Spring, in my opinion is one of the most magnificent times of year. The trees are budding, the flowers begin to bloom and the days begin to get longer and warmer. A time of rebirth that makes all things in nature new again.
Here in the Smokey Mountains you can watch the transition from winter to spring. There are signs of spring everywhere but old man winter still has his icy grip on the north side of the mountain in the high country. The icicles still hang tight from the rock ledges and there is still a definite chill in the air. Soon the delicate mountain wild flowers will begin to peek out from their winter slumber to again stretch their petals toward the sun. All remnants of winter will soon pass and the mountains will be filled with color from the wild flowers the new leaves on the trees and mountain laurels.
Spring in the Smokies also means that turkey season is just around the corner. The Tom’s in our area are already gathering their flock of hens to begin their cycle of mating. The warmer days seem to be signaling to all things that life will be renewed.
Growing up in the mountains has given me the opportunity to watch the changing of the seasons and to watch the growth of the turkey population in our area. In this area we did not have a great number of turkeys until about 20 years ago. Thanks to conservation efforts and keeping controlled hunting numbers their population has increased steadily.
But with this growth there has also been decline. In Western North Carolina the Bob White Quail are almost non existent and Grouse are not plentiful as they use to be. This is due to the increase in our coyote numbers which has exploded over the last 10 years and to development. Our Whitetail deer population is also down due to an increase in industry and the housing market in our area.
It seems that all things must change but it’s not always for the better. Our wild places are also declining which is the most upsetting to me. The places where I use to hunt, explore, fish and play are now malls or housing developments.
When our daughter was around seven years old, she made a very profound statement that I will never forget. I had picked her up from school and had a few errands to run. We passed by a wooded area that was being cleared for a new housing development. She starred out the window, then turned to me and said. “Mom, what are they doing?” I told her that they were going to build houses there for people to live in. She sat there thinking for a moment and then looked back out the window and said “but where will the squirrels and birds live.” It’s sad that a seven-year-old can see what so many adults cannot. If we keep destroying our wild places there will be none left for the next generation.
To me the most important thing we can give our children are the wild places where the turkey’s strut, the grouse drum and the deer munch on white oak acorns. We need to teach our youth conservation efforts to improve these places not to bulldoze them under for a new shopping center or housing development.
Spring in the Smokies is magic that unfolds in front of your eyes but if we don’t take the time to let the next generation experience it why will they save it for generations to come. None of us like change but like the seasons here in the mountains there will always be change. We are the stewards of the wild places and of wildlife, let’s do our part to make sure when spring comes in 100 years to the high country that there are still icicles hanging from rock ledges that have been untouched and that wild flowers will still be reaching for the warmth of the sun.