I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
OK. I admit it. When I had to memorize this poem in grade school I thought, “Oh puh…lease. What is this weepy woman going on about in this sappy poem?” I learned the poem, took the test, and promptly forgot about it.
That is, until twenty-some years later when I was immersed in the great forest that stretches from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Trail. Mile after mile, I beheld wonderfully shaped trunks, innumerable grains of bark, fanciful leaf shapes, nuts with textures a delight to roll about in my hand, and more shades of green than I had ever imagined. Kilmer’s poem came back to me, because I now understood what he was saying. (Yes, I had learned the poet was a he when I found out his full name is Alfred Joyce Kilmer.)
I certainly don’t regret having hiked those 2,000 miles, but I recently discovered I would have probably gained the same appreciation for trees by having taken a short walk in the southwestern corner of North Carolina.
Adjacent to North Carolina’s Slickrock Wilderness, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is 3,800 acres of old growth forest, its trees having escaped loggers’ saws because of the Great Depression’s downturn in lumber prices. A two-mile, figure eight pathway (the lower loop is 1.25 miles, the upper .75 mile) takes visitors into this enchanted land of 400-year old trees, soft carpets of thick mosses, and arching fern fronds.
I’ll pass on the details of the hike and of my experiences there in my next post, but in the meantime here’s driving directions for those of you who want to go now.
From the US 129/NC 143 intersection in Robbinsville, NC, drive US 129/NC 143 West for 1.5 miles, turn left onto NC 143 West, continue another 10.3 miles, bear right onto NC 1134 (Joyce Kilmer Road), go 2.4 miles more, and turn onto the road signed as leading to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Arrive in an additional 0.5 mile.