Sherpa Guides > Georgia Mountains > Foreword


Looking out from our little log cabin on Turniptown Creek, which flows out of the Rich Mountain Wilderness, Rosalynn and I behold the breathtaking beauty of another Georgia mountain spring. The mountain laurel—which locals call “ivy”—is bursting forth with its delicate, pale pink blossoms. The waterfalls outside my window are brimming with spring’s fresh rains, rapidly rushing downstream to their rendezvous with the Ellijay River. The hardwood forest surrounding us is clothed in nature’s fresh green habit, and the cool spring air is sweet and clean. Phoebes are building a nest nearby in anticipation of the new life soon to appear. In the stream, rainbow trout chase stoneflies emerging to begin their brief mating flights. Everywhere there is evidence of the renewal of life.

Here in this natural setting Rosalynn and I have found peace and serenity we seldom enjoyed in our earlier years. For us, Washington, D.C., was an extraordinary center of temporal power, international politics, and human sophistication. These mountains are the antithesis of the political and military power embodied in the statehouses of man’s government. Here in the Georgia mountains we enter an earth-centered consciousness where nature’s laws are in charge. Here, we return to the physical source of our nurturing—nature’s management of our air, water, and soil, without which our civilization could not survive. We return also to a great spiritual resource, amidst God’s handiwork.

Our cabin in the Rich Mountains has been a refuge from the press of civic duties. Here, the rumble of thunder over our mountain hideaway has replaced the 21-gun salute in some foreign port of call, and the water music of a trout stream, the sound of public ovation.

Both Hernando De Soto, in the sixteenth century, and William Bartram, in the late eighteenth century, found these Georgia mountains clothed with verdant forests and crystal streams and peopled with the proud Cherokee. Later, Americans of European origin settled far back in the mountain coves, treasuring the solitude and the ability to sustain themselves on the rich mountain soils and forests. Today, our citizens crave these qualities that gave the early Americans spiritual strength and fierce independence. We steal back to the mountains at every opportunity to revel in the pure air and water and untrammeled wildness. This closeness to nature restores us in body and soul. We sit once again by an eternal pool and stare in wonder at the diversity of a forest that has endured the great ice ages—a forest that remembers the howl of the wolf, the bugle of the elk, the thunder of the bison, and perhaps even the cautious footfall of the first humans many years ago.

For over two centuries we have wrested from our mountains the wealth that made our nation strong—mica, corundum, coal, iron, gold, and timber. Our cities have flourished on the water from mountain rivers, filtered and purified by mountain soils. Now is the time for us to acknowledge that we can no longer live without respecting and understanding our mountain forests and the other great ecosystems of the earth which have for millennia supported the habitat of man.

This guide, painstakingly produced by many volunteers of The Georgia Conservancy, opens the door to adventure in a cherished part of our natural heritage. In addition, it introduces the remarkable diversity of mountain environments whose vital functions are powered only by the sun. Here, we stand in awe of divine forces that have shaped our planet. In a remote cove or on a high windswept ridge, thoughts and cares of the modern world drop away, letting us for a little while become children of the earth.

Having known the fine work of The Georgia Conservancy for over 30 years, Rosalynn and I are not surprised that this strong conservation organization has produced another excellent publication for those who enjoy nature’s wonders. As one of the Conservancy’s founding members in 1967, I recall very favorably participating in its annual conferences in the early 1970s. Rosalynn joins me in recommending this valuable guide to all those who seek to discover the natural treasures awaiting them in the Georgia mountains.

— Jimmy Carter

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