Sunday, December 5, 2010

Parkway Tree Project ~ Share the Journey ~ BRP 75th

Hey Folks, winter is on us up here in these mountains. I am sure you feel it too. 

I recently heard about the Blue Ridge Parkway Tree Project. I have three trees in the Watauga Section of the MST that I am going to recommend.

On Saturday I went to photograph the last of the three and to begin the photo selection process. I can only submit one photo for each tree. So you, my friends can help me decide by letting me know which capture you like the best from this posting.

The criteria for selection for this project include: images of trees within the Parkway boundaries that stand out as the most beautiful, the oldest or largest, trees that tell a story or have a place in history and those that are unique for their shape, species or character. 

The photos above represent the Grandview Apple Orchard. In the first photo you can see the MST weaves gracefully through this orchard on the east side of the parkway.
There are perhaps a dozen fruit bearing trees remaining on the edge of this forest; some are red and and some golden. I feel certain they all would be considered "heritage seed lines".

I suspect the orchard was there when the BRP was cut through along this stretch. No doubt they are over 70 years old, perhaps even 100. You can tell by their form they have been knocked down by nature many times.

These trees can be found less than .2 miles north from the Grandview overlook near BRP MP 281.4.

Interestingly, just a short distance South from the Grandview Overlook the next colony of trees can be found that I think are significant to register.

This is a ridge on the east and south side of the BRP that drops off into Elk Valley. The ridge is adjacent to the Parkway and hikers pass by this habitat on the East shoulder as they step out of the forest trail near MP 282.4.
These photos were taken in early May and capture the grandeur of this cluster of Native Dogwood habitat. Trees in this stand reach heights of nearly 50 feet. They have survived on an incredibly steep southeast facing ridge. Many of our native dogwood trees have succumb to blight, insect, or storm damage in these mountains.
I do believe because they are on the south side and because they are truly on the edge of the Piedmont (just below the crest of the escarpment) that they must benefit from the warm air rising from the lower elevations to which they are a more prevalent species.
The last tree that I am submitting for recognition is the "Deep Gap Maple" standing due north of BRP MP 278 and across from Osbourne Mountain Overlook. I have studied this tree for 15 years and know it as a heritage tree for our community and for the BRP.

Here is a link to another blog of mine specifically about this tree.
Look here Deep Gap Maple
I hope you will take a look around on that blog too...see what you can find there in ;-)

The Deep Gap Maple can be seen from Highway 221, Old 421, and the Doc and Merle Watson Memorial Highway (new 421). It is truly a landmark maple and is unique in the fact that the BRP boundary posts form an inset perimeter around this mighty tree. There are concrete and medallion survey strikes and boundary posts defining the protected foot print for this tree.

In December of 2009 and early winter of 2010 this tree took quite a beating from the winter ice storms. Yet it remains standing and will self prune eventually regaining its habit (form) even with the scale of damage done to it by nature.
I like the dramatic light in this photo and will likely submit this one for the photo exhibit.

It is worth noting that there is a hilltop grave yard beneath this tree. It is marked as a cemetery on the national maps. The gravestones are all field stones with dates, initials, and a few names scratched into them. I took rubbings of stones with dates from the 1830s to the 1890s.
When I first began to explore on this hilltop this entire ridge was covered in a pine forest. Now the the forest is gone and the Christmas tree farm has encroached on the nature of this hillside. Many of the grave stones have been covered or lost.

I'd love to work with a group of volunteers clearing, cleaning, and recovering this heritage cemetery. I think an arborist could prune and shape the damaged limbs into healthy growth that might survive yet another 170 years.

Let me know if you have a favorite photo. I'd be interested in hearing from you in the comments section below or by email. I would also like to know if you have any information or stories associated with these trees. Doyou have significant trees in your awareness along the MST?

I just realized that this set of photos takes the viewer through all four seasons. From winter to fall there are moments in nature to discover if we take the time to explore with open eyes.

enjoy~ shelton


  1. Thanks,Shelton, For your work and time on the trail, and for your beautiful photos. It is great for people who, like me, are disabled and unable to enjoy it personally these days. We truly appreciate your efforts. Chuck Eason

  2. Shelton, I think this Parkway tree project is a great endeavor and thank you for spending your time to help make this happen. I think the second image in your Grandview Apple Orchard series shows the age and character of the remaining trees the best. The first image of the dogwoods shows the expanse of the grove better. I think the first image of the maple shows the urgency needed to protect and identify these trees the best, although the last image is very pretty. Great story with all these trees. Let me know if I can help with this project. Cheers! Drew Sumrell

  3. The first photo, of the winter path in the orchard is outstanding. It is by far the best. I am not crazy about the dogwood photos. They are pretty but not as nice as the others. I really like the maple with red leaves and the old gnarly tree with the stormy sky behind it. Those two would also be my second and third choices. The red maple is just beautiful in its own, and the old gnarly tree with the graves below speaks of the urgency to protect the trees and history of the parkway. Kudos for your careful and beautiful contributions to this project. Liz Bliss-Jaynes

  4. the first photo in each of the sets are incredible and obvious choices to me...the contrast and color saturation are better in the first of the third tree in my opininon, over the one you like...sorry !

  5. All super photos. I don't have much of an artistic eye, but the ones of the apples look delicious and make my mouth water!