My wife wanted to hike to see The Cascades, regarded by many as the most impressive waterfall in Virginia. I hadn't been in over 28 years and I don't need an excuse to go to the high country. So we drove up there yesterday afternoon, checked into a hotel, had a great dinner at a restaurant across the street from Virginia Tech, got a good night's sleep, and hiked to the Cascades this morning. Good thing we went early as the empty parking lot we'd parked in at 9:00 am was packed beyond capacity when we returned there from the four-mile hike at 4:30 pm. Literally hundred and hundreds of people.
ALL of the hemlocks there are dead. 100% mortality. They've obviously all been dead for some time as I didn't see any of the "ghost" hemlocks--the ones that are dead but look all grey with limbs intact and bark still on. There were some standing giants, but not a lot of them. Even the holes in the forest canopy where many had fallen were all filled in so you didn't have the glaring gaps of sunlight such as what I'd witnessed in the old growth on Laurel Knob last week.
However, the main creek was packed with hemlock logs in many places. And all of the islands in the creek that had once been wonderful hemlock habitat were now buried in hemlock corpses.
Here's a video I took of a medium-sized waterfall packed with dead hemlocks:http://youtu.be/OBEpbIu3vK0