I like to shoot nature and landscapes in the Carolinas and surrounding states. My #2 hobby is native plants so the search is always on for great wildflower habitats. Moving water has always been a favorite and lately, landscape scenes involving nature and historical structures.
Unfortunately many of the places I visit are under siege from urban sprawl, invasive exotic species, air and water pollution. All these hazards being aided by a care less attitude among residents and politicians.
Including the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula.
A beautiful area full of ecological contradictions. Well preserved in some areas but overdeveloped in others.
No major problems with exotic invasives. Historical structures such as lighthouses, fairly well preserved,but ancient docks, seafood processing houses, and shrimp boats are out there.
Old farm houses, increasingly rare in the South, are everywhere on the peninsula, mostly empty as the owners rather not tear them down to prevent losing wetland rights.
Lake Mattamuskeet, in Hyde County is well protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. At 40,000 acres, it provides a magnet for migrating waterfowl in the winter months.
The greatest legacy of FDR's administration, this 469 mile scenic highway connects two National Parks--Shenandoah and Great Smokey Mt. Naturally it suffers from both Parks ecological problems, mainly air pollution and exotic invasives,including the hemlock wooly adelgid.
The best scenery in the Southeastern mountains exist on or near this jewel, particularly south of Ashville which contains the highest elevations and best fall foliage.
"It was magic masquerading as nature", Rick Bragg, "The Prince of Frogtown".
Many of us South Carolina treehuggers have often stated that our coast is lost to unchecked development. I still believe that is true south of Hunting Isand and north of Edisto Island.In between thoes islands, and stretching for 30 miles inland, lies the ACE Basin(Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers), at 350,00 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the east coast.
Environmentally this acreage appears to be in good shape and offers fantastic photo ops.
This national park is lightly visited and remote but for sheer beauty and photo opportunities it may be the best in our National Park System. Big Bend NP and its neighbor, Big Bend Ranch SP, are located in the northern reach of the Chihuahuan Desert that gives the Texas map its southwestern bulge. Plants, desert, high elevation mountains, water, and wildlife are all included. Air pollution from both Texas and Mexican coal fired power plants is a problem. These plants are not equipped with pollution control devices.
The hill country of Texas was rumored to have the best display of wildflowers in the South. It does. Even in the Great Southern Easter Deepfreeze. Well, you would expect it because everthing else in Texas is bigger. Even their invasive
species are bigger and more agressive. Except their invasives are native species, specifically red cedar(they call it ash-juniper) and mesquite.
The NPS, with help from dedicated conservation organizations, wages a daily battle in this park vs air and water pollution, exotic invasives, and overuse. The emergence of the hemlock wooly adelgid and the decline of the dogwoods has thrown the outcome slightly to the side of the bad elements.But it is still a beauty, and ranks first among all the national parks for diversity of photo ops. No other NP in the East contains as many well preserved historical homesites, churches, and gristmills.
The historical structures that I have visited in public parks are being well cared for as are many structures located in outparcels.
Citizens are easily outraged when historical structures are threatened. I wish the same emotions could be extended to trees.
The images of buildings in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Outer Banks lighthouses are not included in this category.
The richest and most diverse forests in the Eastern US are being annihilated by mountaintop mining. What was once a beautiful forest covered mountain is replaced by an almost barren plateau reseeded with non-naive grasses. Life for the local residents becomes a living hell of silted streams, polluted wells, homes and property damaged by explosives,and the ever present coal dust.
This type mining follows a set sequence: bulldoze, pile and burn the trees, cut roads, use a massive dragline to extract the coal, and push the rubble( called "overburden" by the coal companies) into the valley below directly into the wetlands at the head of local streams.
Some of the photos in this gallery were taken by Nick Regalado of the Coal River Mountain Watch.
The Southeast is blessed with an enormous variety of native plants. Thanks to the efforts of the various state native plant organizations more gardeners are discovering the advantages of using natives in the landscape.
However, in the wild, many great wildflower habitats, even thoes under public protection, are in danger. Air pollution,the rampant spread of exotic invasive species, and wild collecting are the major problems. And on private land, overdevelopment is the culprit. An imported fungus has crippled our beautiful eastern dogwood and the eastern hemlock is being destroyed by an imported insect.
Thoes April images of blooming dogwoods along mountain streams and year round images of waterfalls surrounded by hemlocks will soon be unavailable.
Nicknamed "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon", this park is a collection of canyons and gullies and was created by erosion from poor farming practices at the site and poor soil conservation upstream.The canyons breathtaking colors can be viewed from a trail on the northern rim. And the canyon floors are home to the largest natural collection of the rare Plumleaf Azalea. Location is Stewart County in Georgia's upper coastal plain.
Similar to the Smokies with many of the same ecological problems. The hemlock wooly aldegid emerged from this area and spread down the appalachian chain. Virtually all the hemlock trees in this park are dead including the famous Limberlost grove of 300-400 year old trees spared from the early 20th century logging.
This park is a beauty and is full of photo ops. Lodging is available inside the park in three locations and a room w/o reservation can always be had on a weekday.
"It was a land of heat and sweat and always off on the horizon there hung the mountains", Ben Robertson "Red Hills and Cotton".
The Piedmont cotton fields of my youth gave way to beautiful upland succession forests. And thoes forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate by developers. Same thing is happening on the "Blue Wall". Golf courses and ridgeline homes in gated communities are changing the views up there.
South Carolina and the sourrounding states are blessed with lots of beautiful and majestic waterfalls plunging over plateaus and mountains.A few are viewed roadside, most require a short to medium length hike, and several require some serious bushwacking. But the photos obtained are more than worth the effort.
The timber rush of the late 1800s, the 1960-70s strip mining era, and the current practice of moving whole mountains to get to the coal has been harsh on this state. But WV is underpopulated and relatively isolated so that much of its natural beauty remains intact.
A favorite destination of tree hugger photographers is the high elevation wind-swept plains of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in Tucker and Randolph counties. It provides visitors a taste of Alaska and northern Canada.
Made a rare photo venture to the Northeast.
"And thats all I have to say about that", Forest Gump.
Driving country roads and passing through small towns of the rural South one can find remnants of a life 60 years ago. Small, family farms and vibrant rural towns have evolved into tree farms and large scale ag enterprises. Towns have lost their main streets and even some residential areas.
Inspiration for this gallery is the excellent book, "The Unpainted South" by Hill and Baldwin.
"Bringing Nature Home" by Dr Douglas Tallamy has sparked a national conversation about the need to increase the percentage of native plants in suburban gardens. Read the book, get the message, plow up the lawn, plant natives, then enjoy the biodiversity and photo opportunities.
The Cumberland Plateau is the world's longest hardwood-forested plateau. Stretching diagonally across eastern TN, north into KY, and south into AL and GA this area is an uplifted tableland with broad plains dissected by river canyons. The Plateau has historically been under attack by mining interests and more so now in its northern reaches(see the Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining gallery). Development is swallowing huge portions in the middle and southern areas. Waterfalls, wildflowers, and mountain vistas combined with historic mills are abundant. For waterfall lovers the Plateau is the mother lode.
"The cities are for money but the high up hills are purely for the soul", Louis L'Amour.
"This was a famous road once, the halfway point from up North to Florida and back. Everybody stopped here, Wilbur Cave as quoted in "Deep South" by Paul Theroux. But Interstate 95 opened in 1978 and today many parts of 301 are littered with abandoned motels, gas stations, and resturants, especially this section in the South Carolina Low Country.
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© george w. sharpton