Goldie Deaden (Joyce Kilmer Wilderness)   Jess Riddle
  Jul 25, 2004 18:26 PDT 

The rather ambiguous label on topo maps Goldie Deaden appears to refer to
an area of ridgetop at approximately 4000' elevation along the Stratton
Bald Trail on the southeast side of the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness in western
North Carolina. That section of ridge rises approximately 1000' above
Santeetlah Creek to the south and a few hundred feet more above Little
Santeetlah Creek to the north, so the Goldie Deaden area is quite exposed.
However, the very broad, gently inclined ridge top supports an unusually
fertile forest for the topographic position with an exceptional
concentration of large northern red oaks. Northern red oaks, frequently
around 10' cbh, constitute the vast majority of the basal area and form
much of the 70 to 110' high canopy. While one swollen northern red oak
reaches 17'5" cbh and another more normally proportioned individual
reaches 14'1" cbh, with the exception of a couple of whites oaks a pignut
hickory and possibly one black-northern red hybrid, no trees of other
species exceed even 6' cbh in the area, furthering the visual dominance of
the stand by northern red oak. Slender silverbells make up the next
largest proportion of the canopy followed by small numbers of red maples
and widely scattered pignut hickories, white oaks, black locusts, and
black oaks. Black birch is common under the main canopy along with
patches of small hemlocks and scattered striped maples. Below the trees,
shrubs are sparse and over 20 species of herbaceous plants form a
relatively thick ground layer; New York fern, hay-scented fern, solomon's
seal, whorled horse balm, solomon's plume, and a species of Solidago are
among the most common species. In the past, American chestnut would also
have been an important component of the forest as evidenced by the
frequent sprouts and moderate quantity of debris.

The stand grows along the edge of a tract of a few thousand acres of uncut
forest sheltered in Joyce Kilmer Wilderness. While some of the coves
draining the area support the even larger northern red oaks I wrote about
in a post a few weeks ago, adjacent section of the ridge support much
drier, smaller statured, forest with a different mix of dominant oaks.
The ridge in the latter areas is substantially narrower with much
shallower bedrock. The deep soils likely contribute to the rapid growth
of the oaks in the stand; visual examination in the field of cores taken
as part of an ongoing dendrochronology project in the area suggest most of
the large red oaks in the area are only about 125-150 years old.
Conversely, one trail cut black locust showed unusually slow growth; the
roughly 20" diameter log showed approximately 146 rings 15' above the
base, an unusually great age for the species in the southern Appalachians.
Some equally exposed ridges in the Smokies support equally massive
northern red oaks and some high elevation coves may approach the
concentration of large red oaks, but this area was particularly striking
to me for the combination of exposure and grouping of large trees, which I
have not seen equaled.

Jess Riddle