National Geographic : 1952 Oct
502 I. M. Jennison Hundreds of Years Old, This Mountain Laurel Measures 82 Inches in Diameter Favorable weather and soil produce luxuriant growths in the Smokies. Some wild cherry trees attain four feet in diameter and grapevine stems a circumference of five feet. Kalmia latifolia, the mountain laurel. is a shrub, not a tree, but this world's-record specimen, the fusion of several plants, has limbs as large as small trees. Its foliage is poisonous if eaten. The discoverer, Jim Shelton, stands on the right. begun to enjoy climbing along rock ledges, wading in the river, and jumping from rock to rock. But we still had a stiff mountain climb ahead of us, and that I dreaded. No Place for Slickers? At one point we followed Glenn and Tom through a rhododendron thicket toward a "trail," a detour necessary to avoid a deep gorge in the stream. Numerous dead trees, their trunks and branches thickly intertwined, were piled to gether and covered in places with duff. Into this confusion rhododendron bushes were jungled. We had to laugh out loud, it seemed to be such a deliberate obstacle course. But we covered it fairly easily, climbing first up, then down, then up again. When we stopped to rest by the stream, Glenn was sharpening his jackknife. He looked at me and shook his head. "Nobody asked my opinion," he said, "but was somebody to ask me, I'd say this is no fit place for a woman. Hit's a place for roughnecks, and not city slickers. Especially women city slickers." I disagreed. To see a part of the American wilderness was a memorable experience for this city slicker. On that last day's hike I watched the stream spill over the rocks, and thought that I would probably never again be in this wild, forbidding region. But most of the Great Smoky Mountains are more accessible; and as Tom said, there is something about the water that brings you back.