You are amazed at how many useful plants there are in the mountains. The fact that plants like ginseng are rare is a reminder, though, that the variety of useful plants available in the mountains today is nothing like what it used to be. Traditionally, most collectors were local people who harvested enough for their families. Sometimes they would gather additional plants to sell in the local market. In recent years, however, there has been increased global demand for natural products like medicinal herbs. This has brought outside collectors to the mountain.
When you step out of your tent, the rain-soaked landscape reminds you that a storm blew through camp during the night. It's a little cloudy out, but the sun is already trying to break through. Before long the rest of your teammates are awake and you gather around the fire, eating toast with butter and drinking hot tea. Now that you know a little bit about the people of Blair Mountain and have seen their natural landscape, you begin to think about the relationship between the two. Do these mountain people use the natural resources found on Blair Mountain to survive?
Now that you are more familiar with some plant uses, you try to guess what certain plants might be used for. When you encounter the bluish-purple flowers of Lupinus mutabilis, you immediately guess these plants are used for dyeing. It turns out you are right-the leaves, flowers, and stems of this plant are used to dye cloth. After all you have learned, you are curious about how many of these same plants are used to produce medicine and vitamins sold in the United States. You decide to keep track of the medicinal plants and check when you get back home.
When you step out of your tent, the rain-soaked landscape reminds you that a sleet storm blew through camp during the night. Huascarán's peaks are hidden in the clouds but the sun is trying to break through. Before long the rest of your teammates are awake and you gather around the fire, eating toast with butter and drinking hot tea. Now that you've met the people of Huascarán and learned a little about their natural landscape, you begin to think about the relationship between the two. Do these mountain people use the natural resources found on Huascarán to survive?
After a couple more hours of hiking around in the woods, the team stops for lunch under a rock ledge. While you are sitting there, one of your teammates digs up a rock that has an engraving on it. The engraving looks like the turkey track you saw this morning! Again the team Anthropologist is thrilled. Apparently, some Native Americans used limestone caves and overhangs for shelter during the hunting season. They would gather here, make a fire, and spend the night. In the morning they would move on, sometimes leaving behind artifacts like the engraved rock.
Commemorative march on the anniversary of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. Photo: Library of CongressNow, as you leave base camp, you search for evidence of early settlers on Blair like rock walls, old stump fences, and chestnut rails. Before long, one of your teammates stops everybody. He is standing in the middle of a cleared area-a spot that looks like it could have supported a farm at one time-kneeling on the ground, looking at something. The team Anthropologist is very excited!
As the sun warms your tent, you get out of your sleeping bag and begin to prepare for the day. First things first: you build a fire. As soon as the fire is strong, you put on water for tea and oatmeal. You and your teammates gather around to eat breakfast and plan for the day.
Today you'll learn more about the people who once lived on Blair Mountain. In addition to biological diversity, you suspect there is quite a bit of cultural history worth protecting here.
Facing darkness and cooler temperatures, you and your teammates encourage one another to move on. As you leave the last village behind you, the agricultural land is replaced by pastureland that extends up to the nival zone. Yaks, sheep, and goats are grazing here. The animals seem so isolated that you wonder if they are ever attacked by wolves or wild dogs.
As you climb higher, the number of houses increases, and so does the number of agricultural fields, until almost 75 percent of the land is being farmed. In places it is very hard to see the original vegetation. In fact, you can see some locals working in a nearby forest, cutting down trees. Laxmi explains that this wood will be used in their homes for fuel. When they finish cutting down the trees in this area, they light the remaining brush and weeds on fire. Laxmi refers to this practice as "Khorea," which translates into "slash-and-burn" in English.
You wake up to the sound of light rain on your tent. Even though this kind of cloudy, drizzly, and cold day always makes you want to stay in bed, you get out of your sleeping bag and begin to prepare for the day. First things first: you build a fire. As soon as the fire is strong, you put on water for tea and oatmeal. You and your teammates gather around the fire to keep warm while you eat and plan for the day.