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Lonesome Pine on Noland Divide November 3, 2014

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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9 comments
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.

 

Bushwhack to Lonesome Pine January 6, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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6 comments
Chris climbs up the ridge.

Chris climbs up the ridge.

This was an oddball route that I thought up on one of my exercise hikes up the Noland Divide trail to the Lonesome Pine viewpoint on Beauregard Ridge. It would be a fun short bushwhack to climb up the steep rocky slope to Lonesome Pine from the bottom, I thought.

We started at the old Bryson City reservoir and didn’t cross the boundary into the national park until well into our climb. We went up Long Branch and returned via the ridge on the west side of the valley.

Our route went up the stream and down the ridge.

Our route went up the stream and down the ridge.

At first we drove past the gate to the reservoir without realizing it, but some helpful people told us where to look. The locked gate with high chain-link fence didn’t look very inviting, but we spotted a hole in the fence that looked like it saw a lot of traffic.

The scenic starting point of our hike.

The reservoir looked weedy and neglected.

The old reservoir.

The old reservoir.

We walked along an abandoned access road to the junction of Long Branch and Lands Creek, then started working our way up the creek. Rhodo and blowdowns occasionally slowed us down, but most of the time we were able to stay on an old path that crossed and re-crossed the creek. We got past the rhodo zone and into a very pleasant valley of open hardwoods that we easily strolled through. We encountered an area of rock piles that indicated past human habitation, where the rocks had been cleared from the fields.

Signs of human settlement.

Signs of human settlement.

We did not find any standing chimney or old artifacts. A friend who grew up in Bryson City says he believes there was one house at the mouth of Long Branch, one further up, and one or possibly more in the area shown above.

The valley got steeper, and in places we scrambled up over loose rock.

Scrambling up the ridge.

Scrambling up the ridge.

I had hoped to hit the area of open rock just below Lonesome Pine, but I had misjudged the overlook’s location on my map (it is not marked), and we ended up coming slightly to the east of it.

Near the top.

Near the top.

The valleys were filled with haze that looked like part fog, part wood smoke.

Hazy valleys.

Hazy valleys.

After enjoying our lunch, we worked through thick laurel and greenbrier to start down the ridge on the valley’s west side.

The ridge unfolded below us.

The ridge unfolded below us.

I expected that once we got off the windblown hump of Lonesome Pine, the going would get easier. It never really did. Short stretches of open woods were punctuated by tangles of briers and blowdowns. It was a reminder of how deceptive appearances can be in off-trail hiking. When we’d looked up at the ridgecrest from the valley on our way up, it seemed to be nothing but large widely spaced hardwoods.

Chris in one of the open stretches.

Chris in one of the open stretches.

View across the Lands Creek valley.

View across the Lands Creek valley.

My Bryson City friend told me that someone had built a road maybe thirty years ago on the ridgetop you see in the photo above, right along the park boundary. It washed out in a heavy rainstorm and caused some houses downstream of the reservoir to be flooded. If it isn’t illegal for road construction to take place in a location on the skyline adjacent to a park boundary, it should be, in my opinion.

The greenbriers never really gave up. I walked into one and got a gory-looking bloody lip that fortunately stopped bleeding before long.

The briers were lurking everywhere.

The briers were lurking everywhere.

Toward the bottom of the ridge, we ran into a lot of doghobble and rhodo.

Near the stream junction.

Near the stream junction.

All in all, it amounted to more brush and less open rock than I’d anticipated, but then again, how many people can say they’ve done this hike? That’s got to count for something!

Nifty orange fungus.

Nifty orange fungus.