66 Heart of the Smokies, North Carolina

(Image, July 1985, © 2005 M. Childers)  

The very idea that the richly forested Carolina hills, north of Bryson City, were at one time clear-cut seems enormously improbable. There are, however, only a few tiny pockets of virgin forest left in the Eastern U.S., where trees are over 120 years old.

Many forests in the East have been clear-cut so many times that the nutrients in the soil have become depleted to the point that the land can only support thickets of small bushes. This is, of course, the way soil begins to replenish itself.

Take a walk in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest near Robbinsville, North Carolina. You can easily sense from the height and girth of the great poplars, walnuts, maples, and oaks, the amount of the wood taken from original eastern old-growth woodlands. Then, take a walk into the forests around Cades Cove and see how much smaller the same kinds of trees are.  It is as staggering to contemplate the work it took to log all of those old forests as it is to wonder what became of all that beautiful lumber. Most of it, I expect, went up in smoke.
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