Friday, September 16, 2011

There be Giants…


The clouds on the Skyway were between 2500  and 3500 feet; above, the classic “clouds in the valley” shot. We were crossing over to North Carolina (where we actually have a non resident fishing license) to do a little scouting and look in on the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
When we were thinking about an Airstream (for the twelfth time), Pat was firm that it had to be short enough to use at Horse Cove CG at Joyce Kilmer.  We enjoyed many backpacking trips with the kids in the Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness area and camping at Horse Cove was as close as we could get.  Earlier this week there was even a plan to use our aged GMC tow vehicle to pull Lotti over the mile high Skyway and see if we could slip her gleaming 25 feet into a slot there.  This plan met stiff resistance and was thoroughly rejected while we climbed steeply this morning and descended even more steeply.  Still contemplating the scorched brakes and groaning transmission we might have endured on such a journey, we were almost relieved to see that Forest Service had newly engineered the campsites to virtually eliminate all but the most stubborn RVers. 
Philosophical now, we decided that this area is for the Young and Flexible, and Horse Cove, like Camp 4 in Yosemite, should be for them.  Our days of climbing to Hangover Lead for the sunset might be behind us, but we could, by god, still negotiate the Memorial Loop. (That being the tourist two miler that we young dirtbags once scoffed at.)
The Memorial Loop circles some of the largest cove hardwoods in the country.  Seriously now, it has always been a refuge and a retreat; even when crowded with hikers, a kind of reverence overtakes most by the time they hike to the Memorial Plaque; the noisy and flip flop clad jump on the trail backwards and turn back to the car at the second set of steps.  The really big yellow poplars are in the back loop and by then everyone knows this is a Cathedral. 
Still dirtbags at heart,we blew past the kiosk which might have proven informational and rounded the first corner to see THIS….
     and THIS2011_0916KILMER0041

Every  tree along the path, splintered.  Every Hemlock seemingly twisted by a demonic force… We speculated on wind, and tornado, perhaps ice.  We entered into discussions with others who thought they could remember the exact storm…
One warmly hugged the first live tree we f2011_0916KILMER0046ound amongst the carnage…

Then, we were joined by a scoutmaster and his bride who HAD stopped by the Informational Kiosk…
“They’re All Hemlocks, dead at the hands of the Wolly Angelid.  The Forest Service had to remove them for safety and decided to blow them with explosives to make it appear like natural causes..”
Thus chastened, we slipped along the rest of the loop, humbly, reverentially, but  saddened that we had lost so many, many friends.  Damm bugs! 
2011_0916KILMER0057 2011_0916KILMER0068

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