Posts Tagged With: Conservation

Hiking Into The Lost Cove

Although we are in the midst of an arctic freeze in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, we’re eagerly looking forward to the slate of outdoor adventures our outreach team has planned for this year. To whet your appetite, here’s a narrative from one of our 2013 fall hikes – a trek into the 95-acre Lost Cove tract that SAHC purchased in 2012, led by our AmeriCorps PR & Outreach associate Anna Zanetti:

Paddlers along the Nolichucky River on the edge of the Lost Cove property.

Paddlers along the Nolichucky River on the edge of the Lost Cove property.

“Lost Cove, once a self-sustaining community nestled on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, has become a mere ghost town with the occasional company of a destination hiker.

In late November I led 22 people on a hike to the old settlement where only abandoned and crippled buildings now exist. The group hiked up to Flat Top Mountain where we peeked over the edge looking down on the Nolichucky Gorge catching a glimpse of the Lost Cove Property. During the 1940s, from this point, you would have been able to see white buildings consisting of homes, the schoolhouse and the church, but all we saw was overgrowth amongst the color changing leaves. We headed west and began to descend two miles along the old soil bed road until we came to an intersection in the trail. This intersection marks the beginning of the Lost Cove settlement and to the left marks SAHC’s property.


View from Flat Top Mountain looking down upon the Lost Cove.

We walked quietly under the dark clouds that came rushing in, covering the sun. Searching around the group examined the free standing stone chimneys and the decaying structures. Every few feet we would see old deteriorating cans, rusty car parts and we even found a wood-burning stove. We all navigated around on and off trail as if we were investigating an ancient civilization. Everyone was dispersed when a hiker called out, “Come up here, I found their cemetery.” We all rushed together to the top of a hill off of the trail to find a small gated graveyard with tombstones and some flowers. We knelt down reading the literature engraved in the stones — some had poems or just the family name, in places the letters were a little off and the p’s and d’s were backwards. On top of the hill we had a brief snack, but we were too engaged to turn around at that point. As a group we decided to push forward and hike down to the Nolichucky Gorge to see the train tracks and where the train platform once existed.


The group hiking down to the edge of the property.

The group hiked about 1.5 miles descending through bolder fields with moss and lichen in every nook and cranny. It was like a sea of rocks flowing and rising within the tress. This section of the trail is by far my favorite because of its natural beauty. We reached the edge of our property looking upon the Nolichucky River and the train tracks nestled between the surrounding mountains. We all dispersed around the edge of the property to explore. Then we reconvened around an abandoned campsite,  all quiet and ready to eat our lunch. As I was getting settled the ground began to shake and we all stood up to see a train coming around the bend along the river. The graffiti covered railroad carts rushed by caring black coal and other cargo.


The train coming around the bend along the Nolichucky River.

After the train was gone a fellow hiker said aloud, “These people had to hike 1.5 miles down here for goods and then proceeded to hike back up the steep and rocky trail with extra weight on their backs.”  This reminded everyone that Appalachian folk were and still are resilient people who don’t back down from a challenge. We packed up our belongings and I handed out trash bags and gloves to anyone willing to pickup and pack out the garbage from the abandoned campsite. Buddy Tignor, President of SAHC’s Board of Trustees, single-handedly packed out around 30 pounds of empty propane cans and debris.

The train was long gone and we were finishing packing up when it began to rain. We didn’t think much about it until the rain became worse, eventually turning into hail. We all looked at each other and understood that it was time to begin the trek up and out the gorge. The hail stinging our bare skin was not our only concern —  the slippery unsure footing made me nervous. A total of 45 minutes later and 1.5 miles up the steep terrain the rain and hail had stopped, giving us the opportunity to catch our breath.

The hike back was severely strenuous especially with the added weight from the trash we had picked up below. That morning we began the hike at 10:00 am and did not make it back to Flat Top Mountain till 5:00 pm. To say the least we were all exhausted, but we had formed an undeniable bond and gained a deeper appreciation for all the settlers who chose to call the Lost Cove their home.”

Group photo within the Lost Cove settlement.

Group photo within the Lost Cove settlement.

The next Lost Cove Hike will be held on April 26, 2014. Due to the increased popularity of this guided hike, we will open registration to SAHC members from March 1st through the 31st, followed by open registration for the general public after March 31. Please email for more info or to register.

Categories: Hikes | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New “View from the Highlands” online!

Peruse the latest edition of the View from the Highlands online with ISSUU.

Peruse the latest edition of the View from the Highlands online with ISSUU.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Yellow Mountain Gateway – 357 Acres Preserved!


Spear Tops mountain, rising above the winter pasture of the cattle that graze atop Yellow Mountain in the summer.

When we closed on the 357-acre Yellow Mountain Gateway tract in Avery County, we preserved more than unspoiled streams, wildlife habitat, and working lands. We opened a way for future generations to connect with the rich history of Avery County.

The Yellow Mountain Gateway is one of those rare treasured jewels — a large contiguous swath of mountain land handed down generation after generation. Rather than risk it being subdivided in the future, eight heirs of the Vance & Odom families came together to sell the tract to SAHC, ensuring that it will remain protected forever.

“The view of the two  ‘spears’ that form Spear Tops mountain as you drive south on
US Highway 19 E from Plumtree to Spear is as iconic a mountain view as you can imagine,” said landowner Risa Larsen.  “The Vance and Odom families are pleased to know that with the sale of our family farm to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that view will never change.  Ancestors of the family actually lived on the farm in the late 1800s, and subsequently our families have enjoyed decades of picnics and hikes on the farm.  The multiple creeks that run through the property provided a cool spot in the heat of the summer and lovely waterfalls of various heights as theyrun down to join the North Toe River.”


This impressive 100 ft. waterfall on Justice Creek, known as Cutler Falls by the Vance and Odom families, will be accessible to the public in the future, thanks to our acquisition of the Yellow Mt. Gateway.

Known as ‘Spear Farm’ by the family, the newly protected tract is situated in the center of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area and can potentially provide public access to the state natural area in the future. The tract rises to 4700 ft on Spear Tops Mountain and also includes a lower pasture that fronts on Hwy 19 E. SAHC protected two adjoining tracts in 2011 and 2012, and this new conservation success completes our protection of the iconic Spear Tops Mountain.

The tract is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several other pristine headwater tributaries in the North Toe River watershed.

The tract is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several other pristine headwater tributaries in the North Toe River watershed.

The property is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several smaller tributaries. The quality of clean headwater stream sources in the North Toe watershed made this tract a conservation priority for clean water.

Working agricultural lands on the recently protected tract include winter pastures for cattle herds that graze at Big Yellow Mountain in the summer. Preserving this land and allowing their winter grazing grounds to remain intact supports our commitment to management of the grassy balds in the Roan. SAHC plans to hold the tract with the intent to transfer it to North Carolina when state funds become available.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blackrock Mountain – Protecting views from the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Blackrock Mountain summit.

Blackrock Mountain summit.

In October, SAHC purchased the summit of Blackrock Mountain in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County, with more than 250 surrounding acres. We plan to hold the property and manage it as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands.

“All you need to do is stand at the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike the trail from Waterrock Knob, to appreciate protecting Blackrock Mountain,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “The 5,700 ft peak contains rare spruce-fir forest and two headwater tributaries that flow down its slopes. We are so proud to have preserved this view for all to enjoy.”

The newly protected tract is visible from overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The newly protected tract is visible from overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blackrock Mountain summit is clearly visible from the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The entire property can be seen in the foreground view from the Plott Balsam overlook (mile post 458), the Waterrock Knob visitor center (mile post 451.2), and multiple locations along the parkway on the drive north from Waterrock Knob.

Blackrock Creek

Blackrock Creek

The tract’s proximity to and visibility from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the high-elevation forest communities and pristine headwater sources found on the site, made it a priority for conservation. Two headwater tributaries of Blackrock Creek originate on the property and flow into Blackrock Creek, which empties into Soco Creek.

Hikers enjoyed stunning views from the summit.

Hikers enjoyed stunning views from the summit.

A publicly-accessible hiking trail originates on the Blue Ridge Parkway below the Waterrock Knob overlook, and the Blackrock Mountain summit purchased by SAHC contains a destination vantage point reached via this trail. Earlier in October, we led our Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership group hike to the Blackrock Mountain summit to enjoy clear long-distance views of the surrounding ridgelines. We plan to lead similar hikes to the area in the future.

Map of Blackrock Mountain tract and surrounding area.

Map of Blackrock Mountain tract and surrounding area.

The Cherokee nation owns land to the north in the Qualla Boundary, and the newly protected tract adjoins other conservation lands: SAHC’s 60-acre Blackrock Ridge tract (protected in 2010), the Sylva Watershed (protected with a conservation easement held by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee), and The Nature Conservancy’s Plott-Balsam Preserve.

“The efforts of multiple conservation partners highlight the priority of habitats, scenic views, and water quality of the Plott Balsam Mountains,” added Pugliese.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Youth volunteers tackle stuborn invaders

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

This fall, 6th and 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered to help heal a 45-acre conservation tract in the Sandy Mush area. They spent three days identifying invasive species and learning how to properly eradicate them without disturbing indigenous plants nearby.

Each morning, the boys arrived promptly at 9:30 am, ready to work hard weeding out the invasive plants. Kids and supervising adults split into three groups, and each group received a pair of loppers, hand clippers, rubber gloves, leather gloves, protective eye wear, a trash bag and a little bottle of herbicide that only adults could apply.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The groups hiked to designated areas on the  property and went to work on oriental bittersweet and multi flora rose. They followed a three-step process to assist the eradication process. The students cut the plant an inch from its root, a supervising adult dabbed the cut area with herbicide, and they all bagged up the remaining parts of the pants. The invasive species that the students were working with have adventitious roots — meaning that if part of the plant is cut and left on the ground it will re-root itself. This makes the eradication process very tricky but the students were up for the challenge, scouring the area to carefully recover all the cut portions of the invasives.

Invasive species - carefully bagged for removal.

Invasive species – carefully bagged for removal.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

The students were working on a property densely populated with poplar, oak and witch hazel trees with a small stream flowing through the scenery. The students of FBRA are no strangers when it comes to water. Their education heavily focuses on the French Broad River and includes outings such as kayaking and canoeing. The students were enthusiastic about what was in the stream, and they found all sorts of creatures like crawfish, salamanders, and a small northern water snake.

Shortly after time spent in the stream, one student asked, “Why can’t we just spray all the invasive species instead of slowly cutting and dabbing?”

Investigating a stream on the property.

Investigating a stream on the property.

In response a fellow student replied, “Spraying the herbicide will kill the indigenous plants and get into the stream.” Outings like this volunteer day provide the boys with educational adventures in the environment and hands-on interactions that allow the students to teach each other. These experiences help the students to make connections between human actions and impact on nature.

FBRA is a one-of-a-kind school, and it was a pleasure working with well-behaved young boys. These students have the willingness to work hard to create a better environment for present and future generations. Thank you!

Categories: Volunteer & Stewardship Activities | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall “For Love of Beer and Mountains” Partnership Hikes


Group photo atop Blackrock Mountain for the Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership hike.

Our new AmeriCorps PR and Outreach Associate, Anna Zanetti, launched into a full schedule of fall hikes when she came on board with us in September. Part of that slate of fall hikes included our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Clawhammer and Thunderstruck partnership hikes — which luckily occurred on two lovely October weekends. The Thunderstruck hike also gave the group an opportunity to visit one of SAHC’s newly protected tracts  — Blackrock Mountain. Below is Anna’s take on the experience:

“SAHC partnership hikes with Highland Brewing and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are one of the highlights of my job. These popular group hikes feature protected peaks that are namesakes of Highland Brewing Company’s seasonal beers. The “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership, including our guided hikes, helps raise public awareness of the places and species that make our mountains so special.


Twin Falls

The first hike I led was to Clawhammer Mountain in Pisgah National Forest, close to Brevard. Twenty-five people attended this hike in celebration of Highland’s Oktoberfest named after Clawhammer Mountain. The hike was a 12-mile loop that traversed along equestrian, biking and hiking trails. During our ascent up the mountain we stopped at Twin Falls for a beautiful view. With the top tucked into the tree line, the 150 ft falls appear as if they are flowing from the sky.

Group photo atop Clawhammer Mountain.

Group photo atop Clawhammer Mountain.

After enjoying a break at the falls, we continued along the trail. At the summit of Clawhammer Mountain we saw clear views of Looking Glass Mountain where the trees meet the large open-faced rocks. This made for a great lunch spot, and everyone relaxed before the long trek back down the mountain.

Hikers had to overcome some obstacles.

Overcoming obstacles on the hike.

On October 12th , we held our second autumn “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership hike across Blackrock Ridge to celebrate the release of Highland’s  Thunderstruck Coffee Porter. At the peak of Blackrock Mountain, you can see Thunderstruck Ridge zigzag like a thunderbolt on the horizon. We parked near Waterrock Knob Visitor Center and walked to the trailhead along the road. The Blackrock Ridge hike was a 5-½ mile out-and-back adventure crossing private, public and SAHC owned land.

Blue Ridge Parkway, visible from the hike.

Blue Ridge Parkway, visible from the trail.

During this time the government shutdown slightly affected our hike because parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway were closed, including the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center where we had planned to park and rendezvous for the hike. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the hike, and we were fortunate enough to still go through with our plans.

View pic from the Blue Ridge Parkway, courtesy of Perry Keys.

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway, courtesy of Perry Keys.

The day of the hike there were many tourists on the parkway enjoying breathtaking views of the autumn leaves. It was nice to see people out and about, but many disregarded the barricaded areas and continued to use closed facilities. This caused slight issues due to the fact that no one was managing these areas during the shutdown. A new member of SAHC, Perry Keys, organized a trash pick up along the parkway after our hike. This was a great effort on the group’s part to help mitigate the impact of visitors within the Blue Ridge Parkway boundaries.

These partnership hikes continue to be successful due to the unique makeup of our partnership with Highland Brewing Company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For those who love to celebrate local craft beer as well as the beautiful mountains of the Appalachian region, our “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership gives them a way to enjoy themselves and support land conservation at the same time.”

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Appalachian Spring

Here’s a simple video to give you a taste of our 2013 membership event in Kingsport, TN – Just in case you missed it, or want to refresh memories with good friends!

Appalachian Spring.

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Rockin’ at Rocky Fork with Mars Hill College

Group Shot.jpg

Mars Hill College students and faculty with David Ramsey (Back Row: 2nd to the right)

On Sunday, Septemeber 9th, David Ramsey led Mars Hill College 17 faculty and students on a hike to the protected 10,000-acre ecological treasure, known as Rocky Fork. It was the perfect day for some learning, hiking, and fishing.

Ramsey has been leading hikes for politicians, concerned citizens, and anyone else interested in protecting Rocky Fork’s vulnerable land since the mid-nineties, so when Karen Paar, director of The Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill College, approached Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) about leading a hike with her department for this fall, SAHC suggested David Ramsey.


David Ramsey leads the group to the battleground of Flint Creek

In the lead up to Ramsey’s field trip to Rocky Fork, The Center for Regional Studies hosted several events that focus on the theme, “Where There Are Mountains.”

“We adopted it as a theme for our last academic year continuing into this fall as a way to address a range of issues facing this region, as well as the physical realities of this landscape and the meanings that humans place on mountains,” says Professor Paar.

As part of this series and to get people excited about Rocky Fork, Paar asked, SAHC Board of Trustees member and author of “Stand up that Mountain,” Jay Leutze, to speak about Rocky Fork and the process of “Protecting Southern Appalachian Biodiversity – and Scenery – One Acre at a Time” on Tuesday, Sept. 4th. As always, Leutze made Rocky Fork come to life for his audience and paved the way for an exciting hike the following weekend with David Ramsey.

It was another beautiful day for a hike as cool winds from the Saturday before had pushed a refreshing and crisp Fall feel into the air. Hikers enjoyed a softer summer light that crept through the trees as the group made their way through just a small part of the 10,000 acre tract. Along the way, Ramsey shared childhood stories or romping through Rocky Fork’s woods, explained how much time, energy, and effort different individuals and organizations poured into protecting Rocky Fork, and even demonstrated the purity of Rocky Fork’s waters by catching a rainbow trout on his fly rod.

Student and Rainbow Trout.jpg

This rainbow trout was caught in the pristine waters of Rocky Fork

If you like a good conservation success story, it is imperative to come out and personally hear the gripping tale from David Ramsey. His eloquence and passion pervade every aspect of the hike, whether it is the account of Rocky Fork slipping through the grasp of conservation’s hands three separate times before finally being protected for a pricey forty million dollars; or walking through the hallowed ground where the Battle of Flint Creek took place nearly 223 years ago and where nearly 150 Cherokee lost their lives from John Sevier’s surprise ambush; or maybe it was seeing Rocky Fork’s pristine waters that are home to native brookies and wild rainbow trout. Ramsey painted a compelling picture. The whole crowd was convinced — Rocky Fork is worth every penny of that forty million.

Categories: Hikes | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Foraging for Mushrooms

Charlotte Explaining.jpg

Charlotte Caplan identifies the mushroom as participants listen.

It was the perfect storm for finding mushrooms last weekend in gorgeous Yancey County. In recent days, thunderstorms had soaked the ground, paving the way for an explosion of boletes, chanterelles, little brown mushrooms, and many others.

On July 22nd, SAHC & guests were led on an intriguing excursion by Asheville myco-hunter and expert, Charlotte Caplan. Everyone learned some tricks of the trade when identifying these mysterious fungi. The common question was, “How do you know if a mushroom is edible or not?”

“There is only one way to know if its edible or not – and that is to eat it,” joked Caplan. We all leaned in closer to hear more. From her basket, Charlotte pulled out a small white and harmless-looking mushroom with gills — A destroying angel. The name says it all; just one small bite is deadly enough to shut down a person’s liver and kidneys. What a comforting lesson to start the hike!

We dispersed along the edge of the forest to forage for some ‘shrooms, and within minutes everyone was filling baskets with russulas, boletes, puffballs, and morels galore. Caplan explained that identifying mushrooms is a challenging task, and even the most experienced mycologist cannot identify every mushroom.

Jack O'Lantern Mushroom.jpg

Caplan holds a Jack O’Lantern Mushroom, which glows faintly in the dark

Smell is one of the primary methods in the identification process for some mushrooms. Many have a signature fragrance. Some smell sweet when they are young, and as they mature the odor becomes fishy. Others have that fresh, dirt-like smell.

Our adventurous scavengers found the bioluminescant Jack o’lantern mushroom, chanterelles, umbrella mushrooms, and many more. For lunch, everyone took their spoils to the top of the property and enjoyed beautiful views of Mt. Mitchell, Cattail Peak, Winter Star, and Celo Knob. Storms looked eminent in the distance, juxtaposed beautifully next to the sunlit mountains to the west of the property. Caplan searched each basket to ensure that there were not any deadly mushrooms, and then folks hopped into cars to escape in the incoming storms.

The mushroom hike was such a fruitful experience that Caplan offered to lead another expedition sometime in the near future. If you missed this hike, please check out to find other SAHC hikes and events, and we’ll see you next time!

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Little Hump Partnership Hike

Sunday, May 20th, was a beautiful day for a hike in the Highlands of Roan. Thirty six ambitious hikers joined Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), Highland Brewing Company, and US Fish and Wildlife Service for a full day of hiking.posing for a shot.jpg

Heading up the Trail.jpg

Heading up the Trail

Hikers started their journey along Roaring Creek down in the valley below Little Hump by hoping onto the Overmountain Victory Trail. This was a good warm-up for everyone as we gradually ascended to connect with  the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail traverses 17 miles in the Highlands of Roan and provides some of the most spectacular views in the Southern Appalachians. The grade of the trail became immensely more difficult as the group set their sights on summiting Little Hump Mountain. A little ways up, hikers took a break to look back down into the valley and admire the iconic Overmountain Shelter.

Almost 1,500 feet later, the crew made it to the top where everyone enjoyed breathtaking views and good company. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Highland Brewing Company became partners in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of land protection in our region. To do that, Highland Brewing Company names their seasonal ales after protected peaks in the region. Little Hump Mountain was the inspiration for their spring seasonal.

Group Shot..jpg

Group Shot on Little Hump

Climbing on the rocks on Little Hump.jpg

Climbing on the rocks on Little Hump

On top of Little Hump, the Ridge and Valley Province lies to your west in Tennessee and the renowned peaks of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Linville Gorge rise to the east in North Carolina. Depending on the season, you could have  bluets at your feet and flame azaleas in your line of vision as you look out across the mountains. Much of the panoramic viewshed from around Little Hump is untouched by houses or developments and perhaps the best part is that you can enjoy these views for free anytime of the year.

Categories: Hikes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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