Hispaniola, a Caribbean island smack dab in the hurricane belt, is known as the hurricane shredder. That's because the island has five distinct mountain ranges, with Pico Duarte, at 10,128 ft (3,087 meters) above sea level, as the highest peak in the Antilles. These mountains literally reach into passing hurricanes and disrupt the system, not only slowing the system, but literally shearing and destabilizing the directional winds with their immovable presence.
The mountains of western North Carolina affect weather in much the same way... this tree from along the Craggy Pinnacle trail at Craggy Gardens gives evidence of that. I've watched from the top of Craggy Pinnacle as cold air from the west collides with warm air from the east... clouds form, swirl, and move off directly overhead of these high ridges. These mountains often divert harsh colder weather north into Virginia, which is partly why we enjoy overall temperate weather where I live in Durham, some 200 miles east of here. Often, when it snows in Durham (which isn't very often) it has already snowed further south in Atlanta, Georgia. Those frontal systems push under the Appalachian Chain, meet warm air from off the coast, and push back up into North Carolina. These kinds of frontal collisions produce wind, and in the case of where this photo was taken, that wind is quite incessant and often high speed... that, along with cold temperatures and low clouds, can create a pretty harsh environment.
Patience is a necessity for any nature photographer... here, even the most patient can become quite frustrated waiting out the combination of "just right" light and wind. This tree, however, exhibits the ultimate in patience. The trail follows the ridge for a good ways, but from about where this tree is, the ridge rises sharply with many exposed rocks dominating that rise. That's obviously of no matter to this tree as it wraps its roots around the rocks to firmly establish its place on the mountain... it persists against the harsh elements and won't be bullied by the wind as it protects the understory beneath it.
Craggy Gardens, near milepost 375 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is so named because of the proliferation of beautiful Catawba rhododendron that grow there... but, as with many things, there are stories within stories that shouldn't be missed. Be sure to see the notes here.