Caesars Head State Park
Southeastern part of state, Monroe County. Closest town: Tellico Plains. From Tellico Plains, take Tennessee 165 east (Cherohala Skyway). When you get to the well-marked turn for Indian Boundary Lake, reset your trip odometer but do not turn. In about eight miles, you will cross a bridge. Park in the first lot to the left after the bridge (this is 8.5 miles from the Indian Boundary Lake turn). The lot is not marked, but it has parking spaces for many cars and is bordered by a low rock wall with an opening. The opening is where the trail begins. A short way down the trail, you will see a sign for trail 87; follow it until it crosses a rocky stream (a bit more than a mile). You will hear the waterfall.
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I checked my truck’s odometer frequently and followed the directions I had written down to find the trail into the forest. It is an obscure trail, the type you have to know about to find. There are no signs on the road for it. But what a road! This was the same route that naturalist and writer John Muir walked in 1867, and I will give his description, which still holds today:
Such an ocean of wooded, waving, swelling mountain beauty and grandeur is not to be described. Countless forest-clad hills, side by side in rows and groups, seemed to be enjoying the rich sunshine and remaining motionless only because they were so eagerly absorbing it. All were united by curves and slopes of inimitable softness and beauty. Oh, these forest gardens of our Father! What perfection, what divinity, in their architecture! What simplicity and mysterious complexity of detail! Who shall read the teaching of these sylvan pages, the glad brotherhood of rills that sing in the valleys?
Congaree National Park
Although from a distance the scenery here looked the same as it did in Muir’s time, vast changes have occurred since he walked through. Muir was looking out across thousands of acres of old-growth forest, but serious logging followed closely on his heels. A person stopping at this overlook midway between Muir’s visit and mine would have seen thousands of acres of clear-cut stubble: stumps, splintered trees, and understory plants left to bake in the sun. Today this land is all part of the Cherokee National Forest. The sign at the overlook on the Cherohala Skyway tells the story:
Between 1900 and 1930 all the forest you see before you was privately owned and commercially logged. Every tree that could be used for saw timber, railroad ties, fence posts, pulp wood for paper products or bark for tanning was removed by timber companies whose sole interest was profit. The result was ecological destruction. The huge amount of cut wood left over fueled catastrophic fires never before seen in the entire Southern Appalachian Mountains. Soils which took thousands of years to form were washed away in a matter of years and with no forest canopy to retain the rainwater, the valleys below were subjected to disastrous flooding.
Hilton Head Island
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