Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Apr 06, 2015 8:59 am

I got to explore the north facing coves below Kitsuma on Firiday. Bushwhacking was expected. Fortunately, there was a somewhat maintained, off the map trail on an old logging road which runs nearly the length of the gorge. The problem is that a grown over trail also leads into some of the coves. They made for easier entry but that also meant younger trees. From the Point Lookout Trail, the trees looked rather large, indicating very old second growth or perhaps even old growth. No such luck as they appeared to be 45-50 years. I don't know exactly when the Forest Service obtained the land but it appears they logged it in the 60's. Several homesites still exist, marked by stone foundations and a chimney, and walnut trees. The chimney cove held fast growing tulips as well as several walnuts. The walnuts were also too young to be of the same time as the homesites, likely the same age as the tulips. The land was more open around the homesites so the Forest Service apparently managed the sites at least for a while.

The tulips in the coves were in the 130's to 140's, possibly a 150' or two upslope. This is a super rich area and they will continue to shoot up for some time. 150's are fairly common in the small coves in the south facing sites but these haven't been logged for at least 75 years. Along Swannannoa Creek, which runs the length of the gorge, diveristy is much greater than in the coves.

Fraxinus Biltmoreana biltmore ash 119.0' 113.0' 112.8'

Aesculus flava yellow buckeye 94.7'

Magnolia acuminata cucumbertree 116.1'

Juglans nigra black walnut 103.6' 96.4'

Platanus occidentalis sycamore 123.7' 119.0'

Tsuga canadensis hemlock 115.7'

Carya cordiformis bitternut hickory 121.7'

Carya glabra pignut hickory 116.4'

Acer rubrum red maple 116.4'

Robinia pseudoacacia 107.2'

Pinus echinata shortleaf pine 108.3'

Kitsuma Trail

I did some remeasuring and made a substantial find that I'd overlooked the last two times there. Right next to the 166' tulip stands a near record chestnut oak. I also got a nice bitternut I'd missed before. The prime cove on Kitsuma is the finest small site I've seen for oaks as 4 different oak species top 130' over a several acre area. This is second growth but there is some old growth just above the tallest trees. In the old growth, the trees are a little stunted but have fairly large boles. The white and black oaks look to be comfortably beyond 100 years, judging by their crowns. They aren't super craggy but they are complex. The trunks aren't huge but the crowns keep zigzagging upward. The tulips and the tallest chestnut oak are young and sprightly reach for the sky. the 132' maple doesn't exist, unless it was a different tree than I thought it was. I got 115'-116' from three different spots. I didn't think it looked 130'+. That'll come off the Rucker but there is a very impressive 123.4' that will take its place.

Remeasures

Quercus alba 138.6'

Quercus velotina 132.6'

Acer rubrum 116.0'

New measurements

Quercus montana 126.2'

Carya cordiformis 128.5'




I noticed a tall black oak on Mill Creek Road, on the way out. It measured 128.7', in the cove just below where tulip topped 150' and sycamore hit just about 136'. The coves are near the bottom of a small gorge but are south facing.
Last edited by bbeduhn on Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:45 am

I found some articles on the Royal Gorge. The 170's are less than a quarter mile from the old overlook/flag pole.
http://www.gribblenation.com/ncpics/old10/lookout.html
http://www.romanticasheville.com/point_lookout.htm

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by Jess Riddle » Thu May 07, 2015 9:20 pm

Brian,

Really impressive site. It reminds me of some of the super productive areas associated with the Brevard Fault zone in SC. Do you know if the site is influenced by the Brevard Belt? Kind of surprising the Rucker Index isn't higher given how superlative the tuliptree and oaks area. I would love to see a photo of that chestnut oaks.

Jess

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Fri May 08, 2015 8:37 am

Jess,
i haven't explored every cove so the Rucker may well grow a bit. The chestnut oak is very skinny and looks a bit like a craggy young tulip. While looking at the 166' tulip, I noticed the crown and twig structure of the chestnut oak and that's how I discovered it. Usually, I notice the trunk first and follow the tree up. I'll probably be on the trail again in the next couple of months so I can get a pic fairly soon. It's less than a mile from the picnic area.

I just ordered a few books on the geology of the Carolinas. I want to learn more about the geology of the area. I did find a good map of the Brevard Fault Line and the bottom of Kitsuma appears to lie within a mile of the fault line. I've pored over your posts from along the fault line and intend to get out and remeasure a few sites this fall and have mapped out some new sites. Some of the rich spots in McDowell County lie on the Linville Falls Fault Line. This fault line looks very promising as well.
Brian

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:22 pm

I just had a little time so I hit up the exceptional tulip grove on The Point Lookout Trail. The tulip weevil wrecked havoc on tulips in the Asheville area last year so I was expecting about the same height. Apparently, this grove was spared. The second tallest is at least 172'. I didn't spend much time on it so it may go a foot higher. I did spend some time on the Point Lookout Tulip, however, and it has soared since last season. The leader has split into two divergent twigs, within inches of each other in height. I got readings of 180.0, 180.1' and 180.2' from three different, though fairly close together spots. A head on shot is obscured by a 160' tulip. These two trees are up from 170.4' and 177.6' from last year.

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:44 am

Heartbreak Ridge

This is slightly outside the Royal Gorge but since I didn't find too much I'll just include it under this heading. I had my eyes on a cove just off trail which looked very promising. In actuality, it did look very promising but it was on private land, with no trespassing signs every 20 yards or so. The trail skirted around the private land within two feet of it. Apparently, the land owner is serious about keeping people off his land. the steep cove may well have some gems but I couldn't even tell what species i was looking at deep down and I didn't feel like trespassing was in my best interest.

Heartbreak Ridge has a flat which has some nice tulips. It soon heads up a mountain range via many switchbacks. I remembered some nice sized trees along a few of these switchbacks. They were sizable tulips but not particularly tall. There plenty of old growth on the trail but much of it is scrub height with table mountain pine. The steep upper coves may contain old growth hardwoods. I noticed a thick tulip years ago at over 4,000' elevation.

Flat

Lirio tulip 152.3' 144.3'
Juglans nigra 128.0'

cove

Lirio tulip 150.5'
Quercus coccinea 105.9'

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:56 am

walnut consuming guard rail
walnut consuming guard rail
ferns
ferns
tree graveyard
tree graveyard
skeleton tree
skeleton tree
ghastly tulips
ghastly tulips
young basswood
young basswood
Most of these photos are from the drainage just north of the Royal Gorge. All of these flow into Mill Creek before Mill Creek spills into the Catawba River. Tributaries of Mill Creek hold some promise for tall trees. I've scoped out one spot that is loaded with rich forest with patches of productive acidic soils as well. Parts had been cut in the last 30 years but an 80 or so year old location is promising.

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bbeduhn
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:15 pm

I made it back to the tall tulip grove and explored the entire cove. The tulips dropped off where I had previously stopped but other species made their presence known. Oaks and hickories take over with silverbell mixed in. sycamores grow at the bottom of the cove. The tulips have been measured before. One has joined the 170' club. The Nyssa is likely the tallest in the Southern Apps. It has been recorded taller in Maryland and in West Va.

Lirio tulip 180.3' 9'11" cbh 172.0' 10'4" cbh 170.0' 163.8' 162.6' 160.5' 160.0'

Quercus montana 135.5' 128.8'

Quercus rubra 122.0' 121.8'

Quercus velotina 127.5'

Quercus alba 115.5'

Betula lenta 97.4'

Nyssa sylvatica 118.8'

Halesia monticola 103.0' 98.1' 88.2'

Tilia heterophylla 118.6' 111.5'

Platanus occidentalis 132.8'

Acer rubrum 110.0'

Carya cordiformis 109.5'

Carya glabra 130.0'

Carya ovalis 135.6'
line of 160's to 180's
line of 160's to 180's
160's to 180's
160's to 180's
180' tulip
180' tulip
172' tulip
172' tulip
18" destroying angel. Note 440 for scale.
18" destroying angel. Note 440 for scale.
I tried to take a differnt route in to the Kitsuma area. I turned back after fighting mountain laurel. I did see an incredibly productive, very small cove. The tulip appeared to be 32-35 years old. Many other tulips appear to be over 130' and incredibly young.

Lirio tulip 148.9'
pinus echinata 115.6'
Last edited by bbeduhn on Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by Bart Bouricius » Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:53 pm

Great information,

Thanks for all the work preparing this great post Brian. Lots of good new info.

Bart

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Royal Gorge, Kitsuma Trail, Pisgah Nat'l Forest, NC

Post by Bart Bouricius » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:02 pm

The dimensions of the trees were fine, especially reporting a Tulip tree breaking 180', but what about the crown spread, stem circ. and height of that mushroom? Is it a record for the species?

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