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Mysterious forces on Enloe Creek August 31, 2010

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains, trail maintenance.
Tags: , ,

I'll never get tired of Raven Fork

Rereading this the day after I wrote it, I am thinking about how this will incur the wrath of Greg Hoover. I keep dwelling on the beauties of Raven Fork, which is his favorite fishing spot—and he’s an extremely selfish man (no consideration whatsoever for anyone else) who doesn’t want to share his spot with anyone else. For the benefit of others, I’m cutting and pasting from an exchange we had on the GoSmokies forum. He tells me I need to learn discretion, and I respond:

Hoover, I am so glad you refreshed my memory about Raven Fork. I’d forgotten that due to a very large slumping phenomenon just downstream from the bridge (they called it a catastrophic geosynclinal event with associated severe fluvial congestion), the major portion of Raven Fork is now a broad, flat, muddy stream. They call it the “mini-Mississippi,” and they’ve starting running coal barges down it, with river-runners wearing striped polo shirts poling the barges safely around the few remaining rapids.

He then says:

Thanks for the insightful yet obfuscatorial update. Sounds like a person would have to be a fool to hike all that way just to fish for catfish. I’ll mark it off my list, as should everyone else. 😉

#  #  #

I recently wrote here about taking up the maintenance of the Enloe Creek trail as part of the Adopt-A-Trail program in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On my first visit to the trail August 9, I did a walk-through and noted problems with overgrown vegetation, a broken log bridge over Enloe Creek, an erosion problem, and a blowdown. I filed a work report with the Park Service that noted these items.

I returned to the trail August 27 with swingblade in hand to tackle the wildly luxuriant nettles and blackberries. I figured it would take several long trips to take care of the vegetation. I was curious to see if there had been any follow-up yet on the first report, but I didn’t really expect that anything had happened so quickly. The fearless leader of the Adopt-A-Trail volunteers, Christine Hoyer, had warned us that with so many miles of trail to cover, the professional crew could take a while to get to the reported problems.

As I walked up the Hyatt Ridge trail to reach the start of my trail, I discovered a new problem: an absolutely huge blowdown that was hard to scramble over and difficult, on the steep slope, to get all the way around.

The erosion problem was still there on the east side of the bridge.

Eroded section close to Raven Fork bridge

And another problem was still there—a stack of old, ugly tarps and some rusty cast-iron frying pans that had been left at campsite 47.

I stopped at the bridge for a snack, noticing that just past the bridge some vegetation looked freshly cut. Interesting. When I continued on, I found that the trail had been completely weedwhacked as far as I could see, through a section that had been, well, just a little on the jungly side.

Prior to weedwhacking

Who had done this? I don’t know. I think it was most probably a Park Service crew out taking a look at the more severe problems I’d noted and doing this other work along the way. But I can’t be sure. Perhaps a reader of this blog sympathized with my overgrowth problem and decided to help anonymously! (I know, not terribly likely.) It doesn’t matter. The work is done! And the heaps of whacked vegetation continued all the way out to the trail’s terminus at Hughes Ridge.

As I walked, I once again felt enthralled by the wild-looking steep ridges in this remote country—topped with giant, dark old-growth spruces that had gleaming white clouds flowing over their crests.

I returned, stopped again at Raven Fork, this time finally noticing the interesting circumstance that the three hemlocks growing out of the top of the enormous cube-shaped boulder by the bridge looked very healthy, when nearly all others are now dead. I looked more closely and observed that each of the three had an inconspicuous blue paint mark. The Park Service had decided that these were so important and conspicuous that they deserved special treatment against the hemlock woolly adelgid.

The boulder with the three healthy hemlocks

On the east side of the bridge, the anonymous gnomes had left some vegetation for me to cut back with my swingblade. I was just as glad—after all, I wanted to feel I was contributing something! So I whacked my way up to the Hyatt Ridge junction.

Soon after that I encountered a guy on horseback leading a packhorse. He greeted me and mentioned that he was in there to remove the junk from the campsite! He and his buddy further back were “VIPs,” or Volunteers in the Park, people who can be on call to help out at varying locations. The Park Service had told them that someone had reported the problem at the campsite… that must have been my work report!

Sometimes things actually go the way they’re supposed to.

It wasn’t until after I continued on that I thought about how hard it must have been for him to get past the large blowdown. I met his companion a bit further down. His horse had thrown a shoe, and this was going to force him to turn around. He, too, had passed the big blowdown, and was going to have to turn right around and pass it again. But he was pausing for a moment to rest and roll a cigarette with his own loose tobacco and papers—that’s something I haven’t seen for a long time. (Way back in my teenage years, I used to do that sometimes myself. Actually, I also rode horseback quite a bit back then, so I felt somehow connected with these two riders.)

I felt strangely happy as I got back to the car and drove down the Straight Fork road and into the Big Cove: another reason I like my trail section, getting up into the far end of the Qualla (Cherokee) reservation.

Raven Fork


1. Barbara Johnstone - September 1, 2010

Beautiful country. My friend and I are hiking the Quehanna Trail in central PA, http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/hiking/quehanna.aspx, in small and infrequent increments. (Scheduling hikes is a bear.) I am not looking forward to the suspension bridge in the picture!

Jenny - September 1, 2010

Oh, that IS a nasty-looking bridge! I wonder why they had to leave that open space between the two sets of planks—I think there’s a touch of sadism there. But the trail overall looks very enticing, as is much of the terrain in central Pennsylvania. I hope your hemlocks are doing better than the ones in the Smokies.

On the subject of bridges, you probably remember how my mother had a real phobia about them and always dreaded crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Of course, it was she, of all of our parents, who had severe engine trouble at its very pinnacle and had to coast down through the toll booths with smoke billowing out from under the hood!

2. Thomas Stazyk - September 1, 2010

Great pics as usual! Will all those trees lose their leaves fairly soon? What sort of autumn colors do you get?

Jenny - September 2, 2010

It’ll be late October before most of the trees drop their leaves, at this latitude. Bear in mind that a lot of the green you see in the photos is rhododendron, which will keep its leaves!

3. kaslkaos - September 2, 2010

Wow, talk about taking action. That’s wonderful news all around, and you can pat yourself on the back for that too.

Jenny - September 2, 2010

Thank you! I have to admit that I do indeed pat myself on the back when I go out and voluntarily do physical labor for a good cause. I only wish that my efforts in other areas of my life were as undeniably worthwhile…

4. John enloe - August 29, 2011

As an Enloe, and a descendent of Abraham Enloe, whom the creek and ridge are named after, thank you for helping to keep this area accessable to visitors – though I can no longer hike, it is good to know that new generations of hikers are going to be able to enjoy the beauty and peacefullness of the area thanks to you and others of like mind.

Jenny - August 29, 2011

You are very welcome. It is nice to have communication from an Enloe. That area is one of the most beautiful in the park.

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