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Appalachians Translation Guide

Posted on Wednesday May 9, 2012

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The Appalachians have not disappointed!  We hiked & biked over 100 miles in and around the mountains including a hike up to the 3rd highest point in the East Coast.  And we also hiked some ridges along the famous Appalachian Trail. 

We drove some of the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway before we ran into tire trouble again.  Now we've managed to replace all the old tires on the RV.

We had a great visit with my Aunt and Uncle here in North Carolina.  It has been 11 years since we saw them last.  And we had the opportunity to visit my Grandmother who is 93 and still healthy.  Her short term memory is going, but she was having a good day and was funny and sharp-witted as ever.

Our next destination is the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia for a few more days of hiking the Appalachians before heading to Maryland.  Someday soon we'll post some photos...!

In the meantime here's a short translation guide for West Coast hikers coming to the East Coast:

  • Gap -- we call this a saddle, the low spot between two peaks.  Sometimes a gap is also used for what we would call a pass over ridges.
  • Bald -- many of the mountains here are rounded because they formed under the sea, unlike the West Coast peaks.  Meadows on the tops of these mountains are called balds.
  • Cove -- mountain ravine valley with high moisture, and therefore high vegetation growth.  In the more rugged "coves", the trees were inaccessible to loggers (almost 95% of all the old growth trees in the East have been logged).  These are the only places where you can find virgin timber.  Even the Great Smoky Mountains park is mostly first or second generation forest replanted by the famous CCC.
  • Steep Trail -- really means uphill.  With the tallest peaks topping out around 6,500 there aren't even a lot of switchback trails.  But don't think you won't get a workout climbing some of them as the elevation gains of 2000-3000 feet can be along cliffs and often steep slopes.
In general you won't find a lot of forests out here.  87% of all national forests are West of the Mississippi, but what you do find here is well protected and they are trying to reintroduce native species and expand their holdings where possible.

The ecosystems of these parks are still fragile compared to their large cousins with mostly virgin stands like Alaska's Tongass, Olympic National Park, Yellow Stone or Glacier National Park.  Much of these forests were cut and burned and most of the animals killed.  So the recovery to the state they are in today is impressive.  Species reintroductions like the Falcon and Elk have been somewhat successful.  Hopefully they will be able to move to the stage where even their predators (like wolves) can be brought back.