Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

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Tramping in the Great Smokies

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  • "spruce pine," the black spruce "he-balsam," the Fra- in a United States Geological survey report, and ser balsam "she-balsam," the sumac "shumake," the according to the last census of the state forester there butternut "white walnut," while cucumber is humor- are 152 varieties of trees found in Tennessee, ously called "cowcumber." The birds of the Great Smokies offer another fasci- There are vines everywhere. Vetches, woodbine, nating study. Bird lovers have listed 264 species, in- crossvine, bamboo vine, trumpet vine, virgin bower, eluding visitants. I have seen bluebirds, the indigo bitter-sweet, wild grape and muscadine are a few I have seen up Roaring Fork. The lovely passion flower, state flower of Tennessee, grows everywhere. ON TOP OF MT. LE CONTE, SECOND HIGHEST PEAK EAST OF THE ROCKIES, THERE IS A BALSAM CABIN WITH AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN AND MANY OTHER CAMP CONVENIENCES The wild flowers are too numerous to chronicle. Galax leaves are found in profusion. More rare are the fragrant heart leaf, the shortia, the umbrella leaf, Dutchman's pipe, St. John's wort, fringed orchids, both yellow and purple, and the closed gentian. Two of my favorite shrubs are the stuartia, whose large, white, waxy blossoms are found in the spring and the euony- mous or burning bush, member of the staff tree family, which delights me in the fall when whole hillsides flame forth with its orange-colored fruit. There are 137 species of native trees and 174 species of shrubs in this region, according to Ashe and Ayres, bunting, wood thrush, cardinal, summer tanager or red- bird, numerous warblers, the Carolina wren, the yellow-breasted chat, near my mountain cottage; and on top of Smoky, the Carolina chickadee, Carolina junco, ruby-crowned kinglet, not to mention wild turkey and ruffed grouse. Of the game of the Smokies, my guides have told me that the foxes, wildcats and catamounts have about made way with the smaller game, pheasants, squirrels and boomers—a small red squirrel. "There are a lot of foxes-, both red and gray," my guide continued. "Red's the one they chases, but it's agin the law to kill 'em. There's a lot of bear. Some folks think we've got two kinds of bear, brown and black, but there's only one kind, the black bear. Hit turns brown in summer; in winter hit's black as can be. Same bear." As for snakes, copperheads and rattlers are the two most dangerous kinds. But in all my years of tramping in the Smokies I have seen only one snake, and that a diamond back rattler, and my inquiries among the natives have revealed only four authenticated cases of people being bitten by snakes. The southern mountaineer is an interesting character. He may be uneducated, but he is not uncultured. Neither is he stolid and stupid, as some writers insist; rather he is cautious, with a backwoodsman's caution. From personal observation I have found the mountain people to possess a keen sense of hunior and a vivid imagination. No one can tell a bigger yarn with a straighter face. I I ere is one told by a guide to a girl from the East, who kept bragging about the size of the mountains where she came from: "I got moughty tired o' hearin' that girl talk about her mountains bein' bigger'n our'n, when I knowed they warn't, 'cause 1 beared the government folks from Washington when they wuz clown here decidin' .about the park say that the Smokies were the tallest mountains this side of the Rockies. 1 guided this girl Up on Gregory Bald and up to Indian Gap, on the Carolina line, and up the Chimneys, and then up Me Conte, which folks say is higher 'n anything east of the Mississippi 'cept Mt. Mitchell in Caroliny, which is only a teeny weeny bit higher. Up thar on top of 1 ,e Conte, where you can see into seven states, didn't that girl ask me 'Is this the highest mountain you got?'—sort o' throwin'-off like. And I just up on tole her, 'Why, we've got mountains so high we fix 'em on hinges an' let 'em down at night to let the moon pass by.' Atter that she kept a shet mouth." Reprinted from American Forests And Forest LlFE for August, 1927 Magazine of The American Forestry Association, Washington, I). C.
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