MtnSeaKingI love trees, and not just the ones sporting the colorful leaves. As a boy, my favorite outdoor hangout was in a tall oak in our side yard. I once dared climb so high that I could peer through the top and see the water tower in town, three miles away. The adrenaline rush still lingers.

I was never much of a hunter, but as a teenager I spent many an early morning or late afternoon tramping through the woods or sitting on a rotting log, officially in pursuit of squirrels or rabbits, but mainly enraptured by the trees with their craggy branches and the clouds scudding by above them.

MtnSeaHeadlessOn a recent visit to Asheville we drove north on the Parkway, parked at the Glassmine Falls overlook, and hiked along a section of North Carolina’s ambitious Mountains-To-Sea Trail. We quickly felt like hobbits walking through Fangorn forest, the last haven of the tree-like Ent folk.

It appeared that they had been fighting. On the top of a ridge, one tree seemed to be striding forward shouting victory, while another could have been slinking away minus a head.

MtnSeaMushroomsOther trees had their own distinctive looks. The rotting hulk of a tall stump was covered with mushrooms that led me to think of a short-snouted shaggy dog’s face, eyes covered with hair.

Some sort of fungus (I think) created a face on another tree, though I couldn’t decide if it looked more like a bird with a beak or a bear with a gaping mouth.

MtnSeaFaceThe trees are colorful now, dressed in their showy fall fashions, but when the leaves are gone, the real beauty of their intricate branches will frame the sky until spring. I’m grateful for any reminder that, despite the ugliness of political wrangling and terrorist threats and rampaging disease, there’s marvelous beauty all around.

Give me trees, please.

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