Monday, August 6, 2012
One Month Later--Great Smoky Mountains Storm
One of my favorite trails, especially in the spring when the early wildflowers are blooming, Chestnut Top Trail, was the first severely damaged area I came to as I passed through and beyond Townsend. In early spring, the first half mile of this trail is covered in blood root, trillium, Solomon's seal, spring beauty and many other varieties of the tiny blessings that wait for the observant hiker or photographer.
Another of my favorite trails is affected by the damage too, and that is the Scott Mountain Trail that runs along the ridge line down from the Cade's Cove area back toward Townsend. Somewhere on that trail was one of the largest trees I have ever seen in these mountains. I believe it is a tulip poplar, but I could be mistaken about that. Trees are not my forte when it comes to identification of the flora of my mountains. However, this tree is one that makes you stand at its base in awe of its girth and the length of its life standing on that slope.
The good news is that once I crested the top of Laurel Creek Road and began to drop down into the Cade's Cove area, I saw very few newly fallen trees. This part of the park seems to be largely unscathed. I saw no damage to the structures at the picnic area or the store and amphitheater at the campground. I did not go around the loop road or through the campground but all seemed to be very normal there. By the way, there was no damage to the ice cream machine in the shop there at the campground. I had to make sure that it was unaffected, and I am pleased to report that the ice cream is still creamy and piled high atop those cones!
Let me just say that kudos need to go out to all those workers who helped clear the roads through the park in those first few days. I cannot imagine how many trees must have littered and blocked both Laurel Creek Road and Little River Road. I understand that many nearby private contractors and just everyday folks came out bearing construction vehicles and chainsaws to help clear the debris and restore access to what remains as one of the most spectacular places in America. It remains impressive in every way, but now, in addition to its beauty, there is staggering evidence of the power of nature.