A wild world of vegetation July 6, 2011Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains, trail maintenance.
Tags: Enloe Creek trail, Raven Fork, swingblade
It was time to return to my adopted trail, the Enloe Creek trail, to attack the soft vegetation with a swingblade. On my last trip, I did my best to deal with encroaching woody shrubs with a pair of loppers. This time, nettles were the main enemy.
I spotted the patch of bee balm at the trailhead. You will notice not only the pretty red flowers but the crazily luxuriant vegetation in general. We are getting into the season when leafy plants try to take over the world. Behind the bee balm I noticed an especially beautiful rosebay rhododendron. It was so tall, so dominant, the king of the shrub world.
I walked up to the start of my trail at Hyatt Gap and immediately discovered a very large and complicated blowdown. The falling tree had actually managed to lever a large waterbar out of its embedded position and stand it on end. I clambered over the mess and started my work with the swingblade. After my experience straining my wrist with the loppers on the last work trip, I tried to focus on the mechanics of the swing, letting gravity and momentum do the work instead of muscling the tool up and down. I must have been successful, because I didn’t strain anything this time.
I hate to cut down ferns, but they were growing right in the middle of the trail mixed in with the nettles, so down they went. I cut down blackberries, black cohosh, meadow rue, and anything that encroached on the trail. I would feel bad about the destruction of plant life except that this trail is nearly engulfed by a true wilderness, all kinds of plants embroidered together in an infinite tangle.
As I approached Raven Fork, a slight opening in this wilderness allowed me to gaze at Katalska Ridge, an area I plan to explore off-trail in September. There are said to be record-size red spruce lurking high up in the valleys of Simmons Branch and Hideaway Brook, places practically no one ever goes. In the photo below, you can see Katalska in the distance, an absolute wall of vegetation.
I noticed a giant fungus perched at the bottom of a dead hemlock.
At last, swinging and whacking my way along, I reached Raven Fork. I never cease to be amazed by its beauty. Each time, I gaze at it from a different perch.
At that point, I decided to turn around, for two reasons: (a) a thunderstorm was approaching with ominous rumbles; and (b) the blade part of my tool had loosened and was in danger of flying off, despite my attempt to use a car key as a screwdriver to tighten it. Next time I will bring a screwdriver. So, nettles west of Raven Fork, I’ll be back!