Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

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jamesrobertsmith
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Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:12 am

Big Ivy has been on my to-do list for ages. Many years, in fact. I've hiked all around it, but had never ventured directly into the area. So my hiking pal Andy Kunkle and I decided to head over there on Sunday. I rarely bushwhack in new areas. When I do, I like to have Andy along. He's exceptionally good at map-reading and has an excellent sense of direction. He's never steered us wrong when plunging into the brush to find a way through.

Our main goals were to try to find some groves of exceptional trees, which I know are present and to find new waterfalls. But we were just blundering around in there, so if we found any good sites, it would have been by chance. The secondary purpose was to find undocumented waterfalls. This was the more scientific of our adventure as we were going to check the Walker Creek watershed along topographic locations that indicated prime spots to find waterfalls. In this latter goal we did succeed, locating several waterfalls that are not in any literature (online or in print) that we have encountered.



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Andy Kunkle, and his dogs Boone and Kona. (And lots of exceptionally huge and sadly dead hemlocks.)


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Trying to get down to a series of waterfalls we did stumble upon a serious grove of big poplars. One poplar I wanted to get to was much larger than this one, but to get to that tree would have been exceedingly difficult, so I'll leave that for another day.


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One of the new waterfalls we encountered.


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Long shot of a series of undocumented waterfalls and cascades on Walker Creek.


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This poplar was big, but not enormous. Probably 12 feet in circumference. However, I was impressed with the bark features and so snapped this shot.


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Andy and I were both surprised at how open the forests were. I took this one as we were bushwhacking up from the Walker Creek watershed toward Forest Service Road 74.


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The road accessible and often-photographed Walker Falls.


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Looking toward the 5400+foot ridgleline leading up toward Big Butt Mountain.


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One spruce tree in a grove that has to be one of the lowest stands of spruce trees that I've encountered. The slope was north facing, so maybe that has something to do with it. (Bob Levertte says this is white pine, so I'm betting I was wrong and that's what it is!)


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Snow lingering on the north facing slopes. It was really cold here, too. Colder than the other places we'd hiked that day.


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A giant rock shelter near the end of our loop hike. The locals have altered it somewhat to make it more comfortable.
Last edited by jamesrobertsmith on Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dbhguru
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by dbhguru » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:11 pm

Robert,

Wow! Great shots. It is a standout place. I spent some time in Big Ivy in the early 1990s when the management of the Pisgah National Forest was behaving badly with threatened wholesale logging of the area. During one visit, I measured some large hemlocks in Big Ivy up to 14.5 feet around.

BTW, in the image you show us with what you've identified as a spruce, the tree looks a lot like a white pine. Could that be possible? I'm not challenging your identification, just observing that the color of the foliage, the curvature of the branches, and the shape of the crown, are all suggestive of a great white.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:22 pm

dbhguru wrote:Robert,


BTW, in the image you show us with what you've identified as a spruce, the tree looks a lot like a white pine. Could that be possible? I'm not challenging your identification, just observing that the color of the foliage, the curvature of the branches, and the shape of the crown, are all suggestive of a great white.

Bob
I bow to your expertise. Both Andy and I figured the stand for spruce. I'm familiar with white pine and it didn't appear to be such...but your vast knowledge dwarfs mine!

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:37 pm

We saw many thousands of grand old, now dead hemlocks. In that weird thing that I've noticed with the hwa plague, we encountered a hemlock standing perfectly green and almost healthy amidst scores of other dead hemlocks. Only twenty or so feet tall, either someone had treated it (it was near a road), or it's just one more example of how abitrary the pattern of infestation can sometimes be.


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Still living, while all the hemlocks around it are dead. I'll never get over this weird pattern.

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dbhguru
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by dbhguru » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:28 pm

Robert,

Do you know the elevation you were at when near the mystery tree? Do you have other images that show conifers in the area of that particular tree? I'm waiting for Will Blozan to weigh in. I'm accustomed to the images of white pines here in the Northeast. They look basically the same in the southern Apps except that the northern foliage is usually darker and the limbs may be a little thicker for comparably aged trees. Not totally sure about that.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:17 pm

The spruce were abundant on the high ridges above us (5400 feet and higher). But there were little fingers of groves extending down the north facing slopes (one of which we were on when I took that photo). The elevation where I took the photo was about 4400 feet and the "spruce" trees there extended down the slope maybe another 100 vertical feet and then ended. There were just enough of them to consider it a grove (maybe two dozen). The one in the photo was the nearest one and most obvious photo subject. I think you're right and I was just seeing a white pine with different features than what I'm accustomed to seeing. I didn't scramble down the slope to take a close look at it. We just assumed them for spruce trees. (The curse of the amateur.)

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Josh Kelly
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by Josh Kelly » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:36 am

Robert, Bob,

Having done tons of hiking in that section of the Craggies, I think the mystery conifer is a spruce. The needles are badly shaded, blurring their texture, but the color and shape of the tree looks right to me. That heinous "grass road", AKA Laurel Gap road, has lots of spruce along it, curiously, a lot of it seems to have been released from competition by logging of the old-growth Northern Hardwoods that lined that road up until the 1950's and 60's.

Robert, you really should be emailing me for directions anytime you head out this way. It sounds like you missed the extremely accessible Walker Cove Research Natural Area - 40 acres of very nice old-growth.

Josh

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dbhguru
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Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by dbhguru » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:45 am

Josh,

I expect you are right. When Robert mentioned the elevation they were at, the pointer swung back toward spruce. I also recall some old growth red spruce specimens with crowns somewhat similar to the tops of white pines. I put to much importance on the reflection off the needles, not taking into account the lighting via the camera. My bad.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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jamesrobertsmith
Posts: 906
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:32 am

Re: Bushwhacking in Big Ivy

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:15 pm

OK. That makes me feel less like a dunce. I always give way to you guys on these issues. Glad to know I was right.

Josh: Anytime you want to send me directions to that plot, feel free to do so. Just use bob @jamesrobertsmith.net to get in touch. We're thinking about heading up there again--a swing through Big Ivy as part of a three-day backpacking trip.

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