My family has deep roots, stretching generations, in the Great Smokey Mountains. It all started when my great grandfather got bitten by a snake in Florida, and was instructed by his doctor to seek high-altitude refuge from the Gulf Coast mugginess. He obliged, purchasing a few plots of land near the town of Saluda, NC.

My favorite way to start a day in Saluda is with an early wakeup. There's a quiet in the air, the slight smell of pine and feel of dew - and the morning light in fall is something special.

Don't forget your best friend -

and it's off to the trails to see some local flora -

There's a babbling brook you can traverse in your beloved duck boots, and a waterfall you perch over and make the photographer nervous -

Recently my dad and I have taken to expanding our family's holdings in Saluda, offsetting the expense with sustainable logging. The result has been some colorful views of the Blue Ridge that no one has seen in perhaps decades or more -

Miscanthus sinensis has been running wild in some of these forests. It was originally brought in as an ornamental adder to the native vegetation, but has since become something of an invasive nuisance. The tips appear fluffy, but are actually saw-like and the edge can cut your skin.

You'll find an abundance of pine in the Star Palace (the name will make sense later) -

You can return to the cabin to roast up some s'mores...but you might be tempted to head back into the forest in the night -

If you're the nighttime explorer type, I recommend lights. Big ones. And bring a buddy.

The deeper and darker you go, the brighter the stars in the night sky. This isn't a long-exposure photo -


More to come!