I like visiting those sites here in the Smokies region where there is what I think of as an “overlay;” that is, places where both natural and human history commingle. At such places, one encounters the confluence of all or several of the major strands in the region’s natural and cultural fabric: wild areas, plants, and animals; early Cherokee and pioneer settlement influences; and the impacts of the modern era, initiated here primarily with the coming of the railroad in the late 19th century. At such places, the alert observer can experience what the French have defined as “frisson” — a moment of excitement and insight that arises when various forces coalesce.

Horace Kephart left the cabin site on the Little Fork in the fall of 1907, spending considerable time in other areas of the Southern Appalachians, comparing life there with what he had observed here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Upon his return to the Smokies in 1910, the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company had commenced operations on Hazel Creek. Not wanting to live among that sort of activity, he moved into the Cooper House, an unpretentious boarding just off the town square in Bryson City.  He also rented a small office space over the old Bennett’s Drug Store just around the corner.  

mtnvoicesA large yellow buckeye tree overhangs and supports the swinging gate that accesses our property. The tree has started to drop the unique fruiting structures for which it is named. Year around, it always has something interesting going on.

mtnvoicesSome years ago, when I first became interested in plant identification, I became curious about liverworts. They are one of the distinctive plant groups (like fungi, lichens, mushrooms, etc.) without advanced vascular systems.

We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water — springs, branches, creeks and rivers. Water is the essence of our very being here in the mountains.   

Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park probably has as much or more to offer in the way of recreational opportunities than any other watershed in the park.

This time of the year is perhaps the best time to enjoy flowering plants in a home garden. Many of the larger and showier species are just now coming into full bloom and will remain so into fall. 


Several evenings ago, I came home tired and sat on the deck with a glass of iced tea, and the dogs and I just watched the plants. That was sort of therapeutic. Every once in a while, it seems the perfect thing to do. Just sit down and watch the plants.

While perusing the shelves in a used bookstore recently, I spotted a title that was irresistible: From the Banks of the Oklawaha — Facts and Legends of the North Carolina Mountains. Pulling it out for further examination, I discovered that the book was the third and final volume in a series self-published between 1975 and 1979 by Frank L. FitzSimons of Henderson County.  

mtn voicesThe yellow jackets are back. They inundated my home office this morning. First they gnawed through the ceiling from a nest site that allows access under the eaves. 

The whistle of the excursion train on the far side of the river shrieked three times. From where I sat in the graveyard on the knoll overlooking Bryson City, I could see tourists waving from their windows the way travelers never do when departing on a trip that’s really going somewhere. 

We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water — springs, branches, creeks and rivers. Water is the essence of our very being here in the mountains.   

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