Stepping off of the Bartram Trail for a day, Brent Martin led a group of hikers out for The Forest That Was: A Bartram Walk Through Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
While William Bartram didn’t quite make it out this far west, based on what we know, the trees standing in this old growth forest in Western North Carolina, are trees that stood during Bartram’s time in the area. What Bartram’s Travels notes is that he made it as far as the Nantahala River gorge, near where the Beechertown trailhead is, before turning around based on a warning from the Cherokee Chief, Attakullakulla.
Even if a little overcast, the day of the hike was lovely, calm, and cool. The group of hikers, many of whom join us regularly for our Walking With Bartram section hikes, met at the Cowee School first, then drove over to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
After a brief lunch and some background information and stories from Brent, we set off on the short loop to see the magnificent trees. It didn’t take long to find our first giants in this forest.
The park has a few loops that are relatively easy to moderate for hiking, but well worth the effort. This is a special place to visit and the entire group was in awe among these giants.
A full list of tree species follows below, but Tulip Poplars are certainly the dominant species in this forest. There are some signs that they are beginning to reach the end of their long life-spans, but many are still standing.
Tree-spotting in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest:
- Tulip Tree – the dominant and largest hardwood
- Cucumber Tree – enormous specimens
- Silverbell – dominant in mid-story, some enormous for such a normally small tree
- Yellow Birch – abundant
- Sweet Birch – occasional
- American Beech – abundant, a few large ones
- Eastern Hemlock – what’s left are a few small ones apparently treated
- Mockernut Hickory – could have been Bitternut
- Sugar Maple
- Striped Maple
- Red Maple
- Fraser Magnolia
- Umbrella Magnolia
- Dogwood – I saw one (Cornus florida) but I know alternate leaf dogwood is there as well
- Sycamore – down on the creek opposite side of where we were hiking up from the parking area
- Lots of spicebush, rosebay rhododendron, and blooming hepatica. Yellow violet of some sort too.
- We also saw the Cherry Tree and were undecided on whether it was a Black Cherry or a Fire Cherry. We definitely saw a fire cherry, and we also saw a dead white pine!
- Early Spring Flowers – We saw Halberd-leaved Violet, Spring Beauties, and Round-leaved Violet.
We are looking forward to more of these special hiking events. If you have any ideas or thoughts on where we could go on future outtings, please let us know by leaving a comment here or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the photos from our walk among these giants of Western North Carolina.