southern appalachian mountains

Southern Appalachia Gothic
  • Everyone is kind. Everyone smiles. “Welcome, y’all.” The smiles stretch until there is only teeth in various numbers distracting you from the deadness in the eyes. “We are so glad you are here.”
  • There is banjo music playing. It is catchy. You search and search for the source. The music gets faster, pitch sharpening. At some point, a fiddle joins in. You are lost in the trees and there is only the music and the faint sound of someone stamping their feet.
  • “Rock me mama like a wagon wheel,” you sing. A woman appears. It is not your mama, but it is a mama. There is another and another. You are surrounded by mamas. “Bless your heart,” they chime.
  • You are hiking the mountains and there is a bear. It stares at you and you freeze, terrified to move. A bump at your feet distracts you. You are surrounded by opossums. Their black eyes shimmer and their pink noses smell your fear. You look back up. The bear is gone.
  • It is autumn and the color is everywhere. The tourists are here. The air smells like pumpkin and decay and you emerge from your home to forage. It is a thirty minute drive to food. You arrive in town two hours later. You are not sure where the lapsed time has vanished except that there is a whirl of cameras in every direction. Even the leaves will grow tired and flee in less than a month.
  • You buy sweet tea from five restaurants. Every cup tastes different. You go home and pour a glass. This cup is just right.
  • Nearby, a tourist attempts to speak the name of the mountain range. “Appa-” they start. They are still making “a” sounds. They have never left.

Steep hollow blazing with autumn colors. The Watauga Reserve, Stone Mountain, Upper Unakas, Western Blue Ridge Mountains, Southern Appalachians, Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee, USA. ©Van Miller

A National Historic Landmark, Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded in 1913 as a boarding school for mountain children and as a settlement serving the community through economic, health and cultural initiatives.

   The school’s programs have evolved to meet the changing needs of the community and region. Today’s programs include environmental education and basic educational support for students in local schools. The richness of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s campus and its history is a source for multiple other enrichment programs for the local community and beyond.

   The campus is located on 625 acres on the north side of Pine Mountain, the most imposing geological feature of the southern Appalachian Mountains. The wooded slopes of Pine Mountain’s property are home to an impressive number of plants and animals, some of which are exclusive to the campus.

Winter scene. Watauga Reserve, Stone Mountain, Upper Unakas, Western Blue Ridge Mountains, Southern Appalachians, Cherokee National Forest, East Tennesse, USA. © Van Miller