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Pulaski time on Enloe Creek April 15, 2011

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains, trail maintenance.
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Enloe Creek was running high

I went out to do my first work trip of the season on my adopted trail, the Enloe Creek trail. It’s always important to deal with drainage problems early in the season, so I picked up a pulaski at the tool box with the aim of cleaning out waterbars. It was the first time I’d used a pulaski since I read The Big Burn and learned the story of the brave firefighter Ed Pulaski. So naturally I thought about him as I headed up the trail.

I found myself wondering how much my pulaski weighed. It has a 36″ handle and a hefty axe and grub hoe, and it felt pretty heavy to me. I tried to think of things with a possibly¬† comparable weight and decide whether the pulaski weighed more or less than that. I thought of the 8-lb. free weights I use for arm exercises and decided the pulaski must be heavier than that. Then I thought of my 9-lb. cat, Lucy Meowington, and decided the pulaski must be heavier than that. I finally decided that it must weigh about 12 pounds. Well, I was way off—weigh off, you might say. When I got back home and googled some tool catalogs, I found that most pulaskis weigh about seven pounds. Time for me to do more working out with those free weights!

But as I climbed up to Hyatt Ridge, shifting the pulaski occasionally from one hand to the other, I enjoyed an incredible spectacle of wildflowers. The large white trilliums were out in abundance, all kinds and colors of violets, wild geraniums, wild oats, anemones, trout lilies, spring beauties, and on and on. It was a beautiful cool, sunny spring day.

Trillium grandiflorum

My plan was to walk to the end of the trail at Hughes Ridge, concentrating on removing small windfalls from the trail, and to clear the waterbars as I  returned. I passed several blowdowns and noticed that the eroded section I reported to the Park Service last fall has gotten worse.

A bit dicey for horse travel!

I heard the thundering of Raven Fork far before I reached it. I think I’m going to start noticing how soon below Hyatt Gap I can hear it—at which elevation. The stream was running higher than when I was here on the Hyatt Gap manway hike. It seemed as though some new timbers had been deposited against the giant boulders above the metal bridge.

Timbers deposited on the boulders

After stopping for a snack at the boulders, I continued west and soon encountered a major blowdown that was pretty tough to get past. The slope above the root ball was steep and covered with rhodo, and the trunk extended way down. I just barely managed to crawl underneath on my belly.

A tight squeeze to get underneath

Before I reached the log bridge over Enloe Creek, I wondered whether the Park Service had repaired it. I’d reported last fall that half of it had washed away, though it had been possible then to rockhop over to the other half. The water was a lot higher now. My wondering was soon ended when I arrived to discover that not only had it not been repaired, but the other half had washed away as well.

Washed out bridge

I stood there quite a long time trying to decide whether to wade across—rockhopping wouldn’t be possible. I thought of different possibilities. Use the pulaski as a hiking pole to stabilize myself in the fast current? No, it would be awkward and possibly dangerous. Find a branch to use as a pole and carry the pulaski in the other hand? Also awkward and dangerous. I finally decided not to cross. It would have been questionable even if I’d had two hiking poles and no pulaski.

I consoled myself on the way back by admiring the lush borders of phacelia along the trail.

Masses of fringed phacelia

I noticed a tapestry of vegetation near a small seep.

These plants---whatever they are---looked very lush

Almost all of the waterbars are between Raven Fork and Hyatt Gap. I wish I had counted them. I’m guessing there were 40, but I could be as wrong about that as I was about the weight of the pulaski. For those not familiar with waterbars, they are the low barriers made of logs or rock that divert any water flowing down the trail off to the side. This helps prevent the water from eroding the trail. Waterbars need to be cleared of any stones, soil, and leaves that have washed down and heaped up against their uphill side, and often a new drainage channel must be dug at the lower end of the waterbar.

I began to realize it might have been just as well I couldn’t get to the last 1.6 miles of trail, because just dealing with those waterbars was quite a big job. I did my best to avoid hacking at the small flowers that were growing in the sediment above them.

I grubbed around this spring beauty

However, I was forced to trample some trout lilies in the process of improving the drainage channels. Oh well, there are plenty of them to go around.

My pulaski

At last I reached the gap, and the end of my trail. On the way down the Hyatt Ridge trail, I noticed some lousewort that was just starting to bloom. The foliage is very interesting. I was lucky to have such a beautiful day for this trip.

Lousewort

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