Mimicking Childhood Wonder: Seeking Serenity and Clarity II

The first time I ever travelled to Morrow Mountain was in the fall of 2017 with Guilford College’s Outdoors Club during a weekend camping expedition. We pitched our tents in one of the “primitive” camping lots, gathered firewood for the approaching evening, and settled in with some music and dinner preparations. I believe the first night we had tacos; food always tastes so good when you’re camping. It was such a beautiful space for forming friendships and community, as I often find camping trips to be. You’re all dirty, sweaty, and tired, but eager to chat, sing, play games, share stories and meals, and soak in the natural world as much as you can. That first evening we curated a roaring fire in the pit and watched it burn down to embers over a game of cards that lasted a pleasant forever. We eventually retired to our tents and I distinctly remember wishing I could stay up to watch the stars slowly trace their way across the sky. Going to areas like this while being from, and currently residing in areas filled with such drastic light pollution really reminds you how beautiful the untouched, untainted sky is.

The next day, we were eager to explore. Being in nature, purely in nature for the sake of being there, is like being a child. The wonder and euphoria that is felt while being able to freely explore, being able to wander all day, being able to run and jump and hop and skip, being able to sit and listen and be still, being able to take a nap in the grass, being able to discover the most profound stillness and the most mind-boggling movement all in one place consistently toes the boundary between the realm of secular existence and the realm of the divine. Nature seems to be magical at any age, especially while traversing a new path. And so, we hiked. Making our way down the (very accessible and obviously human-made) path, we quickly approached Badin Lake. So beautiful, as blue as the sky above, and so tantalizingly inviting that all of us came to the consensus that we could not, in fact, understand the strange scribbles on the old sign that said “no swimming.” The fifteen or so of us peeled off our now sticky with sweat outerwear and tiptoed into the cool, now-fall-temperature water. The shore was littered with smooth pebbles and bits of branches that had been quietly reaching their broken arms out to ground themselves in the sand from within the small waves that were now lapping at our feet. I remember the tickle of the cool water spreading from the soles of my feet to the top of my head, sending a slight shiver to my spine. It was pure bliss. The sun was out, we were playing games in the water as though we were swimming, we were making new friends, we were falling in love. We fell hard for the world around us and for those who wanted to enjoy it with us, and for the memories that our secret, short-lived dip in Badin Lake allowed us to harbor.

Upon returning, quite recently, to Morrow Mountain and the Uwharrie area, I embarked on a hike, hand in hand with one of the folks who had accompanied me and the rest of our club on the first trip to the area. It seemed only natural. Of course, I returned this time with the intent to study, to learn, and although I did so, I think that I noticed a lot more what intentionality can contribute to a visit to, or existence within nature. As we made our journey up the path, and after having visited the small natural history museum at the foot of the trail, I began to notice things that I think, otherwise, I wouldn’t have. Small buds were just barely forming at the tips of branches, marking the earliest whispers of Spring in the air. Skinks making a rustle in the otherwise quiet leaf-covered forest floor, challenging me to find them with careful discernment between its back and the leaf it stands on, motionless. And then, the most profound occurrence: I saw snow. There was snow everywhere. I was shocked; there was snow on the ground on a sixty-degree March day in North Carolina. Sunlight gently sifts through the leaf-budded branches of the trees that tower above me, almost scraping the clear blue sky with their early morning stretch. I continue walking, fascinated by this phenomenon, as the soft beams of sunlight guide my gaze to the next patch of white among decaying leaves from the previous fall. I look down and watch carefully as I realize how heavily my own two feet are treading uphill over white deposits scattered generously along the path. With a closer look at what sits in front of and underneath my feet, I conclude that in fact this is not snow, but rather quartz emerging from the packed dirt of the hiking trail. Somewhat disappointed that the mystery of springtime-snow had been solved, I carried on with a smile, yet again remembering the feelings of wonder, curiosity, and even epiphany that the natural world offers to us; remembering the feeling of childhood fantasy.

Thank you for joining me on this short journey through my understanding of nature, my discovery of some of the Uwharrie National Forest, and wishing me well on the rest of my adventures. Of course, my blog is nowhere near comprehensive; not only did I not have a chance to cover everything I planned on covering (especially the hauntings and spooks of the mountains, which there are a lot of in the Uwharrie area, especially Bigfoot lore), but I didn’t even come close to covering the entirety of the story! Regardless, thanks for sticking it out during our time together. Now, take a hike!

A Moment to Reminisce: Reflections on the Apple Orchard

Okay, faithful reader, I know that our journey is intended to focus on one place, and one place only, but my last post sparked in me some important memories from my childhood wherein I felt the most connected with nature, on top of the world, and free to eat whatever I could reach.

Last night, as I was on the phone with my Mother, asking her if she had any good photos of our family farm, our chickens, or our veggie garden and its bounty, I came across some memories that I had forgotten. Shocking to me, I had no thoughts about the apple orchard when I was choosing what place I wanted to focus on; this was especially surprising considering we have gone apple picking as a family since I was about 2. Last year, my sophomore year of college, was the first year I was unable to go.

So, in light of these memories, I wanted to do some reflection on what it was like to grow up in a major metropolitan area, yet still spend so much of my youth eating hand-picked, farm fresh, homegrown foods, whether that meant they were coming from my backyard or someone else’s, before my next (and final) post, which is my final reflection on the Uwharrie project I have undertaken. Essentially, I wanted you to know a little bit more of my personal history and connection to the natural world before I sign off of this particular blog forever.

These trips to the apple orchard happened once every fall, usually in late September or early October since my Mom’s favorite type of apples are at their peak during that time of the season. Our favorite orchard, once a small, family owned operation with hardly any notoriety, is now a popular weekend vacation destination for families from all over the Southeast U.S..

Made it to 3 feet! Chloe, 2001. Skytop Orchard

The way we usually went about our visits was to first, take a photo with the wooden scarecrow height board, so I could see “How tall this fall” I was. Then, we would choose the perfect pumpkin to be our jack-o-lantern for the upcoming Halloween festivities, and then, it was onto the vast expanse of the orchard itself. I remember as a small child, the rolling hills of apple trees and footpaths seemed undeniably endless; the apple trees and their fruit were as vast and as plentiful as the ocean on the opposite side of North Carolina’s borders. I was continually and blissfully awestruck.

We would spend the entire, beautiful early fall day wandering, exploring, rolling down hills, and eating our hearts desire of apples along the way. Of course, we filled our baskets to the brim along the way, much of the apples later going toward apple pies at Thanksgiving, or home-made, home-jarred applesauce that stewed all day long and made our little house smell how a warm blanket feels on a cool morning. Nonetheless, they were all enjoyed in their own right, eventually.

Ultimately, this practice has spoiled me. I can hardly stomach a slightly mealy tomato, or an apple that is too soft to really crunch into, or salsa that isn’t home-made and jarred in our tiny kitchen. However, this lifestyle, although highly privileged and inaccessible to many city-dwellers, has made me so much more of the world around me and how we interact with it.

I understand first hand the amount of sweat, blood, tears, and more sweat that it takes to harvest a small batch of veggies, and so can only faintly fathom the physical and emotional toll that 14 hours of underpaid harvesting work may take on those who are contracted to harvest commercial produce. I understand the joy of fresh, delicious, clean, untampered-with food, and therefore can scarcely imagine what it may be like to live a life wherein neither I nor my family has access to fresh produce, let alone farm-to-table, organic, freshly harvested produce at that.

I think that my exposure to spaces that combined the natural world and the human one so seamlessly and respectfully, especially from a very young age, has really cultivated my experiences of the natural world outside of farms and orchards and other food-producing spaces. I believe that this exposure has also foregrounded my curiosity for what the natural world holds sans-humans, harvests, and sometimes even hostility.

It is likely, in my opinion, that this element of my upbringing has led me to be the person I am today – someone who cares about the environment, and the people working in it; someone who enjoys spending time outside; someone who wants to continue cultivating that sense of childlike wonder and infinite smallness for as long as I can, which means doing whatever work I can to save our earth from the seemingly inevitable climate-death.

Munching an apple. Chloe, 2001.
Riding in the valley road speeder. Chloe and younger sister Sophie, 2003.
Orchard hills, 2003.
Sophie hoarding all the apples, 2004.
Sisters munching on Granny Smiths, 2004.
Bonus photo! Family Garden that predates the family farm. Located in Charlotte, NC. Family farm located in Concord/Kannapolis area. 2007.

Mimicking Childhood Wonder: Seeking Serenity and Clarity I

Growing up in a large city, there weren’t many large plots of land that hadn’t been curated as, well, large plots of land. The majority of the natural world that I was consistently exposed to during my youth was comprised of parks, city greenways, and short trips to the mountains or rural surrounding areas. Quite frankly, the places I spent the most time outside at were either the soccer field, or my Grandma’s small farm in Cabarrus County North Carolina. Aside from trips that lasted a week (at most, and not often), this was my main exposure to the natural world. I was, and still am, a city girl through and through.

I recall quite clearly the long, dry summer days spent at my Grandma’s house, acquiring astounding sunburns and innumerable freckles. Many of these days, I would sit on the old Crepe Myrtle tree with my little sister watching intently as my father tended to the small plot of dirt that was big enough for me to call a “farm” at the small and constantly-in-a-state-of-awe age of seven or eight. He tended the land gently and lovingly, plowing the field, deciphering one row from the next, making holes for the seeds. Often, he would catch us watching or inching closer while we played, and bring us to come help him do the hard work of tending to a living organism. We got our hands and feet dirty, likely uprooted more plants than we helped grow, and watered the ground generously enough for us to splash and play in the runoff. We were unhelpful, but the environment was intriguing and irresistible to children who usually spent time indoors or playing in the street of a packed city neighborhood. We could be messy here, and it was beautiful. I believe this is my first memory of the outdoors that is my own, and there are a plethora of them to follow.

Of course, many of these memories of messiness and outdoors and beautiful discovery are from day or weekend trips to a place beyond the shining buildings of downtown that clutter the horizon. My father often took me fishing from ages 3-14, but most of the memories I have retained are from later on in my adolescence rather than earlier in my childhood. Growing up in the 1970’s and spending his childhood until age 14 traversing the expanses of the United States’ most natural and rural areas, my father has a very deep and close connection with nature that he wanted desperately to pass on to myself and my sister. So, fishing was not just fishing, but it was buying waders, boots, and wool socks; it was buying a fishing pole that was my very own; it was learning how to hand-make flies in the dining room well past my bedtime; it was a ritual of pure and deep love between a father and his children. This is why I will never tell him that I hate catch and release fly fishing.

Amidst the long drives to the far reaches of North Carolina’s blue ridge, I remember my father telling me a story of some of the oldest and most mysterious mountains; dinosaurs likely roaming the foothills, paleo-indians making the first mark on the rich land, the heights at which they once stood, the volcanic activity that once occurred. Unexpectedly, these stories came out of not our travels to them, but through them, from city to city throughout the Piedmont area of North Carolina. The lesser known mountainous wonder of the state is no other than the Uwharrie mountain range. Ever since these long conversations about millions of years past, I have been endlessly curious about what the Uwharrie have to offer, both to me and those before me.

My favorite chicken from our first go-round of having chickens; I creatively named her “Goldie.” Unbeknownst to me, she was the first and only chicken we have ever eaten at our farm. She was the only one I ever named and of course, I am still angry at my dad. RIP Goldie. 2009
Christopher Wells holding one of our Silkie chickens; we had four of them and they always stuck together, so we nicknamed their group “The Supremes.” 2009
Chloe in the original Wells Farm Chicken Coop, 2009

Critter Communities: Critters of the Uwharrie II

Continuing from my last post, there are some really important systems wherein some of the critters that take up their residence within the Uwharrie participate in. Without them, its likely that the entire area (thats 50,645 acres) would totally fall apart! So, this post will be entirely dedicated to explaining those creatures and systems, so that we can collectively acknowledge and appreciate all of the work, much of it unseen, that they do to keep our ecosystem alive.

All of this information is taken from the same natural history museum that I visited during my time at the Forest, since I was unable to do any research like this from my own observations during a such a short period of time, and with little to no prior understanding of these intricacies.


Spreader

Spreaders are vitally important to the ways in which the natural world functions, survives, and ultimately thrives. Many animals, such as the Possum (briefly mentioned in my previous post), which is North Americas only native marsupial, play a huge role in spreading the seeds of plants by eating them, and then passing them later, likely at a different location, as fecal matter. In fact, some seeds will only grow if they have been on a journey through the intestinal system of an animal. Many seeds operate like tiny bits of velcro that can then temporarily attach to fur and feathers. Some animals store the seeds underground, which, when forgotten, results in sprouts when Springtime arrives.

Nursery

Plants act as the nurseries for many animals reproductive activities. Some insects, like moths and butterflies, are only able to lay their eggs on very particular plant species. Trees and shrubs provide the structures necessary for birds to build their nests and for spiders to build their webs. Oak apple galls act as nurseries for oak apple gall wasps. The leaf of the oak will mutate once the wasp lays its egg inside of it, and then a gall grows, which provides food and protection for the larvae.

Parasites

Parasites often, and sometimes shockingly, play important roles in natural communities that are essential for keeping the community healthy. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that is abundant at Morrow Mountain. The way that mistletoe grows is by a root grabbing onto the bark of a host tree and feeds on it for the entirety of its life.

Predators

These creatures help to keep populations in a healthy number, which is why poaching birds of prey or big cats is such a horrible pass-time to endeavor in. Without these creatures, populations of herbivores like deer or rabbits will rise in number exponentially and cause extreme environmental problems. Many predators have adaptations that are very specific in order to help them hunt prey more swiftly and efficiently. Many of these adaptations are enhanced sense of smell, sight, or hearing, long talons or claws, inclination for speed, or other things that grant them possible situational advantage when hunting.

decomposers

Decomposers can be both animals or plants, which makes them a very interesting group of habitat contributors. Mushrooms and maggots are just two of many examples of types of decomposers you might find in a forest such as the Uwharrie. Decomposers are vital participants in the organizational hierarchy of the habitat because they clean up waste such as feces, carcasses, fallen leaves, and other bits that smell or get in the way of the other elements of the environment.

Competitors

Many living things exist in this world as competitors against one another. We compete for vitamins, water, and food, at the core of our existence, no matter in what way we go about getting those things. The Brown-headed cowbird that was mentioned in my last post does not build it’s own nest or raise their own young, but rather, will lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and allow the chicks to be raised by the other bird in whose nest the cowbird has laid its egg. This is actually a very unique method of competing with other species and is known as “nest parasitism.”

Pollinators

Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly, come the pollinators. Plants produce flowers with nectar or other sweet smelling components for the sole purpose of enticing pollinators to pay them a visit and carry their pollen from one place to the next. One of the most well known, loved, and now endangered pollinators is the bumblebee. Bumblebees are hairy all over, and have long tongues that help them to suck the sweet nectar from the plants. Due to the fuzziness of their bodies, bumblebees actually produce static energy while in flight, which helps them to pollinate other flowers they land on.


I feel as though this is especially important to mention due to the rate at which our natural world is declining or the ways in which it becomes susceptible to declining further each day. These systems, although sometimes invisible, and perhaps seemingly insignificant to some, are vitally important if we want to remain comfortable and happy as humans, functioning beings, and members of that very same environment. We benefit and are granted life through each and everything that these creatures do, and this needs to be uplifted not only intentionally and sporadically, but with each and every breath or step we take.

Critters of the Uwharrie

During my last visit to the Uwharrie Mountains, I stopped inside the natural history museum that sits at the foot of the trail, free for anyone to amend their curiosities about what the Uwharrie contain. Much of the natural history museum is dedicated to the human history of the area, but this post will be focused on the animals and other critters that inhabited the area long before, and likely long after humans.

The first thing you see on your left when entering is a heavy duty microscope that is there for folks to play with! There are small specimens that you can place under the eyepiece at your leisure, and also dead bugs in little petri dishes that you can take a look at. This microscope is definitely kid friendly, so its a great place for everyone to satisfy their curiosities about the littlest creatures among us.

Looking at the dragonfly wing and the bumblebee was really interesting. You got to see up close the intricate ways in which the wings attach to their thoraxes, the patterns on them, the thickness of individual hairs or antennae. It was a really wonderful way to get immediately engaged in the creatures around us in an intimate and safe way.

Then, as you move along the wall, there are photos of many creatures that live in the area, what they do, and how they contribute to the environment there. The little critters were some we are probably familiar with: possums, ticks and mosquitoes, barred owls, milipedes, bumblebees, and many more. Some of the less familiar creatures might be:

Green lYnx Spider (peucetia viridans)

Brown Headed Cowbird (molothrus ater)

Northern Rough Green Snake (opheodrys aestivus aestivus)

Spotted salamander (ambystoma maculatum)

All of these species are integral to the organizational life-sustaining systems of the Uwharrie area.  

My only wish that was unmet for this visit to the Uwharrie was that I had been able to see some of these critters while I was there. I managed to see this little scurrying salamander pause in the sun to warm up for a moment (photo) but overall, my visit was barren of any life other than humans and a couple gnats going after my banana here and there.

I was surprised — I didn’t even hear squirrels scuttling in the brush or clawing their way up the trees; there were no mosquitos buzzing in my ear; there were no ants that chased after the crumbs of my turkey sandwich.

Quite frankly, this was eerie. I had just visited a museum that boasted thee diversity and richness of life, and yet it was nowhere to be found, not even with the insects there!

But perhaps this is exactly the human dilemma: going to a natural space and expecting it to cater to what you want to see and experience there. This is generally unrealistic, especially when considering I was hiking on a major hiking trail where there were lots of others out enjoying their Saturday. In reflection, I hope to come away from later experiences with less disappointment in what I didn’t see, and more appreciation for what I was allowed to see.

Morrow Mountain State Park: A Long Journey II

Because the history of Morrow Mountain is so deep and rich, I thought it to be deserving of two posts instead of one, and I think by now you may agree with me, reader. So, I’ll pick up where I left off! My main source for this piece of my investigation will the NCPedia history of Morrow Mountain.

After the Native Americans migrated out of the area (the Morrow Mountain Area) there is a bit of a gap in the documented history of the area. We know that the Pee Dee River area has been colonized since about 1700, since this was a major thoroughfare for people and fertile land for agriculture. Some documents indicate the presence of a couple Native American tribes such as the Sapona, Saura, and Catawba.

Before 1808, there is evidence that very little was known about the natural area due to inaccuracies in the early maps and little to no details about the elements of nature found in the area. However, by 1808, we can assume that the area became more popular and populated due to the increase in accuracy of the maps of the area. Included were indications of which families lived where, and documented the small town of “Tinsdalesville” that no longer exists – it was wiped out by a tornado and typhoid.

Kron Family Home on Morrow Mountain Hillside.

In 1834, the Kron family built their house on the scenic hillside of Morrow Mountain, and owned 234 acres of the mountain, that were later sold to a number of people via Dr. Kron’s daughters, and eventually came into the possession of James Morrow. Unfortunately, the original house was torn down in the 1950’s, and all that remains of it today are photos and a reconstructed version of the house that was completed in the late 1960’s. In 1884, Morrow Mountain, which was later named for the owner of the land James Morrow, was struck by a catastrophic hurricane, stripping the mountain of its trees and, for a time, earning it the name “Naked Mountain.”

Photo of “Naked Mountain” cir. 1920. Photograph held at Stanly County Museum.
James Morrow photographed at the dedication of Morrow Mountain State Park on June 29, 1940.

In 1930, a committee was formed for the incorporation of Morrow Mountain as a State Park, and one of the sitting members was no other than James Morrow himself. Morrow, among others on this committee, were highly instrumental in securing a $20,000 bond for the purchase of land for the park. This land was then turned over to North Carolina’s Department of Conservation and Development for development and administration.  Because of this, over 1,800 acres of total land, including the land that constitutes the Morrow Mountain area, were donated to the state and development of the park eventually began in 1935. By September, the area of land being developed for state park use had increased to 3,000 acres, which pushed back completion of the park and its facilities to 1939 instead of its predicted 1937.

The park finally opened for public use on August 17, 1939, and the dedication ceremony was held later on June 29th, 1940. The celebratory festivities included a parade through Albemarle, a “bathing beauty contest,” an address by the Governor, and a water carnival (whatever that is). Morrow Mountain State Park was a big deal!

Yes that’s right, Morrow Mountain was recognized as a state park before the Uwharrie Mountains were made into an “official” national forest! As it stands now, the entire park is 4, 508 acres.

Additional Photos:

Morrow Mountain State Park: A Long Journey

One of the most famous sites within the Uwharrie National Forest, one that I have camped at many times, is Morrow Mountain State Park. Being the highest peak in the park, Morrow Mountain is a popular destination for day trips, beginner hikers, and local folks looking to get a bit of fresh air.

As is the case for many mountains and state parks around the nation, this location’s history goes back much further than simply its history as a state park. Since it is one of the most well known, and one of the only thoroughly documented locations in the Uwharrie, it gives us an interesting glimpse into a small piece of the long history of the Uwharrie as a whole. My hope with this short study is to delve into the deeper history of the area and give both you, reader, and myself a clearer picture of the Uwharrie mountains, or at least a piece of them. To do this, my main source is going to be “A Geologic Guide to North Carolina’s State Parks,” edited by P. Albert Carpenter III.

Morrow Mountain State Park lies within the Carolina slate belt, a belt of slightly metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks that extends from central Georgia to central Virginia.

“A Geologic Guide to North Carolina’s State Parks” P. Albert Carpenter III

Its hard to believe that “600 million years ago” Morrow Mountain State Park was not a state park, but rather a collection of volcanic islands that were in the midst of a “shallow sea,” much like some of the volcanic archipelagos that we are familiar with today. Although the layers upon layers of sediment that once came together to form 20,000 foot tall peaks have eroded away to dirt and sand that has been spread across the east coast and pulled into what we now know as the Atlantic ocean, there are still some remnants of evidence from these ancient times of North Carolina’s oldest mountains. Geologists who have studied the area have discerned that there are “three principal rock types” prevalent in the Morrow Mountain area, and these are rhyolite, basalt, and argillite.

All three of these rocks are evidence of the previous volcanic activity of the area, and can be found in small bite sometimes scattered along pathways or in the green areas of the park.

Rhyolite Arrowheads recovered from the Hardaway Site, held at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

10,000 years ago, Native Americans were already making their mark on what is now the Morrow Mountain State Park area, often utilizing the very dense nature of the abundant Rhyolite to make tools and weapons mainly for hunting or fishing. There is evidence that tribes came from all over the area to obtain Rhyolite for tool-making, and these leftover artifacts have left us a rich history of the Native American activity in the area long ago. The Hardaway Site, one of North Carolina’s archeological sites, is very rich in these kinds of Native American artifacts, as are the Uwharries and the surrounding areas themselves, and this is due mostly to the abundance of useful rhyolite in the area.

Article from “Our State” magazine in the “Ramblin’ Man” series about the Hardaway Site and Native American Artifacts found in the Uwharrie area.

In 2014, there was even a Charlotte Observer article written about a man who had inadvertently stumbled upon a cache of arrowheads while planting some bushes in his yard. This was an incredible find, comparable to “winning the lottery,” said one researcher the Observer quoted in their article. Only a handful of similar finds have occurred in North Carolina. Another group of researchers came to the conclusion that they had been buried there around 5-6,ooo years ago as a sort of “ancient armory.”

A Beginner’s Guide to the Uwharrie

Welcome back, reader! Today, I will be giving you a brief introduction to the Uwharrie mountains, the things that everyone needs to know, the more widely known history of the area. Throughout the course of these blog posts, I will delve deeper into some of these aspects mentioned below, but today is simply an overview of some of the most important things you need to know about the Uwharrie Mountains, both as they were, and as they are today.

Panoramic view from the peak of Morrow Mountain State Park. Sky is a dusty pink color.

Basic History

Formed along the Gondwanan tectonic plate abour 500 million years ago, the Uwharrie Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America. These mountains once rose to about 20,ooo feet, but because of the same erosive forces that have shrunk the Appalachian Mountains over time, the highest peak in the Uwharrie Mountain Range, Morrow Mountain, rises only to just over 1,000 feet.

The Uwharrie area is also home to a wide variety of plant species, thanks to their location that borders the piedmont and mountain regions of NC.

Additionally, this area is home to numerous archaeological sites, due to the age of the area and the centralized location. There have been many Native American artifacts found in the area, and is home to a notable amount of arrowhead findings.

Prior to it’s incorporation as a National Park, the area was used for hunting, timber, gold mining, and other fruitful, but potentially harmful activities.

Incorporation

The Uwharrie Mountain Area was officially incorporated into the national parks system on January 12, 1961 by president John F. Kennedy. Morrow Mountain, the highest peak in the park, was made into a state park in 1931. The National Park area stretches into four counties in central North Carolina, but is mostly located within Montgomery County. Out of the four National Forests in North Carolina, it is the smallest at just over 50,000 acres of land.

Some of the notable areas in the Uwharrie National Forest are Badin Lake Recreational Area, Uwharrie Mountain Recreational Trail, Morrow Mountain State Park, and the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness area.

Now, as it stands as a National Park, many use the area for recreational hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, and other general outdoors activities. The Uwharrie Mountains are a great place for beginner hikers, and families looking for an outdoor weekend trip that isn’t too far from home.

Future Endeavors

Moving forward we will be taking a deep dive together into the history (known and not so well known) of this rich area of North Carolina. Being such an old and beautiful area of land, the Uwharrie Mountains have so much to offer us as explorers, adventurers, writers, amateur historians. I will be taking my own photos and experiences to the forefront at times as well, and am hoping that this will not only improve and deepen my connection with this area, but the aim and significance of this project as well. Until next time!

A Short Introduction

As someone who spent her entire life growing up in a large, bustling southern city, I had a hard time deciding what natural area I would be focusing my attention on for the coming weeks. There are so many to choose from, and so many with such rich histories! How could I possibly form an attachment to just one when they are all so new and exciting to my nature-deprived spirit?

However, after some half-hearted deliberation, I decided to explore the Uwharrie region of North Carolina, the first place that sparked my interest when contemplating this project. I remembered some story that my father told me long ago while passing through about these mountains being the one of the oldest and perhaps least well-known mountains in North Carolina. To the nature fanatic, these stout mountains don’t seem to offer much by way of exploration, challenge, or grandeur as perhaps some of the other mountains in the area might. However, these mountains, now shriveled by time and erosion, have piqued my curiosity like no other. Of course, there are some places which have much more well recorded histories, more interesting stories, and even spookier supernatural tales, but I think that with the Uwharrie, it is the mystery of the unknown that intrigues me the most. I welcome the opportunity to get to know this area deeply for both what it once was, and what it now is.

I suppose this first entry will simply be an introduction to my interests, and also some things that you may expect to see in my later, upcoming posts.

Firstly, I am really excited to be researching further into the history of the Uwharrie Mountain Range. Of course, there is a short, governmentally documented history of the State Park, which I will talk about at a later date, but I am much more intrigued by the history of this area prior to the incorporation into the State Park system. I am also curious to see what kind of digging I can do into the Indigenous history of the area. There is evidence that I have found indicating that the roots of Indigenous folks run quite deep in this area, but have yet to find any history on the possible communities themselves. I suppose my main historical inquiries will be into the non-institutional history of the area; what it was before colonists were there, what it was like before even people were there, the artifacts found there, and then later on the more recent human history of the area.

I am also hoping to delve into the mystery of the area even more by uncovering possible supernatural tales rooted in the area. It seems to be a common theme that humans, and particularly Americans in this case, impose a kind of mystic, spiritual quality upon natural areas, and I am wondering how much this area has been affected by these tendencies, both long ago, and more recently. I’m not quite sure how this will pan out, but I intend to inquire into this issue at least once over the course of the next couple months. I am anticipating that this will also include the religious energy of the area as a part of my discussion.

And of course, I am excited to make plans to visit these mountains myself throughout the duration of this project. I have camped there a couple times before, and am truly excited to be going back to the area, especially with a particular intent of connecting with and understanding this area much more deeply than I have thus far.

Later posts are guaranteed to include pictures, maps, artifacts, quotes, old magazine articles, and other fun tidbits for your enjoyment and engagement. Can’t wait to embark on this inquisitive journey with you, reader!

Test Post :) Chloe Wells

A summer morning on the Eno River. The water was freezing and the sunshine was barely beginning to feel warm. I waded in with bare feet and icy toes but reveled in the ripples tickling the tops of my feet.

On the opposite bank there is an elevated path. Every couple of minutes, a new person with a new dog wanders past, and they wave to me standing in the water with pursed lips and a stiff hand. The dog sniffs in my direction.

Soon I draw my feet out and hike back up the small, sandy path to level ground, where my hammock hangs low between two slender trees.

Mist rises from the Eno River as the sun shines through near the top of the trees on the bank of the riverbed.
Mist rising from the Eno River