Posts Tagged ‘George W. Vanderbilt’

A flash of light woke me around 3 am. I thought someone had flicked a light in the bedroom and left the water running in the bathroom. But then I remembered. I was in a tent. The running water was from the nearby stream, the flash was lightning. In that foggy no-man’s land where my brain resides when awakened from a dead sleep, several related thoughts raced through it at once: Damn, the forecasters were right after all—rain. But for how long? The entire race? Was it cold, too? Didn’t matter, I reminded myself. I was going to run regardless. I’d heard from the office Friday afternoon that the Dash for the ‘Stache had already raised $1,600 and I couldn’t disappoint those folks (the total is now over $2,000—and you can still give). I just hoped that it wouldn’t rain Saturday night, too. My last thought before drifting back to sleep was that Smokey Bear would be pleased. Our campfire was good and drowned.


Friday evening’s weather was perfect for camping. Friday night’s weather was perfect for ducks.

About two hours later, I woke up to find my lower back cold and wet. Now all I could think of was the sign on the footbridge from the parking area to the campsite that warned of flash floods. My brain immediately went there—I’m about to become the subject of a freak news story, the camper swept away in a flash flood. I reached behind me and found a puddle, not a stream. Okay, maybe I won’t float away after all. But the sleeping bag was acting like a sponge and soaking up the water. I tried spinning and contorting like an acrobat to avoid the wet spot, but there was no way to escape it. It was done and so was I. I listened to the slow thwip thwip thwip of the water coming from the roof peak and on to the sleep pad for a few more minutes. The rain outside sounded like it was coming down harder than before, which meant it was going to do the same inside. I sighed as I began the process of extricating myself from the synthetic cocoon, all the while trying to avoid the puddle and wet bag. I got dressed, found my headlamp so I could see to tie the boot laces, grabbed my jacket and hat, and headed for the bathroom and then the car for a little more sleep, if I was lucky.

As I approached the car, it was light enough that I could barely make out Jason sleeping in his car. New to trail running but not camping, he had taken the forecast seriously and decided not to risk using a worn-out rain fly and opted to spend the night in his car. He was looking like a genius. Then I heard POP POP POP POP. Gunshots? At 5:30 in the morning? Who’d be hunting in this weather? Get a life, I thought. And get in the car. Wearing a green raincoat in this low light, I might be mistaken for a deer or Sasquatch’s shorter brother. I climbed in my car and shed my raincoat so I wouldn’t be sitting in another puddle. And then I heard what sounded like a large creaking door followed by WHOMP. That got my attention. I hadn’t heard gunshots—it was a tree snapping and then falling over. Oh, crap, I thought. I hope that tree didn’t just block the road. We’d never make the race.


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On this day in 1964, foresters, government officials, and others gathered near Asheville, North Carolina, at the site of the historic Biltmore Forest School. At this joint annual meeting of the American Forestry Association and the North Carolina Forestry Association, officials laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Information Center, dedicating the Cradle of Forestry in America.

The Cradle of Forestry was envisioned as a unique indoor-outdoor museum that would celebrate the significance of the Pisgah National Forest lands to the history of forestry in the United States.

  • Here, America’s first trained native-born forester, Gifford Pinchot, managed the thousands of forested acres owned by George W. Vanderbilt. Beginning in 1892, Pinchot initiated large-scale scientific forest management practices on the Biltmore and Pisgah lands.
  • Pinchot’s successor, Dr. Carl A. Schenck, opened the first forestry school in America. The Biltmore Forest School operated on the estate from 1898 to 1907.
  • Passed in 1911, the Weeks Law granted the federal government authority to purchase private lands for inclusion in national forests. Following the passage of the Weeks Law, several tracts of Vanderbilt’s land were among the first purchased by the U.S. Forest Service. Incorporating these tracts, a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 officially established the Pisgah National Forest.

At the cornerstone-laying ceremony, Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff delivered remarks, which included a memorandum he drafted for a one-hundred year time capsule. Addressed to the Chief of the Forest Service in 2064, the memorandum provides interesting points to consider:

“I would like to glimpse the technological advances and the wealth of knowledge that you and your colleagues have at your fingertips. I know that it must surpass by far anything we can imagine here in 1964. Yet I am equally sure that you need all of these and more to solve what must be incredibly difficult and complex problems of forest management. . . .

“As a forester, my greatest hope is that in the decades which separate our careers, our people will have proved to be good stewards of our natural resources. It pleases me to think that each generation of foresters during this interval will have been able to build upon the work of their predecessors — just as your generation is benefiting from trees established, protected, and nurtured by us in the mid-Twentieth Century.”

The Forest History Society maintains materials related to this dedication ceremony, including newspaper clippings, event programs, brochures, and artifacts. Cleverly, the Cradle of Forestry planners printed maps and site information on litter bags given to visitors:

Perhaps the most “flavorful” part of the tour involves the description of the Student Quarters:

The materials featured above may be found in our U.S. Forest Service History Collection, under “Forestry Schools/Education: Cradle of Forestry.”

To support further research on the birth of American forestry, the Forest History Society holds several archival and image collections related to the Biltmore School, early foresters, the Forest Service, and lumber companies.  Such collections include:

Additionally, FHS has collaborated with N.C. State University, UNC Asheville, and the Biltmore Estate to present The Rise of American Forestry: From Education to Practice. I suspect Chief Cliff would be impressed by the “technological advances and the wealth of knowledge” at our fingertips.

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