By Cathy Leestma

Friends Cathy Leestma, left and Kathy Garbow right arrive for the Friday night happy hour preceding the Olympiad’s Pickleball Tournament. Several Rumbling Bald players medalled in a very tough two day competition with over 90 players from throughout the southeastern states.
Photo by Michele Puchala

Welcome to fall, one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Hickory Nut Gorge.

The others are winter, spring and summer! Seriously, if you are here for the first time, a repeat friend or an all-year-rounder, welcome!

As the days of autumn slip by, the hills and mountain colors will intensify in their splendor. This is all due to the magnificent forests that make up the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over 80 variations of tree species including Hemlocks, Cypress, Hickory and Pine, Maples, Oaks and Dogwoods are here.

Back in the early 20th century, J. S. Holmes was named North Carolina’s first State Forester. His book, Common Forest Trees of North Carolina, published in 1922 is now in its 21st edition. With very few changes over many years, it remains the ‘go to’ for forestry information. This small book is a treasure trove of facts, drawings and the history of forestry in North Carolina (

As an example, when a tree sheds it’s leaves, it is more difficult to identify. Mr. Holmes spent his life identifying and recording trees from the many shapes of their leaves including leaf bases, tips and margins (the outer edge of the leaf) to the fruits trees bear, to piths, buds and leaf scars. His expertise invites us to learn more about our magnificent forests.

I have a long way to go. Enjoy this spectacular season!