You’ve got to look deep. You’ve got to fathom the heights and the depths. You’ve got to grasp the subtle yet grand sway of nature rolling across placid horizons, bringing artistic fire and fury into full view. Each broad painting of splendid landscape settles the heart’s quiet glory; and it is Southern Appalachia in Western North Carolina, passionately holding the surrounding scenery in Highlands NC in protective custody.
We at The Park on Main®, the luxury hotel in Highlands, recognize the beauty that encompasses this small town. We point to nature’s scenery in Highlands, NC and the geological wonders that shape this place into a visual feast – a rugged work of art sculpted upon ancient tectonic shifts of earthen masses.
Exploring A Rain Forest
Cue the jungle music for your stay at The Park on Main® to explore a real-live rainforest. Southern Appalachia is one of two rainforests in North America; the other is in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, both are deemed temperate rainforests. Puerto Rico has the only tropical rainforest in the United States, according to the National Forest Foundation.
You may not come face to face with any chimpanzees or rhinoceroses or roaring lions (outside of a zoo). But for a rainforest, Southern Appalachia – with its proud mountains – certainly provides a wealth of butterflies, beetles, snakes, bog turtles, black bears, peregrine falcons and other exotic wildlife, including endangered bats and rare salamanders in green-deep, dense forests. Temperatures in tropical rainforests are warmer; temperate rainforests – like the one surrounding Highlands, North Carolina – are generally cooler and are inhabited by hundreds of species of trees with broad leafs.
Average daily temperature highs around Highlands this month is 43. Average lows dip into the lower 20s with average monthly snowfall at 4 inches (12 inches for the year totally). The snowfall blankets the surrounding mountain range in a dazzling display of artistic white. The average age of trees in tropical rainforests is 50-100 years. Temperate rainforests have a smaller number of tree species (10-20), but the average age of trees is 500-1,000 years. Tree leaves are usually needles. The Southern Appalachian Mountains covering the western third of North Carolina are part of a larger rainforest of more than 1,500 square miles from central Alabama to Canada, according to The Nature Conservatory.
Going To Extremes
The Southern Appalachian Mountains produce some geological extremes: The New River is the oldest in North America and Mount Mitchell has the highest peak east of the Rockies. The range consists of the Blue Ridge Mountains and four other physiological provinces, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Unaka Mountains surround the Blue Ridge with the Great Smoky Mountains to the northwest and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the southeast. The Appalachian Mountains provide a barrier between the Coastal Plain and the interior lowlands, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Going Back To The Ancient Past
Archeologists believe earthen plates collided 680 million years ago to create the supercontinent Pangaea that produced the Appalachian range, which were part of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria. Six hundred million years of erosion flattened the mountain range, but Cenozoic Era continental shifts raised the mountains and resurrected streams and rivers. This era ended 23 million years ago.
Top Of The World
To get a good look at how very ancient history shaped Southern Appalachia’s natural artistry, here are two vantage points:
- The Cullasaja River Gorge between Highlands and Franklin, North Carolina along the 61-mile Waterfall Byway provides 21st-century visitors an amazing view of three major waterfalls whipping through the Nantahala National Forest. Motorists can drive under the 120-foot Bridal Veil Falls and walk behind Dry Falls.
- Sunset Rock gives hikers a cliff side view of granite slabs and brilliant sunsets over Highlands, Brushy Face Mountain on the west and the Horse Cove vista on the east. Take Highlands’ Main Street east to Horse Cove Road. Continue on Horse Cove Road from Highways 28 and 64 to the Highlands Nature Center.
Learn more about splendid mountain views. What do you think about this brief tour through ancient history and our geology lesson? Give us a call today to make reservations for a weekend excursion, and follow us on social media for more information about our beautiful area.
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