Thursday, June 6, 2013

Before the Hikes

My name is Nicholas Lenze and this is my first blog post. I have been blessed with the extraordinary opportunity to participate in a research project that involves hiking and doing research on the Appalachian Balds for a hiking guide that will be published through University of South Carolina Press. I must thank and acknowledge Jonathan Haupt, the Director of USC Press, who has genuinely supported this project and agreed to serve as my mentor. I also thank the Honors College at the University of South Carolina, especially Dr. Susan Alexander and the Honors Undergraduate Research Program who have graciously supported me through the Exploration Scholars Grant. After many suggestions to create a blog, I have finally gotten around to doing so, in hopes to share my experiences and tell the personal stories that accompany this endeavor.

Preview of Andrews Bald
Before I begin blogging about my experiences on the Balds (which began a few days ago on Saturday, June 1st), I will tell you a little bit about myself and this project. I just completed my freshman year at the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. I am majoring in Biochemistry and possibly minoring in Neuroscience, with aspirations to attend medical school. I’m passionate about learning, faith, and service. My interests include soccer, tennis, frisbee, and pretty much any other sport or outdoor activity. My involvement in this Appalachian Balds project began with an email about internship/research opportunities last semester.

Amy Duernberger, the lead researcher for this project, is the Electronic Resources Management Librarian at the South Carolina State Library. She began this project out of personal interest and curiosity after a colleague took her on hike of an Appalachian Bald. She was awed by the spectacular views and fascinated by the mystery surrounding the Balds’ origins and history. The more research and reading that she did, the more interested she became, finally deciding that she wanted to write a hiking guide. The book will include trail descriptions and maps for 20-25 hikes of the Appalachian Balds along with sections about possible origins (theories and folklore), information about forest success and management options, and the flora and fauna unique to each Bald. I will be Amy’s research assistant for this project and plan on doing most of the hikes with her.

A little background information-Balds are basically grassy areas in the Appalachian mountains at elevations where there should normally be trees. They come up in Native American folklore and stories from early European settlers. It has been theorized that some of the Balds originated over 10,000 years ago and were kept open by the grazing of large herbivores such as the mammoth, mastodon, horse, bison, musk oxen, caribou, and ground sloth. These mammals were replaced by bison, elk, and deer. It is agreed upon that when the European settlers arrived, they used the Balds (and even cleared some of them) as grazing grounds for their livestock. In the 1930s, the National Park Service took ownership of some of the Balds and grazing stopped; some Balds are still privately owned. Without grazing, forests and shrubs have been invading the open grassy Balds, and hence, questions about conservation have arisen. This is a very brief background about some general ideas surrounding the Appalachian Balds; each Bald is unique and does not fit into all of the categories. It will be interesting to explore each one individually.

In the coming days, I will post more blogs with stories and photos from the first two Balds-Andrews and Max Patch. Please leave comments and ask any questions!

1 comment:

  1. Grr, this is my third attempt to post!

    I know you're enjoying this experience, having spent about 75% of your life in the mountains (and the other 25% kicking my butt in every sport we've played).

    Seriously though, I'm enjoying reading about the Balds and hope you stay safe and have fun!