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drew and i both grew up in southwest virginia, but didn’t meet until the class  “Gender” while in college. i feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel back home to the mountains with him from time to time. we both still have the discomfort, perhaps fear, of being queers traveling on ole country roads - we feel the stares at gas stations and produce stands, but i feel so at home by his side. i dream of reclaiming lands like this for queer folks…to start a farm with friends and be able to honor the land and our whole selves. some day 🌿✨

There are skies and then there are Blue Ridge Parkway skies. The southern end of the parkway in North Carolina winds through the highest elevations, offering dramatic mountain top views. When photographer Robert Stephens chanced upon this scene at Bear Trap Gap, he said “It almost felt like an out of body experience. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, but it’s there! I was so in awe of the light filtering over the ridges I had to remember to snap my shutter!” Photo courtesy of Robert Stephens.

You can never see too many sunsets on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After the first snow in Virginia this winter, photographer Brandon Dewey drove out to capture the sights. “The sky normally lights up once the sun dips behind the mountain ridges, but this night, there wasn’t that much color. About 20 minutes after sunset, I was just about to pack up my gear when the sky finally caught on fire for less than two minutes.” Photo courtesy of Brandon Dewey.

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I   NEED  YOUR  HELP  !

I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life exploring the wilderness of Appalachia. I’ve dedicated my life to seeking what few eyes have seen, and bringing these hidden wonders to the light, so others can appreciate the diversity and beauty of our forests!

There is one forest that stands out from all the others. It’s the most special place in the world to me. My heart was captured the very first time I wandered into those evergreens. It was a whole new world,  unlike anywhere I’d ever been. Huge stands of hemlocks cover the hillsides of coves that loggers couldn’t reach. Some of these old trees reach high above the cliffs! A forest of evergreens, lush and thriving, even in the coldest of winter months. Waterfalls flow from the cliffs, and into the valley, joining together into a gorgeous maze of streams.

Untouched by the hands of man for many many years, it is a complex ecosystem, tucked away and forgotten. Many animals depend on the safe sanctuary that this wilderness offers, as well as many species of strange and rare plants. When you step foot in this forest, you can feel the seclusion, it feels so raw, and so wild. Other than us, no one has ventured in this wilderness for decades. I’ve spent years exploring this land, and there is still SO MUCH to discover!

So far, we’ve found six waterfalls, each nearly 100ft tall! I’m guessing there are many more, we’re still exploring, with exciting new finds each time we venture deeper!

Living in Appalachia, I know all too well how rare places like this are. SO much of our land has been destroyed or contaminated, due to fossil fuel extraction. It’s literally everywhere you look, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Entire mountain ranges have been flattened, our streams polluted with poisons. I’ve fought for years to raise awareness and end mountaintop removal. Our land is being destroyed, stolen right out from under our feet. Stolen from future generations, blasted off the face of the earth.  

Since a very very young age, and I’ve felt in my heart, that I was born to protect. Nothing flows through my veins with a stronger force. Nothing floods my mind and heart with greater passion. For years, I’ve had dreams of buying this property, saving it from loggers, oil, or anything else that seeks to harm its pristine beauty, and undisturbed habitat.

Over the years, I’ve realized it’s nearly impossible for me to save enough money to buy this land.  Realization that my dream may never become a reality has caused me so much heartache. The fact that at any moment, someone COULD go in and log it, drill for oil, extract other fuels… taking away everything I love, and everything these creatures and plants depend on… has absolutely left me feeling helpless. I’ve cried, I’ve brainstormed, laid awake at night,  'there has to be a way’.

Often, I’m too stubborn to ask for help, even when I really need it. But as time goes on, I get more uneasy, and I feel like something needs to be done SOON! I can’t sit back and wait to get rich, because that’s simply not going to happen!

It dawned on me that I have a huge web of support through Tumblr! You all are amazing, and have shown me so much love over the years.  I’ve shared my adventures with you all, to give you a peek into my life, and into the forest I call home. I do it all, in hopes that you all will see what beauty Appalachia holds…. and want to protect it as much as I do!  If each of my followers gave $1.00 to my cause, I would have enough to buy the land! It is my DREAM to turn this place into a nature preserve!   If you have extra money to spare, consider a donation!  This place is beyond amazing, and it deserves to remain that way! All I want is to protect it, keep it whole, keep it thriving. I’m asking from the bottom of my heart , for your help in protecting this wilderness!

Please SHARE, and spread this to as many people as possible!
Thank you all for all the love and support you’ve shown me already, you all are great!

“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been re-arranged by the hand of man.”

Donate through paypal: ccnaturepreserve@gmail.com
Donate through Ko-Fi:  ko-fi.com/ccnaturepreserve

I was born and raised in Kentucky, near the foothills of appalachia. I could drive twenty minutes in any direction and find myself square in the middle of abject poverty. Every spring, winter-hardened homeless men reappear to beg for change by the end of most interstate off-ramps.

The people here don’t love me. I’ve been glared out of nearly any kind of establishment you can think of. The south is a place where there are crosses in sight nearly everywhere you go and Mitch McConnell has been voted repeatedly back into office since 1984. They play country music in the Dairy Queen and everyone has a Ford pickup (“because they’re made in the USA!”). It’s a place where speaking in tongues isn’t crazy but being transgender sure is.

Everyone I know wants to leave. They set their sights on Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon. Out in the west where everything is bigger, more open, more open-minded. A place where they might feel safe.

But Kentucky is my home. I love it from deep within my bones. The hills nestle you into them, lovingly, nurturing. In the summer, the air presses into your lungs like it has something burning to say. The forests here are more alive than any other place I have seen; the cicadas sing nonstop and the greenery is so lush that it holds you. A teacher once dubbed it “the sacred yoni” and I have since longed for nothing but mother earth’s embrace. I feel her magic everywhere.

Y'all. I can’t leave. I love these people the way you can only love the people where you come from. I love all of the brave queer kids and the scared queer adults and everyone in between. I love the homeless men begging for the kind of change that you can’t pull out of a wallet. I love the hills and the rivers and the trees.

Someone has to stay. Someone has to make it a better place.