During an afternoon interlude on a research trip to western North Carolina, I hiked a section of the Mountains to the Sea trail through the Middle Prong Wilderness. Climbing up an old railroad bed built a century ago to extract timber from the extensive mountainside groves of virgin red spruce, Fraser fir, hemlocks and hardwoods, the trail leads to a series of beautiful fields on a high ridge that's over 6000 in elevation.
Much of the trail wanders through fields, lush firs and balsams, and rhododendron groves. The path itself is deeply worn in places. Here's a few quick digital snapshots from my Fuji point-and -shoot:
The views at the top of the trail were remarkable, overlooking the Middle Prong Wilderness and the adjoining Shining Rock Wilderness. Here's a sample of the panorama: