Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds 

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Treeless wonders of the Southern Appalachians, grassy balds have long baffled scientists and enchanted outdoor enthusiasts. They exist as open spaces, often grassy meadows, found on or near the summits of mountains that are technically below the tree line. Are they artificial, the result of climate change, or something else entirely? While no one knows for sure, their natural beauty is undeniable. This book tells the story of these unique ecosystems and offers enthusiasts a guide to nineteen representative hiking trails across three states: Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Each season on the balds ushers in something special: 360-degree views on clear, crisp days in winter, a blanket of wildflowers across the mountaintops in spring, Catawba rhododendron and flame azaleas in early summer, and blueberries galore in the fall. But these unusual places are also under threat. The balds with their adjacent habitats host more than thirty plant and animal species that are endangered or threatened with many rapidly succumbing to new tree growth. Unique among hiking guides, this book is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on the balds collectively, with chapters on Native American legends and origin theories, European settlement and the effects of grazing, and efforts to preserve and maintain the balds in the face of environmental disruption. One chapter highlights the flora and fauna of the balds. Part 2 describes the hikes, each offering a unique experience, from the majestic wild ponies of Mount Rogers to the amazing pioneer history of Hooper Bald. This is the first guidebook to focus exclusively on the southern Appalachian grassy balds. The trails are organized into five geographic areas, with complete descriptions, maps, photos, and historical tidbits. At once a reference work and field guide, this book will encourage outdoor enthusiasts not only to experience the balds but to gain new appreciation for efforts to preserve and maintain these natural wonders.

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