Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bob Stratton Bald Turks Cap Lily Hike 2014

Turks Cap Lily growing on my hike up from Wolf Laurel

Bob Stratton Bald Lily Hike 2014
Nantahala National Forest, NC

Dana Koogler solo

Hike distance 5.4 miles round trip*

Friday July 25, 2014

Pictures are here beginning with frame 112: 
Stratton Bald Pix

Here is a link to Stratton Bald's location on 
Tom Dunigan's Tennessee Landforms. 
Stratton Bald Map 

  Stratton Bald was my second hike of the day on Friday.   Part one of the day was the Starr Mountain Frustration Hike I wrote about in the previous blog entry.  My plan for the day over all
had been to make the drive down count. I would cram a lot into the day.  I hunted wildflowers on Starr Mountain unsuccessfully.. but I hunted 'em just the same.   My next part of the day would be to drop down off Starr Mountain and drive the 7.7 miles to Tellico Plains and start up the Skyway
toward Wolf Laurel.   I was feeling dejected over not finding anything good on Starr Mountain.
I was considering just going home.  I fought the urge to quit and tried to put it behind me.
I decided to head toward Tellico Plains and if I did not feel any better by the time I got there.. 
I'd drown my sorrows in icecream or chocolate and go home!   

      I did start to feel better. The drive was pretty.  Thoughts of all those beautiful wildflowers along the Cherohala Skyway began to fill my head.  My nosiness was helping motivate me to go. 
Being like Gladys Kravitz can come in handy!  I found that the sight of other people around helped me cheer up too.   I passed lots of folks out enjoying a pretty day on motorcycles and in other jeeps!  The Tellico River was gorgeous and rolling right along.   I began to see pretty wildflowers
along the roadside.   I saw rose pinks along the Skyway at the lower elevations.   The views from the overlooks were pretty and clear today.   I had a few misgivings because 1. I had never hiked up to Stratton Bald this late in the month of July.  2. I had never hiked up there this late in the day.
I began seeing turks cap lilies along the slopes by the road. I saw yellow fringed orchids as well!
I saw great clumps of crimson bee balm.  I saw greenheaded cone flowers. Black eyed susans.
My mood was improving by the minute.    

     I turned onto the road that leads down off the Skyway and winds around in the direction of Wolf Laurel.  I did not go last Summer so its easy to forget how very very long and isolated a trip it can be!  I passed one car on the way in.   I passed the lane leading up to the Swann Cabin and saw a gaggle of people and cars there.  I did not allow myself the usual time to goof off and climb down the mountain into the rhodo to visit Cold Spring Branch Falls upper and lower today.
I was going to have to haul the mail in order to have plenty of time to enjoy up top on the bald.

     I may as well admit now that  I madea mistake on the last trip report I wrote on Bob Stratton Bald via Wolf Laurel. I list the mileage as 3.2.  I was not sure the day I hiked it what the mileage was?
I had a map with me, but I never consulted it.  I knew the way. I knew it wasn't getting dark until 8:30 p.m. or 9 o'clock pm.   I'd be fine.   I guessed about 3 miles each way.   I was actually pretty close.  I got on the trail at 3:15. I was back to the vehicle at 6:15!   I consulted the listed mileage on the old trip report and saw it was put down as 3.2 miles round trip.  I doubted myself at once!
Where did I come up with THAT figure?  I tried looking it up online without finding anything reliable.  I used Tim Homan's book and figured it up from that.  He lists the Stratton Bald trail as 7.8 miles with the Wolf Laurel spur intersecting it at mile 5.3.  
(7.8 -5.3=2.5 miles one way)  Wolf Laurel spur trail from the parking lot is 0.2 miles (2.5+0.2=2.7 miles one way)  (2.7 x 2=5.4 miles round trip)  Five point four miles it is!  I am taking the trouble to  list my math and rationale here so I will know if I ever read this TR again WHY and HOW I arrived at this figure!  Here is a link to Tim Homan's hiking guide in case you need a copy.
Hiking Trails of the Joyce Kilmer--Slickrock & Citico Creek Wildernesses

        I like the hike up from Wolf Laurel.  It is so pretty the entire way. It is not too hard.
It has climbs followed by flatter spots.  Once you get to the intersection with Haoe Lead trail
which heads out toward Naked Ground the climbing is pretty much over.  It is mainly a nice ridge walk past that.   I have written in the past about how scary the briars can be along this path.
I would fret over snakes since I could not see my feet for part of the hike.  I had made up my mind after hiking out to The Hangover that it was pointless and I was never going to fuss about it again.
I meant it, but I did not have to this trip! Someone had cut back nearly all the briars and weeds!
It was the easiest hike out I've ever done!  I enjoyed seeing all the lush green of the forest. I  like seeing the fins of rock jut out along the ridge. I began seeing turks cap lilies once past the trail intersection.   Waiting later had the unexpected benefit of there being more lilies in bloom along the trail itself! 
Turks cap lilies in peak bloom along the Stratton Bald Trail. 


One of the interesting fins of rock thrust up along the sides of the trail.

Stratton Bald trail is still wild and wooly, but tamed down by far. No significant briars today!
Thank you! to whomever cut them back and performed the trail maintenance!

The transition zone between the two forest types. The line is abrupt.  Going from Northern hardwood to
boreal in a flash!  I'm entering the much smaller balsam zone.   There are TWO balds up here. The map I have says Stratton is the one with the campsite in the boreal forest. The second is Bob's Bald out on the grassy meadow. I'm not sure. I always thought it was the other way around.   It is a small matter. I always visit both anyhow.

 I'm entering the clear now and this is my first glimpse of the meadow. I first thought I'd waited way too long to  see any lilies out in the clearing.  The phlox has really taken over this late in the season, but a bit further out the lilies are still there!  They had diminished. I won't wait this late in the year again.  They had aged to
a yellow shade on some. Some had dried up. Some were brown around the edges.  It still had its benefits.
You will see!

          I had been the only vehicle parked at Wolf Laurel.  I had the entire place to myself up here today as far as I could tell.  I never saw or heard a soul.   I wandered around the bald for probably half hour or more.
I turned left just past this opening and headed down toward the Swann cabin.   I found the spring I'd been hunting.  The water was flowing strongly and ran down the hill in a good stream.  Now that I know where the water source is I can plan a backpack trip here. I hate having to camp where it is dry.

 Spring #1 on the bald. It is just below it toward the Swan Cabin.  There is a loop path that comes down
to this from another area just a little further out.  It all ends up the same place.

      I wandered through the fields of phlox. I was treated to Mostly sunny conditions up here today.
Still... its the high mountains of Western North Carolina. Changeable is a good word and change it did!
I did not get rained on today! Nary a drop!  I was thrilled about that.  I did see the mood change from bright and sunny to gray and back to sunny several times! Another thing I'm learning about this area.
It makes its own weather so don't fret about it.  Briers? Accept 'em.  Changing weather? LEARN to LOVE IT!     I enjoyed the hum of bees everywhere. Black butterflies danced and flitted drinking nectar from the phlox all over the mountain side.   I was feeling so much better.  Coming here in the month of July to see the flowers is a sure bet! It more than offset my down turn on Starr mountain!

Moods of the Mountain:
  Top: You can see the sky is gray with a cloud creeping across the mountain.
Bottom: Five minutes later the sun is shining brightly.  No kidding!

Top: Phlox and still plenty of turks cap lilies!
Bottom: the best view of the far mountains from this bald i've ever seen in my trips here

  I wandered across the bald checking out all the flowers.  I headed toward the Fodderstack side where the trail comes up. I knew there was another spring over there and part of me wanted to go look for it.
Another part was just real tired and a little concerned about conserving time.  I decided rather than hunt it up today seeing as how I did not know how far down that trail the water source would be I would come UP that trail on any future trips and find it  then.  I turned and began hiking back up.   I knew this side of the bald had yielded some different wildflowers on the last trip.  I paid close attention to the ground and it was most fortunate!  I started off seeing one tiny club spur orchid.   I was thrilled.  I counted forty of them and then I quit counting.  I realized there were everywhere around my feet. 

Club spur orchid cluster.  They are tiny. Only a few inches tall.   Their binomial is Platanthera clavellata.

My disappointment at the first trip was more than offset by my trip up the Skyway and to Stratton Bald.
I had found three types of native orchids and as I am wont to do periodically... I go from famine to feast!
I hit the orchid jackpot today! I thanked the Lord for the good fortune and for the improved spirits.
I was tired. I walked up to the campsite and sat down on a log to rest and have something to drink.
I ate a small snack for some energy for the return trip.  I took some more photos and wandered a little more.  I kept seeing pretty things. Crimson bee balm.  Black eyed susans.  Whorled loosestrife with its
spins of yellow blooms centered with red!  Neon orange dodder vines looking like something out of
Little Shop of Horrors crawled across all the plants in one area. Strangling them as it went.  They call it
The Love Vine. It is a parasite and loves things to death!

Top: Crimson Bee Balm and lilies being swarmed by Dodder Vine.
Bottom: Campsite and rest break spot on the bald

   I had gotten stung by a yellow wasp on my left leg several days prior.  It was still hot and red, swollen and itching like a mad bastard.   I noticed it had a deep purple bruise in the center of the red.  I knew dodder vine to be a cure for nettle stings.  I crushed up some of the dodder vine strands into a poultice in my hand and rubbed it on that nasty sting.    The itching went away immediately.  That night it was less red.
The next day that purple spot had turned into a tiny scab and fallen off.  By the following evening my leg was completely healed!  I had just proven the quote below.
" A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."~~Ralph Waldo Emerson

       I was weary and had the hike back to the vehicle yet.  I also faced the long drive home.
I said my good-byes to this special spot on the planet and began my hike back.  I had the blessing of a nice breeze and the sun on my back most of the way out.   I had glimpses of the mountains on my way out.   The hike back was easy being mostly downhill or level.   The scenery marvelous the entire way.   The trail was in good condition.  I had mentioned I thought I had the whole place to myself?  On the hike in I ate lots of spider webs.  I never saw any other boot prints but the ones I was making.   On the hike out I came to a big patch of mud with a large mans boot print in it.
It was heading out the same way I was going!  I stopped and did a double take. I had not reached the intersection with Haoe Lead.  Where did he come from? I wasn't making this up.  It was real.
The only thing I could figure was that the individual had come across the bald and down while I was at the spring.  Either that or they came up from Naked Ground. I never saw another boot print though.  It was the only one.  I was still the only vehicle parked when I got back down to the parking area.   It was odd and a mystery, but that is in keeping with this wilderness.

   I put my gear up at the jeep.   I got a fresh cold drink. I had a snack of cantaloupe.
I wiped off some of the sweat.   I put some tunes on the iPod.  I headed back home slowly and in a much better mood.  I felt satisfied and mellow.  I encountered a couple vehicles on the way out.
I was still impressed at what a long way Wolf Laurel is from all else!   Long road honey. Long road!    It has a lot of kiss your butt turns on it.  I got almost to the Skyway and hit one of those 
washboard spots that had my jeep chatter all the way across. Boys Howdy! I was glad that happened DOWN HERE......... and NOT UP THERE!  I'd have come off the road!

I laughed hard and drove home. 


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