The Big Picture - The magic on the mountain

The Big Picture - The magic on the mountain

Published by: David Cate
February 3, 2023

It's one thing to recall what we did yesterday and yet another to what we were doing last year. As the years pass, everything gets a little blurry.

Kingsport's history is written in the media, and our stories are passed down from generation to generation. Not long ago, I stumbled across a distinct landmark, a billion years in the making.

The changing of the leaves in East Tennessee is a right of passage before the holidays. It's spectacular - every year. People gather from all over the world to see the sights down South, and it's one of the best things about our seasonal diversity.

Last fall, I planned to shoot drone footage of the leaves on top of Bays Mountain Park for several weekends. With some luck and good weather, I hoped for colorful footage from a new altitude.

Working with the Park rangers as a licensed drone pilot, I'm lucky to get some great images as the sun and the clouds peek at themselves in the reflections on the lake.

Over the years, I'd heard many people refer to the Cherry Knobs trails. Although I'd heard the name mentioned, I wasn't sure of its distinction until mid-October.

Rising above the floating bridge near the Lakeside trail, I flew West into the setting sun. Just over the canopy of October leaves, I was stunned by what I saw on the controller. Below me were wrinkles of hillsides one after another, speckled with bright yellows, orange, and the stunning crimson from the local Sourwood trees below. Rising about 200 feet, a red-tail hawk startled me as it soared down into one of the knobs and disappeared into the dark forest below.

Sometimes, taking a good photo is about being in the right place - at the right time. I often describe myself as a lucky photographer because I do it simply for moments like this.

Over the past several weeks, I've wanted to find out more about the images at Cherry Knobs. What are they? How events led to their formation?

Fortunately, finding help at Bays Mountain Park is easy. I emailed Senior Naturalist Tyler Wicks and told him about the images. I asked him for any information that might tell me more about this area in the middle of the two mountains.

The next time I saw Tyler, he loaned me a small, limited-run paperback book, "A Geographical History of Bays Mountain Park, " written by Collins Chew in 1983.

Chew approaches the topic as a geologist and writes of tectonic plates, time, mountain building, and more time. It's a short overview of mountain building across the Eastern seaboard. He also covers specific details about the knobs.

Turns out, the carpet of folds in the middle of the mountains is a deposit of Martinsburg Shale. It's some of the youngest types of rock on the mountain. It's more porous and pliable than the other rocks around the Park. According to the author, it has already eroded, leaving this unusually brilliant patch.

I joined several locals on the First Hike on January 1st, hoping to learn more about the Cherry Knobs. A young lady had made the hike and mentioned the trail was slippery and challenging.

Perspectives like this are more than just location, location, location. Timing plays a critical part in the imagery. This picture was a lucky shot - a one-of-a-kind.

Our history is written in the language of time, and much of what we see today is the harmony of millions of years, you know - the big picture. And that's one of the best things about our region.

Being in the right place at the right results in a pretty good picture, especially with something as spectacular as autumn in Tennessee. The mountain around Kingsport gives distinctions to this place called home. The Cherry Knobs is one of many natural landmarks calling for those with a sense of adventure.

It's always thrilling to discover something new in our region. Or at least rediscover something that's been in the works for a long time. Rick Rubin has a great quote that rings true to my own spirit. "The magic is not in the analyzing or understanding. The magic lives in the wonder of what we do not know.