Right Fork of Wesser Creek

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mdavie
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Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by mdavie » Thu Apr 22, 2010 6:54 am

topo.jpg
When I worked in the Great Smoky Mountains NP, I worked on the North Carolina side of the park, and in '95 and '96 lived in a run-down shack on some beautiful land on Wesser Creek, a tributary of the Nantahala River. It's a generally south-to-north flowing stream, most of it was heavily logged earlier in the century, evinced by the old cables and train wheels scattered in a few spots up the creek. The lower mile or so of the creek has houses and the very bottom follows highway 64 for a short distance before spilling into the Nantahala River. There is a trail that goes up the creek from the end of the road onto National Forest property (which most of the watershed is in), I used to hike it all the time to Wesser Bald at the top. However, this was right before I was really measuring trees. Recently, with Josh Kelly looking at some LIDAR data, he had noted Wesser Creek as a potential spot with tall trees; specifically though, the Right Fork, which doesn't have a trail running up it, and which I'd never been up. The lower part is actually on private property, so I hadn't considered trying to go up when I lived there. But, with what Josh had found, I went recently to ground truth what the LIDAR had shown. I went first in February, but there was still so much snow on the ground that I only saw the west prong of the Right Fork. I recently returned and saw a good portion of the rest of the Right Fork.
After asking permission from the landowner, I started up the creek the first day. There's a roadbed that is maintained going up about 3/4 of a mile from the road, which makes it easy, until it ends and enters the more narrow part of the cove. There's a cryptic sign on a tree where the roadbed ends that simply says: "STOP".
I didn't.
I didn't.
I took this photo on the second visit; the first day, there was still a good six inches of snow making all kinds of pitfalls in the dog hobble and hard to traverse the slopes. Overall, it's a fairly steep-sided cove, which I think may have been responsible for some false readings on LIDAR. I only had the colored map that Josh had sent to go on, but certainly some of the oranges and reds on the north side of the west fork of the Right Fork were not very tall (relatively speaking- 130s to maybe low 150s for tuliptrees). I think the fact that the tops of some of the trees were leaning out over the streambed from up the hill made them appear taller from above. On the west fork, I only found some very tall trees in a small patch near the top of the cove. Not much, but certainly tall enough that I knew I wanted to get back to check the other fork.
On my return, I kept going in and out of large swaths of rhododendron and dog-hobble along the creek, then hitting big areas of open understory that were loaded with early flowers. Mostly common spring flowers like anemones (Anemone and Thalictrum), trout lily, Canada violets, Trillium, and Dicentra canadensis and cucullaria were some of the flowers blooming on the second trip. Something I saw frequently, which I don't remember seeing before, was Dicentra growing within patches of rhodo and dog-hobble.
Dicentra canadensis beneath rhododendron
Dicentra canadensis beneath rhododendron
. One of the more uncommon plants I saw on the second trip was dwarf ginseng, which was all over the upper parts of the main streambed.
Dwarf ginseng
Dwarf ginseng
There were taller trees in general along this fork, though again, not exceedingly tall until the upper coves. There was one largeish birch along the stream and a pretty tall buckeye in the lower parts (sorry, Will, I was mixing that up with the NRO), everything else was where it opened up and flattened out near the top. The taller forest was, as usual, predominantly tuliptree, to the exclusion of most anything else, and there certainly wasn't much else that was very tall.
Note the open understory in the upper reaches of the cove
Note the open understory in the upper reaches of the cove
And now, the numbers:
Untitled-1.jpg
I took diameters on the first trip, but didn't on the second trip because I was pressed for time. I think that the area of very tall trees is probably pretty limited on this stream— compared to say, Baxter Creek— but I think there could be a few more very tall trees up there. Unfortunately, I think that the basswood height may be incorrect, I measured from on top of a ridge and there's a good possibility that I was getting a read off of a tuliptree behind it that I couldn't see until I went down into the cove. I had a good shot on the tallest tulip, and was getting 57 yards shooting straight up from my eye. It's possible that there is a taller top. I didn't have enough time to really check the whole cove out, and the density made getting good shots difficult even with the leaves off. I'm going to return at some point, but it's going to be tough with leaves on. All in all, certainly worth seeing!

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dbhguru
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by dbhguru » Thu Apr 22, 2010 9:24 am

Mike,

You've whetted our appetites. The 57 yard straight up shot yields 171 feet! You're in the big money. We hope you'll return and take time tying down the numbers. It is a long drive from places like Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. to the Smokies, so it will be left to those of you in the area to complete the mission. Looking forward to your next report. You da man.

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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James Parton
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by James Parton » Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:42 pm

Mike,

I agree with Bob, Awesome!

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
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New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Josh Kelly
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by Josh Kelly » Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:53 am

Bob,

57 yards strait up? You need to look at the table in the post and note the 176 and 178 ft trees!

Mike,

Thanks for the report. It is wonderful how useful LiDAR is in locating large and tall trees.

Cheers,
Josh

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mdavie
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by mdavie » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:48 pm

LIDAR is useful, isn't it? I'm ready to check out more! So, who can tell me; is that 178.3 in the top five?

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Will Blozan
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by Will Blozan » Mon May 03, 2010 6:55 am

Mike,

Top two! I remeasured the Rucker Tuliptree last weekend. Formerly 178.2' it has lost top from the freeze of '07 and is now 176.3'. Unless I am missing one the current ranking is as follows:

Bradley Fork Tuliptree 181.35
Wesser Creek Tuliptree 178.3
Joyce Kilmer Tuliptree 178.1

These, as far as I can recall, are the only three specimens exceeding 178'.

Will

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dbhguru
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Re: Right Fork of Wesser Creek

Post by dbhguru » Mon May 03, 2010 8:52 am

Will,

Great to hear from you. We're were about to form an ENTS search party and descend on North Carolina looking for you. Lay some big tree numbers from Congaree NP on us. We're all ears - some of us, literally. Just got a haircut and I can finely see my ears.

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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