The question of why the blue ridge is blue was posed to me on a day long hike when I was about 8. I was at week long camp and at that point we had been hiking and tent camping in the mountains for a couple days. Long enough to have acclimated to no TV, no parents (or baths), and to have begun to really feel at home living outside. I think that is why so many years later I remember exactly when I learned the scientific answer to why this portion of the Appalachian range appears blue. As we stood overlooking ancient mountains as far as the eye could see I consciously remember feeling grounded and expanded simultaneously. It is the first time I remember feeling connected to these mountains that I had spent a significant portion of my young life in.

Why is the Blue Ridge Blue?

Yesterday morning

To this day, I feel the same way about these mountains as I did that day 28 years ago. I feel like they are my mountains. That they understand me and they seem wise. It’s like they know what tricks I am up to and they remind me to behave. It has always been this way. The quiet impressions they made on me in childhood continue to ground me as an adult. I am sure that it is foremost the emotional impact and visions of wonder (seeing my first rattlesnake, learning about lichen, scrambling over ancient boulders, learning about a mountain’s “fingers”, ice crystals in the mud, deer nibbling herbs, waterfalls, swimming in icy pools, catching crawdads in streams, and even getting hit on the head by huge acorns to name a few) impressed onto me by these mountains that have allowed me remember the scientific reason why these mountains are blue.

No alterations needed to balance this color!

It is so important to remember that when introducing children to natural history that we must first spark their emotions and then the desire for the facts will follow. So speaking of facts, would you still like to know why the Blue Ridge Mountains look blue? Well it is because that as the leaves decompose they emit a gas that creates a blue haze.

Seeds to Sprout:

The Wintergreen Nature Foundation

BLUR: The Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists

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