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My wrist hurts June 2, 2011

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains, trail maintenance.
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Hydrangea arborescens

Beautiful shrub, right? It was my enemy today.

Due to an unexpected change of circumstance today, I was freed from both an editorial assignment and a volunteer commitment that normally occurs on Thursdays. The editorial client decided to revise the assignment (and pay me for the work I’d already done—a nice detail), and the volunteer outfit had already told me they had an overload of help.

I decided to go visit my adopted trail, the Enloe Creek trail. I figured it would be about time to start lopping the overgrowth that had woody stems, and then I would go back another time and hit the softer vegetation—mainly nettles—with a swingblade.

At first I was not even identifying my enemy correctly. I thought it was witch hobble—Viburnum alnifolium. The leaves look very similar, but the flowers have a different pattern. At any rate, as soon as I passed Hyatt Gap and started descending to Raven Fork, I found that these woody-stemmed shrubs were leaning out into the trail everywhere. I started lopping them, and I found that they were interwoven with rhododendron, blackberries, and greenbrier. With laurel, dog hobble, and vines of all description.

What makes it difficult is that you have to investigate very closely to find the particular stem that needs lopping, and it is usually embedded in a mass of other vegetation, like nettles, that you don’t want to grab hold of to get to the larger stem.

I strained my wrist. It wasn’t from the strength required to chop through the limbs, it was from the constant twisting of the loppers as I chopped through one branch and then angled to get the next one with the heavy tool. I have weakling wrists, I think. The next time I will use a short-handled pair of pruners, much lighter.

As usual, I enjoyed the rest stop at the bridge over Raven Fork. I gazed at the tapestry of vegetation that overhung the giant stream and the blooming laurel that embellished the great sandstone boulders. I think this is the most beautiful place in the Smokies.

It was a hot day. I trudged on up the western portion of the Enloe Creek trail, wondering if the log bridge had been repaired (I’d notified the Park Service after an earlier work trip). Its two halves still lay forlornly submerged in the stream, but this time the water was low enough that rockhopping was possible. I continued along, as always gazing up at the wild rugged ridges around there that are crowned with red spruce.

I reached the Hughes Ridge junction, the end of my trail, and turned around. As I returned to the acoustic zone of Enloe Creek itself, I decided that it has the most amazing, beautiful sound, a combination of a percussive effect—a deep rhythmic pulsing—and a melody of water. I did more lopping and recrossed the stream, returned to Raven Fork, and was pleased to find a family camping out at Backcountry Site 47. They were having a great time wading in the transparent pools of Raven Fork.

From that point on, in the heat, with my diminished energy, it was hard work to climb back up to Hyatt Gap and then down to the car. When I got to the trailhead, I took a towel over to Straight Fork so that I could wash off the sweat with that nice cold water.

The loppers I used. They were heavy.

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Comments»

1. Thomas Stazyk - June 3, 2011

I totally sympathize! I’ve given myself tennis elbow cutting gorse, which is a really nasty invasive bush imported from England.

Jenny - June 3, 2011

The vegetation of the Smokies has many ways of inflicting hardship on people. Especially when we’re actually trying to cut it back! I’m sure my attack on the stinging nettles won’t be easy.


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