Lonesome Pine on Noland Divide November 3, 2014Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: bear dog, Beauregard Ridge, hunting with radio collar, Lonesome Pine, Noland Divide
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.
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.
I could see snow on the higher distant peaks.
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.