and outdoor recreation. When I saw that my gift would stay in my local community, I became 1% for the Planet member and part of the solution to preserve lands vital to my community for future generations.

logo_vert_standard_colorI wanted to demonstrate publicly my commitment to conservation and SAHC, and I wanted to recognize their sterling track record of preserving the pristine places in and around the area I call home.

By including the 1% for the Planet logo in my email signature and on all of my marketing materials, I hope to help other people become aware of the opportunities to support local organizations. People immediately see that I value something… that I have a passion for conservation-minded work.

I hope that I will inspire others, especially small business owners, to do the same. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it something else to be accountable to that commitment.”

For more information about how to support SAHC as a member of 1% for The Planet, feel free to give Robbie a call at 828.335.2515 or email him at robbie@townandmountain.com.

We would love to see other local business leaders join Robbie in committing to 1% for the Planet. To find out more about this program, check out his story online and view SAHC’s profile page here.

1% for the Planet is a nonprofit made up of a wide variety of people from all types of businesses and the private sector. Several of the more recognizable members include the musician Jack Johnson, New Belgium Brewing and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of apparel retailer Patagonia. The organization oversees each member’s commitment to give to an approved conservation organization.

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Raft Out the Trash!

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Where would we be without our volunteers and amazing AmeriCorps Project Conserve members? Our “Raft Out the Trash” event  earlier this year reflects a stellar example of how these team members’ incredible initiative, drive and dedication help us achieve conservation success.

Since protecting the Lost Cove tract in 2012, we at SAHC have heard over and over how much this special place resonates with people. Unfortunately, however, years of illegal use had marred the beauty of the cove – and left literally tons of trash strewn about. When our AmeriCorps Outreach & PR Associate, Anna Zanetti, first scouted a hike into Lost Cove, she was appalled by what she found and commenced to plan an ambitious volunteer excursion to take care of it. The resulting “Raft Out the Trash” event was part of our celebration of Earth Month 2014, and this is Anna’s account of the day:

“The arrival of summer entices us to bask in the beauty of our mountains and rivers. Unfortunately, a recent volunteer experience with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) reminded me not to take our natural spaces for granted. I led a group of volunteers into the Nolichucky Gorge to “Raft Out The Trash” from a secluded, protected tract near the NC/TN border; and what we found there could be a poster lesson for “Leave No Trace.”



I recruited 24 volunteers to clean up scars of vandalism and debris in Lost Cove, a historic ghost town surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. USA Raft generously offered their services in partnership for the volunteer day, replacing a strenuous trek out of the gorge with an adventurous rafting trip after a long and rewarding day of service.



On the morning of the event, we met a group of cheerful volunteers at USA Raft’s outpost in Erwin Tennessee and proceeded to the trail head. After soaking in the sun and views from the meadow above the gorge, we began a three-mile descent to the Lost Cove settlement, surveyed the damage, and divided into two groups to conquer the trash.

It was seriously sad. One group picked up beer cans, glass containers, and even clothing littered around the site. The other intrepid half of our party forayed into the more-than-knee-deep pit of garbage filling one of the remaining historic outbuildings, probably once used as an agricultural store house. They gathered up a hefty load of bottles, cans, shards of glass, scraps of plastic, aluminum foil, even pots and pans — the remnants of camps where people had come down to enjoy the cove and left much more than just a trace.

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

Despite the dirty work, we were still pretty fresh after filling our bags with garbage. But that’s when the real challenge hit us: How were we going to carry the bags (each containing around 100 lbs. of trash) down about a mile of the steepest, rockiest terrain to the meeting point with USA Raft? In cases like this, a little ingenuity goes a long way.



Henry, one of our volunteers, suggested we tie the bags of trash onto sturdy branches to help displace the weight on our shoulders. Working in pairs, and stopping along the way to take breaks and check out some of the blooming wildflowers, our crew finally reached the river. We rested underneath the shady trees to rejuvenate and ate lunch atop a rock bluff overlooking the Nolichucky River. Struggling with fatigue in the last portion of our trek, our group certainly gained a greater appreciation for the folks who had once inhabited the Lost Cove settlement and hiked goods and supplies up that steep trail!

Hiking down the trash.

Hiking down the trash.

After lunch the raft guides arrived. They pulled up to the beach with five rafts and ten guides, each a rollicking river character. With professional ease and an entertaining air, the guides ushered our group into four of the rafts and helped load the 23 bags of trash onto the last one — and off we went down the class three rapids!

When the passenger rafts paused for a break, we looked around and wondered, where is all the trash? Then, we turned to see one heroic guide managing double oars and keeping the Raft o’Trash afloat. Major kudos to him for navigating the class 3 rapids with all that unwieldy weight! And a huge ‘Thank You’ to USA Raft for safely transporting the trash and volunteers three miles down-river where food, music and fellowship awaited us at the Pickin’ and Paddlin’ event. We had an amazing time on the river and loved the character and camaraderie of the USA Raft staff.

The Raft O'Trash

The Raft O’Trash

After months of preparation and coordination among staff members and USA Raft, the Lost Cove “Raft Out The Trash” event was here and gone. The event was truly a bonding experience for all of us, but it has brought me the greatest happiness to provide this outing for SAHC and all of our volunteers. The experience also deeply underscored the need to remind all who use our beautiful outdoor spaces to strive to Leave No Trace, “to leave only footprints and take only memories.” As you  hike, camp and enjoy the breathtaking mountains around us this summer, please remember to pack out what you bring in – and leave it for others to enjoy in the future, too!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

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Buzzz, buzz, buzz – Bees Still Buzzin!

Good news this summer! Our rescued honeybees made it through the winter – and when Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard peeked inside the hive recently, she had this story to tell:

SAHC Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard inspects the hive.

SAHC Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard inspects the hive.

“The air was hot and heavy with humidity. Below the sounds of bird chirps and wind across the hayfield hummed the low vibration of thousands of tiny bodies beating in unison. The breeze shifted, and the smell of wildflower honey, rich and sweet, filled the air. Lifting off the propolis covered lid of the SAHC Community Farm beehive, I rejoiced to see tiny bee bodies hard at work.


The hive survived the winter.

The rescued hive survived the winter.

Last September, I stumbled upon a swarm of bees that had lost their home. We were able to successfully hive them, but it came with the understanding that they might not make it through the winter. These days, even experienced beekeepers with established healthy colonies are losing multiple hives each year. This colony had lost its home, all its honey and pollen stores, and all its developing brood. The entire swarm was no bigger than a volleyball when clustered together. I talked with several beekeeping experts in the area and they said our chances weren’t great given all those factors. However, I knew the other option was to let them attempt to survive without assistance, and I wasn’t ready to give up on them yet.

The colony  is now growing.

The colony is now growing.

Throughout the brutally cold winter we fed the bees a sugar syrup mixture and checked on them regularly. In the dead of winter, the group was no bigger than a softball. Each visit to the hive brought the dread that upon lifting the lid we would find it either deserted or full of dead bees. We underestimated our swarm. Through the negative zero days and nights they beat their wings and huddled closer together. On a spring day with temperatures just over 60 degrees I saw the first few worker bees crawl outside, stretch their wings in the sun, and begin the seasonal search for flowers.

Busy as bees!

Busy as bees!

Since then, the bees have astounded us. At this point, they have successfully filled 3 medium hive bodies with honey, pollen, and brood. These boxes will be left for the colony to use through the coming winter, instead of feeding them. This past week, I added yet another super to the hive. From this point on, newly added boxes will be exclusively “honey supers.” This means that any additional honey the bees produce can be harvested. We probably won’t get much this first year, but even a taste of honey from these hard working ladies is worth the effort. More importantly, we know that we have saved a colony of valuable pollinators!”



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SAHC’s Jay Leutze addresses NPCA Trustees

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

SAHC partner National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) held a board meeting for their national trustees in Asheville June 18-20th.  While in the area, the trustees visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiked into Shining Rock Wilderness,  and toured the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.

They welcomed several guests, including Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods, Acting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cindy MacLeod, and Carl Sandburg National Historic Site Superintendent Tyrone Brandyburg, to a dinner featuring a talk from SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. Jay recounted the role NPCA played in protecting the Appalachian Trail from impacts of the Putnam Mine, a story detailed in his book Stand Up That Mountain.

Several SAHC members and former trustees were in attendance, including Charlie and Shirley Ann McCollough, and former Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent Phil Francis. NPCA has been a wonderful partner in helping to preserve the rich vitality of our mountain landscape. Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to receive grant funding from NPCA and Nature Valley’s “Preserve Our Parks” program to support habitat restoration and stewardship in the Highlands of Roan and at Cataloochee Ranch adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


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Community Farm/Discovery Trail Hike

SAHC's Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

It was hot –  but not too hot – just the kind of bright summer sun you imagine plants loving to soak in.

On National Trails Day/Land Trust Day (June 7, 2014), we led a group of curious members, landowners, and local families on a two-hour tour of SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC. This first Saturday in June starts off Outdoor Month, and was given special designation to recognize the economic importance of trails across the nation as well as the land conservation work of local land trusts. It was a wonderful day to enjoy the 1.5-mile Discovery Trail and to showcase the many exciting programs going on at our Farm.

talking and pointing

Community Farm & Food Assistant Yael Girard (left) explains in detail about the many projects at the Farm.

We were led by Community Farm and Food Assistant, Yael Girard – with a little humor, a lot of detail, and an enthusiastic, jovial attitude. After meeting at the recently improved parking area and checking out the trail maps, our group of around 25 embarked on a pleasant walk down the mulched trail at the top of the pasture. With a sweeping view across the farm, Yael pointed out the newly installed livestock fencing, stream restoration area, and shortleaf pine restoration project. Then, we moseyed on down to the lower end of the stream, where native grass plantings in the riparian buffer had grown tall enough to tickle as we filed by.

The best part of roaming around the Discovery Trail for this tour was comparing the memories of past hikes, volunteer days and workshops on the property — the change is incredible! Yael explained how we had graded the stream banks to repair the incised, narrow canyon along the stream (created by years of erosion). We won’t lie to you – this project required some big earth-moving machinery – but the miracle is that we replaced the kudzu-covered tiny canyon with beautiful, sloping creek banks covered with native trees, bushes and grasses. On this day, the trail through the stream corridor was lined with tall silvery stalks, and many of the young native trees and shrubs planted in the stream buffer area were growing strong, too.

crossing stream

Crossing the stream.

We crossed the stream near one of the riffle-pools – features installed to promote aquatic life. Yael commented that  a naturalist has been examining aquatic organisms in the stream and was astounded by the rebound of growth since restoration construction finished last fall.

“You wouldn’t have expected to see stream life at this extent so recently after the construction was completed, so it’s surprising as well as gratifying to see it bounce back so well – and a testament to the planning and work done by Altamont Environmental and Riverworks,” Yael said. “I’ve already seen tadpoles, frogs, salamanders out in the stream – it’s pretty neat.”

Then, our tour continued up a rise along one of the steepest, most open parts of the trail and through the shortleaf pine restoration area. Here, SAHC contracted with the US Forest Service to plant over 25,000 seedlings. Yael paused to explain how we had found native shortleaf pine seedlings growing in this area and embarked on a restoration project to help re-establish this native tree species, which has been on decline in North Carolina.

jim houser looking at sign

New interpretive signs along the trail help explain the many projects ongoing at the Community Farm.

“As the trees mature, this restoration area will provide excellent habitat for native wildlife, too,” she explained. One of the recently installed interpretive signs for the Discovery Trail tells the how and why of the shortleaf pine restoration project.

We continued up the slope to the other access point for the trail. As the group looked out over the Farm, Yael pointed to the plowed field where the first of our new Farmer Incubator Program participants will be launching her own agricultural endeavor. Then, Yael pointed out the off-stream water tanks and new livestock fencing, important features that help create safe and healthy pasture for future beginning farmers while keeping cattle, sheep, or goats out of the stream we have just restored.

“If you look closely, you can see large blue balls floating in the top of the watering tanks,” said Yael as she pointed at one of several tanks installed across the pasture. “These floating balls help keep the water fresh for livestock. The balls float at the top of the water, supplied from a well below, and form a kind of light seal. It’s easy for livestock to push the ball down, then the water flows up. This keeps a lot of insects and debris from getting into their water. We researched programs across the country to find the best agricultural management practices for the Farm. One reason many farmers love these tanks is because, when it’s freezing outside, only a thin coat of ice can form on top of the ball. Livestock can break it fairly easily to get at fresh water underneath, and it’s better than having to go break up a huge tank full of ice.”

stream restoration area

Thank you to all who joined us for the Farm Tour. If you haven’t seen it yet, stayed tuned for the next hike!

With the bright sun almost directly overhead, our group continued down to check out the “before” and “after” photos on the stream restoration interpretive sign. Then, we followed a winding walk across a “hardened crossing” (another feature to prevent future erosion issues), up a section of pasture, and through the woods to the end of the Discovery Trail loop.

Thank you so much to all who came out to tour the Community Farm for Land Trust Day — and, if you didn’t make it yet, check our events at Appalachian.org for upcoming hikes. We will be hosting more Farm tours in the future!

Click here for more photos.

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