Naturalists are now assessing the damage at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest caused by the wildfires that raged through Western North Carolina from October through December. The old-growth forest is home to trees that can be 400 years old, 100 feet high, and 20 feet in circumference. Efforts to save the giant tulip poplars, which included dynamiting giant hemlocks nearby to reduce kindling, proved successful. But many other trees were scorched and many fell, particularly on slopes, where fires rampage hotter and faster. The wilderness area is forever changed, but forest rangers are encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to find beauty in regeneration, evidenced by the lichens and flowers now sprouting on the forest floor. Some park structures were destroyed, including the Wayah Bald Fire Tower and the Whitewater Falls access area and staircase. The latter hosts 55,000 visitors a year, and repairs are expected to cost $220,000. Since federal guidelines ban mechanized equipment from wilderness areas, it will take many years to clear the damage. The National Forest Service will be holding a salvage sale for 200 acres of timber. Neighboring homes and businesses were not harmed structurally, but the fires hit during leaf season in Graham and Swain counties, where tourism is the number-one business. Foot traffic continued to be down 15% through the winter in places like the Nantahala Outdoor Center.