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Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds

A Hiking Guide

Amy Duernberger

Published: Nov 15 2017




Published: Nov 15 2017

OA Ebook
Published: Nov 15 2017


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A field guide to the unique ecosystems and mountain trails in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee

"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.

Amy Duernberger, a longtime lover of the outdoors, has been hiking and researching the Appalachian mountains for more than twenty years, also serving as a volunteer in balds conservation efforts. She has worked for the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway and now lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina.

"I can assure any reader with a serious interest in balds that this is a 'must have' and 'must read' book. Nicely illustrated and featuring a number of helpful features such as maps, a bibliography, guidance on the difficulty of hikes, and recommended websites . . . This work will be a literary window opening before the nature lover a world of wonder."—Carolina Mountain Life

"These mysterious, treeless mountain vistas have captivated visitors and scientists for decades. Fortunately, they also captured the attention of Amy Duernberger. Her guide melds science, cultural history, and travel tips, and offers a clarion conservation call. Now everyone can 'bag' the whole set! Let Duernberger be your guide to these vanishing treasures."—Travis Knowles, Francis Marion University

"At last, a popular book that focuses on these magnificent natural communities of the Southern Appalachians. Duernberger not only addresses the topics of balds origins, history, and special biological significance but also provides practical information on where and how to visit these landscapes. Perhaps most importantly, she emphasizes the sense of awe and wonder experienced by both early explorers and today's travelers in visiting these extraordinary areas."—Peter D. Weigl, professor of biology emeritus, Wake Forest University

"Featuring a section of beautiful color photographs, Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide is an ideal and instructive reference for planning on-site excursions. Impressively informative and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation."—Midwest Book Review

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