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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Rocky Fork story flows through book

By Connie Denney

It’s a creek. It’s a community. It’s a park. It’s a book. It’s Rocky Fork.

“Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild,” the book, is out. If you have followed efforts to preserve the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork Watershed, which straddles the Unicoi-Greene county line, you will not be surprised that the author is David Ramsey. A Unicoi County native, he draws on his own experiences, family stories and traditions to relate the uniqueness of place, history, impact of the past and the present on the future.

In the book’s foreword, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander draws attention to the work of Ramsey and others, noting that most of Rocky Fork has become part of the Cherokee National Forest and 2,036 acres have been designated as Tennessee’s 55th state park,” which he says may one day be the state’s most popular, “thanks to its section of the Appalachian Trail, miles of native brook trout streams with cascades and waterfalls, a historic battle site, a black bear reserve and other wildlife habitat, plus its high elevation, producing magnificent scenic vistas.”  He uses the phrase, “Upper East Tennessee’s ‘Gateway to the Appalachian Trail.’”

The book is chock-full of images by Ramsey and Jerry Greer, both accomplished photographers recognized for works featuring the southern Appalachian region. The photography (mostly unpublished except their website images) alone is catch-your-breath beautiful. But, this is more than a picture book, much more.

Chapter titles hint at the intriguing subjects treated in the book. Ancient Refuge, Blood and Treasure, This Mountain Home, A Legacy Defended, Final Stand are guideposts helping tell the tale. One point of historical interest is the story of the 1789 Battle of Flint Creek, which John Sevier reportedly called “’the bloodiest of all fights in the Cherokee wars.’”

On a personal level, Ramsey tells of visiting the grave of his third great grandfather Job Ramsey, who fought on both sides in the Civil War. He discusses what it must have been like for some in our mountains during that time of divided loyalties. He knows, though, that within a few years of war’s end Job and others moving into newly-established Unicoi County marked the beginning of his own Rocky Fork lineage.

After several years away, David came back to Unicoi County with adjusted priorities. He tells of his homecoming and taking on a different kind of fight in 2005—preservation of the threatened pristine wilderness. The subsequent “win for the wild” led to his being named 2011 National Hero of Conservation, by Field and Stream Magazine and Toyota Motor Company, among other honors.

When I have interviewed him in the past and for this column, he always draws attention to individuals and organizations that came together to win the battle to see that the watershed was protected through public ownership. The book lists “Champions of Rocky Fork.” His personal mission was to bring together folks who use and love the area. They came together to find common ground when their diverse interests–biking, hiking, horseback riding, grouse and other types of hunting, fishing—did not necessarily have the same needs. David sees hope for this kind of recognition of natural assets leading to finding common ground important to communities, such as economies, maybe even political differences.

Well, this hits some of the high points. You will be hearing more about the book, including through the pages of this newspaper. It is available ($19.95) through  Ramsey said orders placed by Dec. 9 should be received before Christmas. Also, watch for announcements of book signings.

Do stay tuned!  He is at work on another book with the working title, “From the Rivers to the Highlands: Amazing Places in the Tennessee Mountains.”