Friday evening when I came home from work I found an invite from
Will Blozan in my inbox inviting me to visit the Big Creek area of
the Great Smokies on the following day. I quickly accepted. Saturday
we met at 7:30 am at the Huddle House in Biltmore for a quick
breakfast before we set off. After about an hour drive we arrived at
the parking lot near the Baxter Creek and Big Creek trailheads and
started our journey.
Will's objectives were to re-measure some old friends and
possibly find some new ones while introducing them to me. The trip
was quite an experience, as any trip with Will usually is. The Ash
King was awesome at more than 160 feet tall. The 1st grove we
visited had many trees in the 140s and 150s. Sycamore and Tuliptree
dominated, though the Ash King ruled. Will intensely measured Black
Birch. I had a hard time prying my eyes off the tulips and sycamores
to notice the smaller birches.
At the end of studying this cove Will wanted to check out another
nearby cove and stated that we could take a longer easier way to it
by going around the ridge that separated the two coves OR we could
climb the ridge that separated them, which was shorter. We opted for
that. After only a short climb up the ridge I questioned that logic.
It was steep and in places I was on hands and knees. Under the
leaves was slatelike rock which easily slid away underfoot, not to
mention going under and around thick rhododendron. Will, who I think
must have been a mountain goat in his past life easily got ahead of
me and would stop occaisonally to let me catch up. By the time we
reached the top I was beat. But it was rewarding, to say the least.
How high the ridge was I can only guess. Probably 500 to 700 feet.
When we first started off I thought we would never get above the Ash
Hiking along the ridgetop still going slowly uphill on a bear
trail we went under some magnificent Table Mountain pines. The
tallest I have seen. Following Will I did not have a chance to
measure them and my camera was still in my backpack. I never knew
Table Mountain Pine could get so tall. There also was some Pitch
Pine up there also. The view across Big Creek to the mountains
opposite of us was a great view. There is a satisfaction of going
places few people visit.
Before going down to the other side Will stepped down a little
ways to explore another little cove while I shed some of my clothes
and pulled my digicam from my backpack. Joining Will I checked out
some tall tulips in that small upper cove.
Hiking downward now ( ahhhh!! ) a nice cove came into view with a
huge Bitternut hickory coming into view. Will quickly measured it.
Many nice trees were here and I spied some nice tuliptrees and a
massive Chestnut Oak. At 132.7 feet Will exclaimed it was not far
from the record. 8 feet if I remember correctly.
It was so impressive walking through a grove of trees that ran
between 140-160 feet tall. This is taller than the average canopy
height of Congaree NP.. In canopy height the Smokies rule the
We came out of the cove back on the trail and headed back to the
car, stopping to admire the beauty of Big Creek while crossing the
bridge. The water looked " bluer " than most rivers I see here in
WNC. More of a clear greenish-blue. It reminded me some of the
blue-green creeks that mom photographed in Glacier/Waterton NP but
Big Creek still was not as blue as those western creeks. I read
somewhere that dissolved minerals ( Calcium Carbonate, Limestone )
aid in the color. Ed?
Before leaving we went to check out a big Red Oak. Will had past
measured to 14' cbh. An impressive tree it was.
Sunday, Joy and I had planned a hiking outing but had not decided
where. We had invited a very close friend and his family to come
along but he backed out. Remembering the preceeding day while
talking to Will about how Joy would love Big Creek I mentioned to
Joy about returning there. She said yes, and she wanted to check out
After arriving we got on the Big Creek trail and hiked up passing
the Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls. Joy loved them. The
Midnight Hole is aptly named. Deep green-blue water. Practically
liquid ice! I also measured two big Tuliptrees nearby on the
right side of the trail to just over 150 feet tall! Enjoying
being with Joy and her love for the river I measured few trees. We
enjoyed being together in such a beautiful environment. GSMNP is
After passing over a bridge crossing over Big Creek I noticed a
huge White Pine towering over the other hardwoods on the opposite
slope. I wondered if Will had measured it. It can be accessed taking
a right off-trail just before reaching the bridge.
We hiked back out the way we came. Come Monday I was a little
sore from my " Smoky Mountain Weekend " but very satisfied.
Thanks Will for introducing me to Big Creek. Next time there I
intend to explore Baxter. I am sure he has a great report coming on
this. He undoubtedly knows the name of the coves we visited and
measured many more trees.
Chestnut Oak 9' 9 1/2"
12' 4 1/2" !
Red Maple 13' 6" !
10' 3" !
152.0' ! ( Broken Top )
The wildflowers were starting to bloom with violets and bloodroot
being the most common. Trillium ( especially Toad Trillium ) was up
but not yet in bloom.
Tuliptree 11' 5" girth