Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Graham County


Even though it was a bit out of our way home to Linville from the Bedford Falls Alpaca Farm, my husband and I took the detour happily to see the massive trees in Kilmer Forest.

Many of us have read these lines

"I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree..."

Joyce Kilmer wrote this poem Trees back at the turn of the century. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a tribute to the poet who was killed in action in France during WWI in 1918. The Forest Service inaugurated the Little Santeelah, a 3800 acres remnant of virgin wilderness as The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, dedicating it on July 30, 1935. Additional acres were also purchased later to create the 14,000 acre wildlife area that emcompasses the park.

The parking area is clearly marked and the park service mans an information booth from May through October. There are 60 miles of hiking trails in the park but the one that goes through the virgin forest is an easy one, perfect for families. It is a two mile figure eight loop. Most of the virgin growth is at the intersection of the two loops.

On the path in there are plenty of other plants to notice - mosses, smaller trees, shrubs and plenty of rhododendrons. When we began to see the larger trees, I kept having my husband stand next to one to take his photo. Then a bit further along another tree would be even bigger. Another photo opp. Then another! I suggest you wait until you are well inside the forest - then you will really see the monster trees to photograph them.

In this amazing primeval forest virgin trees stand over 100 feet tall and 20 feet around at the base. Many are ancients, hundreds of years old. This is the largest stand of old growth trees on the eastern seaboard of the US. Huge poplars, giant red oaks and magnificent hemlocks loom above you. It is dizzying to look up at their tops! The park is strictly maintained in its primitive and natural state. The feeling of peace and tranquility in the forest is palpable and welcoming.

The forest is located 15 miles from Robbinsville in Graham County. For specific directions and more information call the Park Service at 828 479-6431.

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