Le Conte, GSMNP   James Smith
  Mar 08, 2005 14:58 PST 

I did a mile high vertical climb of Le Conte over the weekend. Something
I've wanted to do for a while and combined the necessary trails to do

At any rate, I came down the peak via the Bullhead Trail--I'd never
hiked it, so it was all new territory for me. At one point the trail
goes through what had been a grove of Table Mountain Pines. They were,
by far, the dominant tree atop this ridge at, I'd say, 3800 feet or so
(maybe lower). They were all dead. Mortality seemed to be 100%, as I
could not find a single living pine.

Any idea what killed them all?
RE: Table Mountain Pines.   Will Blozan
  Mar 08, 2005 18:26 PST 

Southern pine beetle in 1997-9.
Re: Table Mountain Pines.    MICHAEL DAVIE
   Mar 09, 2005 15:17 PST 
Hey there James-
About the southern pine beetle, it's a native insect
that has periodic outbreaks throughout the southeast (well, there are a few
other versions throughout N.A., and I'm sure elsewhere), and there was a
real humdinger of an outbreak that started in '99, I think, after drought that
really began in earnest in '98. Every year there are scattered stands of beetle 
kill, or outbreaks in particular areas, but that last outbreak was widespread 
and really devastating. It usually attacks the "yellow" pines, but white
pines were very commonly attacked then, and even some spruce. I
know Will and I both got very tired of removing dead pines for a
couple of years there. It was ridiculous. East Tennessee was especially hard
hit. I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of acres there, stands across whole
ridges, ridge after ridge along mountains, with pretty much every tree dead.
Linville Gorge was hammered by the beetles, then there were huge fires in
fall of 2000 that went through most of the gorge.