Life On The Edge


The view from the Satulah Mountain overlook. Rock cliffs fall away from many of the Blue Ridge peaks, providing habitat for animals and plants that have evolved to the unique, yet harsh, environment. (Photos courtesy of Owen Carson)

For much of history, cliffs have been considered dangerous and inhospitable places, precipitous environments that offer little to no habitat for living things. This notion dates far back; with some of the earliest cave paintings depicting herds of animals being forced over sheer faces by Neolithic hunters. Cliffs also appear in ancient writings, often associated with fire, fear and death. Even early explorers who searched our region steered clear of outcrops, assuming that the rich forests they botanized were far more diverse than open stone. But in recent years, with better technology and...

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