Searching for Old Growth Forest on Laurel KnobThis hike started with a search on the Internet. I wasn't hunting specifically for this hike, but for information on old growth trees in western North Carolina. I stumbled upon a report by ENTS member Josh Kelly that was accompanied with photographs of some very impressive trees. Further, the details in the article indicated that this forest was located near some trails I'd hiked before. Mr. Kelly was kind enough to provide me with some good information regarding the exact location of some of these groves, so I sent the details on to my hiking friend Andy Kunkle and we made plans to take a look.
This forest is located in an historically significant spot. The Curtis Creek area of western North Carolina is the very first section of our nation's National Forest system. Today, this particular bit of that system
Quickly, we found that the slopes of the drainage were extremely steep and in many cases our best bet was to use the stream itself as our main access. This was easy enough, but eventually we came to some cliffs and found that we had to enter the forest and climb above these to continue higher up the sides of Laurel Knob. This also was not a huge problem, save for the fact that we began to encounter large patches of stinging nettles and brambles which zapped our calves. In quick order, the thorns had torn at the exposed flesh of my calves and my legs were a bloody mess. Oh, well, just part of off-trail hiking.
We came to some of the cascades that Josh told us to look for, and as we
I was very impressed with this forest. Most of the big trees here are Yellow (or Tulip) poplars. These are not the biggest poplars I've ever seen--the Great Smoky Mountains and the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest hold those positions. However, to have a forest like this so close to home was eye-opening. The higher we climbed up the slopes, the more big trees we found. Every time I figured we'd seen the best that the forest had to offer, the more extensive the grove seemed to be. We ended up spending about six hours exploring this old growth forest, so we'll return at the next opportunity to see more of it. We examined our topo map and figured how best to enter the grove next time so that we'll be able to explore the drainage from higher up the mountain and work our way down.
I am looking forward to that trip.
WaterWhen my pals and I go hiking, one of the most satisfying things is to discover a waterfall that's not listed in any literature or one that isn't marked on any maps that we use. So it was when Andy Kunkle and I ventured into the unnamed drainage near Curtis Creek Recreation Area in the Pisgah National Forest. We had been told that there was a waterfall, but we didn't know exactly what to expect.
We were both pleased to find a very extensive series of cascades that tumble down the very steep slopes of Laurel Knob. Laurel Knob itself is a moderately high mountain that stands on the verge of the Black Mountains, the highest range in the eastern United States of America. Just north of Laurel Knob one can find some of the finest grandstands here in South. So it shouldn't be a surprise that we stumbled upon a largely unknown waterfall. This area is perfect--geologically and topographically--for such discoveries.
Here then, are a couple of videos (plus some more photos) that I shot while hiking up the unnamed tributary in our search for forest giants, and finding the pleasing sights and sounds of falling water: