I am continuing with the general theme of environmental diversity of the
Appalachian Trail, and working from the macro (sky) down to the micro (little
stuff, like leaves and bugs). I covered the sky more thoroughly than I
originally planned (typical of me!). Let's see what happens with the next essays
about mountains, valleys, and eco-zones.
I'll start with those beautiful blue ridges for which the Appalachians are
A portion of the Appalachian Mountains that stretches from north Georgia to
Pennsylvania is designated the "Blue Ridge." South of Roanoke, Virginia the
range forks, forming an immense oval until the forks join again at Springer
Mountain in Georgia. The
western ridge includes the Smokies and Nantahalas and the eastern ridge is what
is popularly known as the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Although the AT technically follows the Blue Ridge only in Georgia and parts
of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, I photographed the phenomenon of "blue
ridges" all the way to Maine: when atmospheric conditions are right, the
distant mountain layers fade into lighter and lighter shades of blue. I find it
Here's a photographic tour from south to north of some of the magnificent
blue ridges I observed from the Appalachian Trail. This is the first I've shown
about half of these pictures.
This was one of my early glimpses of the distant blue ridges from Georgia
Day 4, a little north of Unicoi Gap:
The ridges closest to me were still brown at the peaks in early May. You can
see the green leaves as they "creep" up the next ridge, and the distant blues of
the ridges on the horizon.
You definitely get your money's worth of expansive blue ridge vistas along
the AT in North Carolina and Tennessee! The views were particularly nice in
North Carolina on the way up to and through the Smokies. I had great weather
those days (5
through 13) and the first day in the Park (14).
Here are some blue ridge sightings in southwestern North Carolina,
beginning with one of my favorites:
Some of the best views of distant blue mountains in North
Carolina and Tennessee are from the numerous balds. I'll feature balds in
the next essay, but include this shot heading toward the Humps from Roan
Unfortunately, many of the distant blue ridges in
Virginia, my home state, were obscured by haze when I passed through in
June. This was especially true in the Shenandoah Mountains.
The next set of photos are from various vantage points in
Virginia, beginning with a view from Whitetop Mountain on
I caught this view of blue ridges from Apple Orchard Mountain
Some varying shades of blue mountains were also visible from Cold Mountain
. . .
. . . and The Priest on
Day 53 was overcast in Shenandoah National
Park when Jim and I ran and hiked on
Blackrock Mountain, the photo at the top of this page shows the blue
ridges in the distance. There's a horizontal view in the journal that day.
You can just barely see layers of blue ridges through the haze beyond
Stonyman Mountain in the
Even though the official Blue Ridge Mountains extend into Pennsylvania, I
didn't notice (or capture in pixels) any more multi-layered blue ridges until I
got to New Jersey. In the mid-Atlantic states you tend to see just a single ridge in the
distance rather than ridge after ridge after ridge. As in Virginia, the
air was often hazy and even the single and double ridges were more muted than in
North Carolina and Tennessee.
This is a view of the Delaware River and Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania
taken from New Jersey's Kittatinny Ridge on
89. You can just barely see the faint blue second ridge:
Jim took this shot of the Hudson River from West Point in New York on
showing several layers of low mountains in the distance:
Below is a photo of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain State Park in
New York on
Day 95, looking south toward New York City. I
was happy to see blue ridges instead of signs of civilization!
Now you'd think I'd have some decent "blue ridges" photos from southern New
England as I got back into higher mountains. But, noooo. I don't.
Maybe there weren't any other ridges besides the ones I was on. Maybe the
views were there and I just didn't photograph them. Maybe the leaves in August
blocked them out. Most likely it's because I wasn't above tree line again on a
really clear day until I got to New Hampshire.
White Mountains of New Hampshire more than made up for any lack of
blue ridges in the preceding seven states. Wow.
The next four photos are from
118. I took the first three as I was climbing Franconia Ridge
from the south toward Little Haystack. The fourth one is up on the ridge just before I reached Mt.
Boy, was I ever happy to be back above tree line again!!
The next morning (Day
119) I got these ridge views from the top of South Twin Mountain:
Day 120 in the southern Presidential Range between Mt. Webster
and Mt. Washington was also chock full of blue layers of ridges in the distance, as
shown in the next set of photos:
That last shot on Mount Monroe shows so clearly the range of
blues from dark navy closer up to pale, pale blue at the horizon.
The next photo may set a blue ridges PR (personal record)
for me: in the large original size, I can count at least nine ridges
back south toward the various Carter and Wildcat peaks that I'd climbed
that morning (Day
125). My vantage point is on top of Mt. Moriah. You can see another
photo from here in the journal that day.
There were at least two clear days when I was in Maine to
see layers of blue ridges either where I had already run or where I was heading.
One of these was
135 in the beautiful Bigelow Mountains. The first shot is
looking south beyond the lakes where I'd just run. I love the "sawtooth" look of the
ridges and the "been there, done that" feeling of satisfaction I got every time
I could see so clearly what I'd recently accomplished.
The next view is looking north and west to another sawtooth
pattern of mountains that I'd climb in the next two weeks. Katahdin is in there
You can see more photos from the Bigelows in the journal on
135 and in
There were also good views of distant ridges from the Barren-Chairback
Range, which I climbed on
143. You can see a photo from Third Mountain in the journal
that day. I was in near white-out conditions above tree line on Whitecap Mountain
on Day 144, missing any potential blue ridge vistas, and none of our photos show
such a view from the top of Mt. Katahdin, the last exposed summit.
Next up: southern balds that I loved.
<sigh> So many more mountains out there, and so little time . . .