Rockin’ at Rocky Fork with Mars Hill College

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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.

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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.

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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.

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