A Trip to the Pisgah

photo of the entrance to the Pisgah Ranger Station surrounded by gardens and their sign reading "Pisgah Ranger Station- Pisgah National Forest"

As a Resource Assistant for the Forest Service’s Southwestern Regional Office in Albuquerque, NM, working remotely from North Carolina does not provide many opportunities to “get out in the field” with my coworkers. Luckily, with a supportive team and a welcoming staff in the area, I am able to find engagement with local forest units. On May 21, I had the privilege of visiting the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina for their Wilderness Skills Institute for the week. Upon arriving at Pisgah Ranger Station, I was greeted by the sight of a volunteer group called the Master Gardeners. They were tending to the native gardens planted around the entrance of the building. Although I was a bit unsure of where to go or how to find the people I was meant to be shadowing, the group of staff gathered outside the building greeted me warmly and made me feel welcome to explore the facility while I waited. I enjoyed the sunny morning, viewing their informational displays and chatting with one of the Master Gardeners.

Eventually, I found the volunteer coordinator who I’d be shadowing for the next few days, and from then on it was a whirlwind of activities. I had meet and greets, and even a tour of the Cradle of Forestry. A very busy three days indeed! While I enjoyed the entirety of my stay, the tour was my favorite part. It started with a video about the history of the Cradle. Through this I learned a ton about the School of Forestry. It was established by a German forester named Carl Schenk, and built on Vanderbilt’s land while he was developing his estate in 1896. Eventually, it was forced to shut down due to accredited universities and colleges establishing their own forestry programs. Schenk’s School of Forestry laid the foundation for Western forestry practices in America. After the video, a FIND (Forest Inspired Nature Discovery) volunteer that manages the facility took us to see the replica of the school (pictured above) and shared a few lesser known facts about the area. This tour dove into the various immigrant populations that were present in this part of the mountains, how they contributed to the unique accents of the area, and the grim reality of how they were pushed off the land on which they made their living in order for Vanderbilt to further develop his opulent estate.

Overall, it was a great experience. I met some new colleagues, found a different perspective on my work, and got to spend lots of time in one of the many beautiful forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

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