THE BALSAM PEAKS
This I think is because so many high ridges are in the immediate vicinity and there is no near view of a valley.
Between Double Spring Gap and the Richland we fell in with a "moonshine" scout, armed with a long-barreled gun, who told us he had been watching for a bear. Our presence had evidently been heralded by some one sent ahead from a cabin on the side of Lickstone where we had stopped early in the forenoon to inquire the way. The man was quite affable when he found out who Magee was and that we were on a harmless tramp, looking for plants and mountains. He went with us to the summit of the Richland, pointed out many interesting landmarks, and offered to take us to his home to spend the night. I gave him a "poke" of fine-cut tobacco, which he said was too soft for him, but that his little boy would be glad to have it. Thus I unwittingly encouraged a vicious habit in one of tender years. Every one uses tobacco in these mountains, the women taking it in the form known as "dipping"—a stick, one end of which is moistened and dipped in snuff, held between the gums and cheek. On our way back we met another man carrying a heavy sack on his shoulder; undoubtedly corn destined for some secluded spot where the alchemy of a crude still would transmute it into golden "moonshine."
An almost obliterated trail leads from the Richland Balsam, by a fir-crowned ridge to Caney Fork Bald, the treeless top of which is a grazing range. We saw it first against the glow of a western sky, the pasture slopes of its dome-like crown bathed in cool shadows. Scattered groups of cattle, sheep and horses gave a truly pastoral touch to the scene. There is something fascinating in these remote mountain pastures with their vast reach of sky, and girt about as they are by a world of forest-clad ridges. They are the park-lands of the Southern Appalachians.
The Balsam peaks, with their glorious alpine meadows, their boreal forests and rhododendrons, and the sylvan wealth of their lower slopes, lie in the very heart of the region which the government of the United States now has under consideration to purchase and set aside as a national forest reserve. Apart from the wisdom of thus preserving a vast tract of forest land and conserving the water-supply of many important rivers, there is, in this idea of an Appalachian National Park, an appeal to the aesthetic side as well—to that love of wild, undisturbed nature and of mountain scenery that seems to be a natural instinct in large numbers of our people. John Muir has sounded this note in his delightful book on the national parks of our western country. The Southern Appalachians have likewise a charm of their own. To wander over these mountain meadows and balsam-covered peaks is to enrich one's life and store the mind with fragrant memories.