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Ice acoustics on Juney Whank Branch January 7, 2014

Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, Smoky Mountains.
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The hole at bottom was like the soundhole of a guitar.

The hole at bottom was like the soundhole of a guitar.

We’ve all been hearing about the polar air mass that has enshrouded the eastern U.S. In fact, we’ve been hearing so much about it that we are enshrouded more in talk about  the polar air mass than in the air mass itself.

But yes, it was cold last night and today. Here in Sylva, NC, it got down to around minus five last night, depending on elevation.

I waited until noon before venturing out on a short hike up the Noland Divide trail to the point it is crossed by the left fork of Juney Whank Branch, at 2900′. The stream has a cascade there that nearly disappears in dry weather but is very pretty in wet or icy conditions. It is not to be confused with the falls on Juney Whank down near the Deep Creek campground.

The hike to the cascade gives an elevation gain of 1100′, just enough for a minimal exercise hike.

When I got to the cascade, I saw that ice had formed on both sides of the streambed, merging together in places and leaving openings in other places where you could see water flowing in a frigid underworld beneath the ice. I stood there looking at the patterns of ice and listening to the sounds of the stream. It seemed to me that the sounds of flowing water were enhanced by the resonance of the ice.

The water ran underneath the ice.

The water ran underneath the ice.

The sounds rang out clear and bright, the melody of a winter stream.

A lovely song!

#  #  #

Shapes of ice.

Shapes of ice.

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Comments»

1. Al - January 8, 2014

Could you spot the old NDT about 2200 feet just below that kidney shaped top on the topo ? The ice in the pictures is stunning.

Jenny - January 8, 2014

I’ll look for it the next time I’m up there. Did the old route go over to Sharp Top?

2. Kent Hackendy - January 8, 2014

The sounds of nature are extraordinary and unique, indeed. That’s why it always perplexes me when I come across hikers listening to iPods on the trail. You miss too much that way,

Jenny - January 8, 2014

I agree, it’s not just that an iPod listener misses out on the sounds of nature, it’s that the music goes into the foreground of the whole experience. But I will say there’s one situation where I can picture an iPod on the trail as something I wouldn’t mind. That’s when I’m in the last stages of a death march, for instance when I did a circuit of the Bradley Fork watershed last spring. Those last miles of old roadbed going into Smokemont, I would’ve given a lot for some music to distract me.

3. Al - January 9, 2014

Jenny, no, the old route was just on the lower part of the trail. Sharptop is usually reached via a manway which
begins at the top of the top of the ridge separating Lands Creek from Deep Creek.

Jenny - January 9, 2014

OK, we’ll have to get together with maps sometime. I could see that you’d have to cross over a stream valley (a tributary of Durham Branch) to get from the Noland Divide Trail to Sharp Top, but I couldn’t figure out what was too much different between the old NDT route and the current NDT route. I guess the current NDT does more contouring around a side ridge that runs into Beauregard Ridge. So I thought the old NDT might have a totally different route.
(Added later) Al, Don Casada kindly provided me with a map of the old route. I had assumed for some reason that you were talking about a route that continued upward from 2200′, when actually it terminates there from a route up Juney Whank Branch!

4. Al - January 10, 2014

Yes, if Don’s map shows the old route going up Juney Whank from the present day road and then crossing from the right side over to the left side, then a hair pin turn slabbing’graded up to 2200 feet. There it joins the present NDT. In the old days this same way but when you reached the lil ridge at 2200 there was no junction. Right (up hill) was the only way. Above 2200 feet the only trail ever(well, maybe not ever), was the present route by the waterfall you photographed and on to the top, maybe 3 mi from the present paved road to where the manway goes South across those 2 knobs.

It might help if you just look left when approaching the present parking area at a 15mph sign. The old trail starts right there. Its easy to see and still as wide as it was 60 years ago . The 15mph printing is only on the reverse side of the sign when driving upstream.

The old NDT route and present route run just below that ridge crest (Beauregard ?)where the trees on the ridge seem to be spaced apart. A kinda weird way to grow and it was the same way in the 1940s.

If you follow the old NDT up JWB to 2200 feet you will see a lil medal tag on a small tree that faces the way you came. At some point it was marked, I guess. Maybe when the old trail was replaced to alleviate parking problems and to allow better horse access.

Al - January 13, 2014

Up in BC for a few days. The old NDT shows on my 1949 topo and on the 1937 Swain County soil map. There is a Swain County soil map hanging on the wall in the BC library.

5. Jenny - January 13, 2014

Thanks for all your info, Al. I plan to go retrace that old NDT route.


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