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Bushwhack to Lonesome Pine January 6, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Chris climbs up the ridge.

Chris climbs up the ridge.

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.

Our route went up the stream and down the ridge.

Our route went up the stream and down the ridge.

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 scenic starting point of our hike.

The reservoir looked weedy and neglected.

The old reservoir.

The old reservoir.

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.

Signs of human settlement.

Signs of human settlement.

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.

Scrambling up the ridge.

Scrambling up the ridge.

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.

Near the top.

Near the top.

The valleys were filled with haze that looked like part fog, part wood smoke.

Hazy valleys.

Hazy valleys.

After enjoying our lunch, we worked through thick laurel and greenbrier to start down the ridge on the valley’s west side.

The ridge unfolded below us.

The ridge unfolded below us.

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.

Chris in one of the open stretches.

Chris in one of the open stretches.

View across the Lands Creek valley.

View across the Lands Creek valley.

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.

The briers were lurking everywhere.

The briers were lurking everywhere.

Toward the bottom of the ridge, we ran into a lot of doghobble and rhodo.

Near the stream junction.

Near the stream junction.

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!

Nifty orange fungus.

Nifty orange fungus.

Comments»

1. Clyde Austin - January 10, 2013

I would like to have a nickel for every ridge I have looked at from a distance and thought was nice and open and then run into all sorts of salad! Seems sort of obvious that greenbrier is hard to see, but I can miss rhodo and laurel also!

Jenny - January 10, 2013

Clyde, you know as well as anyone all about “the grass is greener on the other side of the creek,” “that ridge looks like easy going,” and “it’s nothing but open hardwoods.” :)

Clyde Austin - January 10, 2013

You get a double amen on that! Is open hardwoods a fictious character like Paul Bunyan?

Clyde Austin - January 10, 2013

Or “let’s drop off into the drainage, it cant be as bad as this.”

2. Al Watson - January 13, 2013

Way back in the late forties I found my way up to the rock spot on the NDT
from the Land’s Creek side. No Lonesome Pine back then. The same old loose rocks though. Wonder if you saw evidence of the Sharp Fire in 2001 ?

Jenny - January 14, 2013

We did see a number of scorched tree trunks, so that might have been from the fire you mention. That sounds like a good hike you did. Lands Creek near the junction with Long Branch looked choked with rhodo, but maybe it opens out further up. Yeah, the name “Lonesome Pine” seems a little fishy to me, but that’s what you see on the trail signs.


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