The Pisgah National Forest around Asheville, North Carolina is full of surprises — like unexpected waterfalls. You follow an otherwise undistinguished creek and suddenly find it tumbling over a craggy rock face, creating a scene of great beauty.
The waterfalls apparently are so commonplace that they don’t even get names. The waterfall above, where a creek spills over a sheer 200-foot drop of rock, is one of the anonymous ones — presumably because it’s not by the road and reachable only by a hike into the woods. It’s worth the walk, if only to get up close to the area where the rock somehow splits the water into individually discernible, almost perfectly parallel lines.
Yesterday we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while early in the morning. At one of the many scenic overlook areas we stopped to take in Looking Glass Rock, a huge rock outcropping that thrusts up from the rolling, forested hills of the Pisgah National Forest that stretch forever into the far distance. It’s an amazingly beautiful place, and a camera lens just can’t fully capture it’s sweep and splendor — but the pictures are pretty nevertheless.
We’ve been trekking through areas of the Pisgah National Forest, enjoying some beautiful streams and waterfalls, cool air and chirping birds. So far, we haven’t seen one of the other natural wonders of this area — bears.
The Asheville area is black bear country, and the Pisgah National Forest is where they live. It’s one of those areas that is wilderness — in the sense that no houses are in sight — but it’s regularly visited by campers, hikers, anglers, birders, and tourist who drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bears often see humans, and are known to prowl suburban neighborhoods at night, rooting through garbage and looking for food. The bears are accustomed to people and have lost their fear of them. That’s not a good thing, because an emboldened bear is more likely to charge — and we don’t want that.
The trail heads here feature posted warnings about bears that seem ironically hilarious to me. Don’t approach a bear? Give a bear in the distance wide berth? Hey, thanks for those useful tips! But some people are idiots, and expect any bears they see to be like animals in a petting zoo. They’ll approach them and even try to feed them and take a selfie while doing so. I’m not sure that posting notices will penetrate the cluelessness of such people — but you’ve got to try something, I suppose.
On our hikes I’ve tried to stay alert for signs of bears. If I see one, I’ll gladly turn and head carefully in the opposite direction.