Nov. 14, 2023

The Perfect Tree

The American Chestnut was one of the most magnificent trees in North America. On today’s episode of The Green Tunnel, we’re going to explore how it lived, how it died, and how – with the help of scientists, non-profit organizations, and...

The American Chestnut was one of the most magnificent trees in North America. On today’s episode of The Green Tunnel, we’re going to explore how it lived, how it died, and how – with the help of scientists, non-profit organizations, and passionate volunteers – it just might repopulate the Appalachian Mountains once again.

Additional Resources

The American Chestnut Foundation, 

Words for Chestnut in Indigenous Languages, The American Chestnut Foundation, 

Susan Freinkel, American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree (2009) 


Note: This transcript was generated by with light human correction


Mills Kelly  00:06

We have an exciting new show here at R2 Studios that I'd like to tell you about. It's called Worlds Turned Upside Down. It has a history of the American Revolution. Worlds is told from the perspective of the people whose lives were up ended in an era of revolutionary change in ways they never could have imagined. Worlds is written and narrated by my colleague, historian Jim Ambuske. You can listen now, wherever you get your favorite podcast, or head over to our website,


Susan Freinkel  00:51

And it was this treat was sort of standing in the middle of a pasture. You could see cankers on the tree was a really sad specimen. But it was surviving this aging champion that's just kind of struggling to stay in there. It had been farmland and now it's not really being used. And the farmers had put a fence around it to keep horses from knocking into it. But there were no other chestnuts nearby. So it was a very lonely battle. You know, you can sort of anthropomorphize all these things. But there is something very moving about seeing these trees that are still out there and still standing when so many others have died.


Kelly  01:44

Welcome to The Green Tunnel, a podcast on the history of the Appalachian Trail. My name is Mills Kelly, and I'm your host. Today, we're going to tell you the story of one of the most magnificent trees of North America, how it lived, how it died, and how with the help of scientists, nonprofit organizations, and passionate volunteers. It just might repopulate the Appalachian Mountains once again. That tree, the American Chestnut, was it just a tree. As environmental writer Susan Freinkel says in her book, the American Chestnut was much more.


Susan Freinkel  02:30

It was an amazing tree. The subtitle of my book is the life death rebirth of a perfect tree. And people refer to it as that because it was such a versatile tree, both in the wild and then in the ways that it was used by people in the wild that grew big and tall and straight. And it was a source of resource for pretty much every living creature in its surroundings. They were great big, imposing trees and chestnuts, the way they blossom is they have these sort of long blossoms called catkins. I think of them almost looking like dreadlocks but they're white. In the heart of the range in the southern Appalachians, where as much as a third of the forest might be chestnut, people talked about the mountains sort of looking snowy in the springtime, you know, looking as if snow had fallen on the mountains with all the blossoms from the chestnut, which incidentally do not smell good. They smell really funky. But they are quite beautiful to look at.


Mills Kelly  03:40

chestnut trees covered the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine. Mostly, but not exclusively at elevations above 1500 feet. If you look at a map of where the chestnut prosper, the root of the Appalachian Trail runs right through the heart of its range. So it's no surprise that the history of the chestnut tree and the history of the Appalachian Trail are so deeply intertwined. Sadly, early in the 20th century, a blight began to attack chestnut trees across the United States. So just as trail club volunteers began to move up and down the spine of the Appalachians planning out the best route for the trail. They often found themselves hiking through vast tracts of dead and dying trees. Most of the old trees were still standing. They were covered in cankers bereft of leaves, and their smaller branches were breaking off and falling. Although they were often saddened by the sight of those ghostly forests, those early trail builders were mostly focused on where the trails should go. But they didn't notice or if they did notice they didn't remark on was how the ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains was undergoing a rapid change is one of its Keystone species was dying off. To help us understand how the ecosystem changed. We spoke with Ciera Wilbur, who works every day to bring the chestnut tree back to the Appalachian Mountains.


Ciera Wilbur  05:14

Hi, my name is Ciera Wilbur, I'm the nursery manager at the American Chestnut Foundation's Meadowview research farms.


Mills Kelly  05:21

And we met Ciera at the 2023 Trail Days celebration in Damascus, Virginia, and knew right away, we had to have her on the show, because she is an expert on both the chestnut tree and its importance to the mountain, the ecosystems that once dominated,


Ciera Wilbur  05:36

they would drop their leaves. And so that's this nutrient cycling that happens in the forest, we have insects and to try to vores, who are cycling the leaf matter, turning that into their body mass, and then that escalating food chain as in insects are being eaten by fish. And those fish are then being eaten by larger carnivores. All of the other species were benefiting from this tree as well. We've got deer, squirrel, turkey, bears, now extinct passenger pigeon, and many other species, we're also eating chestnuts that would fall from these trees. And so it's really this umbrella species for the entire eastern hardwood ecosystem. old growth forests are massive, they're not as dense. So there's more sparse trees, but those trees are larger. Whereas now our forests are more dense, there's more trees in them, but the trees are all smaller, and they are all competing for sunlight. Whereas these old growth forests are established. They've all kind of reached into the canopy. You may have shade tolerant species underneath them, but it is pretty level and balanced.


Mills Kelly  06:53

When we think about these ecosystems, it's tempting to look at them as somehow entirely the result of natural processes, forgetting that humans have been shaping ecosystems, for as long as there have been humans. The Appalachian Mountains are no different. When indigenous people arrived in the mountains, they found old growth forests, many of them dominated by the American chestnut tree. And for 1000s of years, indigenous peoples shaped forest ecosystems to suit their own needs, especially by using fire to clear the forest of understory plants and to keep mountain meadows free from trees. Their management of the forests improved possibilities for hunting game, and gathering berries and other useful plants. They shape the entire ecosystem through their forest management efforts.


Ciera Wilbur  07:43

We know that Indigenous Americans had a very close relationship with this tree as well. Native Americans were using American chestnuts for food for resources, they would use the lumber as well. They're managing the forest for it in some cases, clearing spaces so that more chestnuts would grow so they would have more in the winter for food.


Mills Kelly  08:05

The tree was important to many indigenous nations. And we can see this through language. Recently, the American Chestnut Foundation published a list of the names for the chestnut tree and various native languages. We put a link to that list in our show notes. The arrival of European settlers brought entirely new ideas about forest management to North America. Europeans harvested trees in increasingly large numbers. They cleared entire mountains of their canopy, and they remade the relationship between humans in the forest. Despite those changes, the chestnut tree endured it became essential to the settler economy.


Ciera Wilbur  08:49

European settlers would basically use it for pretty much everything you would build your entire house and you would build everything inside of your house with chestnut wood, you would build cradles for the babes and you would build caskets for your deceased. It was really rot resistant lumber, and it was really straight. So it was really great for other uses, like fence posts, but also down the line telegraph poles and then telephone poles building of the continental railroad for rail ties. People would just let their animals range and hogs would basically be fattened up for winter by foraging for chestnuts in the forest. They found uses for it in tanning leather.


Mills Kelly  09:29

In other words, the American Chestnut Tree found its way into almost every corner of American life. But then, in the beginning of the 20th century, something started going wrong with the chestnut trees.


Ciera Wilbur  09:44

Unfortunately in 1904 in the Bronx Zoo scientists they're noted that some of the American chestnuts in the zoo, were starting to look sickly. At that point, it was already too late. And That was basically when they identified cry for neck tree of parasitica, or the chestnut blight existed in the United States. And from there, it was just this cascading effect of negative impact from the blight. chestnut blight is a fungus. And so it reproduces by spores and those spores travel by the wind. It's actually estimated that the chestnut bite was moving over 50 miles per year. By the time you see that the blight is occurring, it's already too late.


Mills Kelly  10:33

So just how did the American chestnut trees at the Bronx Zoo get infected? Well, chestnut blight came to America, the way so many invasive species do by accident.


Susan Freinkel  10:47

The tree has since become known as kind of the poster child of the problem of invasive species. Because starting in the late 19th century, when people began importing chestnut trees from Asia, they brought with them a pathogen that proved to be completely lethal to American chestnuts. And it quickly spread up and down the range and in the space of really about two generations decimated the chestnut species and is thought to have killed somewhere between three and 4 billion trees.


Mills Kelly  11:20

What the blight did to the trees was horrible to look at


Ciera Wilbur  11:25

the fungus right, but it's not a fungus in what you imagine like a mushroom, it's like, it's not as aesthetically pleasing. It actually really does look like a sickness on the tree. And so basically a spore, which is what you would consider like a mushroom seed almost a microscopic seed of sorts, lands on a wound in the bark. And then from there, it spreads its mycelial mat, which is basically fungi roots, and it starts to spread that and it is actually exuding oxalic acid, and this acid is killing the cambium layer, the bark of the tree. And then the fungus is able to feed on that dead plant material. And it continues to grow around the tree until it is completely encircled the trunk or whatever part of the tree that it's on. And then the tree is no longer able to transport nutrients and water up and down to the tree, and it dies above that point. That's actually why we consider chestnuts functionally extinct rather than fully extinct. The chestnut blight fortunately isn't killing the roots of the chestnut. But it does kill all of the above ground portions. And so that's when we see the loss of these large, beautiful trees.


Susan Freinkel  12:37

Chestnut saplings keep coming up, but they're unable to get big enough to reproduce. So they're sort of functionally extinct. It's sort of stuck in this biological limbo.


Mills Kelly  12:47

We'll come back to those surviving roots later in the episode. But for now, just try to imagine what it must have been like to watch three or 4 billion trees die in just 50 years or so. Susan has a keen appreciation for what that was like. Because for her book, she interviewed many older Appalachian residents who remembered those big beautiful trees.


Susan Freinkel  13:11

The tree was important to people all throughout its range, but place that it really had sort of a hole on people's heart was in the southern Appalachians. And that's partly because there it was a really vital part of the way people survived. I mean, you have these sort of hardscrabble subsistence farmers in the mountains who relied on the trees, for the nuts for the bark for the timber, that was the way they made money, they bartered the nuts. And when the trees disappeared, that was a really big deal for them.


Mills Kelly  13:45

To understand the impact of that loss, Susan traveled from California to the heart of the southern Appalachians.


Susan Freinkel  13:52

I went to Patrick County, which is in southwest Virginia. It was a place where the tree was really important. And I found different people 60 years after the tree disappeared, could still talk movingly about what it had meant to them. I talked to this school teacher who talked about how there had been a chestnut tree on her family farm that she always used to kind of rely on as the Sentinel told her when she was getting close to home. And she pulled out a black and white photo of this tree. I mean, it was like she was pulling out a family photo, but it was a photo of this tree that had been so meaningful in her childhood.


Mills Kelly  14:37

I spent a lot of time in Patrick County, and recently published a book on the original route to the 80 in Virginia. And that early route passed through Patrick and several neighboring counties. Like Susan, when I was writing my book, I interviewed a lot of older residents. Folks who live in that part of Virginia organize their lives around stories. And those stories are often linked their families to the land. And its plants and animals, and sometimes to one special tree.


Susan Freinkel  15:08

The story that always stayed with me was that story of Coy Yeates, because Coy ran this store that was literally out in the middle of nowhere. You sort of drove through mountain laurel line, tiny roads, and there's a store there and it's got hand painted hours on the door, and you walked in, and he was in his 80s. At the time, he was this big, heavy guy sort of sat behind the counter. And it wasn't so much what he said it was sort of the way that he told it the story of my asking him, do you remember when you last tasted an American chestnut? And he didn't have to think about it for a moment. He just said, Yeah, I do. Gave me the date. And I said, How do you remember that date? And he goes, Well, my sister and I, we always like to go out, find the nuts in the fall. And we went and we knew where there was a tree. And we scrambled around in the ground and pulled out some nuts that a squirrel had buried and we brought them back home and we ate them. And then that night, my sister got a terrible stomach ache. They took her to the hospital the next morning, and there was nothing the doctors could do for her. She died of appendicitis. And what got me about that story was the way in which personal tragedy and sort of this much bigger tragedy were intertwined.


Mills Kelly  16:38

The just a tree was so important that people plan their lives around the lifecycle of the trees.


Susan Freinkel  16:45

And then there was a guy who I spoke to named Early McGee Alexander, who was something like a fifth generation Virginian. And he described for me how growing up he and his family live, literally in a one room cabin. Every fall, his mother would hold him and his siblings hold the school during chestnut season and send them out. They didn't have trees themselves, there was a grove of trees nearby that they treated as their own. And she would send them out with buckets. And they would go and they would spend the day collecting chestnuts which they would then bring home and they'd be allowed to have a few themselves. But most of them they sack up and take to neighborhood store where they would barter them per script. And they would use that to buy the things that they couldn't make themselves things like shoes or schoolbooks or sugar.


Mills Kelly  17:34

Susan learned that the emotional attachment of these older folks to the chestnut tree was truly profound.


Susan Freinkel  17:41

And what was so striking to me is all these people talked about the tree was such a depth of feeling. I don't know if this is still true, but at that time, there was still this deep well of nostalgia for the tree.


Mills Kelly  17:57

John Elkins who grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, was another person who shared his family connection to the chestnut tree with Susan.


Susan Freinkel  18:05

He wasn't old enough to remember the trees himself. But he said he remembered as a child coming into the room where his grandmother was and she was crying about the loss of the chestnuts. And she showed him a scrapbook where she had pasted in newspaper clippings about the chestnut, and the blight. And again, it was that very personal sense of connection. Putting this in the scrapbook where you put you know your kid's eighth grade graduation diploma, or you know, a newspaper article about one of your grandchildren winning the elementary school race. I mean, it's just that personal connection.


Mills Kelly  18:45

These days, it's hard for us to imagine a single tree species holding such power over us. But for the people who knew the American Chestnut Tree, how it lived, and how it all but died. Memories of the tree formed the branches of stories whose roots run deep in their lives in the second half of the 1920s. At the very moment that the blight was wiping out 10s of millions of trees every year. The early AT trail builders were hard at work. Reports from the early days of the trail speak of the ghost forests that seem to be everywhere. Huge stands of dead and dying trees. For those early trail builders, the tragedy of the chestnut tree was haunting.


Ciera Wilbur  19:30

Imagine you are in the mountains or just anywhere in Appalachia before we had all of these fields for cattle, but just imagining it's all forested, but now instead of it all being lush and green like our Appalachian forests are known to be there are just these stark bear branches, these kind of twisted trees that are just dead. They're just standing there and dead. Some of them have fallen down, but they're really just Dead. A quarter of the forest in some cases, we've got groups of trees that were all chestnuts and they're all just standing there, white and you know kind of crumbly and looking unhealthy and no leaves and just just dead.


Mills Kelly  20:19

A quarter of the trees in the forest were dead those ghost forests good for a very long time. Because chestnut wood is so rot resistant. And even when the trees did fall, they lay there on the forest floor for decades.


Ciera Wilbur  20:38

They're not degrading and breaking down really easily either. And so you're just kind of getting like these piles of dead limbs and dead trees that aren't really decomposing for a long period of time.


Mills Kelly  20:50

The death of the trees change the entire ecosystem of the forest, or just the trees once lived, poplar, Ash, maple and fir trees came to dominate. As beautiful as these trees can be in the autumn when the leaves turn. None of them drop nutritious chestnuts. Their bark and leaves aren't as heavy and tannins and they don't grow nearly as large. The lack of chestnuts on the ground meant that larger mammals like deer and bear had fewer sources of protein. Tannins help reduce nutrient loss in the soil. So the lower tannin levels in the soil made the mountain ecosystems less able to sustain a variety of species that depend on those nutrients. As sad as it was for local residents to watch their beloved trees die, and as disconcerting as it was for the early trail builders to pass through the wasteland left behind by the blight. Those dead trees were also an opportunity. All those dead trees were a free resource trail builders could use. Trail club volunteers and workers from the camps or the Civilian Conservation Corps took full advantage of the rot resistant lumber they could harvest from the ghost forest. Many of the early trail shelters were built from Chestnut logs harvested nearby. But the dead trees were also obstacles to trail building. Their stumps were truly massive, so massive that the trail had to weave through them in often erratic ways. If you've ever wondered why the 80 seems to snakes are an area where it can obviously run more or less straight. There's a better than average chance that what you're seeing is evidence of how the trail head to avoid those giant stumps. I'm the maintainer of one of those first shelters built by the CCC. Manassas gap shelter in Northern Virginia is constructed well chestnut logs, the CCC crew found on the mountain close by the shape the logs and slotted them together to build one of the iconic Adirondack style open lean tos. And those logs are still as solid as they were almost 90 years ago when they built the shelter. The only thing that damages those lungs is hikers. hikers who feel it's their right to carve their initials into the shelter, just so other hikers will know they've been there. Eventually, all that carving will mean some of the original chestnut logs will have to be replaced by oak or pine logs. logs will have to be replaced on a regular cycle. Because they aren't rot resistant, like chestnut logs. With each passing year, we hear more and more stories of environmental disaster of sea level rise that will soon inundate cities along our coasts of record temperatures at the poles of increasingly violent weather events, and of one species after another vanishing from the earth. The story of the American Chestnut is different. Yes, it's a tale of disaster both for the forest and for the humans and animals living in and around those forests. But it's also a story of nature's capacity for resilience.


Ciera Wilbur  24:10

We consider the American Chestnut to be functionally extinct, rather than fully extinct, like the passenger pigeon, which no longer exists in any capacity. However, American chestnut does still exist. And if you are aware of what to look for, and you know what the American Chestnut looks like, you can still find it in forests throughout the Appalachian range. And on the Appalachian Trail actually. The blight is killing off the above ground portions of the tree, but it still has these massive root balls and stumps that are below ground energy holding masses for the tree. And so the roots will still continue to push up new sprouts. As you're hiking through the forest, you might actually see some chestnut trees. The problem you could say it's very rare that they reach to reproductive maturity, which means that they're growing flowers. They have male and female flowers on the tree, but they can't pollinate themselves. So you always have to have two chestnuts. So if you do find a flowering chestnut tree in the wild, it's extremely rare that there's going to be another stump, sprouted chestnut near enough by that can pollinate it, and then allow it for self regeneration in the forest.


Mills Kelly  25:26

It's worth stopping for a minute to think about what Ciara just said. Some of those root balls are as much as 100 years old, given how long ago the tree they supported died from the blade. Some of them are certainly much older, we just don't know. But they haven't given up. They put up a new sprout, that sprout lives for four or five years, maybe even longer. And as it grows, it says energy back into the root ball, recharging it, giving it a new lease on life.


Ciera Wilbur  26:03

And unfortunately, these trees generally reach less than 20 feet tall, and they're generally less than five inches around before they eventually catch the Blight again, and then die back to the stump. But that process has continued and we don't know how long those root masses will continue to put up some sprouts, but it's been over 50 years at this point.


Mills Kelly  26:26

I first heard the story of those red balls in their resilience. Almost a decade ago, when I attended a presentation by someone from Sierra's organization, the American Chestnut Foundation. And I was entranced. It just seemed to me that the American Chestnut represented the incredible resilience of nature, in the face of an almost impossible challenge. At that presentation, I learned how to identify those immature chestnut trees. And on my next hike on the 80, I was so excited to see them almost everywhere. In my notes from that height, and counted more than 50 immature chestnut trees in less than three miles of the trail. We asked Ciera to tell us how to identify a chestnut. So you can try and find one on your next hike.


Ciera Wilbur  27:16

So you're gonna look for a leaf that is long and almost canoe shaped, but with tapered ends, and so the leaf tip will be very pointy. And then along the edge of the leaf, it will have what you call dentate, or serrated edge. And the best way I can describe it verbally would be when you were a kid, and you would draw waves on the ocean, you know, it kind of had like a rounded top that comes to a point and then going back under and making that same pattern. That's kind of what the leaf edge and leaf tip looks like. So pointy tip with these serrated edges that look like waves of the ocean. It'll be very tender. It'll be a lighter green. And one way you'll be able to know that it more likely isn't American chestnut is if it's not very big, because they don't get very big at this point in the wild. And so if you see something that looks kind of short, very skinny, a little bit more scrawny, and has that shaped leaf that's more likely in American chestnut.


Mills Kelly  28:21

We have some photos of those leaves in our show notes. And you can learn even more about how to identify chestnut and other trees on the American Chestnut Foundation's website. Humans were central to the demise of the American Chestnut. If we hadn't brought those Asian chestnut trees to North America, the Appalachian Mountains might still be filled with the perfect tree. So it's only fitting that humans are working to undo the damage we've done to the Appalachian forest. And Sierra is one of the key players in the effort to repopulate the mountains with those beautiful trees.


Ciera Wilbur  28:57

I am the nursery manager here at Meadowview Research Farms. We're located down in southwest Virginia. Meadowview research farms has been here since the 90s. Basically we grow we breed and we research and test and run experiments on chestnut trees. Basically I grow the little trees but to get to that point we do a lot of other work.


Mills Kelly  29:22

Ciera and her colleagues are engaged in some serious sciences they try to breed a tree that will resist the blight.


Ciera Wilbur  29:28

This time of the season is pollination season. And so my coworker is actually out there going through and control pollinating so that means we're taking specific pollen from a desired tree and putting it on to the flower female flower of another tree. And then those are the seeds that we will use this next year to grow our next season's worth of trees. And so the trees that we grow down in the nursery, we use them for planting into the orchards. Some of those are used for research, we're inoculating Then with the Blyton, some cases, seeing how well they would stand it what they do. We also grow trees for orchards for our chapters.


Mills Kelly  30:08

The work of the American Chestnut Foundation is not all being done by professionals like Ciera.


Ciera Wilbur  30:14

We're based in Asheville, North Carolina, but we have folks working across the range. And we have 16 different state chapters. And so these state chapters are really what keeps the American Chestnut Foundation alive. These are chapters filled with people throughout the range, who are just passionate, who care about this amazing ancient tree, and to want to help bring it back. And so with the help of our chapters, we have orchards throughout the range. And that is one way that we can continue to diversify the gene pool of the chestnuts, as well as collect pollen and just make sure that we're getting trees that are adapted to different climates.


Mills Kelly  30:54

These chapters are strung out along the Appalachian Mountains, much as the 80s Trail maintaining clubs are and each one faces different challenges, but also represents different opportunities.


Ciera Wilbur  31:06

As you can imagine, the southern Appalachians like in Georgia are very different from the Appalachian range that is in Maine. And so those are some things that we are thinking about when it comes to continuing the lines and reading the trees moving forward so that when we do get to the point of it's time to roll it out and restore this tree in the wild, we have ample choices, and we're not in a bottleneck when it comes to the genetic diversity.


Mills Kelly  31:35

The American Chestnut Foundation, their volunteers in their partners at the State University of New York, all believed that one day, they'll be able to reintroduce this wonderful tree to the mountains. That would be wonderful, of course. But it feels like a reasonable question to ask why so many people have devoted so much time, energy and resources to restoring just one species of tree. Even if it was the perfect tree. Susan Freinkel has a take on that.


Susan Freinkel  32:06

Part of what was interesting to me about the American Chestnut is it seemed to elicit these feelings from people that a lot of other trees don't. So I wasn't writing about a tree I was writing about people's relationship to the tree. And I was writing sort of an environmental cautionary history because what happened with the chestnut has happened over and over and over again. I mean, I got interested in it because of another invasive pathogen that was affecting the trees here. And so many different forest trees are under threat from pathogens right now invasive species right now. To me, it's a story about a relationship more than it is about a tree per se.


Mills Kelly  32:58

At the moment, we can see so much evidence of how humans have caused so much damage to the environment. We see it right now along the AT is ash trees are dying by the 10s of 1000s. Because humans brought the emerald ash borer to North America from China. That's why restoring the American Chestnut is such an important task. If we can bring the chestnut back, a crucially important missing piece of the ecosystem will be restored. Those trees will help the forest heal from all the damage we've done to it over the past several centuries. And the economic benefits of once again having millions and millions of perfect trees and the mountains are incalculable. Rural communities in Appalachia can rebuild this part of their connection to the land, and humans and the creatures of the mountains can once again taste the delicious fruits of these trees. For AT hikers, being able to walk under the boughs of such majestic trees will be truly inspiring. If we can bring the perfect tree back to the Appalachian Mountains, maybe just maybe all of us can rebuild our relationship with nature from the root ball up. The Green Tunnel is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Today's episode was produced by me, Jeanette Patrick and Jim Ambuske are the executive producers. Hayley Madl helped conduct our interviews. We want to offer a special thanks to Susan Frankel and Ciera Wilbert, for sharing their insights into the story of the American chestnut tree with us. In the show notes we have links to Susan's books, and to the American Chestnut Foundation so that you can explore further the work of these two generous humans. Original Music for our show is performed by Scott Miller of Swoope, Virginia and Andrew Small and Ashley Watkins of Floyd Virginia. We're able to bring you this show due to the generosity of the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and many individual donors like you. To help us continue to produce the world's best podcasts on the Appalachian Trail, visit our website at R2 and click on the Support Us link to make a donation of any amount. We really appreciate it. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you soon

Susan Freinkel

Susan Freinkel is a science writer whose work has appeared in a variety of national publications including: Discover, Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian, The New York Times, OnEarth, Health, and Real Simple. In 2005, she was awarded an Alicia Patterson Fellowship, which allowed her to conduct much of the research for American Chestnut. The book won a 2008 National Outdoor Book Award.

Ciera Wilbur

Ciera Wilbur is an environmental professional with a mission to inspire environmental stewardship. She is a Nuresy Manager with The American Chestnut Foundation.