I have an awesome uncle! He’s a Professor in Plant Biology up in Michigan State University and one of his trips brought him out to the border of North Carolina and Tennessee! He was visiting Roan Mountain, the site of his PHD dissertation research, and he invited my mother and me to join him up in the Appalachian Mountains!
Okay – I’ll be honest, as long as I have lived here in North Carolina, I had never visited the Mountains along our borders. I’ve only visited Skyline Drive up in Virginia. Sad, I know. However, this was the perfect opportunity to get to see them.
So, Friday we headed off to Yellow Mountain, North Carolina where we had rooms reserved at sweet Bed and Breakfast called Thistledown. I loved staying there over night. Beautiful views, great food and rooms, and Sara and Tom were very welcoming! Also, Witt Langstaff, the care taker, took us up to the top of Yellow Mountain the next morning for the views. Unfortunately, it was a complete white out with snow. Yep, snow! In October! Ugh! Not something I’m used to anymore. Fortunately we packed appropriately with warm jackets. And it was still so much fun to see the summit – even though it was cold!
Afterwards, we followed my uncle to Roan Mountain, Tennessee to the Natonal Forest where we got to hike his old camping ground. As we traveled, we collected seeds of different trees for his work. It was fun and educational! Oh, and talk about white out! We got to the observation deck at the end of the path and you couldn’t see anything! Zero visibility! Yet so cool! It was like you could drop into an endless abyss down below! And the trees were being blown into the mountain. My uncle took some video shots to study the wind stress the pines were experiencing. Awesome!
Now, you’re probably wondering how this relates to writing, right? Well, English and History have been my passion since middle school, but I’ve also always had a passion for Biology and Ecology – you could see were choosing college courses might have been difficult. LOL. But, through my writing, I’m able to combine all my passions. And ecology is perfect for understanding or creating the settings of my work.
Actually, in the early years of my undergraduate degree, it was an ecology professor that presented the Holdridge Life Zones during one of our lectures (see below). If you write Sci-Fi, you might have heard of this graph, but if not it’s totally amazing! By looking at different factors, you can classify, or in novels create, the different kinds of vegetation zones. I actually used this a bit when I was creating Death’s Island. Though, I’ll admit, I took some artistic liberties, it helped me understand what species would live in the different environments.
Nature is truly inspiring! I mean, for an example, I found out during my hike up Yellow Mountain that a tree, Hawthorne, actually protects itself from browsing with long thorns! They look awesome and yet terrifying. I definitely didn’t want to end up grabbing one on accident as I tried not to slip down hill in the snow. But, I so have to use these trees in a book one day!
Yes, I’m a Renaissance woman! I want to do it all! But, what I love about writing is that I can! I can take everything I love and combine it to create whole new worlds or recreate old ones.