Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock extensions July 15, 2012Posted by Jenny in conservation, history, Nantahala National Forest, nature, poetry.
Tags: Joyce Kilmer, Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock, Second Battle of Marne, WWI
This post is one of a series about “North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures,” lands targeted for higher protective designation by the Wilderness Society. For more information about this campaign, please visit the Mountain Treasures website.
Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock has had the wilderness designation since 1975. However, two proposed extensions to the wilderness will connect it to important adjacent lands, including Topoco conservation lands, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Santeetlah Headwaters (the latter described in my Huckleberry Knob post). These additions lie along the northeastern and southern boundaries of the wilderness.
One of the guiding principles of the Wilderness Society is to safeguard connecting corridors between protected areas. These corridors allow for unimpeded movement of wildlife and for continuity of plant species—developed lands create barriers.
I visited Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock the same day I visited Huckleberry Knob. I didn’t do any major hike there but wandered around the area dedicated in 1936 as the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. The VFW had asked the Forest Service to set aside an area to honor Kilmer, who had been killed in action in World War I.
Of course, Kilmer is best known as the author of “Trees,” which might be the poem most frequently memorized by schoolchildren in the twentieth century. The poem’s simple sentiments and predictable rhyme have made it an easy target for parody. But how many poems have been cherished by so many people over the years?
Fewer people these days know anything about Kilmer’s service in WWI. He enlisted within a few days of the US declaring war on Germany in April 1917 and sailed to France with the 165th Infantry in November 1917. The regiment saw deadly action starting in March 1918.
As a member of the regiment’s Intelligence Section, he was involved in scouting enemy positions. During the Second Battle of Marne in July—the final phase of the German Spring Offensive—he led a party to locate the position of a German machine gun. His companions later found him slumped on a hill, killed by a sniper at the age of 31, on July 31, 1918. I have written about another person’s experience in the German offensive here.
Like the VFW, I find it fitting that a soldier who loved trees should be remembered this way. What follows is a gallery of the memorial forest.