Suggestions for a tree lovers visit to GSMNP?

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Ranger Dan
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Re: Suggestions for a tree lovers visit to GSMNP?

Post by Ranger Dan » Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:51 am

Porter's Creek, near the Ramsay Cascades Trail, is one of my favorite ancient forest trails, with a nice, long stretch of never-logged forest with giant tuliptrees and other ancient trees starting after a mile or two, and beside a beautiful stream. In the Cades Cove area is the Forney Ridge Trail, where there are extensive areas of streamside and mountainside never-logged forest full of magnificent specimens, especially if you are into off-trail exploring. As for the Booger Man Trail, there is a short stretch in the mid-section with big tuliptrees and other hardwoods along it, but I personally have found the trailside forest to have little bang for the buck compared to other trails in the area, so you'll want to explore off-trail there to make it more worthwhile.

In most places in the Smokies you will encounter lots of dead hemlocks, ancient ones. But there are areas of never-logged forest where you can aviod the sadness. The upper end of the Long Bunk Trail goes through magnificent forest dominated by oaks with very few hemlocks, and in the lower part there are never-logged groves (some hemlocks) along with old field and habitation sites. The high ridges of the Smokies have lots of never-logged red spruce and gnarled birch (though they are not extremely large), and few hemlocks. The most easily accessible place is at Newfound Gap.

In Joyce Kilmer Memorail Forest, the grove of incredible tuliptrees along the Poplar Cove Loop has long been known by big-tree lovers as the single most magnificent stand of trees in Eastern America, and in my experience, it is indeed. I have explored all over the big tree forests of the Northwest, giant sequoias, redwoods, and many old-growth sites in the East and Midwest, but to me Poplar Cove stands out as one of the most wonderful forest groves of all, though it is small. To gaze up into the ponderous architecture of sculpted, ancient limbs of one incredible tree after another is something you'll want to savor slowly. The heart of the grove, thankfully, has no significant hemlocks. Do go there, but do not go on the trail to the left across the creek, which goes through nearly pure dead hemlocks (none of which were very large, anyway). Take the trail to the right from the parking lot to the Kilmer Memorial, where there is the remains of the only large hemlock in the area, which died of natural causes before the adelgids arrived. The best part of the grove is above the memorial plaque. If you explore off-trail, high along the east-facing walls of the valley, there are nearly hemlock-free, open groves of magnificent red oaks and other northern hardwoods.

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Re: Suggestions for a tree lovers visit to GSMNP?

Post by pdbrandt » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:36 pm

Thank you Dan and all for the great suggestions. I wish I had more time to visit all the beautiful areas suggested.

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Matt Markworth
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Re: Suggestions for a tree lovers visit to GSMNP?

Post by Matt Markworth » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:05 pm

Hi All,

Just wanted to take a moment to thank all those involved with fighting HWA in GSMNP. My wife and I were in TN for a few days to celebrate her birthday and we hiked part of the Porter's Creek trail yesterday. I won't soon forget witnessing live Hemlocks in the park and I appreciate the work that everyone is doing.

Here's a photo of a trail-side Hemlock with me and a video of Porter's Creek with a creek-side Hemlock.
Me with Eastern Hemlock
Me with Eastern Hemlock
Eastern Hemlock 2.jpg

- Matt

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