Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

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bbeduhn
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Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:19 am

This trail is actually in the town of Hurricane, just over the mountain from Hot Springs, trailtown NC. It follows a rather large stream on a an old railbed for half of its journey. I was on a family hike so I just hit a few standout trees. I'll follow up at some point. The hardwoods are young and relatively small. Only a few sycamores crack 100'. Tulips likely attain more height up the mountainside but they are short by the river. Hornbeams are the only impressive hardwood. They dot the edge of the stream and attain respectable girth. Many are multi-stemmed but several singles top 1' diameter.

The stars of this trail are the conifers. Hemlocks are almost 100% alive and doing well. There are hundreds of healthy hemlocks! I don't know what kind of treatment has been applied but it is working. I noticed just a few white spots on some young hemlocks. The older ones along the stream have decent girth but are short and squat. They appear to be considerably taller uphill. I measured just a couple. The white pines remind me of the pines on the Chattooga River. They are a bit smaller than the Chattooga's and are thin with reiterated crowns. They have some age but it's a difficult guess as to how much age. They grow amongst rhododendron hells. Many are uphill and may be taller but it's difficult to gauge where the bottoms are. The conifers are the only trees which appear to be above 70 years of age.

Tsuga canadensis 114.9' 109.4'

Pinus strobus 158.8' 153.0' 150.9' 150.9'

Brian

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Josh Kelly
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Re: Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by Josh Kelly » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:02 am

Hey Brian,

Unless you saw paint or tags, none of those hemlocks have been treated. You can see other hemlocks that are still alive along 25-70 where it crosses the Ivey. I'm not sure if it's the low elevation, some random biogeography, or something to do with the conditions in those gorges, but they have some of the healthiest untreated hemlocks left in North Carolina.

Josh

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bbeduhn
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Re: Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:31 pm

I hiked this trail again. There is some good news and some bad news. I'll start with the bad news. The formerly healthy hemlocks from 2014, are now all in peril. I noticed just one dead hemlock but they are all defoliating from the ground up. Treatment could help but it would have to happen soon. It looks like Tree-of-Heaven is making inroads. The silk tree (mimosa) has established itself, hitting 45' in height. It is present all along the creek.

For the good news, this trail is far more diverse than I'd first noticed. Biltmore ash is abundant. It certainly looks green to me and its bark is significantly different from the Biltmore ash I see on slopes. The ash grows right along the stream. The birch family is well represented. Black birch, yellow birch, hornbeam and witch hazel all live here. Cinnamon clethra grows in at least one spot. This is a seldom seen small tree species. Will Blozan introduced me to it in the Cataloochee District in the Smokies. We remeasured the National Champion there. I've seen it in just one other spot.
cinnamon clethra
cinnamon clethra
cinnamon clethra
cinnamon clethra
Biltmore ash
Biltmore ash
creek 1.jpg
creek with silk tree
creek with silk tree
creek 2.jpg
I didn't do any measuring but will at some point. White pine could top 160'.
Last edited by bbeduhn on Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Josh Kelly
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Re: Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by Josh Kelly » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:36 am

Hey Brian,

I'm glad you are getting out to cool places. The western Blue Ridge river gorges are really diverse. On that note, I'm pretty sure that the ash along the trail are Fraxinus biltmoreana. Keep the hits coming.

Josh

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bbeduhn
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Re: Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:57 pm

Josh,
The patterns on the ash differ greatly from the Biltmore ash I've seen in mountain environments. They all grow right along the shore. I haven't seen many Biltmore ash along streams. The Biltmore ash in Big Creek also differ a bit in pattern from what I usually see. In looking at pics from Big Creek, I see that they do look similar. It's strange that they look so different along streams than they do on mountainsides. Damn you, Biltmore ash!
Brian

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Josh Kelly
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Re: Big Laurel Creek, Hot Springs, NC

Post by Josh Kelly » Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:24 pm

I'm frequently wrong. I'll get a twig next time I'm down there and check it out.

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