Hickory Nut Gorge   James Smith
  Feb 05, 2007 15:48 PST 

Yesterday, I took a long hike up a mountain peak I've wanted to bag for
years. In the past, I was unsure about private property and didn't want
to get arrested trespassing, so I avoided trying to hike to the top of
Rumbling Bald Mountain. With the recent news that it will now be a part
of the new Hickory Nut Gorge State Park, I planned a hike there with a
couple of friends. One of my companions called ahead and was told that
as long as we didn't hunt, camp, build any fires, or try to drive a
vehicle, we were welcome to use the old jeep trail that follows the
ridgeline from near the shore of Lake Lure on Boys Camp Road.

It was a relatively long day-hike (about 8 miles round trip) with total
elevation gain (between climbing and reclimbing from gaps) of about
3,600 feet. You start at about 1,000 feet and end up at just over 3,800
feet on the top of Shumont Mountain.

I was happy to see so many very healthy and vigorous hemlocks. Almost
ever hemlock we saw looked to be in the peak of health. Very green. Lots
of vigorous growth. Full compliment of needles. There are not very many
large hemlocks, since this forest was cut down in relatively recent
history. But there were some grizzled old hemlocks to be seen here and
there along the ridgelines and down in a few coves near cliff faces.

However, at one point I stopped to examine an exceptionally healthy
looking hemlock, and was horrified to see that it was TOTALLY INFESTED
with adelgids. The underside of each branch was just covered in the
white fluff that marks those little whores. So I guess this area is just
now in the early stages of the infestation.

Let's hope the fungal treatment mentioned earlier can mean our hemlocks
might have a decent future.

PS: I also saw a lot of nice Table Mountain Pines around Eagle Rocks
just below Shumont Mountain. First healthy stands of that tree that I've
seen in a while.
RE: Hickory Nut Gorge   Joshua Kelly
  Feb 05, 2007 16:04 PST 


I had a good time scampering around on Rumbling Bald and Shumont Mountain a
couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I didn't get the workout you did and
found an access from up top. I remember seeing lots of Carolina hemlock on
Shumont Mountain - glad to hear they're still in good shape. I always think
it's cool to see a couple of Southern Appalachian endemics like Table
Mountain pine and Carolina hemlock growing together.

RE: Hickory Nut Gorge   Will Blozan
  Feb 05, 2007 16:22 PST 


The treatment site I mentioned in the Southern Appalachian Hemlock update
was on the southwest side of Rumbling Bald Mtn. It was seriously infested
and the eastern hemlocks were in decline. Carolina hemlock seems to retain
vigor and color longer than eastern hemlock with respect to HWA, but then
suffers a massive dieback that doesn't occur in eastern hemlock.

The Nature Conservancy owns a Carolina hemlock bluff community on Rumbling
Bald Mtn, but has no plans that I know of to treat the trees. For now,
"monitoring" is the answer I get. Monitoring HWA does not save hemlocks!