Who protects the bear?

out protectbearEvery fall, folks flock to Rhodes Big View between Highlands and Cashiers to photograph the bear shadow that appears in the Chattooga River headwaters. Photographers set up their cameras and wait for the shadow to creep over the mountains. 


Have you ever wondered who owns the parking spot at the Macon and Jackson County line where the photographers set up, or who trims the vegetation back so you can see the view? Have you ever wondered who keeps the mountains in the background from sprouting houses? 

The answer to the first two questions is easy, the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust owns the 10-acre parcel where everyone parks. It was donated by Margaret and Ran Shaffner and Bucky and David Thomas in 2006. Check out the plaque located below the guardrail next time you stop- but please be careful when doing so. HCLT staff and volunteers keep the vegetation trimmed as well as we can. 

Turns out the shrub that seems to have taken over the view lately is a rare endemic, Hartwig’s locust, only known from a handful sites in Western North Carolina. HCLT volunteers are attempting to balance the growth of the shrub and keeping the view cleared, not always easy with an endangered species. 

The answer to the last question is perhaps more complicated. This view is dominated by wonderful peaks, but the two that stand out are Rock Mountain and Chimneytop, both owned by Will and Becky McKee but protected by a conservation easement with HCLT. The story is the same for Timber Ridge, placed into a conservation easement by the Warren family in 2009 and Laurel Knob, placed into an easement in 2006 by Thomas and Georgene German. The rest of the view is conserved by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service (you can see the Blueridge Parkway in the distance), and land owners that have chosen to not to develop their lands — yet.

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