So, what’s North Carolina like?

As I’ve mentioned on this site before, I grew up in Washington State. Now I live in North Carolina, and friends often ask me what it’s like. “I mean, do they have nature there?” And “how come there are never any pictures of North Carolina on your site?” This post will attempt to answer a few of those questions.

In one sense, it’s like any other place. We have freeways, and shopping malls, and cars and buses and trucks. That’s the day to day life that all of us live — not much “nature” involved, unless you’re some kind of a forest ranger or something. So I’m not going post pictures of all that, because a grocery store is a grocery store wherever you are. Once you get over the fact that here they’re called “Harris Teeter” instead of “Safeway,” there’s not much difference. Heck, we even have Starbucks here.

But the natural world here is very different from the place where I grew up, and I’m going to try to show some of that now. The biggest difference is the forests. They’re much denser than they are out west, offering only rare glimpses of the sky. They can be quite beautiful, but everything is usually a shade of green. Here’s an example:

Carolina Forest

When you go for a walk in the woods, this is the kind of scene you see — this is what most of your walk will be like. If you’re on a hike in the mountains, occasionally, very occasionally, you’ll emerge into a clearing big enough to see the surrounding landscape. The result, even on a cloudy day, can be quite stunning:

Carolina Mountains

Ignore that pretty girl and look at the landscape: it’s mostly covered with trees, even at relatively high spots (I think this photo was taken at an elevation of around 5,000 feet). But it’s quite different from what you’ll see out west, even at similar elevations. Here’s a picture I took a couple years back at Cascade Pass in Washington (elevation: 5,400 feet):

Cascade Pass

There’s just a different character to the land. Even the mountains in North Carolina just seem more intimate than the sprawling ranges you see in the west. There’s also a feeling of more of an abundance of life here: more snakes, more birds, more plants, more water, and yes, more people, all fighting for the same square foot of land to take root on.

That’s the other thing. Even when you’re in the North Carolina mountains, in a relatively remote spot, you’re never really alone, rarely more than a mile away from someone’s home. Even the wilderness areas are generally small, no more than 20 miles across at the largest. So “nature” here comes in pockets, not vast expanses. You might drive through a golf course community to reach the start of your hike.

On the other hand, here it is, late October, the trees are a brilliant orange, and it looks like it’s going to be a mild, 75-degree day. Our first frost probably still won’t be for another few weeks, and there will only be a few days this winter that will really require bundling up. All in all, North Carolina’s a pretty nice place.

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