Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Panthertown Shelter

We had decided to spend the night at the A-frame shelter in Panthertown. It's a remnant from the Valley's days as a doomed place. Once upon a time it was slated to have been turned into a real estate development. Up to and including the damming of the Tuckaseegee River for a large lake, around which houses would have been built. Some of Panthertown's waterfalls would have been buried underwater, while others would have become the private property of the rich elite.

Fortunately, through an accident of failing finance for the people putting that venture together, the Valley first ended up in the hands of the rapacious Duke Power Company who rammed a transmission line down the center of the Valley and then gave all but the right of way to the Nature Conservancy who then handed the remaining 6,000 acres over to Nantahala National Forest. Duke Power got lots of favorable publicity out of the stunt, and the public got what was to have been a wilderness area but which is now two forests bisected by a hideous transmission line.

Still and all, it's better this way than being in the hands of a few private individuals. If you have the time and the will you can hike all around Panthertown and take in the views.

The shelter as we arrived. I'm not sure how old the shelter is, but I've heard that it's been there since the 1960s when the Valley was being planted in white pines as a Christmas tree farm. It has been repaired and renovated many times since.

Sign and good luck charm above the threshold. The cutting of live vegetation for campfires in the Valley is a problem.

Our stuff in the shelter. Later, we ended up pitching our tents in the shelter when blowing snow began to cover the floor (and our stuff).

The shelter as it looked as we were preparing to leave, after four inches of fresh snow had fallen after our arrival.


MarkGelbart said...

Powerline right of ways greatly improve wildlife habitat and plant diversity.

Many rare grassland plants that used to be common when natural and manmade fires were regularly set now exist solely in these powerline right of ways.

They are forest edge habitats and excellent berry-picking localities.

Most wilderness areas would support more wildlife habitat, if there were more powerline right of ways.

James Robert Smith said...

Panthertown Valley was in a fluke situation. It was over 6,000 acres of undeveloped land in a high elevation valley full of rare habitats (specifically high altitude bogs). It had been cut over and burned in the past but was free of paved roads and buildings due to an accident of finance (owners went belly up). The Nature Conservancy was working to buy the land and have it protected as a National Wilderness Area so that it could recover naturally and revert as close to its previous state as possible. But before they could close the deal, Duke Power stepped in with their bottomless pockets, bought the land, rammed through the powerline, and then gave the acreage on either side of the right of way to the Nature Conservancy for future tax breaks. This preserved the land as essentially urban park habitat, but the dream of wilderness designation was gone. The powerline bisects the Valley almost perfectly. It's quite an eyesore. As for wildlife habitat, Panthertown Valley is one of the worst places for wildlife that I have ever hiked. I never see anything there. Not even birds. I have heard coyotes singing in the evenings, but that's about it. I've never even seen deer, which is really weird. Supposedly a lot of the streams are native trout habitat, but I've never seen any fish in any of the streams or pools where I've stopped to look. Fish are obviously there (I've spoken to people who have successfully fished there), but damned if I've seen any.

There are quite enough powerline rights of way throughout the USA without having to see another one wreck what was to have been a wilderness area.

When I first hiked Panthertown it was rarely used and fairly wild. These days it's packed on weekends and holidays with huge crowds of people. It's easily accessible now since it doesn't have wilderness designation and both mountain biking and horseback riding are popular there. No way to experience any solitude or anything approaching wilderness in the Valley these days. All because of Duke Power and their powerline right of way. At least as wilderness there wouldn't be mountain bikes, and horseback access would have been limited, at best, or completely banned.