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Lonesome Pine on Noland Divide November 3, 2014

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Shiny pines, subdued valleys.

Shiny pines, subdued valleys.

Yesterday’s SMHC hike up Parson Lead was canceled, and Newfound Gap Road was closed due to heavy snow at the higher elevations. Where to hike? I opted for something out of Deep Creek, where there’d be no problem with road access.

I’ve been to Lonesome Pine many times, but it’s always rewarding. I’ve done it the regular way, up the Noland Divide trail (3.5 miles one way, 2100′ vertical), and I’ve done it off-trail going up from the old Bryson City reservoir. I did it as part of my 23-mile, 5450′ vertical end-to-end-to-end hike up to Clingmans Dome Road and back.

I went by what European mountaineers would call the “normal route.” I wondered if I would run into slushy snow as I got higher up, and even brought my microspikes despite temps in the 50s at the trailhead. They weren’t needed. The Friday night storm came from the northwest and blasted the higher summits, especially LeConte (22″ on top), but left the southern Smokies relatively unscathed.

It was a beautiful warm, clear day. I hiked along at a brisk pace,  enjoying the optimal temperature. Toward the top I encountered something unexpected: a bear dog with a radio collar.

You can see the orange tag, part of the radio collar paraphernalia.

Click for zoom to see all the paraphernalia she has hanging on her neck.

Well, of course hunting of any kind is illegal in the national park. We were very close to a park boundary, so probably the dog was released outside the park and strayed into it. No fault of the dog, obviously. She wagged her tail in a friendly way and started trotting up the trail, stopping every now and then to make sure I was coming along. She even led the way up to the overlook and waited patiently for a while before finally heading off toward the Lands Creek valley.

I am not opposed to hunting in general, but I think using dogs with radio collars is very unsporting. I have to wonder whether the owner follows signals from inside the park.

Despite this intrusion, I enjoyed the unique scenery of Beauregard Ridge and the overlook. It’s populated by weird, twisted trees and many skeletons of pines killed by the pine bark beetle. The rock is different than in other parts of the Park, molten in its shape with a rough, gnarly surface. On the exposed ridgecrest, the oaks and pines are scrubby and contorted. You have great views into the southern valleys.

You can see Bryson City past the ridge.

You can see Bryson City and the Tuckasegee valley past the ridge.

I could see snow on the higher distant peaks.

Snow above 5000 '.

Snow above 5000 ‘.

Could this be the actual lonesome pine?

Could this be the actual lonesome pine?

At the Lonesome Pine elevation of 4000′, fall color had nearly gone, but you could still see traces of brilliance in the red oaks.

All in all, a very pleasant outing.

The last traces of color.

The last traces of color.

 

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Comments»

1. Kent Hackendy - November 3, 2014

Gorgeous day! Please use all your powers to ensure a nice dome of high-pressure settles over the area when I arrive late next week so that I may be treated to multiple days of similar conditions! : )

Jenny - November 3, 2014

I will pray to the weather gods!

2. Al - November 3, 2014

great trail, there was a sign at the Pine at one time. Nice pictures. Maybe you take the old Noland Divide trail sometime as it meanders up Juney Whank and close by the Casada home site. It then blends into the present trail.

Jenny - November 3, 2014

I did finally take that old route of Noland Divide earlier this year. Don Casada gave me some good directions. I went down into the Juneywhank valley and then followed up past the old Casada homesite. Don told me about a route from there up to the present Noland Divide trail. It was easy to follow in terms of navigation, but the upper sections were steep and full of slippery oak leaves, and I found myself trying to slither upwards—kind of a contradiction in terms!

3. Al - November 9, 2014

I have been in Juney Whank a few times but never knew where the Casada place was. The branch has a fork not far above the falls. Is the Casada place on the left fork or the right ? Or, possibly before the branch forks ?

The old Noland Divide trail follows the left fork. Last time I followed it there was surveyor tape along the way. Why, I just wondered.

Jenny - November 10, 2014

It’s on the right fork, a fair distance above the falls. I didn’t see any surveyor tape on the old trail. If I had seen any, I would have taken it down. The footpath is obvious and there’s no need for any tape.

4. Al - November 11, 2014

Thanks, the tape is on the left fork. Along the former Noland Divide trail. You can spot the old trail at top of the falls by the rhodo patch it runs up into.

Jenny - November 12, 2014

Yes, I had no problem finding the old path from the present Noland Divide trail. It’s basically in a rhodo/laurel tunnel shortly past the stretch where the trail climbs steeply and starts to level off a bit more. I went down that and then up the right fork of Juney Whank past the Casada homesite. Above that, I followed the major ridge between the two forks—that’s where I ran into the slippery oak leaves. You hit the present Noland Divide trail just short of where it makes a sharp switchback to the left and takes you past some restricted views, with a lot of reindeer lichen on the ground.

5. Al - November 14, 2014

On a hike near the Park line from Straight Fork I had a vision of meeting dogs. Couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Once up on Hyatt Ridge I sat down inside the Park to wait for the dogs to come. Why would dogs be there ?? I did not know but I knew dogs were coming. After a few minutes 2 dogs came into sight , alarmed me, no scared me. Turned out they were friendly and they followed me all the way back to my car. They came from the reservation I surmised.


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