I set out on a quest for good photos of the American Holly (Ilex opaca Aquifoliaceae) trees found in Holly Holler on the MST section 1 in Watauga County.
At BRP mile post 277.9 across from Osbourne Mountain Overlook is the entry point for the south end of section 1. The large maple at the edge of the tree field is a landmark maple with a heritage and history in Watauga County. A grave yard from the 1800's is marked with field stones at its base. You can see more photos of this tree by following this link: Deep Gap Maple
Cross the parkway to the west side and enter the field at the fence post shown in the this photo. Follow the edge of the fence up to the entrance into the forest.
The trail is very gentle through a pine forest and shortly into the Holly Holler.
As you begin to approach Holly Holler you will notice the abundance of Holly trees.
A unique attribute in the winter is that all the other trees are without leaves and browns and greys abound all around, but within Holly Holler everything remains green!
Quite beautiful and enjoyable indeed.
My quest was to find an abundance of holly berries. First finding was a pleasant frozen moment of the season as snow melting created icicles on the tips of the holly leaves. But, not one single berry could be found on any trees! I found that curious since I had seen an abundance of blossoms on these trees last spring.
I finally found one and ONLY ONE tree in the entire holler that had berries on it this year. Why?
I wonder why and hope to learn more about the sexuality of holly trees.
But, I made the most of the pleasure in finding just one and took a few photos to share...
Another discovery as I was walking back out was this lovely nest from last spring.
It was half filled with snow and constructed in the most interesting manner.
Woven pine needles and straw mostly formed the frame. But pieces of paper from a hornets nest were also woven into the structure.
I enjoyed spending a few minutes with this nest and love the light shining through onto the snow in this photo.
As you step back out into the field at the south end of this section the view is amazing. In this photo you are looking out over the Hwy. 421 valley toward Snake and Elk Knob. The orientation is north and west from this point.
Zooming in a bit you can see the Snake on the left and the Elk Knob on the right.
This close up offers a clear understanding of how Snake Mountain got its name from the serpentine ridge line. Also evident is the dramatic height of Elk Knob. Elk Knob is the tallest mountain in Watauga County at 5,520 feet. It is also one of the newest state parks in North Carolina. There is a trail under construction to the top that has some remarkable stone work. For more information: click here
Another real treat from this section is the first view of Grandfather mountain from the Watauga Section. As you step out onto Osbourne Mountain overlook Grandfather Mountain can be seen to the south west.
In the next few photos I have relied on a holly shot I made a while back. This was a cultivated holly (non-native) that I photographed at another location.
I share this with you as a glimpse into my application of nature in art photography. I hope you don't mind as I share a little of my art work in the next two photos.