High Ground 1

High Ground: Peak Hikes of the Mid-Atlantic States

highground1-new-lgIn High Ground, , our top-selling volume, you’ll discover a new perspective on nature – from the top of our ridges and mountain crests, where we follow bear trails, hunt ginseng root, make sweet birch tea. We walk on some of the most intriguing ground in the east, from Pennsylvania’s Black Forest through Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains and on to the Black Mountains of North Carolina, highest in the Appalachian chain – and deeper into nature than ever before.

With the intent of providing a framework to approach your own treks through the outdoors, you’ll come to understand foxfire, ginseng, eastern coyotes, black bear trails and other obscure features of high ground in the mid-Atlantic states. The geographic scope of the hikes, none of which exceeds 6 miles in length, encompasses the Allegheny Mountains ( 50% ), Blue Ridge Mountains ( 25 % ) and Appalachians ( 25% ). (Paperback) $15.95

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From the introduction of High Ground:

map3I learned about the nature of ridgetops 20 years ago. In my walks through the woods of the Ohio Valley, I found a certain seclusion on the moss-covered knolls situated amidst the oak forests. There, on the cushioned ground, the dense woodlands opened a bit, offering freedom from the stifling air of August and a first taste of the spring sun in March.

Even today, a particular mossy knoll comes to mind. When lumbermen cut away the local woods, they left intact that little knoll which, typical of the ridgetops, was poor in marketable timber due to thin soil. They left intact not merely its trees, but all the elements of nature with which I first became acquainted and which I have never left behind.

drawing3On that ridgetop, and on all ridgetops, grow the most congenial of plants. Trailing arbutus, the pink and white wildflower with evergreen leaves, blooms there long before the person anticipating spring expects wildflowers, carrying a powerful fragrance like that of scented soap. At the close of spring, wild azalea blossoms — again, pink; and again, fragrant — perfume the air. At all seasons, wintergreen leaves, with their teaberry scent, run along the moss.

An excerpt from High Ground:

pines5I lay there on a June night when a lightning flash lit the clearing and the rain pelted down. In the mugginess after the rain, I drifted around and saw lightning lying fallen and still, a flash of lightning on the woodpile. It glowed like the lights of some natural city unto itself, where by day was only broken and sawn wood pieces, fox-orange under the clouds.

It was foxfire, the luminescent fungus, and it came from under the earth, from the roots of a dead sugar maple sapling. It had shown itself on other nights in this clearing, over the years, from diffuse sources: luminous chips from an ax-blasted stump; beneath papery bark, glowing within the rotted heart of a yellow birch limb.