The holidays afford the time to reflect on the previous year and mull over our goals for the next. The 2016 season at the Cradle of Forestry in America was packed with events, outreach opportunities, and chances to explore more of our Pisgah National Forest. It’s bizarre to spend so much time looking forward to each celebration and then to be here in mid-December looking back on them. Here are some of our choice 2016 highlights:
Each year we host a Bring Back the Monarchs program in mid-September anticipating the arrival of southward migrating butterflies. Last year there were few monarchs which migrated through our meadow conversion areas and native backyard habitats. In 2016 they simply arrived late! A few days after the annual program, the Cradle was buzzing with rumors of orange butterflies settling on Joe-Pye Weed and Goldenrods. Since we have converted much of the “lawn” area surrounding our parking lots to a more meadow-type ecosystem, an influx of species diversity has been observed. Value of these conversions correspond with the appearance of monarchs, dozens of pollinators, hundreds of Lady’s Tresses orchids and native wildflowers.
We just can’t succeed during April-November without our team of volunteer hosts. We were fortunate this year (as in many years past) to have an outstanding and diverse group. They were flexible, optimistic, welcoming to visitors, inquisitive, and brought new insights daily. As staff, it’s always a treat when we can join hosts after work for game nights, evening campfires, or potlucks. These folks spend endless hours educating themselves so that they can better inform visitors about our unique site.
3. Blue ghosts during Firefly Twilight Tour
We were floored by the participation at this annual evening event. A budding curiosity in NC’s top things to do from both locals and visitors is witnessing the blue ghost fireflies. These small fireflies are endemic to the southern Appalachian mountains. This July event typically occurs past blue ghost peak season. Those who complete the paved 1-mile walk, despite later hours, are rewarded with a magical site as night sets in. Firefly larvae live in the leaf litter and therefore increasing travel into the woods off of the trails may lead to a decimating affect on populations. At the Cradle’s Firefly Twilight Tour we encourage curiosity for the wondrous natural history of fireflies while highlighting our responsibility to protect these beetles that engulf our childhood summertime memories. For upcoming years we are planning ways to accommodate a growing interest in this natural phenomenon while protecting these habitats from foot traffic.
4. Hosting two brand new events: May the Forest Be With You and Pink Beds BioBlitz
During special events we enjoy meeting with visitors, crafters, demonstrators and volunteers. In August, May the Forest Be With You is a new way to celebrate our forests’ resources. There is importance in conserving those resources along with our Appalachian heritage that originates from the Blue Ridge Mountain soil of North Carolina. In addition our second new event, Pink Beds BioBlitz, allows for visitors to engage with those who work in Pisgah. Through the use of citizen science you become the scientist while photographing and identifying some of the species dwelling in our rich forests. Look forward to these newer events in 2017 as well!
“So this year,” one of our educators says while welcoming school groups, “we are celebrating the 100th birthday of Pisgah as a national forest and land that belongs to all of us to use for recreation. But do you think these forests are a little bit older than 100 years?” Each child nods with an outspoken, “Yes.” Although we celebrated one of the first eastern national forest’s centennial this year we mustn’t forget that the land in which we bike, paddle, hunt, hike, run, climb, and fish is millenniums older. Age bent the cool rivers, carved the valleys and coves, exposed granite slabs. In continuing to use our public lands we need to conserve what generations took to achieve. The Forest Service’s photo booth highlighted the countless reasons why each of us love Pisgah National Forest.