|Balsam Nature Trail, Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina © Doug Hickok|
Looping around a ridge just below the peak of Mount Mitchell, the Balsam Nature Trail guides you through a dense, dark subalpine forest of spruce and fir. The mountain is the highest in the eastern US at a modest elevation of 6,684 feet, but its prominent location above the surrounding Appalachian topography causes it to attract heavy weather. Cool even in summer months, this trail is often enveloped by clouds and mists. On this occasion, the mists began to clear just as the sun came out.
There is something about the atmosphere of this primeval forest that always reminds us of elves and dwarves and Tolkien tales. As a matter of fact, we once found Gandolf's wallet and car keys laying beside the trail. He must have dropped them on his way to saving Middle Earth.
Quick take: If you like dramatic landscape photography, take a moment to view California photographer Mitch Dobrowner's work.