Sipsey Wilderness March 2010 and an Interesting Hemlock

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

#1)  Sipsey Wilderness March 2010 and an Interesting Hemlock

Postby Zachary S » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:47 pm

Goodness, y'all keep moving around so much, yet I find you every time. Better luck outsmarting me next time! ;)

This will be my first post in well over a year. I apologize for not keeping up with the list until now. But indeed, I am still here, and have signed up on the new list. After a few problems probably relating to my crappy laptop and shoddy Internet connection, I begin my report of a trip taken earlier today.

The photos here are linked via Photobucket. I have no idea what this will do to bandwidth, but feel free to relocate the images or remove the links, whatever's better. And most of the images have been cropped for faster upload or emphasis.

I have been to the Sipsey Wilderness/Bankhead NF in Lawrence and Winston counties, AL, several times before. On this trip, we chose a trail that began just across the river from the Recreation Area ( http://www.nativetreesociety.org/fieldtrips/alabama/sipsey_river_picnic_area.htm ) . Labeled "Trail 200", this trail passes under a large road bridge before descending into the forest. The path parallels the river for about a mile, and then turns right at a fork in the waterway. Moderate to large rock bluffs lie roughly 200' off to the right of the trail, occasionally giving way to beautiful waterfalls and occasional caves. The overstory on the trail is largely comprised of large stately tuliptrees, but beech, oak, ash, hickory, buckeye, sycamore, and maple also occur, among others. Pines are infrequent, and many of those that do occur are dead due to pine beetles. American holly makes a frequent appearance, some attaining respectable proportions. ( Image )

However, perhaps the most recognizable and widespread component of the forest here is the majestic eastern hemlock

Image

nice hemlock reiteration). A disjunct population at the far southern edge of its range, and thus far adelgid-free, the species mostly fills the understory and mid-canopy, with a few trees competing with the tulips in the canopy level (the hemlocks just across the river, however, are far larger and make up a large portion of the canopy level foliage). They seemed to come in patches, with nearly pure groves immediately followed by completely hardwood forest. The hemlocks here, while much smaller than their kin in the Smokies, are happy and healthy, providing luscious shade and cooling the waters of the nearby river. In fact, it was just over 70 degrees today, but near the rock bluffs where the water spilled off the rocks above and the hemlocks thrived, the temperature dropped dramatically. This would prove very refreshing in the summer!

Image

The highlight of the trip for me, though, was at the furthest point in the trail we were on; not willing to cross a creek intersecting the trail area at a small cleared area, I decided to wander towards another bluff to the right of the trail. Climbing over a few rocks and beech roots, I headed towards an area with slightly higher (and wetter) bluffs in search of waterfalls. The trees here were as tall as I had seen up to this time, but one particular tree caught my eye - and held on to it! An eastern hemlock on a small hill rose about 50 or 60 feet to a broken top.  

Image

The size of the trunk wasn't really spectacular

Image

but the lack of taper was - at least for Alabama. A few small branches were still keeping the tree from becoming a snag, so I was pleased to see that it was still alive, at least for now

Image

however, I am not sure if eastern hemlock will recover with so few branches, thus I don't really expect it to live much longer. I would have then moved on, until I saw a fallen log lying on the ground a couple of feet from the trunk of the damaged hemlock

Image  

The pictures don't really do the fallen trunk section justice - it was the size of a respectable hemlock tree in itself! Image

 - with my hat for a size comparison)Judging by its looks - with no needles yet still a few small branches near the end - it had fallen in the past couple of years, breaking into three pieces on some large rocks below (it could be, though, that the farthest part of the fallen mass was from another tree, but it did line up relatively well with the biggest part of the log). It was probably near 50 or 60 feet long at the most, with a respectable reiteration not too far from the thickest end, and across the creek a long-dead crown of small branches

Image

But looking near its base, I could find no evidence of a large hemlock stump, or any evidence that it had been uprooted. Then I noticed that the size and shape of the thick end of the log

Image

matched very well with the broken top of the hemlock tree a few feet away. The gears in my little devious brain began to race, and I started to wonder if perhaps the fallen log was indeed the snapped-off top of the slow-tapering hemlock. The location would have been about right, though it was a little off to the side

Image

however, there was no evidence of another top on the ground, so I can only assume that the trunk on the ground was once part of the standing tree. If that was the case, the well-sheltered tree would probably have been close to 120' when fully intact. Granted, the intact tree would have been smaller in volume than the hemlocks in other areas of the Forest that I've seen, but pretty impressive for this part of the trail. Here's a quick (and rather poorly-made_ stitch of the tree

Image

with the top of the fallen trunk visible in the background on the bottom left. The tree wasn't a giant, and would have been all but ignored in a place like GSMNP, but words cannot express the feeling I got from exploring the fallen log and imagining what the tree would have looked like intact. I felt like an early explorer coming across a fallen giant! And though far from a giant, the tree is special to me, and left me feeling accomplished.

With that overly-long ramble out of the way, I will say that we immediately thereafter returned on the same trail we came in on, stopping to take pictures of some larger trees along the way

Image

I also admired the wildflowers and native plants that were beginning to show up thus far in this early spring (links at bottom of page)  . But the second highlight of the trip was probably the beech roots.

Image

The buttressing of this species, with wide-spreading, extremely shallow roots, reminds me of tropical rainforest trees and giant fig trees.

Image

One must be very careful in these woods to avoid tripping over beech roots! One tree, in particular, impressed me with its tenacious grip on the rock it grows upon near a bluff Image

- note the size of the roots!) . I don't think beech bark disease has reached Alabama yet, or if it has, I saw no sign of it.

All in all, it was a short yet very enjoyable trip to the woods. If for any reason anyone on the ENTS list wanted to come and see these woodlands, I would be more than happy to lead the way on the trails that I know. The forests aren't as big as they are in virgin stands elsewhere in the east, but the groves of living and green hemlocks are certainly a pleasing sight after seeing the destruction across the Appalachians (I've actually talked to a ranger about HWA management plans, but she seemed to think that the adelgid wouldn't reach here because of the humidity; I doubt that's the case, but I do hope that the isolated nature of the stands will help in keeping this population intact). I look forward to going again in a few months, and perhaps next time I will remember to bring a tape measure!

Flowers and native plants:
Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Yay for water! Image

Sorry for the overly long and overly-linked report... I can edit it if necessary.

~Zac

For this message the author Zachary S has received Likes :
edfrank
User avatar
Zachary S
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:21 pm
Location: Alabama
Has Liked: 1 times
Has Been Liked: 16 times
Print view this post

#2)  Re: Sipsey Wilderness March 2010 and an Interesting Hemlock

Postby edfrank » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:29 am

Zac,

Welcome to the new BBS for ENTS.  That was an excellent report.  The many links are fine.  If you want to display a remote photo in the text rather than a link to it, highlight the URL address and then click on the    Img    button at the top and it will appear as an embedded image rather than just a link.  Nice to hear from you after your absence.

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
User avatar
edfrank
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4187
{ IMAGES }: 0
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 6:46 pm
Location: Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, USA
Has Liked: 915 times
Has Been Liked: 703 times
Blog: View Blog (3)
Print view this post

#3)  Re: Sipsey Wilderness March 2010 and an Interesting Hemlock

Postby Beth » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:31 am

Zac,
I'm glad you made the crossing also.  I also agree with Ed, it was a great trip report.  There is an isolated pocket of hemlocks in Indiana that I've been meaning to get to.  Someday I  will just not this month or next as they are too booked up at the moment.
Beth
Trees are the Answer
User avatar
Beth
 
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:55 am
Location: 40 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis, Missouri
Has Liked: 7 times
Has Been Liked: 5 times
Print view this post

#4)  Re: Sipsey Wilderness March 2010 and an Interesting Hemlock

Postby dbhguru » Wed May 12, 2010 8:46 am

Zac,

   I'll also chime in. Good to have you back and soooper trip report. We're under-represented in Alabama, so having you firmly aboard is a must.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
User avatar
dbhguru
 
Posts: 4034
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Florence, Massachusetts
Has Liked: 4 times
Has Been Liked: 1078 times
Print view this post


Return to Alabama

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron