Nantahala National Forest – A Review

Nantahala National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer
Published by The History Press, $21.99

Marci Spencer was the speaker at a Carolina Mountain Club dinner a couple of years ago. She gave a spirited talk about her book on Pisgah National Forest.

Marci knows how to write a lively history of our public lands. She did it for Pisgah and now Nantahala National Forest, the more remote of the two in Western North Carolina.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail winds its way through the forest, though it is difficult to know when it leaves Nantahala and goes into Pisgah – you have to really keep your eyes open for signs.

But you’ll recognize other places that you may never have associated with Nantahala National Forest.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, with the “big trees”, is in the Cheoah Ranger District. I have a sweet spot for Joyce Kilmer, the poet as well as the forest, since he came from New Brunswick, in Central New Jersey, where I used to live. He never visited Western North Carolina but is mostly remembered for one poem,

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

You’ll have to read Marci’s book to find out how and why the forest was named after the New Jersey poet and journalist.

The book is a delightful mixture of hard facts, stories that others have told her and that she’s dug up from her many sources.

And those photographs… The History Press is well known for its beautiful color pictures and this book is full of photographs from many people.

If you’re a hiker, historian or just interested in how the public got all this land, read Nantahala National Forest: A History. I wonder where Marci will go next.

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