I was grinding my way up Wayah Bald at a point where the AT crossed a small road, when a truck stopped and an older gentleman got out.  We chatted for a few minutes and he revealed that he was looking for seeds on the wild rhododendrons and azaleas.  He was familiar with the wild rhodos in B.C., as he had given a lecture on rhodos in Vancouver.  He said that B.C. has one wild species, but in this area of the Appalachians there are 3 rhodo species and 11 azaleas.  He wandered up the trail and I asked if I might walk with him and have him identify a few plants.  He was more than happy to share his knowledge, asking if there were any plants that I wanted identified.  He pointed out several azaleas and their specific characteristics.  He also confirmed my suspicion that some of the small trees are chestnuts.  The Appalachians used to be covered with chestnut trees, which were highly valued for their nuts and their wood.  An introduced blight all but eliminated them.  A few young trees still come up, but after a few years they become infected with the blight and succumb.  The botanist said that blight resistant trees are being developed and the trees may come back.  I thanked him for taking the time to talk to me, and continued up to the stone observation tower on the top of 5,342 foot Wayah Bald.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the views were superb.

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