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Branches and green leaves with light-gray sky.

TrekEast Blog 37: Pine Mountain, Southeast Kentucky

Southeast Kentucky has some of the most abused land and impoverished people in the East, tragically, but it also has some little-known ecological gems and stirrings of an escape from the economic entrapment of strip-mining and clear-cutting. Boom and bust economies are common across rural America, and often they mean brutal exploitation of once spectacular landscapes. Photo: John Davis

Close-up of large, grayish, brown cat.

TrekEast Blog 36: Southeast Conservation Reflections

Now that I’ve pedaled, paddled, and hiked across much of the Southeast Coastal Plain and up through the Piedmont to the Southern Appalachians, I’ve a clearer sense of what we need to do so that other species may likewise go from coast to mountains or vice versa. For me, this journey is a luxury; for some species, it may be a matter of survival. Photo: Larry Master,

Clear river spotted with rocks. Green trees visible in the background.

TrekEast Blog 34: Linville Gorge

Linville Falls and Gorge offer Blue Ridge Parkway travelers some of the most spectacular scenery near the famed road, and offer more intrepid explorers the chance to see nearly 10,000 acres of forest that escaped logging. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is a rugged place, and one of the first designated Wilderness Areas in the East, but too narrowly drawn, at about 12,000 acres, to adequately protect this key watershed. Photo: John Davis

Large tree with green leaves with green grass and mountain background.

TrekEast Blog 33: Roan Highlands

On a misty day in the cool of spring, a hike up to the bald peaks of the Roan Highlands can almost make you feel the ghosts of grazing past. Genetic engineering notwithstanding, mammoths and other mega-fauna, whose browsing and grazing likely kept these balds open, may survive only as ghosts and bones, but their partial replacements, elk and bison, can and should be restored as well as wolves and panthers that help govern the herbivores’ numbers and distribution. Photo: John Davis

A light-brown cow farm animal peeks out from the doorway of a battered gray and red barn.

TrekEast Blog 32: Asheville to Wild Acres

Western North Carolina is deservedly blessed with a strong and cohesive conservation community.  Innumerable conservation benefactors, wildlands advocates, and naturalists are giving their lives to make whole again what some know as the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province, some know as the Southern Appalachians, some know as Katuah, and some know as the most biologically intact part of the most biologically rich region in the eastern mountains – an area that still has several hundred thousand acres of its original forest. Photo: John Davis

Trees dusted with snow cover mountain ranges in the foreground. Mountain ranges are lit by the setting sun in the background.

TrekEast Blog 31: Great Smoky Mountains

If I may, I’d like to begin with a bit of comic relief having to do with the blog feature photo.  My own little hike through the Smokies took a comical twist when my boots (my old Garmont leather hiking boots which had supported my feet for thousands of hard miles before) began disintegrating. This was one rugged hike too many for them. Photo: John Davis

A large poplar tree surrounded by smaller trees with green leaves.

TrekEast Blog 30: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Joyce Kilmer Forest is a bittersweet experience.  Sweetness describes the towering hardwoods, especially the tulip poplars big enough to shade an elk herd.  Bitter is the sight and the fate of the once mighty hemlocks, victims of more human meddling, and rapidly succumbing to the hemlock wooly adelgid, an exotic insect which people brought here from Eurasia on nursery stock. Photo: Kim Nix

Tree branches filled with green leaves with a green mountain and blue sky background.

TrekEast Blog 29: Sassafras Mountain and Jocassee Gorges

The mountains of the Carolinas bear many scars. They have suffered heavy logging, road and dam building, acid rain, chestnut blight and other exotic species invasions, exurban sprawl, and increasingly a climate destabilized by human industry. Yet still they abide, and their patches of original forest and swaths of recovering forest provide homes for some of our country’s richest concentrations of trees, wildflowers, mosses, salamanders, crayfish, and mammals. Photo: John Davis

Trees covered in green leaves with blue sky peeking out from above.

TrekEast Blog 28: Chimney Rock State Park and Surrounds, NC

A keen naturalist, led blindfolded into the Southern Appalachians, might discern where she was by the trees and salamanders, even if not by the soaring topography. The Southern Appalachians, into which I’m now winding my way upward, on foot and by bike, have a plant diversity that my northern naturalist friends might envy, and an amphibian diversity that would befuddle them. Photo: John Davis

A small waterfall above a pond with green foliage background.

TrekEast Blog 27: South Mountains

The ride west from the Uwharrie foothills to the South Mountains took me across much of the Piedmont and unto the edge of the Appalachians.  South Mountains State Park, protecting about 18,000 acres of the roughly 100,000-acre sub-range, is special for its protection of a link between foothills and mountains, providing clean water, and affording trout livable waters.  Photo: John Davis

A gray cement bridge stands above a pond of brown water with green leaves background.

TrekEast Blog 26: North Carolina’s Piedmont

For very understandable reasons, conservationists in the Southeast have tended to focus on the Coastal Plain and the Appalachian Mountains, both ecologically rich and aesthetically beautiful regions. The foothills between, the Piedmont, have received less attention. Yet if we are to achieve an Eastern Wildway – make it possible for all native species, including wide-ranging ones like panthers and bears and wolves, to find room to roam – we must maintain and restore connections between coast and mountains as well as between areas within each region. Photo: Denise Wilson-Davis

A woman places one hand on the tree trunk next to her.

TrekEast Blog 25: North Carolina’s Sandhills

Biologist Ron Sutherland knows the back roads and fire roads of North Carolina’s Sandhills Gamelands like city folks know their neighborhoods.  He has walked and driven thousands of miles through these sandy, rolling hills looking for snakes. On my family’s outing there with him, he casually pointed at a copperhead, as if he’d visited this snake under the charred log many times before. Although the abundance of roads and arrival of fire ants and feral hogs and retirees has diminished its wildness somewhat, the Sandhills is still a good snaky place. Photo: Ron Sutherland