17, 2004 08:46 PDT
A couple of weeks ago I took a hike along the middle and upper
the Baxter Creek Trail, and last weekend I returned with Michael
explore another section of the upper part of the watershed.
through the spectacular rich cove forest where several eastern
records grow, a switch-back in the trail takes the path up to
ridge between Baxter Creek and Bettis Creek. The dry conditions
understory of the Bettis Creek side of the ridge contrast
sharply with the
open cove forest of the first section of trail. Red maples and
abundance of ancient black gums form the canopy of the trail.
heavy-limbed, chunky-barked individuals of the latter species
brilliant rosy foliage on the second trip through the area. The
continues ascending the ridge and eventually crosses over the
open hemlock forests on the Baxter Creek side. Some of the
this section are clearly ancient and the potential state
maple that Will Blozan recently posted photographs of grows
within site of
this section of trail. On the way Sterling Ridge, the trail
some small coves that eventually drain into Baxter Creek and
a potential state champion black birch that Will first measured
Once the trail reaches sterling ridge, which it follows to the
on top of Mount Sterling, red spruce quickly gains dominance in
with a yellow birch subcanopy, and tangles of mixed rosebay and
rhododendrons flank the trail.
The trail provides easy access to the east fork of the west fork
Creek. Leaving the at around 4000', we dropped into a hemlock
birch forest with rhododendron understory that receives little
from the low ridges that define the drainage. Proceeding down
drainage, the ridges relief increases and rhododendron gives way
intermediate fern on the forest floor. Below where two coves
around 3400', the forest becomes richer and reminiscent of the
farther down stream. Tuliptree, buckeye and sugar maple
of the canopy in the area although hemlock and red maple still
the drier adjacent slope. Ages in this section appear comparable
along the rich section of the trail, and the rich forest does
as far away from the east side of the stream. Buckeyes
approximately 130', but the tuliptrees did not approach the
achieve at lower elevations.
We also checked out a small tributary of lower Big Creek on the
of Buck Ridge. The area had high potential since it shares the
of the rest of the area and appeared to narrow for farming;
roadbed parallels the stream and we quickly encountered metal
debris. The forest was generally young and spindly.
Species Height Cbh
Ash, White 126.4' 14'9"
Blueberry 12.8' 9"
Dogwood 43.4' 1'9"
Dogwood 44.9' 1'7.5"
Hickory, Bitter 146.2' 8'8"
Mag, Fraser 114.5' 6'8"
Maple, Mtn 32.1' 2'7"
Maple, Mtn 42.2' 1'10"
Maple, Sugar 139.9' 10'3"
Rhodo, Cataw 18.1' 1'3"
Rhodo, Cataw 24.5' 1'3"
The large white ash, which grows at around 4000' on the main
steam of the
creek, has the worn bark and three massive limbs for a crown of
tree. The fraser magnolia should be a new state height record.
mountain maples are within site of the trail and could qualify
co-champions, but the larger diameter one was damaged by recent
The sugar maple probably has another top a few feet higher. The
rhododendron, which leans across the trail, is a new height
potential national co-champion.