LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Devil Holds Court in the Mountains

Regular readers are well aware of my love of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Hardly a week goes by that we don't drive up through Pisgah National Forest to the Parkway. It is a lovely drive in all seasons. Since we live nearby, we can drive up during the week when there are fewer tourists. Mondays and Tuesdays are best.

The various shades of green rival the colors of Autumn. The scenery is spectacular in every direction.


A famous rock formation along the BRP is known as "Devil's Courthouse." It is clearly visible from an overlook and there is a well-maintained hiking trail to the summit.
There is a cave inside this rock formation and according to the Cherokee Nation, the Devil himself had a courtroom in this cave. From this courtroom, the Devil judged the evil people of the world. At other times, the legend tells us, the cave was used as a ballroom for a slant-eyed giant who loves to dance there.

The summit of Devil's Courthouse provides a panoramic view. In the past, four states were visible from the summit; North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The view is still spectacular, but the view of the four states is now relegated to the outstanding photographs of days gone by.
---------------I have wonderful memories of trips on the BRP as a small child. The mountains seemed so much more vibrant and beautiful back then. For a long time, I thought the difference was a childhood illusion. The brutal truth is that the views from the photographs of yesteryear are simply not present today. The clear and crisp resolution in the old brochures has turned into a smoky haze that tremendously reduces the visibility of the distant mountains. It is estimated that fossil fuel pollution has reduced the distant visibility in some areas as much as 80% in the past 50 years. Let's all hope we wake up and make some REAL changes in our lives to reduce pollution. It's not simply the view...the pollution is acidifying the streams damaging the trees, hurting the fish, the trees and plants (and thus the birds).

21 comments:

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Such gorgeous views- I can see why you ove to visit this area.
I like to think that those of us who have a passion for birds, flowers, insects and all wildlife will carry our passions further to protect the things we love.

Kathryn Magendie said...

A-Men!!!

(and reference to your comment on my blog - your book should never have taken 3 weeks to get there! I can't imagine why that happened -geez - it should take days to order and receive it if they bookstore is not carrying it!)

Rudee said...

I couldn't agree more. We need to become better stewards of the land.

troutbirder said...

Beautiful place yet sad that inch by inch it is all being lost. We will be going thru Glacier N.P. this fall but I won't see any glaciers.

robin andrea said...

I have often wondered why the distant views always seem so hazy. It really is a shame. When children grow up without knowing that crisp view into the distance, how much might that limit their dreams?

The Bug said...

We used to live in Weaverville - just a few miles from the parkway. We went up to Craggy Gardens all the time. Not as often toward Pisgah. I loved living & working in that area...

JStantonChandler said...

What a beautiful place. I grew up visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains. I haven't been in years, but I have been hiking recently and it's awful at the pollution you can see hovering around Atlanta. I long to pull back from the city and breathe the clear air. Here's to doing all we can to be better caretakers of the earth, and hoping others follow in our steps.

~Jen

Barb said...

Hello Carolyn,
Wonderful post - I enjoyed the legends of the Devil's Courthouse. The atmosphere is still clear here in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains, but as you get closer to the Foothills and Denver, pollution becomes evident by smog in the air.

Mary said...

It used to (and may still) be that tourism was one of NC's largest industries. I remember meeting a military wife once who said that every military family who spent time in NC wanted to retire here. (Not that I'm encouraging everyone to move here; I simply understand the feeling.)

We allow industries which do horrendous damage to our beautiful state and then fail to even regulate them properly. Our trees go to paper mills which pollute our rivers. A large cement plant has the backing of local officials there to build in one of our historic coastal towns. . . and don't even get me started about the hog farms!

I remember the Parkway from childhood excursions, too.

The Thundering Herd said...

And Judaculla (the devil) lived in a lair on the Richland Balsams (the highest point on the parkway just a few miles from the Courthouse) when he was not holding court. We love hiking throughout Judaculla's stomping grounds.

But even cooler is Judaculla Rock - pictures of which you can see here - http://www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/rock_art/judaculla.html (may need to cut and past that - not sure if a link will work). That makes the legend seem even more interesting when you try to figure out what the rock really means.

By the way, we hike the Devil a lot in the winter, but rarely in the summer (too many tourists as you note). We come in the backside via the MTS trail which also has some stunning views in that area. The sky is much clearer in the winter and you can still see a great distance. Summer haze is much worse. Just have to watch for ice on the trails, particularly up those rocks.

Bird Girl said...

Though it has changed for the worse - still a beautiful view! Hopefully it will be for years to come!
Lovely scenery pictures!

LauraHinNJ said...

I was there! I like the summertime view even better! I wish I'd known you were so closeby... it might've been fun to say hi in person.

dAwN said...

I hope that we all wake up and try to conserve, one step at a time.
I had no idea that your visibiltiy has changed that much!
I sure do hope things get better!

TaraDharma said...

what a disaster, the pollution and what we are doing to the air. that's a drastic change in our lifetime. I will send info to my nephew -- he's a student at Warren Wilson, in NC.

The Birdlady said...

Hi Carolyn....Beautiful shots - we try to do the weekdays too.

Cheryl said...

I can see why you love this part of the world so much...it is, without doubt, incredibly beautiful.

I think we all have a responsibility to do 'our bit' to lower pollution levels. Sadly, worldwide, there are many changes that are affecting wildlife and out beautiful rivers and mountains and much much more....

A thought provoking post......

scienceguy288 said...

Looks like a wonderful vantage point. Certainly worth a panorama photo.

Tina said...

Wow! I didn't realize that your visibility has diminished that much! I'm hoping since we are all lovers of nature, here, that we have passed that love to our children and between us and them, and their offspring, we will learn to treat Mother Earth better than we do.

Ruth said...

I love the legends of your area. Seems the "devil" is at work in the environment. We don't always recognize our habits as being so destructive.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments.

Lynne - So true.

Kathryn - Don't know why it took so long to get your book. Perhaps because I ordered it around the time it was published. Sometimes I hear about a book and order it before the publishing date.

Robin - So well said.

Bug - We haven't been to Craggy for quite a while. The Parkway was closed for a long time due to some undermining of the road on our side toward Craggy. We do love it up there.

Herd - We are winter hikers as well. Love the views and lack of people. And the dogs definitely prefer the colder weather.

Laura - You definitely need to get in touch next time you're in our neck of the woods. Wow! You were really close.

Ruth - We do seem to have lots of mountain legends having to do with the Devil. The other most popular ones always involve an Indian princess.

TSannie said...

Right there with you. I hope it's not too late for our world.