Monday, November 17, 2008

Citico Creek Wilderness

Although I tend to be a loner when I go hiking, some of my favorite walking trips have been with friends. In August of 2006 our friends Amy and Jack joined us at Indian Boundary Recreation Area in Tennessee to go searching for waterfalls.

The weather was generally misty and rainy and overcast, which sucks for peak-bagging, but is great for viewing waterfalls. So I ended up driving and hiking to some premiere waterfalls, and avoiding the high country.

Peak bagging is mainly a high ceiling kind of thing when it comes to cloud cover. You can generally view waterfalls just fine, no matter what the weather. And waterfalls photograph better when its overcast.

The prettiest waterfall on this trip was the Falls of Fall Creek, located in the Citico Wilderness Area and accessible only after a long and very steep hike. Despite the fact that we got soaking wet, the hike down was well worth the effort, as this turned out to be yet another particularly striking waterfall. Many of the best waterfalls are in isolated spots, which serves to add to the atmosphere.

The area around the Falls of Fall Creek is covered in virgin timber. The reason for this is that before the timber company could harvest the trees, a wildfire swept through the cut areas around the virgin stands, consuming the railroad ties that had been left there for the narrow gauge rails needed to bring the lumber out. Before the timber company could bring in more ties, the contract ran out on this plot of public land, thus saving these amazing trees, which had never been cut.

Fast forward to modern times, and the introduced insect pest we know as Hemlock wooly adelgid accomplished what a timber harvesting company could not. When we hiked in, the virgin hemlock trees were weakening from the ravages of this Asian pest, but were still standing. From what I've been told by online friends who hike this area, in the two years since, all of the hemlock trees there have now died. It's all nothing but dead timber, as far as the hemlocks are concerned.

In the Citico Wilderness. Beauty unmolested by Mankind's industry.

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