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Emerald Outback, Beech Mountain

High elevation moss and lichens

When I wasn't writing, I spent most of my time on Beech Mountain visiting the town-owned park called the Emerald Outback. Located near the peak of the mountain, this beautifully laid out trail system provides stunning vistas both large and very small. Shown here is mosses, lichens, and fungi hiding in the gravel at the edge of Bailout Road, a gravel track that runs down the center of the park for easy and quick trips home once you wear yourself out on the more woodland paths.

Emergent tree

Weather up there changes on a dime, so be prepared. I visited twice for a few hours apiece, and in that five hours or so spent on the mountain I enjoyed blazing sunshine, pea-soup fog (which I'm pretty sure was actually low-lying clouds), and a brief storm. Based on the height of the main canopy --- probably no more than twenty feet above the ground --- and the windswept appearance of brave emergents, I suspect the park often sees pretty windy conditions as well.

Emerald Outback trail

Tree on boulderOver much of the Emerald Outback, the forest floor is lushly covered by soft-leaved sedges that remind me of a well-managed pasture. Boulders are common as well, and in several places the trees perch on the edge of rocks as if they sat down to rest for a spell and forgot to get back up.

Bark lichens

Boulder forest

With so much fog and rain, it's no surprise that lichens and mosses cover every available surface. There were flowers too, but I have to admit I'm most drawn to the lichens!


Doe and fawn

High elevation deer forestWildlife includes tremendous numbers of deer --- I think I saw more than a dozen during my first hike. The astute visitor will probably also notice juncos, which are winter residents at lower elevations but stay year-round on the mountain in order to raise their young.

Beech Mountain overlook

If you're more into the big picture, the Southern Ridge Trail includes three overlooks, the last of which is the best. Blueberries all along the trail, but especially at this final overlook, were just beginning to set fruit when I visited, so I'm guessing you'd get a trailside nibble if you hiked the mountain in late July or early August.

Emerald Outback Trail

All-told, this is one of the most beautiful parks I've been to in a long time! Plus, I could walk to the entrance from my hotel, which made for a perfect commute. If you're interested in following in my footsteps, you can read more about the Emerald Outback here.



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First of all, LOVE the pics! Thank you!

Second: I absolutely adore this description you wrote: "in several places the trees perch on the edge of rocks as if they sat down to rest for a spell and forgot to get back up." So evocative.

Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.

Comment by Nayan Fri Jun 9 07:02:08 2017