The Appalachian Highlands bisect the eastern third of the United States like a bold diagonal slash from Maine to Alabama. The twisted ridges and hogbacks bear mute witness to the ancient collision of North America, Eurasia, and Africa, the geologic event that formed them. Vegetation is lush in the warm months, and beauty abounds in any season. There is a constant in all seasons--the pervasive mists, sweeping and swirling, softening the rugged angularity of the mountain ranges, and creating illusion as well, an ethereal land somehow immune to the strictures of time and space and climate and geography.
The mist obscures, but when things escape its embrace, their appearance is intensified and made more vivid, like the bright green leaves of spring. In other seasons, haggard old trees with bare limbs convey a more somber image in the mists. In early morning light, the surface of the New River is cold and slaty, and swirls of the mist play in the ridges overlooking the river. The bottoms of low-hanging clouds fringe the mountaintops like caps of snow. Roads and trails fade easily into obscurity in the mist, but in the pockets of light reaching into a laurel thicket, the wet leaves shine in luminous beauty. The mist forms a backdrop of mystery to jeweled droplets of dew glistening in trailside weeds. And as the ridgelines march away in the distance, the mists render their definition more faintly, one by one, until finally the ridges seem not to be there at all.
Many of the Scottish emigrants who left their homeland, so often sadly if not bitterly, came to these highlands and found them fair. To their American descendants, the misty peaks of the Appalachians have become a homeland. Any thought of living elsewhere would call to mind the image of an old Scot, sitting by a shore, heartsore for a glimpse of his beloved misty peaks across the sea.
Landon McAllister, 1998
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