Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Day 4 on the AT, Hightop Hut to Bearfence Mountain Hut

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I woke up early feeling pretty good, but it was so nice just to lie there for a while in the quiet. Sure there were noises in the night. Mice scrambled around the hut. Squirrels combed the gutters for nuts, and something walked around outside. The big full moon was great because you could see just like it was daylight. I had my bear spray beside me and a flashlight, but I never had to use the light. You could see fine – just open one eye and peek out to see if a bear was there or not. Didn’t see anything. I also kept a pot beside the bed. If a bear came, I could bang it on the wooden floor and scare anything within a mile to death. 

I tore myself out of bed and got ready, but it was 9:00 before I was ready to get going – late! Maybe I was overconfident that I had made this hut in good time. Turns out, it was a shorter trip. 

 On this day I was struck by tree tumors looking like beehives in the middle of trees. I also was struck by graveyards of beautiful Chestnut trees. I quote from https://www.nps.gov/shen/learn/nature/diseases.htm: 

American Chestnut Blight
The American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) once dominated the eastern forests from Maine to Alabama and comprised 50% of the mountain forests of this country. It is estimated that if all the chestnut trees alive at that time had been in one pure stand, there would have been a forest of nearly 9 million acres. In size they were the “redwoods of the east” growing to a height of over 100 feet and a diameter of nearly 10 feet. Renowned for their weather resistant wood and dependable crop of nuts, chestnut was of great value to man and wildlife.

These giants are now absent from the landscape: a tragic loss that has been said to be one of the worst natural calamities ever experienced by this nation. In the early 1900’s a fungus (Endothia parasitica) was accidentally introduced into New York City from trees imported from Asia. The blight quickly spread on its new host, the American chestnut, destroying it throughout its range.

Today, chestnuts can only be found in the understory, as shoots from the blight resistant roots. By the time they reach 20 feet in height the blight attacks and kills them.

All you can tell from the trees lying on the forrest floor is they were magnificent. I’m no good at telling which trees are which, especially when they lie dead, but I was struck by the beauty of so many of these big trees. What troubles man has caused!

I finally made Bearfence Mountain Hut at 6:00. Again no one was there. Oh happy days! Still couldn’t eat, still queasy and losing weight. The spring was good. There was ample firewood. I was tired, but in one piece.

One Response to “Day 4 on the AT, Hightop Hut to Bearfence Mountain Hut”

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