Bushwhack to Lonesome Pine January 6, 2013Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Bryson City reservoir, Lands Creek, Lonesome Pine, Long Branch, Noland Divide trail
This was an oddball route that I thought up on one of my exercise hikes up the Noland Divide trail to the Lonesome Pine viewpoint on Beauregard Ridge. It would be a fun short bushwhack to climb up the steep rocky slope to Lonesome Pine from the bottom, I thought.
We started at the old Bryson City reservoir and didn’t cross the boundary into the national park until well into our climb. We went up Long Branch and returned via the ridge on the west side of the valley.
At first we drove past the gate to the reservoir without realizing it, but some helpful people told us where to look. The locked gate with high chain-link fence didn’t look very inviting, but we spotted a hole in the fence that looked like it saw a lot of traffic.
The reservoir looked weedy and neglected.
We walked along an abandoned access road to the junction of Long Branch and Lands Creek, then started working our way up the creek. Rhodo and blowdowns occasionally slowed us down, but most of the time we were able to stay on an old path that crossed and re-crossed the creek. We got past the rhodo zone and into a very pleasant valley of open hardwoods that we easily strolled through. We encountered an area of rock piles that indicated past human habitation, where the rocks had been cleared from the fields.
We did not find any standing chimney or old artifacts. A friend who grew up in Bryson City says he believes there was one house at the mouth of Long Branch, one further up, and one or possibly more in the area shown above.
The valley got steeper, and in places we scrambled up over loose rock.
I had hoped to hit the area of open rock just below Lonesome Pine, but I had misjudged the overlook’s location on my map (it is not marked), and we ended up coming slightly to the east of it.
The valleys were filled with haze that looked like part fog, part wood smoke.
After enjoying our lunch, we worked through thick laurel and greenbrier to start down the ridge on the valley’s west side.
I expected that once we got off the windblown hump of Lonesome Pine, the going would get easier. It never really did. Short stretches of open woods were punctuated by tangles of briers and blowdowns. It was a reminder of how deceptive appearances can be in off-trail hiking. When we’d looked up at the ridgecrest from the valley on our way up, it seemed to be nothing but large widely spaced hardwoods.
My Bryson City friend told me that someone had built a road maybe thirty years ago on the ridgetop you see in the photo above, right along the park boundary. It washed out in a heavy rainstorm and caused some houses downstream of the reservoir to be flooded. If it isn’t illegal for road construction to take place in a location on the skyline adjacent to a park boundary, it should be, in my opinion.
The greenbriers never really gave up. I walked into one and got a gory-looking bloody lip that fortunately stopped bleeding before long.
Toward the bottom of the ridge, we ran into a lot of doghobble and rhodo.
All in all, it amounted to more brush and less open rock than I’d anticipated, but then again, how many people can say they’ve done this hike? That’s got to count for something!