George Ellison releases new book, reflects on decades of life lived in nature

The Fourth of July, 1976, was just around the corner when George and Elizabeth Ellison embarked on a hike that would change their lives forever. The two were walking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when their wandering brought them to the park’s edge, a remote and beautiful cove with a bubbling stream flowing through it.

SEE ALSO: Ellison releases new title

Ellison releases new title

When George Ellison first started writing nature columns for the Asheville Citizen-Times back in 1986, it was with the assumption that, while he enjoyed such things, reader interest was likely limited and the column would be a short-lived venture. So, when the editor called him in to talk, Ellison was surprised to get not a polite goodbye but promotion to permanent status. The resulting column, “Nature Journal,” is still published today.

Come winter, trees reveal their blemishes

Like an old man’s face, mature hardwood tree trunks are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks, and protrusions in the form of bracket fungi. Winter is the time to take a closer look at this somber side of the natural world.

Witch-hazel has adapted as a late flowering plant

Editor’s note: this article first appeared in a November 2003 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

If you take a walk along a woodland edge within the next few weeks, there’s every chance you’ll discover witch-hazel in full bloom. It sometimes flowers by early September and will persist into late December or early January during warm winters. But from early October into early November is the time to catch witch-hazel in its prime.

Robin redbreasts are a perennial favorite

Our elementary school primers were populated by robins pulling worms out of holes. They appeared on television screens on Saturday mornings, hopping about in Disney cartoons that represented “the idea of a bird.” We know what a robin looks like in outline, but do we know much about the real thing?

Bryson City and the widow Cline

Before the settlement named Charleston became the village named Bryson City in 1889, it was a tract of land known as Big Bear’s Reserve, which was itself located in the same general area as a Cherokee village that had been ravaged in 1761 by a British expeditionary force under the command of Col. James Grant.

Water was not always taken for granted

Old-time mountaineers often picked their home and church sites according to the location and purity of springs. They were connoisseurs of water.  

Buckeyes both a good luck charm and a poison

A large buckeye tree overhangs and supports the swinging gate leading into and out of our pasture. Since we are constantly getting in and out of our truck to open and shut the gate, we have a chance to observe this tree in all seasons. It always has something interesting going on.

It’s ragweed that is the real culprit

“Hay fever: An acute allergic condition of the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, characterized by a running nose and sneezing, conjunctivitis, and headaches, caused by abnormal sensitivity to certain airborne plants ....”

So, you find yourself coming down with the above symptoms? You’ve figured out that it’s hay fever you’re suffering from and have treated yourself accordingly with the help of a physician or non-prescription drugs.

Not a lot known about Bryson City’s namesake

Two well known sites in Swain County were named for Col. Thaddeus Dillard Bryson, a significant figure in Western North Carolina during the second half of the nineteenth century.         

One is, of course, Bryson City. And the other is the Bryson Place, now Backcountry Campsite (No. 57) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park situated six miles north of the gated trailhead in the Deep Creek Campground. Here then are some notes regarding Col. Bryson as well as his namesakes.

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