Monday, May 30, 2016

going home again

It was Asheville novelist Thomas Wolfe who said, "You can't go home again." He meant that as soon as you leave, it begins to change. Because change is the natural order.

Last Saturday, I led a Memorial Day Weekend hike for 19 people back into my ancestral fountainhead: Baskins Creek and a waterfall that is located only a few miles upstream from my boyhood home. The trip was hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains Association and GSMA Executive Director Laurel Rematore and Marketing and Membership Associate Marti Smith went along on the adventure. Lynne Davis, Ijams volunteer and wildflower aficionado, i.e. ardent devotee, was a surprise guest but her expert knowledge is always welcomed.

Great Smoky Mountains Association supports the perpetual preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the national park system by promoting greater public interest and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. 

Baskins Creek Falls is a two-tiered, 40 foot waterfall that often goes overlooked. It was only 1.7 miles into the site but mountain miles can be deceiving. The trail is rated "Easy," but I'd rate it "Easy, f.a.b.g." Or, easy for a billy goat. Oddly, it's mostly downhill going in, dropping approximately 335 feet in elevation (2580 to 2245 feet) from the Roaring Fork Trailhead. But what goes down the mountain has to climb back up. So we did. 

Ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora)
But, we were in no real hurry. It was a beautiful day, a "stop and smell the roses" kind of day, meaning it was leisurely. Mountain laurel was in bloom at the top of the ridge we had to go up and over, and the Catawba rhododendron (purple) was just beginning to flower. Most of the ephemeral spring wildflowers had come and gone, but we found two of the park's oddest plants: ghost plant, a.k.a. Indian pipe and bear corn.

Ghost plant is pale white, like a corpse. Unlike most plants it is not green, it also does not produce its own food through photosynthesis, but rather it's a parasite that steals its food from the roots of trees, most often beeches. Bear corn is another non-photosynthesizing, parasitic plant that surreptitiously siphons its food as well, usually from the roots of oaks or beeches. Both are not dependent on sunlight and can grow in very dark environments, shaded by their host trees. 

Here's my ancestral connection: Just about everywhere you look in the Roaring Fork or Baskins Creek watersheds there are ghosts: old rock walls, wagon roads, remains of stone chimneys, cemeteries. Lives were lived there, scratching an existence out of steep mountain slopes with little flat land for gardens. Granddad Homer Bales told the story of a cow that once fell out of its pasture and broke its neck. On the way into our destination, we walked past the Bales Cemetery, where several of my ancestors are laid to rest. And since a mountaineer's life was a hard-scrabble life, they were indeed at peace in the quiet setting. We stopped for awhile to pay our respects. 

The Baskins Waterfall was where my grandmother Pearl Mae Ogle Bales took showers when she was a barefoot girl, as did all of the rest of the large family.

Preston Columbus Ogle family. Circa. 1918. Front: Clifford, Elizabeth, Luther, Homer, Preston, Stella, Fred. Back: Walter, Russell, Pearl (Bales), Arlie.

In the late 1920s, great grandfather Preston Columbus Ogle sold 124.6 acres along Baskins Creek that included: a 3-room frame house, 4 tenant houses, 2 barns, a mill, 200 apple trees and a waterfall for $3,500. P.C. sold the family property, as did all of his neighbors, to become part of  a greater good: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

And a greater good it is.

Last September, I led a driving tour of the cabins along the park's Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail for the GSMA. For a look back: Click: Heritage Tour. 

Thank you, GSMA's Judy Collins for inviting me to lead both. And thank you, GSMA's Laurel and Marti.   

Baskins Creek Falls
Photographing ghost plant before it disappears
Paying respects at the Bales Cemetery
Bear corn (Conopholis americana)
Galax (Galax urceolata)
Hiking group, left and right beyond the creek
Best guess: Silvery glade fern (Deparia acrostichoides)
The hike out
Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense)
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Thank you to all! It was great fun. Photo by Linda Hintze.

1 comment:

Paul James said...

Always a treasure you are Lyn. Let me know if you do this hike again! Paul