Fraser Fir Ghost on Wilburn Ridge

Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree!  Fraser firs throughout the Appalachian Mountains have been decimated by the balsam woolly adelgid, an aphid like insect.  I captured these images on a backpacking trip to Grayson Highlands Virginia with my Boy Scout Troop last September.

Fraser Fir Skeleton on the Bald Composition 3
Fraser Fir Ghost on the Bald Composition 3

This Fraser fir stands as a monument in a large open area between two balds on Wilburn Ridge along the Appalachian Trail.  Despite the disparaging loss of so many of these beautiful trees, there is a haunting beauty found in these lingering ghosts.

Red Spruce Skeleton on the Bald Composition 2 - Black and White
Fraser Fir Ghost on the Bald Composition 2 – Black and White
Red Spruce Skeleton on the Bald Composition 2 - Color
Fraser Fir Ghost on the Bald Composition 2 – Color

Ironically, there is a thriving Fraser Fir Christmas tree industry in the surrounding highlands.  While short-term chemical treatments protect specimen trees sold to consumers, there are several research efforts underway to develop long-term strategies to protect the Fraser fir.  These include development of disease resistant variants which one day could be reintroduced to eastern highland forests.

Red Spruce Skeleton on the Bald
Fraser Fir Ghost on the Bald

For the best viewing experience, click on an image to view a high resolution version from my portfolio site.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday observances!

Season’s Greetings!

C. S.


Grayson Highlands, Virgina, Part 2


Tombstone in the Bald

 In my previous post, I spoke about the strikingly beautiful landscape at Grayson Highlands.  Ironically, part of the character comes from dead or dying frazer firs & hemlocks, which have been decimated by the Asian wooly aphid.  Variants of this pest have taken a similar toll throughout Southern Appalachia.  Fortunately, most trees were able to produce extensive seedlings before dying.  Scientists are not sure how the next generation will fare; research continues.  The Tombstone in the Bald image seems to capture the plight of these trees, as well as their ironic contribution to visual landscape.

Fraser Fir Composition
Fraser Fir Composition

In the Fraser Fir Composition image, the sun bleached, weathered old wood of a dead fraser makes for a strong visual against the dark, dense foliage of the living firs.  I tried a new filter in Exposure 7 which emulates Agfa APX 100 black & white negative film.  With some minor adjustments to the filter settings, I get a pleasing boost in contrast, broad tonal range and subtle grain structure.  Nice!  This filter may replace my go-to Kodak Panatomic-X filter mentioned in previous posts.

Another attraction you’ll find among the balds  is herd of wild ponies, they help maintain the open grass areas.  Occasionally, you may find cattle also grazing among the balds.  Signs in the Grayson Highlands State Park request you not pet or feed the ponies.  However, it’s hard to resist as they seem quite comfortable around both humans and Boy Scouts.  Wild Ponies at Massey Gap was taken towards the end of our last backpacking trip in an around the Grayson Highlands State Park.

Wild Ponies at Massey Gap
Wild Ponies at Massey Gap

The last image, Lichen Armour, features a young tree coated with a heavy layer of lichen.  Since high school biology, I’ve also been quite fascinated by lichen, which is actually a composite organism formed by a framework of fungus fibers containing algae and/or cyanobacteria all living together in a symbiotic relationship.  Pretty  cool, eh?

Lichen Armour
Lichen Armour