Obviously I did something right because every pic in this set carries a specific memory that I feel is reflected in some way — more or less adequately according to the luck of the amateur photographer — and brings a spark of recognition and emotion. I’ll list them for you.
- Pic 1: the two large trees on the right near the top of the ridge stood out as I ascended the path up the hill, their canopies spread out against the sky (which you can’t see very well because they didn’t fit in the image — the eye is better than any camera, I don’t care how fancy it is)
- Pic 2: BEECH! Fagus grandifolia. Commonly called “American beech” but the botanical name means “big-leaved beech” which I find much more to the point. Beech is one of my favorite trees and I came across a stand of them on a hillside. Their trunks are smooth and look like muscle. But that said, they don’t look naked like crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), an ornamental favorite in the South, which in me often provokes the reaction, “OMG dear, cover yourself!!” Here’s a pic:
I can’t explain my special affinity for beech. All I can say is this: if the Lady Galadriel had to pick a primary species for the Forest of Lothlórien from those of the southeastern USA, I know which one it would be. Beech, of course. No other tree would suit the task better. What a delight to see them again in Boone’s Cave Park.
- Pic 3: the contour of the land has its own reality and forms the substrate of the forest experience. I was thinking about what lay under the forest cover — i.e. geology. It matters, you know. Sedimentary? Volcanic? Metamorphic? Time to Google when I get back to the computer …
- Pic 4: Special tree, somehow in the middle of the forest it has become like the trees you see in the open, beautifully broad in form and elegant in its branching. It holds the focus of attention as you move toward it and draws you in.
- Pic 5: The elegance of leaves with a huge number of visual planes all happening at once. Density moves from the understorey — a true understorey in this view — to the dispersion of the canopy. In the sunshine this spot would make you catch your breath, I bet. In the monochrome light of the overcast day it offered me a study in movement and dispersion from earth to air.
- Pic 6: Canopy — but it still leaves the sky visible, so each branch and leaf is etched against the light. I think in the sunshine it would be much harder to see in this way, so the advantages of the cloudy day come to bear on this view.
- Pic 7: Diva tree: umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). They’re not big but when they show up in the forest they are rock stars. I always think about how ancient the species are, too — the fossil record has magnolia species dating from the Cretaceous Period (dino times). Some things never go out of style. 🙂
- Pic 8: Creekside wildflower cluster: foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), a plant I know from the Bitter North. Growing beside a small creek running down a gulley in Boone’s Peak. Lovely, delicate thing, and one of the few wildflowers I saw.
- Pic 9: Naked geology. Nothing like an outcrop to make the real star of the show take center stage. It’s all about the geology, babes. As it happens the geology is metamorphic, not surprising when you consider that the Appalachian range is one of the oldest orogenies on the Planet, and we are, after all, in the foothills of the Appalachians. I saw another exposed stone — a schist, I believe — down by the river that contained so much mica it glittered even in the half-light of the cloudy day. Ooh la la.
I also have a lot to learn. There are trees I can’t identify, which my attention to detail pointed out quickly as I wandered. Winged elm? You could pull the wool over my eyes in a heartbeat. So I have work to do to be up to the job of a wander through the forest. If you don’t make the effort to know who you’re visiting then your momma did not raise you right. Trees are people too, after all. Let that point never escape our attention.
What a treat the park was, another instance of county parks being fully the equal of their state and national counterparts. Hats off, ladies and gentlemen. Ya done good.
Taking advantage the following day of what Oregonians would call a “sunbreak” (oh, the dismal stretch of days behind that word …) I headed south to Eagle Point Nature Preserve, just a bit farther south of Lexington than Boone’s Cave Park is west. The difference between the two venues could not be greater. Allow me to explain.
Eagle Point Preserve is at the southern end of High Rock Lake, a reservoir created by damming the Yadkin River. It’s ENORMOUS. I was surprised to discover that access is difficult for so large a lake — there are relatively few public access points. When I drove down past it on my way to the Preserve all became clear. It’s lined with posh houses and looks as bougie as all get out. There are speedboats out and about and “PRIVATE” signs all over the place. From the Wikipedia page comes this news:
Much of High Rock Lake is lined with privately owned homes, representing all income levels. Prior to 2008, Alcoa had required that all new homes have 8 feet (2.4 m) of water when at full pond and have 200 feet (61 m) of lake frontage before a private pier permit is issued. Boat ramps and boathouses are no longer allowed to be built, although existing structures that are maintained are grandfathered. Retaining walls at the high water mark are only allowed in extreme cases, although existing structures can be maintained. Private piers are required to be of a floating style, allowing them to be usable even with lowered water levels. The new 38 year FERC License allows greater flexibility to add roof structures over many existing piers and modifying pier sizes, as well as a few other changes that offer somewhat more flexibility to existing lake front home owners.
It’s amazing how little effort it takes to turn a lake with a surface area of 15,180 acres and 360 miles of shoreline into the equivalent of a housing development with covenants. Just. Shoot. Me.
The Preserve is an odd spectacle of a place, I’m sorry to report. It’s managed by Rowan County Parks and Recreation but has the feeling of a mom-and-pop affair run by some doddering uncle of the family who took on the job years ago and stuck with it because he’s fit for nothing else. The paths are full of dips that form pools of water after a rain (as was the case the day of my visit) and the forest itself is a product of the distention of nature that created the lake. In other words, it ain’t natural. It’s a reflex reaction to the change in environment to lacustrine from lowland hardwood forest. The result is the predominance of Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), also known as Virginia scrub pine or Jersey pine. “Often found on poorer soils” was the news I found when I consulted botanical information. Oops. The forest floor in the Preserve is covered with pine needles, not leaves. That tells the story. Pine needles are acidic buggers and not much will grow around them. That explains the lack of understorey plants. Of the few I saw identified by botanical markers one was poison ivy. Double oops. Here are the pics: