Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

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jamesrobertsmith
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Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:14 pm

A couple of my backpacking friends and I will be going into the Mackey Mountain area for an overnighter. We hope to find a stand of old growth trees that one of them stumbled upon during a bushwhack some years back--about 18 years ago, I think. Part of the backpack will be on established trails, but at least half will be off trail, but through older forests with little undergrowth.

I'll report back after the backpack, which will take place next weekend. I'll try to take a tape measure to at least get CBH measurements.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:11 am

Well, the backpacking trip did not end up the way we had planned. Our access trail was The Mackey Mountain Trail. However, the Forest Service has obviously ceased to maintain it. The trail vanished completely somewhere before the summit of Mackey Mountain. We were going to use it to access the coves leading down toward Mackey Creek where we hoped to see some old growth poplar groves that one of our group had viewed a number of years back. At any rate, we tried to muddle through and ended up going over the wrong peak and we ended up above Lake Tahoma, about two miles off course to the north. We tried to backtrack to locate the old trail, but still missed the branch and so we cut our losses and returned to our vehicle.

We camped at a free National Forest campsite and then the next morning hiked the ridge between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Graybeard Mountain and back via the Mount Mitchell Toll Road. We did not see any of the big trees we had planned on seeing. But we did encounter a couple of notable gnarly old trees that I thought you ENTS folk would enjoy seeing:



Click on image to see its original size
This one was on the slopes of Mackey Mountain, around the point where the old Mackey Mountain Trail vanished.


Click on image to see its original size
This one is on the saddle between Rocky Knob and Graybeard Mountain. The orange sign on the huge limb is a no trespassing warning you to stay out of the Asheville Watershed. The trail dogs the border of that watershed.

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bbeduhn
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:22 pm

Nice gnarledge!

I was on the Mackey Mtn. Trail last in about 2004, and it was alredy in pretty sad shape. I remember having to lean over and squat hike for 100 yards plus to get through a laurel tunnel. I recently hiked on a few other trails. Some were faint traces and the ones nearer the campground were in good shape. I've found a fair amount of old growth but not much in the way of really big trees. Most are in the bowl below Snooks Nose but much of the Mackey Mountain area is old growth so they have to be lurking somewhere.

I got off trail between Rocky Knob and Greybeard on the watershed side and was postholing between small boulders for an eternity. It is rugged out there. The mountaintop meadows are astoundingly gorgeous on either side of Greybeard. A similar spot is around Lane Pinnacle on the Mountians-to-Sea Trail.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:16 pm

Apparently there is a grove of impressive poplar trees beside a private inholding on Mackey Mountain. You have to bushwhack to it down a steep slope. One of the guys in my party was in the grove about twelve years ago and was going to take us there.

I've been on Snooks Nose, but we stuck to the trail the one time I was there. I've heard there are some good old trees hidden away around it.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:10 pm

Here's another interesting thing I saw on the hike:

From the summit of The Pinnacle we could look down into the Asheville Watershed. Way down at what looks to be 3500 foot elevation or so, on a ridge, is an open patch of what looks to be either grass, or heath, or rocks, or a combination. It is completely surrounded by forest and is pretty much round, or oval-shaped. Hard to say how large the patch is. But it does make me wonder what it is and how it developed and what kinds of things are growing there.



Click on image to see its original size
Here is a long view. You can see the bald patch like a tiny spot roughly in the center of this photo.


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And here is the patch cropped from the large photo.

Would love to be able to hike down there (or up to it) to see what it is.

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edfrank
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by edfrank » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:06 pm

JRS,

There are a series of "Balds" in the Blue Ridge. Here is a page about them: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/cede_forests/901 and another one here: http://www.us-parks.com/blue-ridge-park ... balds.html and Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_balds.

Here is a nice PDF about Balds: http://www.southernhighlandsreserve.org ... 0Balds.pdf

This one has one theory of their origin: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/onli ... /intro.htm The problem is that evidence is that the balds existed before settlers, and have persisted long after cattle grazing and clearing the land ended. Another: http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2010/ ... tiful.html and here: http://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2010/0 ... e-ice-age/

Perhaps you could zoom in on it Google Earth and post a picture or coordinates for it.

Ed Frank

.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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bbeduhn
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by bbeduhn » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:17 am

That bald spot is perplexing. The entire watershed is owned by the city of Asheville. Natural balds tend to occur on summits or very near summits. This one certainly doesn't look natural. Trees were cleared at some point. There is an abrupt edge to the tree line.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:18 pm

Most heath balds and grass balds that I've encountered have been on summits, or on summit ridges. I've never seen one that low on the slopes.

There were no roads leading through the watershed to the patch. So if it was cleared it was done a long time ago.

Could it be a dry mesic prairie habitat? I saw some of that in the Ozarks in Missouri when I was there, and also a small patch of similar stuff on Bluff Mountain here in NC.

Also, we saw it from several peaks and from different angles. It stands out no matter where we were looking at it.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:00 pm

I found it on Google Earth. Coordinates for it are:

35 degrees 42' 40.09" N
82 degrees 17' 53.29" W

At first I thought there was a road on it, but now I think it's a photo anomaly.

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edfrank
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Re: Mackey Mountain backpack coming up...

Post by edfrank » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:01 pm

JRS,

If you go back and look at older photos (click on the clock symbol above the photo) on Google Earth from 1994, you can see this is on a dirt road and smaller if not absent altogether. It certainly appears artificial. The parallel tracks across it on the 10-2011 image are spaced a 6 feet, the same width as truck tracks. maybe a drill pad of some sort?

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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