Posts Tagged With: Appalachian Trail

7-acre Carvers Gap Inholding Protected

horner4At the end of December we purchased a 7-acre inholding surrounded by protected land just below Carvers Gap in the Highlands of Roan. The tract adjoins an SAHC preserve and Pisgah National Forest. Although small in acreage, it was a high conservation priority because of its location and visibility from the Appalachian Trail at Round Bald and Jane Bald.

“People often ask if SAHC has a minimum acreage requirement for land protection projects,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “This is an excellent example of a small property with large conservation benefits.”

horner3“Surrounded by permanently protected land, these seven acres were essentially an ‘inholding’ — the type of property people seek out for private residential development,” continued Pugliese. “This tract was the closest unprotected land to Carvers Gap, the public access to the Highlands of Roan and the Appalachian Trail. In buying this property, we carry forward our organization’s roots of protecting the Roan and preserving views from the Appalachian Trail.”

horner2Dominated by northern hardwood forest, the tract rises to an elevation of 5,220 ft. and has 435 ft. of road frontage on Highway 261, the route to the Carvers Gap parking area. The property lies within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area and the state-designated Roan Massif Natural Area. Two tributaries of Johns Camp Branch flow through the parcel; Johns Camp Branch empties into Fall Creek, which is classified as High Quality Waters and Trout Waters.

“We are deeply grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for making a generous contribution which made this acquisition possible,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “Our purchase of this tract means that one more critical piece of the Roan landscape will never be developed.”

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Big Rock Creek Donation

bigrockcreekmapInspired by our conservation work in the Highlands of Roan, landowner Ken Davis recently donated 47 acres to SAHC. The property adjoins Pisgah National Forest and our Big Rock Creek preserve, which we purchased in 2014, thus filling an important gap in the protected landscape.

Visible from the Appalachian Trail, the tract contains important forest habitat and headwater resources. Forest types include Appalachian hemlock hardwood forest, Appalachian oak forest, and southern Appalachian montane pine forest. The property contains a portion of Dave Branch stream and a headwater stream for Big Rock Creek, which flows into the North Toe River. These waterways are designated Wild Trout Streams by the NC Division of Water Quality.

Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous gift to support transaction costs and long-term stewardship of the donated land. We plan to own and manage the property as a preserve for the long term.

Landowner Perspective: Ken Davis

kendavisKen Davis bought this property in 1991 after several years of service as a park ranger. He and his wife settled in the area to teach at Lees-McCrae College. His motivation in purchasing the property was driven by a love of parks, and the couple have worked to reestablish native species on the property to allow it to return to its natural state.

“I decided to donate the land because SAHC represents a trans-generational effort by courageous people who love the land as much as I do and use the best conservation science they can muster to arrest the destruction of magnificent places of refuge,” says Ken.

“As has been illustrated many times in history, wilderness has been a most effective refuge. Though some of the land in this area of the Southern Appalachians is suitable for farming and other activities, I believe the best use for much of it is what it once was — wilderness. Due to the loss of many species, such as the chestnut, it can never be exactly the same, but some of it can become once more a sublime refuge. When asked what the steep, “unbuildable” land is good for, I often reply that it is good for ‘howling wilderness.’

I hope that our donation will provide a one-inch increment of the thousand-mile journey to return to wilderness in the Southern Appalachians. “        

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Big Yellow Mountain

This acquisition continues our conservation efforts in the stunning Roaring Creek Valley area, near Big Yellow Mountain and Little Hump Mountain. Photo courtesy Southwings.

This acquisition continues our conservation efforts in the stunning Roaring Creek Valley area, near Big Yellow Mountain and Little Hump Mountain. Photo courtesy Southwings.

We purchased 70 acres on Big Yellow Mountain in the Highlands of Roan, located just 2,500 ft from the Appalachian Trail. Adjoining Pisgah National Forest, conservation lands held by the State of NC, and other SAHC-protected properties, the forested high-elevation tract is visible from the Overmountain Shelter on the AT.

“This acquisition was a high conservation priority because of the property’s location on the biologically sensitive and stunning scenic slopes of Big Yellow Mountain near the Appalachian Trail,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese.  “It was the highest elevation, privately-owned unprotected tract between Grassy Ridge and Bradley Gap.”

The property contains forest habitat and boulder fields with seeps and springs that feed into Roaring Creek.

The property contains forest habitat and boulder fields with seeps and springs that feed into Roaring Creek.

Elevations on the property range from 4,440 feet to 5,380 feet above msl.

It contains rare beech gap forest and high elevation boulder fields with seeps and springs that form headwater tributaries of Roaring Creek. The entire property is within the state-designated Big Yellow Mountain Natural Area and the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. Nesting Golden-winged Warblers have been identified in areas surrounding the tract.

In addition to protecting high elevation habitat and clean water sources, this acquisition helps preserve the sense of solitude for hikers and backpackers in the Roan.

bigyellowmap“The tract is very visible from the Overmountain Shelter on the AT,” continued Pugliese. “This 2-story, red barn shelter is one of the most iconic and beloved of all the shelters along the Trail, and it would have been devastating to hikers’ experiences if homes were built on this land. Now that SAHC has purchased these acres, that will never happen.”

We are deeply grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for making a generous contribution which made this acquisition possible.

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Stanley A. Murray, Inducted into Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame

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Stanley A. Murray, SAHC’s founder.

SAHC founder Stan Murray was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame last year, and retired Roan Stewardship Director Judy Murray traveled to Boiling Springs, PA (the “Half-way” point on the AT) to accept the award in his behalf.

Stanley A. Murray, along with Benton McKaye and Myron Avery, was one of the most important individuals in the early history of the Appalachian Trail.

When construction of the Appalachian Trail was first “completed” in 1937, it was about 45% on private property, and Myron Avery, while proclaiming the trail “finished,” stated that it would never be really finished until it received Federal protection.
Decades later, Stanley A. Murray worked to accomplish just that.  He wrote a draft bill and lobbied Congress, playing a major role in getting the National Trails System Act passed in 1968. Murray served as Chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) for 14 years.

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

He envisioned more than just a narrow footpath for the AT, and advocated the “greenway” concept to protect a wider corridor around the Trail. Murray was especially concerned with how to preserve Roan Mountain and the balds in the Highlands of Roan on the NC/TN state line, and personally focused much of his energy on that area of the AT.  His work on the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club’s relocation of the AT over Roan and the formation of the ATC’s Roan Mountain Preservation Committee in 1966 led to the 1974 incorporation of SAHC with the goal of protecting thousands of acres along the Roan Mountain Massif from development. Murray served as President of SAHC for 11 years and was the first Executive Director. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 67.

“To have this prestigious honor conferred on our organization’s founder is indeed thrilling,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to continue his legacy of land protection in this unique, treasured landscape, and are gratified that the importance of Stan’s work has been recognized nationally.”

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Looking Back: June Jamboree 2015

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the June Jamboree this summer! As we prepare to bid adieu to our Project Conserve AmeriCorps Conservation Education and Volunteer Associate, Kana Miller (whose 11-month service term ends next week), we’d like to share her account from the day:

“Organizing the June Jamboree was like the grand finale of my experience with SAHC; it tested all the skills I’ve honed leading the outreach program. With five different hikes in one day on the Roan Massif, and close to 100 people participating, it’s a big event to organize — but for me, this year’s June Jamboree proved to be nothing but rewarding!

June Jamboree is our annual day of free, guided hikes and social gathering in the stunning Highlands of Roan.

The Breakdown – This Year’s Hike Offerings:

Hike #1 Ed Schell Memorial Hike – From Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

Hike #2 Birding Hike with Simon Thompson

Hike #3 Roll n’ Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens

Hike #4 Salamander Scavenger Hunt

Hike #5 Challenge Hike

 In addition to coordinating all the hikes and hike participants, I also led the Challenge Hike. A fairly new tradition, the Challenge Hike is notorious for being a long hike (12 + miles) with strenuous route and rewarding, beautiful views. This year’s Challenge hike was no different – I planned a 15-mile trek across the Appalachian Trail and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

A break in the clouds provided the rewarding views of grassy balds, long stretches of mountains, and the familiar Appalachian Trail, for which the Roan is known for.

A break in the clouds provided rewarding views of grassy balds, long stretches of mountains, and the familiar Appalachian Trail, for which the Highlands of Roan are known.

I was eager to get on the trail as we gathered at Hughes Gap, and I could sense the rest of the group was, too. We had a long day ahead and thunderstorms threatening to hit Carvers Gap in the afternoon. After a brief introduction and safety talk we took off on the Appalachian Trail, heading up Beartown Mountain and Roan High Knob, a 3-mile climb with over 2,500 feet of elevation gain. It was early in the morning with a cool breeze as we headed silently up trail, enjoying the newly routed section of the AT. We could see where the trail originally went straight up the mountain and were thankful for the new, gentle curves along the contours and switchbacks. It didn’t take long for folks to splinter off into groups with different hiking speeds as we tackled the long climb.

After about two hours, the group made it to the top and the highest point along our route, the old Cloudland Hotel Site and Roan High Knob. We took a break here and could already tell the mountain was alive with visitors. During this break, we ran into our staff representative on the Roll n’ Stroll, SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. While a brief encounter, it made June Jamboree feel like a close-knit community event – it was rewarding to see my hard work and coordinating come together!

The Grays Lily is a rare plant species, native to the Highlands of Roan. This year, the timing of June Jamboree was perfect for catching these blooms!

The Grays Lily is a rare plant species, native to the Highlands of Roan. This year, the timing of June Jamboree was perfect for catching these blooms!

Although Roan High Knob was the highest point along our route, we had only traveled a few miles. We sped right through Carvers Gap and continued up Round Bald to get away from the crowds. Dark clouds were lingering on the horizon. My worst nightmare seemed like it might come true – getting stuck in a thunderstorm on the open balds. The clouds were rolling right over the grassy balds and folks were getting hungry. We pushed on to Engine Gap, making our way to a sunny spot out of the clouds. A lunch break seemed to be exactly what the group needed to re-energize. With a map highlighting SAHC properties in the area, I spoke about SAHC’s involvement in protecting and managing the Roan Massif before we made our way back on trail.

The Ed Schell Memorial Hike, from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge, made their way down Jane Bald just as we were heading up. It was awesome to run into this group, especially since it constituted the biggest hike of the June Jamboree and had the presence of many current and former board members. As a light sprinkle began, I couldn’t help but notice that despite raincoats and clouds blocking our views, everyone was smiling and talking about  enjoying the great day. The excitement and camaraderie on trail was exactly the pick-me-up I needed to motivate our group and power through the second half of our route. We made it past Grassy Ridge, Elk Hollow Ridge, the Stan Murray AT Shelter and onto Yellow Mountain Gap in good time.

After a strenuous downhill hike into Hampton Creek Cove, this beautiful view (and flat trail!) was a welcome sight for the Challenge hikers during their last couple of miles.

After a strenuous downhill hike into Hampton Creek Cove, this beautiful view (and flat trail!) was a welcome sight for the Challenge hikers during their last couple of miles.

Although we still had about 4 miles to go, the trail junction at Yellow Mountain Gap was an important one. Yellow Mountain Gap is the four-way intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and also marked our turn off of the AT. We had 11 miles under our feet and food and drinks awaiting us at the end of Hampton Creek Cove! Folks took a break as I gave a brief history of Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. We were standing on the border of Cherokee National Forest, before rapidly descending into Hampton Creek Cove. The trail was overgrown and steep, but still very beautiful. We hiked though dense hardwood forest, crossing several small streams before popping out into cow pasture.

The Challenge Hike celebrating the end of a 15-mile day, with sunshine, food and good beer. Cheers!

The Challenge Hike group, celebrating the end of a 15-mile day, with sunshine, food and good beer from our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partners at Highland Brewing Company. Cheers!

A slow drizzle started up as we finished our 15-mile day. We had endured a long, but fun, day of hiking. Our group was welcomed with ‘hoots and hollars’ as we made our way to the post-hike social. A delicious spread of fruit, crackers, cheese and refreshing beverages awaited us. Then the sun came out and a peaceful, rewarding sensation came across me as I sat back and relaxed. The day was done; June Jamboree 2015 was a success!”

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June Jamboree 2015 – Hikes and social in the Highlands of Roan

Saturday, June 20

Please join us for our annual day of FREE, guided hikes and social gathering in the incredible Highlands of Roan. These five group hikes include outings for all age and ability levels. Descriptions, details and start times for each are provided below. You will receive directions to the departure location & carpool information upon registration.

Be sure to bring: sturdy hiking shoes, camera, walking stick, water, lunch, sunscreen, binoculars,
and appropriate clothing for your hike. The weather may be sunny, rainy, windy or cool.

Hikes are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult. We hope you can join us in the Highlands!

Social Gathering

Join us on our recently protected SAHC property just outside the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Enjoy fellowship with friends and family and learn about our recent conservation initiatives. We will provide light refreshments and beverages. Drop by between 2 to 6 pm.


Hike #1 — Ed Schell Memorial Hike from Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge

Start Time: 9 am |  Estimated End Time: 2-3 pm |  Leader: David Smith
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (7-8)  |  Location: Start at Carver’s Gap

This classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Grassy Ridge is the highest point near the AT, reaching 6,189 feet in elevation. Enjoy a natural, unobstructed 360-degree view and so much more — blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets.
Along the way, former Seasonal Ecologist and Trustee David Smith will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat. For those desiring an easier hike, there is the option of hiking out to Round Bald or Jane Bald, to enjoy the flowers and expansive views, instead of going all the way to Grassy Ridge. This year’s Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge hike is offered in memory of active, long-time member Ed Schell, who passed away early this year.

 

Hike #2 — Birding Hike with Simon Thompson

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours
Difficulty: Moderate (5-6) |  Location: Roan High Knob

The Highlands of Roan provide some of the best mountain birding in the high elevation ranges of North Carolina. Join us for a hike to Roan High Knob with Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours, as we take advantage of the pristine habitat found in the Roan. The medley of spruce-fir forest to open grassy balds offers great wildlife diversity.
Roan High Knob is the pinnacle of the Roan-Unaka Mountain Range, a rolling expanse of highlands in northwest TN. Rising some 6,286 feet, the summit sits atop a modest rock outcropping some 30 meters from the Roan High Knob shelter, the highest shelter on the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail. On a clear day you can see the nearby Roan High Bluff, Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald and much more.
About Simon: Originally from Suffolk, England, Simon has lived in NC for 10+ years. He has travelled extensively and spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. As director and originator of Ventures Nature Travel program in Tryon, NC, Simon has led birding trips all over the world.

Hike #3 — Roll n’ Stroll in Rhododendron Gardens

Start Time: 11 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Judy Murray
Difficulty: Easy (2)  |  Location: Rhododendron Gardens

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Volunteer Highlands of Roan Advisor Judy Murray will take hikers along gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely stroll hikers will learn about SAHC’s newest land protection projects including Big Rock Creek and two retired Christmas tree farms. This hike is designed to give people of all hiking abilities the opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the property that SAHC has diligently protected over the last four decades. *This trail is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

Hike #4 — Salamander Scavenger Hunt

Start Time: 11 am  |  Estimated End Time: 2 pm |  Leader: Marquette Crockett
Difficulty: Moderately Easy (3-4) |  Location: Hampton Creek Cove

A twist on our usual Kids in the Creek, this shorter hike is designed to get kids outdoors and explore the beautiful waters of the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Led by Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, kids will learn about basic stream ecology while discovering different features of the surrounding landscape.

In the creek, kids will look for crayfish, salamanders, and other aquatic creatures. On land, Marquette will point out the historic fruit orchard and explore the cow pastures. Kids are welcome to bring fishnets, buckets, or other toys to play with in the creek. This hike is for kids 7 years and older. Parents are welcomed to participate as well. Please bring water appropriate clothing and shoes plus appropriate day hiking gear.

Hike #5 — Challenge Hike

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 5 pm |  Leader: Kana Miller
Difficulty: Very Difficult (10+) |  Location: Starting from Hughes Gap, ending at Hampton Creek Cove

Join us in traversing 15 miles across the longest contiguous stretch of grassy balds in the world. The Highlands of Roan is our flagship focus area; we’ve protected over 20,000 acres of globally significant, rare habitat and incredible views here – and we want to show it off!

The Challenge hike is the most difficult, but also most rewarding hike we offer during June Jamboree – and this year’s route is no different! Beginning on the Appalachian Trail at Hughes Gap, we will make our way up Beartown Mountain to Roan High Knob on the newly re-routed trail. From Roan High Knob, we’ll continue down to Carvers Gap and then up and over Round Bald, Jane Bald, past Grassy Ridge and on to Yellow Mountain Gap. Yellow Mountain Gap marks the 11th mile and the hike doesn’t stop there.

We will leave the AT and head down into Hampton Creek Cove on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. This final four-mile stretch is no rest for the weary; expect several stream crossings and short sections of incline, before finishing this long hike in the beautiful mountain pastures of Hampton Creek. Need an extra incentive to sign-up for this hike? The post hike fellowship will be within arm’s reach at the end of the trail. Challenge hikers will be able to wander down the street for some hard earned snacks and beverages.

Register Now

Register online now, or contact Kana Miller at kana@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 205 for questions or more information.

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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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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.

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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.

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Jammin’ at the Gott Farm

Gott Farm and White Rocks and Camp Creek Bald.jpg

Gott Farm with White Rocks and Camp Creek Bald in the distant background

Last Thursday, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) staff members enjoyed another sensational day at Peter and Polly Gott’s idyllic farm. Tucked away deep in Madison County, the 218-acre Gott Farm is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest on two sides, there are abundant springs, wet coves full of wild edibles, viable soil for farming, and breathtaking views. Their farm is truly an ecological gem.

Peter and Polly Gott.jpg

Peter and Polly Gott with dog Katie

Our visit started out with a tour of the Gott’s log cabin, which Peter meticulously made using hand tools and historic methods. The precision and perfection of Peter’s craftsmanship was exhibited in every other building on their property as well. Peter’s tools were impeccably organized and the woodsheds were stacked so systematically, you would think the logs were books in a library. After a tour of Polly’s old art studio (which Peter also made) and their sauna by the river, the staff headed to the top of their property to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking White Rocks and iconic Camp Creek Bald.

The real fun began after lunch when the instruments were pulled out for some old-fashioned music making. Peter led the charge on his banjo, while SAHC’s Emily Bidgood and Margot Wallston piped in on the fiddle, Jamie Ervin played the guitar, and Hanni Muerdter strummed on the mandolin. Peter’s daughter and grandsons brought it altogether with a rendition of “Bury me Beneath the Willow.” The celebration culminated with SAHC staff dancing their socks off. Peter called each dance and his daughter Susie played on the fiddle. It was a grand ol’ time.

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Peter and SAHC crew playing some tunes

Visiting the Gott Farm has become a tradition that all the staff look forward to every year. When the trees start blooming and the flowers are out, everyone knows it is time to visit the property again. “Peter and Polly are two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Their generosity towards others and love for their land is pervasive in everything that they do.” Said SAHC Membership Director, Cheryl Fowler.

“It was also nice for our staff to see and experience the fruits of our labor firsthand. Because we do much of our work sitting in front of desks everyday, it’s easy to sometimes lose track of the bigger picture and forget why we protect these pieces of land.”  Said SAHC executive director, Carl Silverstein. “After a trip like today, it reaffirms for SAHC staff on a personal level, why we continue to protect land that has so much conservation and sentimental value.”

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Acres along Appalachian Trail Corridor and Buck Mountain Protected

Buck Mountain.jpgThe Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has secured another small but significant tract of land protecting the Appalachian Trail (AT). This 13.2-acre project will leave an indelible mark on the AT viewshed.

Buck Mountain’s visibility to the public makes the property an essential acquisition. Although there are no stunning viewsheds or overlooks from the property, Buck Mountain’s scenic and recreational value is immeasurable due to its lasting presence to any AT thru-hiker.

The property is located within the boundaries of the Cherokee National Forest, and abuts  the National Forest System lands on two sides and will provide consolidation and conservation of open space, viewsheds and watersheds. The topography of Buck Mountain is gently sloping to moderately steep with good access and views of Beech Mountain. Buck mountain is located within the boundary of Laurel Fork Bear Reserve and will help protect a fragile and sensitive watershed at the headwaters of Laurel Fork, a tributary of the Doe River and Jones Branch tributary of the Elk River. The property is also located near wetlands at Jones Branch Bog, a designated rare community supporting a state endangered plant. Additionally, Buck Mountain will protect environmentally sensitive habitats for threatned animal species.

Besides Buck Mountain’s extremely close proximity to the AT, the property also sits close to a population of well over a million residents. Buck Mountain is situated within a 150 miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States, and several large metropolitan areas including Knoxville and Gatlinburg, TN, Asheville and Boone, NC. Buck Mountain will be visible to thousands every year who hike along the Appalachian Trail.

The US Forest Service has had its eye on Buck Mountain for a long time. The track of land will provide and improve public access to National Forest land while also enabling the Forest Service to better utilize resources to combat invasive species and fight forest fires.

Because of the threat of Buck Mountain being sold to developers, SAHC was able to act quickly and purchase the property from a combination of monetary donations and public funds. Even with dramatic budget cuts to the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, SAHC has still been very successful protecting land in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The acquisition of Buck Mountain stands as a testament to that.

Although not large in acreage, Buck Mountain will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on hikers in western North Carolina. SAHC’s Executive Director, Carl Silverstein explains, “properties of all different sizes can be significant” and Buck Mountain fits that mold.

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