Because it was there

This afternoon, having taken a pass on the State Fair, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go climb to the highest point in Orange County, North Carolina.

My West Coast Geography Snob evaluation: It tells you a little something about how elevation-deprived the Piedmont is that this cute little lump of real estate gets called a MOUNTAIN. I'm sorry, but when the summit is 867 feet above sea level, 450 feet above the surrounding lower land, you'd be generous to call the geological feature in question a hill.

This is not to say that it is not a perfectly lovely hill. It was a beautiful day, with beautiful views to be had, both up-close at the forest foliage and out over the surrounding terrain. (Even though the overlook was closed due to landslide risk, which is why the middle picture above is taken from a considerable distance back from the fence. ) In many respects it reminded me of my beloved East Rock. This certainly will not be my last venture to Occoneechee, D.V.

Upon reading the little state park brochure about the place, after I had made my hike, I discovered that there is something to the "mountain" designation other than the relative altitude: Occoneechee Mountain is home to distinctive flora and fauna, including the brown elfin butterfly, that otherwise inhabit much higher elevations. It's like there's this little blip of mountain-like-ness out here in the middle of the gently rolling flat land, that's somehow been sheltered enough to maintain an ecosystem that is a remnant of its prehistoric status as a real mountain. This is kind of cool. North Carolina's mountains are such a long haul to the west, it's fun to discover a little bit of mountainness in my own backyard.


David and Sarah said...

Great pictures, Rachel! You've inspired us to check it out!

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