Hiking along the crest of our mountain ridge in North Georgia, one has little question that the bent trees along the path are the living relics of a lost civilization. Even a century and a half after the Cherokees were shipped west along the Trail of Tears, the shape of the trees themselves maintain the sharp angles that characterize human design rather than the gentle curves that nature carves with wind and climate - curves amply expressed in the neighboring trees. And, in this area, they seem to connect well known Cherokee tribal sites.

But how can we know for sure? They're not particularly huge trees to be centurions. Could their placement on the mountain crests roughly paralleling the path of the original Appalachian Trail have some simple physical explanation? How can we be certain that this isn't just another romantic rural legend? And it's not a moot point. A lot of the trees are dead, and they're on prime mountain real estate. If they are indeed part of our national heritage, the time to protect them is right now.

This Mountain Stewards' Trail Tree Project is an attempt to answer some of the questions about these trees, and to provide a documented record of their legacy, before time, disease, and urbanization destroy them. We have established a database to record information about the trees that exist today, not only in our area of Georgia, but across the American Continent. You can see the distribution of the over 1760 trees we've collected in the graphic below. Clicking on the graphic will display a gallery of the tree photographs. Take a look and see if you agree that these trees are bent by human hands. Also notice the clustering of the trees in the aboriginal domain of the Cherokee Indians [outlined in red]. Anyone can submit a tree online online for review and possible inclusion in this collection.

The Trail Tree Project involves more than this database registry. We are in the process of finalizing a video documentary to present to Institutions and Academic Departments, we have written a book on the subject to be published in December 2011, and we are actively lobbying for Grant funding to expand the Project's scope. We envision using these funds for further video documentation, for professional consultation, to pursue safe core sampling of trees where permitted to determine their age, and for additional mapping equipment to outfit volunteers for a more comprehensive survey of the areas.

The documentary and book are both titled Mystery of the Trees. The documentary includes filmed interviews of Native American elders from numerous tribes whyo have confirmed their ancestors bent the trees. Other interviews have been done with decendants of early pioneers who also passed down parts of the story. The book expands on this story and covers it internationally.

Click on this graphic to see the trees in the selected rectangle.
Use the menu on the left to access the tools available on this site:
The Trees
These trail trees have a number of unique characteristics. We've put together a brief guide that describes the typical trees as we've seen them here in North Georgia, as well as several variant shapes.
Submit A Tree
Seen a tree like this in your area? Let us know about it. Complete instructions for submitting a tree online or by mail to the Trail Tree Project Database are only a click away [see the menu on the left]. The Mountain Stewards will review the information and add any probable trees to the registry.
Research
What's the point of the Trail Tree Project? We want to find out if these trees are a freak of nature or the legacy of a former culture as we suspect. Here's a running compilation of our efforts to date trying to answer this question.
References
We've begun to collect reference literature about theses trees [see menu]. If you've run across something that's not here, please let us know and we'll add it [including your own comments about trees in your area].

We'd appreciate hearing any information you have about specific trees, trail trees in general, or comments about this site. You can contact us here. If you'd like to contribute to the Trail Tree Project, use this form.

The photographs posted by the Mountain Stewards are in the public domain and may be used with proper acknowledgement. Any photographs submitted online by others will be assumed to be copyrighted by the contributor and labelled as such [unless expressly requested to be in the public domain]. Addresses and email information for contributors will neither be publicly available nor distributed.