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Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock extensions July 15, 2012

Posted by Jenny in conservation, history, Nantahala National Forest, nature, poetry.
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Tulip poplar soars to the sky

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.

Joyce Kilmer

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.

Fighting in Second Marne

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.

Base of tulip poplar


Clethra (Sweet pepperbush)

New life in old stump

Cimicifuga (Black cohosh)

Closeup of cimicifuga


A giant among ordinary trees

Actea alba (Doll’s eyes)

Jewelweed drooping in the heat. It was the middle of our ten-day heat wave.

Ripening blackberries

Rosebay rhododendron along the stream

A long-ago childhood July 11, 2012

Posted by Jenny in history, home, memoir.
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My great-grandmother Edna Loraine Crowninshield in center, with her Sunday School students, around 1885

This is taken from a memoir entitled “When I Was a Girl” by my grandmother, Sybil Crowninshield Kennedy Bennett. This post begins a series that alternates every other post.

My mother was Edna Loraine Crowninshield. She was born February 3, 1866 in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, the youngest of six children. Her father was a prosperous businessman and farmer. He owned about three thousand acres of land, much of it on Mt. Pisgah in Cheshire County, NH, from which he cut and sold pine for the paper mills at Hinsdale, and for railroad ties. She always regretted his unwillingness for her to have more schooling.

She told many things about her life there – the mountain spring, the water of which ran through the kitchen sink, winter and summer, the big fireplace called the Arch with cranes for making maple syrup, trying out lard, making soap and other things, which was in a separate kitchen from the family one with the sink and built-in baking oven.

She was eight years old when the family moved to Cato, New York [a small town northwest of Syracuse]…. She went to the three-room Cato Union School…the older students were probably learning at about the seventh and eighth grade levels. She loved to study and read. She was president of the Presbyterian Church Missionary Society for 25 years…. she taught the Women’s Bible Class in Sunday School for over 40 years [when she was older than in the photo above, which shows her before she was married, with girl students].

She made all our clothes. Most of my sister’s and mine were made over from those of older, larger cousins and ingeniously put together. This was a tremendous effort for her, because style and fashion were of little interest in themselves and she had no training in dressmaking. When paper patterns were invented it was all much easier. When I was eleven and [sister] Celia ten we went to Buffalo to the Pan American Exposition (1901) in August. It seems hard to believe that our costumes were blue wool serge sailor suits with pleated skirts, white blouses and little jackets and trimmed with white soutache braid, even in the hot weather! We did have cotton dresses always, of course, at home. We were very comfortable and carefree in dark blue dotted or printed calicos and gingham with checks and stripes, all summer long.

My mother did all the work, cleaning, cooking, even washing and ironing with a handpowered washing machine and stove-heated irons. Other tasks were canning fruit and vegetables as well as picking and harvesting them and making jams and jellies. All the bread, cakes, pies, and cookies were made by her except such little help as we girls gave.The most successful cakes I make, even now, are two she taught me when I was ten or twelve years old. She was famous for her baked beans, meat loaves, soups, bread and chocolate cake.

She was very fond of poetry from her childhood and knew literally hundreds of poems by heart as well as the words of the church hymns. These she would repeat just to amuse herself when busy. Sometimes she recited to entertain at church or parties. Her memory was prodigious and she depended on it for “company” as much as she did on reading.

(To be continued)

Huckleberry Knob July 4, 2012

Posted by Jenny in conservation, hiking, Nantahala National Forest, nature.
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I’m not sure which was better, the meadow or the sky.

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.

Huckleberry Knob is a 5565′ peak located in the Santeetlah Headwaters north of the Cherohala Skyway and adjacent to the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness. The tallest of the Unicoi Mountains, it is a grassy, meadowy bald that is mowed once a year to keep it open. I found it to be a remarkable place.

The trail starts off through a high-elevation beech forest that’s become ghostly because of the frequent fogs that foster lichens and moss on the tree trunks. Soon you reach open meadows filled with many wild grasses and buttercups, pale purple vetch, and fleabane. The colors run in swathes, forming a patchwork.

The tall grasses had a wonderful texture.

Vetch and buttercups.

The pale purple vetch grows all along the borders of the Skyway.  I passed several mysterious signs that showed the diagonal red bar (the “don’t do it” of traffic signs) across images of a tractor and a person spraying herbicides. I can only guess that random individuals have taken it upon themselves to spray along the highway to make it tidier. As it stands, the vetch makes a lovely undulation of color along the road.

It seemed as though motorcycles outnumbered cars on the highway, as bikers went out to connect Cherohala with the “Tail of the Dragon” section of US 129. Since the time I lived in Knoxville in the 80s, the “Dragon” has become a big-time biker mecca. It didn’t used to be that way. I just thought of it as the road that made quite a few people carsick (fortunately I’m not susceptible myself).

But back to the trail. I passed over the first bald, called Oak Knob, and saw ahead to Huckleberry Knob.

Approaching Huckleberry Knob.

The meadows with their shifting configurations of isolated, scrubby trees reminded me of Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, which I visited last year. The main difference is that the Santeetlah Headwaters have no red spruce. I halfway expected to see red spruce as I drove past 4500′ elevation, then recalled that the Alarka Laurel bog near Bryson City is the southernmost location of spruce. According to the Wilderness Society, the Canadian northern flying squirrel lives in this area, a species that normally lives mainly in spruce forests. It had been flying from hemlock to hemlock instead of from spruce to spruce, and now that most of the hemlocks are gone, there are plans to plant red spruce in the area to sustain these remarkable creatures. It seems as though the climate would be suitable for spruce—it’s just that this area is not contiguous with other areas that have spruce.

Wikimedia photo of flying squirrel.

At the top of Huckleberry Knob I encountered a cross marking the grave of a logger named Andy Sherman, who perished from cold on December 11, 1899. His body and the body of a companion were discovered by a hunter nine months later. Sherman’s body was too disintegrated for removal; the other body was sold to a doctor for use in medical study. An unkind fate for both of them.

Grave of Andy Sherman on summit of Huckleberry Knob.

This was a very short, easy hike of about 2 miles roundtrip and 250′ vertical. I combined this trip with a visit to Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock—I’ll save that description for another post.

Sprinkling of vetch in the meadow, in front of the shrub.