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! On Jane Bald | by snapdragginphoto
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! On Jane Bald

I'm about an inch shorter than I was last Wednesday. I hiked my legs to nubs over the last few days in an attempt to put everything beautiful around Roan Highlands before the lens... and loved every minute of it! The problem was that everything was beautiful, but that's a nice problem to have. It's easy to understand why so many photographers make this pilgrimage each year for the peak of the rhododendron season.


There's nothing quite like the splendor anywhere along the trail from Carver's Gap to Grassy Ridge... but it's not just about the view. The terrain can be challenging at times, which gives you a sense of accomplishment. There's also a combination of flora enough to keep a botanist busy for a lifetime... Roan’s ecosystem, comprised of 27 rare natural communities, nearly 800 plant species, 6 federally listed species (spreading avens, Roan Mountain bluet, Blue Ridge goldenrod, rock gnome lichen, Carolina northern flying squirrel and spruce fir moss spider), and over 80 southern Appalachian endemic or regionally rare species, is one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on earth. And then, there's the folks you meet along the trail.


It's a pleasure being around those who are seeing this place for the first time... I'm excited for the joy and wonder that they experience here... there's a beauty in that, too. I met some older women, some likely in their late 70s, who had managed quite well the hike onto Grassy Ridge Bald last Saturday morning. They stopped along the trail to inquire about a plant... they were excited that it turned out to be a rare Gray's lily that had yet to bloom (see one here from friend Keith Clontz that looks suspiciously like the 3-bud flower we saw, taken the same day They didn't seem concerned for what others thought, or what others were doing... with hand-hewn walking sticks in hand, they had managed the somewhat arduous trek up, joyful just to be there and living life, not as "old women", but as people with a dignified spirit... beautiful! "Paradoxically, striving for possessions and money, the things we think will bring us pleasure and happiness, actually strips the meaning from our lives....What we truly long for isn't boundless riches. What we desire is a sense of significance and value - of human dignity." - Chuck Colson


Here, the clouds contend with the magnificence of the Catawba rhododendron as a low sun punctuates the end of the day last Thursday evening on Jane Bald... but some beauty in this world is just way too big for the camera.


By the way, I made a new friend at Roan... she's new to Flickr. Drop by here and give Sheila a big welcome... and see some more images from the highlands!


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Taken on June 7, 2012