In the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the giant trees come alive to play a significant part in defeating the evil power set on destroying all that is good in the world. The Hobbits rode in their branches in the midst of battle - little beings, really big trees. I thought of those movie scenes on Sunday afternoon hiking with our daughter and son-in-law and four of the Fab 5.
I had never been to Joyce Kilmer National Forest and had always wanted to. It is a place of quiet and green, an old-growth forest. Sometimes called virgin or ancient forests, old-growth forests have trees of great age and are hard to find in our country. Most of the forests in this area of North Carolina had been logged during the 1920's and 30's. The National Forest Service bought this uncut cove of forest of 13,055 acres and paid $28 an acre in 1936 - a king's ransom in those days when land was selling at about $4 an acre.
It is the namesake of Joyce Kilmer, an American poet, writer and lecturer who was killed in World War I and died a hero's death. You may recall his most famous poem, Trees, from your elementary school days:
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
What a gift this forest is! Surely fairies and pixies are among its inhabitants. Magical and awe-inspiring, the ancient trees are more than 400 years old, growing 100 years before George Washington was born. Their gnarled roots are entwined steadfast into the forest floor declaring their permanency and endurance. So tall, it is hard to see their very tops. I felt as though I was among revered elders of a tribe, as if there were particular wisdom and knowlege they were trying to impart. Walking among them, knowing that my Cherokee ancestors had walked the same land before the Europeans had even imagined a New World, was richly satisfying and soul- nurturing.