The pristine 5.76 acre site features wooded walking trails that lead to documented points of interest, including springs and streams.
- 1. Spring Box
Set in the side of a small embankment is a spring box built in the 1920s that was used to keep perishable food cold. Note the water current. Where does the flowing water come from? It is ground water that was likely underground for thousands of years before seeping to the surface to begin a stream.
- 2. Sourwood Tree
The wood of the Sourwood tree was used for tool handles, machine bearings, and sled runners. When chewed, the leaves have a taste similar to sweet tarts candy. This is because of the oxalic crystals in the leaves, a byproduct of plant metabolism. Bees make a great honey from the flowers. Note the tree that has fallen over pulling its roots out of the ground. This is a naturally occurring process and produces pits and mounds on the forest floor.
- 3. White Pine
The White Pine is a common tree in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. However, it is much more abundant now then it was in the 1800s. Logging in the region created field openings where white pines spread. It was also commercially planted to replenish lost forestlands. The wood of old growth white pine (like this example) is clear, even-grained, and used for boxes, construction timbers, and toys. Smell the bark. On a warm day you might be able to detect a pine scent. Sometimes the bark smells like vanilla or butterscotch. These smells are from chemicals the plants use for protection from foraging herbivores. Many of these “chemical defenses” are beneficial to humans as medicines.
- 4. Canada Hemlock
You are standing on the cut stump of a Canada Hemlock tree that fell in a storm in 2008. The tree was nearly 320 years old and almost four feet in diameter. Hemlocks are common along stream drainages and are associated with rhododendron thickets. Years ago, the bark of the Hemlock was used to tan leather. These “tannins” are plant chemicals the tree produces to protect itself from herbivores. Many people will recognize tannins as a popular ingredient in a variety of herbal teas. Today, hemlocks are under attack by a small exotic insect, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. This insect attacks and destroys new leaves and the tree struggles to replace them. In our generation we may lose all the Hemlocks in the forests of the Southern Appalachians. In the 1930s a similar destructive episode occurred when the American Chestnut was wiped out by the invasive, exotic Chestnut Blight.
Also, note the old spring across the creek that was constructed by the Zachary family in the mid 1800s. A replica of a wooden spring box rests in the water downstream. The creek is bigger here as several small “streamlets” merge to form a larger stream. Eventually this stream flows into Fowler Creek and then into the Scenic Chattooga River. Good water quality in these small streams means good water quality in the river.
- 5. The Forest Falls
The Forest Falls
Note the broken tree. When the Hemlock at Station 4 fell it broke off other trees. How tall was the Hemlock? Pace it out and you will find the tree was over 150 feet tall. When the Hemlock fell, it also created an opening where previously blocked sunlight was able to reach the forest floor. As a result, sun-loving plants will begin to flourish in the clearing. Note the grass on the stream bank and be on the lookout for blackberries in the future.
- 6. The Privy
The Zachary & Tolbert families did not have indoor plumbing. This small shed (Privy) was their outdoor bathroom and under and behind it their garbage dump. Archaeologists often find broken pottery and other artifacts in privy holes.
- 7. Plants and Rocks
Plants and Rocks
There are many nearby shrubs including Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, Buckberry, and Blueberry. All of these plants belong to the Heath family. They are adapted to living in low-nutrient, low-light environments. There are many representatives of this plant family in western North Carolina. They often produce showy flowers and have been commercially cultivated as landscape shrubbery. As you walk the trail, note the rock just under the surface of the soil. The soil in the mountains can be very shallow providing little rooting depth for trees as well as very dry soil conditions during droughts.
- 8. Wells and Water
Wells and Water
Note the drilled well-pipe visible above ground. It provides water for the Zachary-Tolbert House. While there is a lot of rainfall in the mountains, on average nearly 85 inches a year, most of this water runs off as surface water into nearby streams. There is very little groundwater retained because the large deposits of solid rock below the surface have little pore space for water storage. Rock must be weathered and fractured before it can be a source of groundwater. As a result, not all drilled wells in the mountains provide water.
- 9. The Tolbert Rock
The Tolbert Rock
The Tolbert Rock is a large visible outcropping of granite that has been exposed for several hundred years. It is an indication of the “rock layer” that lies just below the “soil layer” throughout the region. On the rock, note the inscription “W.R. Tolbert 1919”. This was Walter Red, son of the original Tolbert owner, Robert Red. Walter Red was a prohibition agent who was ambushed and killed by moonshiners in north Georgia in 1928.
The HCLT is the oldest land trust in North Carolina. Now protecting more than 2,500 acres in Jackson and Macon Counties through land acquisition and conservation easements. HCLT is nationally accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and accomplishes its mission to protect valuable land resources for all generations through conservation, stewardship and education.
The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust is a 501(c)3 organization.