An Appreciation for Those Who Came Before

The expansive views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains from the summit of Hemphill Bald are enough to make anyone want to plop down in the tall grass and spend the day watching the shadows of clouds flow across the landscape.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies like a pearl on the string of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the thread running down the spine of some of the world’s oldest mountains. The rich biodiversity, scenery, and recreation of the region draw more visitors to the Smokies than to any other National Park—more than 9.6 million in 2012. Hemphill Bald lies directly on the park’s boundary and crowns the shared mountainside between the park and the adjacent Cataloochee Ranch. The ranch is privately managed and its owners have granted conservation easements on much of the area to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), partners in a project to restore and enhance the critical boundary with the park. SAHC is not only a first-rate land trust, they knowledgably take care of the areas they have worked to preserve.

With the generous and thoughtful support of Nature Valley’s Preserve the Parks program, volunteers divided into two groups to work on separate projects. One group spent the day selectively clearing brush and trimming vegetation to “feather” the edges between the mountain forests and the adjacent open areas. The second group repaired a 50-yard-long section of trail adjacent to the park that was suffering severe erosion.

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