When Hugging Kills Trees…

“Parks are made to bring the music to the many, but by the time many are attuned to hear it there is little left but noise.” Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, p.159, 1949

Those Who Hug Trees

It seems to be a staple when visiting the Redwood Region of the United States: the family photo with everyone squeezed inside a hollowed out, but still living, tree. Or maybe the photo under one of the area’s drive through trees. Or perhaps one with the kids’ arms stretched out as they try to reach around a 20 foot diameter tree. These shots are especially alluring since the perspective of the tree is better shown this way. It looks HUGE!

Perhaps only one of those images would a “tree hugger” be truly against; I mean, really, how do you experience a huge tree from the interior of your car?! Seriously.  But the rest of the photos are of people showing their admiration of the trees, or even literally hugging the tree, which wouldn’t likely ruffle too many feathers of the most extreme environmentalists, right?  The stereotype of a “tree hugger” is one who is “with” nature and wouldn’t do anything detrimental to Mother Nature. They might even wear hemp clothing and be barefoot, depending on the stereotype in your head. One could imagine, as they walk through the woods, that they would hug each tree they saw and bestow heaps of endearing compliments onto them.

Thank heavens the world doesn’t follow my stereotypes! If all the “tree huggers” were to behave that way, we’d have no trees!

Tree Hugger = Tree Killer?!

I never really thought that hugging a tree could do any damage until I moved here. Sure, maybe that isolated tree out in the woods that doesn’t see but one or two visitors a year wouldn’t mind a hug, but the trees near the trails and pullouts are being loved to DEATH! With some type of odd irony the universe finds humorous, Redwoods, in all their tall and lovely grandeur, have very shallow roots. Very shallow. They are standing on their tippy toes.  Somewhere between 8 and 12 feet deep are as deep as Redwood roots sink.

Any of the shorter trails you walk in the Redwoods, you’ll find what they call ‘social trails’ out to the largest trees. The parks didn’t put these in! People looking to hug every large tree in the forest, or even just a few of the largest, are ‘loving’ the trees to death. Trammeling and trampling over the shallow roots, compacting the soil, killing the plants around the tree, allowing for erosion…the list goes on!  Anyone who knows just a little about plants knows that most need their roots to survive, even the 2000 year old, 350+ ft behemoths of trees that survive multiple wildfires, floods and windstorms.

A Tree’s List of Do’s and Don’t’s

I think the trees could offer up some ideas on how to love them without loving them to death [of course, trees don’t think, just react, so this is all a figment of my imagination! ;) ].


  • Get Out of the Car
  • Take a Walk
  • Take Pictures

Please Don’t:

  • Climb
  • Walk Around the Trunk
  • Carve!

The trees would mostly likely encourage everyone to get out of their cars and hit a trail. It’s of no use to ‘experience’ a Redwood forest from your car.  They can be some of the most silent places on Earth–how can you hear that over road noise?! Not to mention, these trees don’t really want to eat our dust, nor the heavy metals that leach out of our tires, nor our exhaust.

It seems that trees, since they can only react to stimuli and, of course, only very slowly, wouldn’t want people to climb on them. They don’t seem to have the best grasp on the laws of physics, so why tempt gravity and pull on a load-bearing branch?

And no one likes their toes stepped on!

Any while it might not be so much much the case for the Redwoods [since their bark can be a foot thick!], other trees really, really hate it when they are carved into.  Bark is essentially tree skin, keeping out all the infections and bugs that would love to invade the inner parts of the tree. Carving only opens a wound that could be the end of the tree.

"Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness." Aldo Leopold p.157 The Sand County Almanac



Hiked It Smokies-Style!

A Busy, Busy Place!

Made it to the Smokies right before Labor Day. The first night we camped we were the only ones in our loop! We decided to get all the touristy spots out of the way before the crowds showed up, so we did Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome the first day and there weren’t too many people [still not few enough for me!]. 

Newfound Gap

Clingman's Dome

I found that a circular polarized filter did wonders to cut through some of the smogginess. Whether I remembered to use it was an entirely different matter! 

The Sinks

Cades Cove

 The Ol’ Dusty Trail’s Calling!

After seeing the sights, we decided to hit the trail. It’s difficult to interpret the trail guides and what they define by ‘moderate’ and ‘strenuous’. Taking faith in the fact that they wrote these guides for hikers, and not the average park visitor, is the best way to go, but as you walk up Clingmans Dome with the rest of the world huffing and puffing in your ear, you start to think that the trail marked ‘strenuous’ is calling your name! 

We started our second day late…we don’t have watches and cell phones in the Elkmont Campground are about as useful as a rock [actually less so]. By the time sunlight reached the tent, it was 10 am! I was hoping to get in two smaller trails, but we settled for Rainbow Falls. It went on for quite a while, had beautiful scenery, and some bear sign. The construction workers who were on the road that leads to the trailhead said they’d seen so many bears while working and some other visitors asked if we brought our bear spray. But alas, no bears, just their scat! 

Some critters we shared the trail with: 

Pelecinid Wasp

Pipevine Swallowtail


The trail gained 1500 feet in 2.6 miles and was labeled ‘moderate’, which I would agree was fair. It wasn’t too rough of a trail and we only saw 4 other people, I believe. When we finally reached Rainbow Falls we realized that 1, it wasn’t late enough in the afternoon to see the rainbow, and 2, that there wasn’t enough water to make a rainbow! 

Rainbow Falls

It was still a lovely place eat our lunch. As we did, I pulled out my cell phone to turn it on and check the time and aparently, that wasn’t a move appreciated by the hornet nest right above us! They started to swarm and we traded our lovely spot for something more on the safe side. 

Although the Park is renowned as Salamander Capital of the World [no joke! http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/amphibians.htm], I think this fellow below was a newt. Shucks! 

Newt, I presume

The Roughest of Them All!

We started out on Ramsey Cascades Trail later than we hoped, but pretty sure we’d make the 8 mile round trip with plenty of time to spare. This trail is labeled ‘strenuous’ due to the 2000+ feet of elevation gain in 4 miles, which doesn’t sound all that bad. What they don’t mention is that about 1500′ of that elevation gain  is in the last quarter-mile of the trail. Of the ten people we saw on the trail, all of them said it was worth it, but I’m pretty sure no one would turn around at that point anyway! 

The Trail Goes Up!

The trail starts out smooth enough as what seems to be a road! Eventually it shrinks into a one-laner, then goes up and down a couple of times and finally, you get to the boulder-laden trail, the last bit of which nearly requires all four limbs in some spots. We were very glad to see this sight: 

Ramsey Cascades

Just like Rainbow, there wasn’t much water falling, but it was beautiful none the less. And we were warned at the trailhead that this would be a very wet trail if it rained, so I was glad that amount was falling and no more! These are the tallest falls in the Park. 

A Lower View

Again, the polarized filter came in handy and I learned from the previous day’s hike at Rainbow that a tripod was necessary, so I hiked all 8 miles with one strapped to my back and I was very glad I did! 

Oh Bother, Why Bother?

If you aren’t a trail-pounder and if you’re like me and don’t love crowds of people with you on your vacation, you’re probably wondering why should you go to the most visited National Park in the country [though I’ve NEVER heard anyone ponder this, but just in case!].

Cabin in the Woods

It’s an amazing park that has something for everyone, from long, scenic car drives to nice road-side strolls, wildlife, wildflowers and history. If you’re more adventurous, there’s backcountry camping and strenuous hikes to amazing vistas and waterfalls. And there are tons of car campgrounds to fit anyone’s fancy.

One of Millions!

The most alluring aspect of the park is, of course, the topography and the flora and fauna it hides. There is something ethereal about the way that twilight seeps out of the ground and tree trunks as the sun sets, keeping the tops of the trees glowing long after any light can reach the ground. It’s as if the hills have protected this place from passing time, harboring the ancient trees and denizens of forest creatures in deep, vibrant green valleys.

Setting Sun in the Treetops

Endless Edisto Beach State Park

Lots to Do, Lots to See, So Little Time!

Sunset on Edisto Island

Wow, there is literally something to do for everyone on Edisto Island [pronounced ED’i-stoe, not that I’m successful at saying it that way]! From fishing to biking, hiking, birdwatching, camping, shell hunting, seasonal hunting, to planation touring and sea turtle watching, there’s something for everyone at any time of year. 

The name Edisto started with the Edistow tribe of native americans that were the first recorded to inhabit the island.  The island is now home to many rental beach houses, restaurants and shops, a serpentarium, museums, planations, Edisto Beach State Park, and Botany Bay Planation Wildlife Management Area.

View of the Salt Marsh near the Campground

Getting There

Edisto Island is about an hour southwest of Charleston.  It took us about an hour and forty minutes on Highway 17 because of traffic and two accidents, but it’s an hour conceivably.  The drive is beautiful in that classic old southern road lined with live oak and spanish moss–just gorgeous, but be careful on State Highway 174; there is a lip on both sides that will pull your tires and there is no shoulder.  The live oaks hang over the road, which could be a little scary for anyone hauling a rig or in a motorhome.

A Large Oak

Some Islandlife Highlights

There is the Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project that relies on volunteers to monitor and locate sea turtle nests.  Stay off any dunes marked as turtle nesting grounds and report any sea turtle you see to the appropriate number [look for posts in that area saying what numbers to call].  We’re excited to sign up for the night Loggerhead Sea Turtle Walks in the summer, held by the State Park.  Should be a fun time!

The Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society holds annual tours in October of the privately owned, hard to find planations that remain from the ‘sea island cotton’ boom back in the 1700 and 1800s.  These plantations aren’t visible from the road and aren’t open to the public other than during the tour.

The State Park

It takes a little bit of map gazing before you get the lay out of the park.  If you are a little lost, head to the Environment Education Center first.  The very helpful staff, who happen to wear uniforms very similiar to those of the national park rangers, will be there to answer your questions [9am to 4pm in the offseason].  The Education Center is full of nicely done exhibits [though some were out of working order], a touch tank, live sea creatures in tanks and a short little film about the ecologically important ACE basin.  The Education Center is a green building, and it’s also painted green, with each green feature numbered. 

There is a ton of camping available [91 sites, I believe], but I’m sure it fills fast!  You can have a marsh view, a sand dune view, a beach site, or be in some palmettos [by the way, some of the tallest in the state are found there!].


Walking about the Trail

For a description of the trails, plus directions and camping reservation info, click Here.

My husband and I took all the trails, and although relatively small, there is plenty of walking to do and plenty to look at!  The shell midden called Spanish Mount, was neat to see, being 4000 years old and held up by the decking!  We saw at least three different types of woodpeckers, a hermit thrush, bluebirds, ibises and chickadees.  I’ve been on the lookout for anoles, but haven’t spotted any yet, though I did find some small skinks in the pine straw along the trails.  Once it warms up, I’m sure you’ll be able to spot more wildlife, including a few alligators! 

Whelks from the Midden

Two Overwintering Bluebirds

A Hermit Thrush

Two Fiddler Crabs, One Male, One Female

My husband took a nice video of the Fiddler crabs; I might try to get that on here soon.  It is interesting to watch the foraging difference between the male and female.  The female Fiddler is at an obvious advantage because she can pick through the sediment with both little claws.  The male, on the other hand [or claw], can’t do so because of the one enlarged claw that serves for defending territory and jousting. 


Whelk on the Beach

Good heavens I have never seen so many shells in my life! What the stars are in the sky, the shells are on the beach, it seems.  It was heaven for my husband, who is a 5 year old shell stomper in disguise, and it was heaven for me, since finding a nice whelk that was over 5 inches was pretty simple there!  We found 4!  Plan your visit right after high tide for good shells, but there will always be shells there.  And if you could, throw back the live ones! It’s hard to stay off the beach if you don’t have any legs.  I’d love to know why there are indeed so many, but a little more research is required on my part.  I’ll let you know!

A Live Knobbed Whelk

Shell-covered Beach

For more information, visit the Edisto Chamber of Commerce website, full of usefull information that helped fill this blog!

Another great resource: www.edistoisland.com From Fishing to Reality to Weddings, the site offers lots of information!

Watching a Beautiful Sunset

Scenic Sunday Hunting Island

For more scenic photography, please visit SCENIC SUNDAY!

Hunting Island State Park is about 13 miles east of Beaufort, SC and has the only lighthouse in the state open to the public [which I didn’t know, so I didn’t go in, oops!].

We strolled down the trail and found this fellow having his lunch.

We also walked along the marshwalk.  On the state park’s website, they say that the Vietnam swamp scenes in Forrest Gump were filmed near by. 

We also walked down the fishing pier.  There are interpretive signs along the way that relate interesting facts about the ecosystem that surrounds you.  At the end of the pier we spotted this bufflehead with his mate.  She was taking her time, so she didn’t make it in this picture.

Hunting Island is a beautiful barrier island that has lush forests, and during the warm months, offers a good chance to see alligators [not unlike the rest of South Carolina!].  But because it’s a barrier island, it won’t remain unchanged, and the next large hurricane could wipe it clean.

This is on the north end of the island, where erosion typically occurs on barrier islands.

Alright, that was a lot of pictures!  Thanks for making it through and visiting!