Before we head full into cold weather, here’s a sunny memory to tide you over until next year. For the June Jamboree this past summer, a group of around 50 people joined together for a beautiful day of hiking and exploring in the Highlands of Roan, celebrating 40 years of conservation with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. In addition to the classic Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge hike, Yoga on the Mountain, Kids in the Creek, and Roll and Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens, this year we also featured another strenuous challenge hike along a section of the Appalachian Trail. Our Former AmeriCorps Project Conserve PR & Outreach Associate, Anna Zanetti, helped co-lead the Challenge Hike, and here is her story… Read more
Formerly operated as a camp and retreat, the Big Rock Creek tract adjoining the Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County, NC has been imbued with love and memories for decades. We purchased the high elevation 58-acre parcel in the Highlands of Roan to permanently preserve this cherished place west of Hughes Gap, just a half mile south of the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Once occupied by TrailRidge Mountain Camp and later Camp Pleiades, the tract can be viewed from the AT south of Hughes Gap and from Roan High Bluff. Landowners Jacque Allen and Barbara Benisch, who operated Camp Pleiades for eight years, reached out to SAHC to preserve the land’s natural, recreational, and cultural features. Read more
Earlier this year, we welcomed a series of interns and researchers to the cabin at our 601-acre Grassy Ridge tract in the Highlands of Roan, dubbed ‘the Bird House’ because of the ubiquitous winged wildlife in this rich upland habitat. Lee Farese, one of our first visitors to the cabin, spent several weeks observing and photographing the tract. He recently shared this account of his stay… Read more
SAHC was pleased to host a group of sixteen volunteers from AmeriCorps Project Conserve (APC) on Round Bald within the Highlands of Roan. For the last three years, SAHC has partnered with APC to get members out on the Roan’s grassy balds to complete a variety of habitat restoration projects.
This year, APC members used hand tools to cut back woody plants from the interior of the grassy bald on Round Bald. Without management, the small herbaceous plants, sedges and grasses that characterize grassy bald habitat will be eventually overgrown by woody plants. This is a natural process called “forest succession;” however in this case, it is important to keep succession in check because grassy balds are a globally imperiled habitat type. Grassy balds offer a home to rare endemic plants and high elevation grassland wildlife species – a home that will slowly be lost without the help of volunteers like those from APC. Read more
The Roany Boyz began as a group of friends who liked to hike and camp together. One of the group — former SAHC president Carol Coffey — was involved with our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off, in which volunteers spent the third weekend of July cutting back invasive plants to protect the quality of the Grassy Ridge Bald. The Appalachian Trail in this area crosses Round Bald, Engine Gap, Jane Bald, and a shoulder of Grassy Ridge. Hiking out to Grassy Ridge, Carol noticed that Engine Gap and the Southwest side of Jane Bald were rapidly being overgrown with blackberries. Judy Murray, SAHC’s head of Stewardship for the Roan Highlands at the time, agreed to provide tools, primarily weed eaters, if Carol could form a volunteer group to work at Engine Gap. So, in 2001 the Roany Boyz began volunteering to manage grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap. Read more
A message from Roan Stewardship Director Judy Murray:
“I am happy to report that Grassy Mow-off 2012 was a rousing success! What the 23 volunteers and our Field Ecologist Chris Coxen were able to accomplish far exceeded my expectations! They re-treated three large areas, and were able to track their progress over time.
A true labor of love for this treasured resource, and one that continues to go down in the record books and the grassy balds database. Read more
On Saturday, June 2nd, eight Highland Brewing Company volunteers, two SAHC volunteers, and seven SAHC staff performed clean up work on Little Hump Mountain in the stunning Highlands of Roan. Our crew was lucky — the day started out overcast, but breezes swept away the clouds to reveal a panoramic backdrop, so we could enjoy gorgeous views during the work day. We focused on habitat management in this early-successional wildlife restoration project area, where SAHC had paid contractors in summer 2011 to create wildlife openings. Our team partners moved downed woody debris into piles to facilitate future management and provide cover for small mammals and other wildlife. Read more
Sunday, May 20th, was a beautiful day for a hike in the Highlands of Roan. Thirty six ambitious hikers joined SAHC and Highland Brewing Company for a full day of hiking.
We started our journey along Roaring Creek down in the valley below Little Hump by hoping onto the Overmountain Victory Trail. This was a good warm-up for everyone as we gradually ascended to connect with the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail traverses 17 miles in the Highlands of Roan and provides some of the most spectacular views in the Southern Appalachians. The grade of the trail became immensely more difficult as the group set their sights on summiting Little Hump Mountain. A little ways up, hikers took a break to look back down into the valley and admire the iconic Overmountain Shelter. Read more
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we acquired the title to a critically significant property in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in the Highlands of Roan. This 225 acre tract will be protected forever.
As Board Member, Jay Leutze put it, “Spear Tops has it all.” From endangered and threatened species such as Rock Gnome Lichen and Trailing Wolfsbane, to a stunning waterfall, this property is one of SAHC’s most spectacular pieces of land. At 4,900 at the summit, Spear Tops offers remarkable views of the Highlands of Roan and is a crucial addition to North Carolina’s conservation landscape. Read more
SAHC and a slew of volunteers spent a full day mowing, trimming, and cutting to create additional habitat for the rare and “near threatened” golden-winged warbler on Little Hump Mountain in the Highlands of Roan. The Golden-winged Warbler (GWW) is an early successional species that is dependent on a unique habitat consisting of sparse trees, shrubs, and abandoned fields. Unfortunately, the GWW’s habitat is rapidly disappearing, as old farmsteads and other early successional habitats are developing back into forested land.
Under the leadership of SAHC’s seasonal ecologist, Chris Coxen, volunteers created additional habitat space for these incredible birds in the hopes to increase the number of nesting pairs next spring and summer on Little Hump Mountain. Read more
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