Straight Fork, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, October 2009
Among the many eye-witness accounts of the giants of the Appalachian forest, this one, written by Henry Seidel Canby and published in Harper's in 1916, is one of my favorites:
We rode up Straight Fork through a sun-spangled grove of chestnuts, then left the trail to Cataloochee, splashed noisily across green water, burst horse and man through a screen of rhododendron, and entered the dark forest. It was an open forest beneath its high roof. The eye went freely once we were past the door of rhododendron, and at first, in intervals of guiding our scrambling horses, we looked vainly for the poplars. Hemlock shafts, oak bolls aplenty; and then on the upper slope I saw the first, a smooth tower, its head lost above the leafage, and beyond another, and below in the hemlocks a group of four, like cathedral piers beyond the pillars of a nave.
We rode to the first in view. Twenty-one feet in circumference, it rose massively for seventy feet perhaps without a branch; how much above one could not tell in that forest. For as in the redwood groves of California, so here, the eye can seldom take in a whole tree when in its forest setting, the camera never. Indeed, the habit of the great poplar is curiously like that of the giant sequoia. Like the sequoia it rises above lesser neighbors, and flings from the capital of its great trunk a crown of heavy limbs that turn and lift nobly above the forest roof. From an opposing hillside you can pick out these crowns of light-green foliage above the oaks and chestnuts, just as across a Sierra canon one sees the sequoias lift above spruce and fir. Only these two trees, in my experience, have this regal habit. And if the sequoia is vaster, it is less graceful.
Remote access will never replace Sublime Beauty It may enhance it some times And it will never be the Source or define IT All the cosmic cameras and all the cosmic clowns Will never find the Source And are nothing compared to the Artist Who composed the Living Trees, our elders, the who's That give us what we breathe to Live with them And whom I will die with appreciation and love for.