Some days the trail is good with few roots and rocks in the tread and I go into auto-pilot hiking allowing my mind to wonder. Today was one of those days and I really got to absorb the damp forest. The streams were running full after the recent rains and the two waterfalls we passed were quite spectacular. We had every level of precipitation from a condition I would call “damp” where the whole forest sems to be dripping, through cloudlike mists,drizzles, light rain to heavy rain. Since I didn’t have to concentrate on hiking, I could open my senses of touch, smell, hearing, and sight to experience the forest. There were the sounds of birdsongs, the sounds of the numerous swollen streams we hiked along on good sidehill trail. The visual included the mist-shrouded glades of rhododendron and mountain laurel under pine and hemlock trees. When I lifted my eyes I saw the still naked skeletons of the large hardwood trees silhouetted against the steel-grey sky.
Stumpknocker, at mile 418.4:
About 5 minutes after I started climbing up Pond Flats, I heard a huge branch that was about 100 feet to my left break off and fall.
The trees are saturated and the dead trees that are still standing are more dangerous than normal.
A minute later, I heard a big crack right next to me and backtracked real quick. An old dead pine tree that was only about 10 inches in diameter, started to fall across the trail. I looked up just as it got hung up on another tree. It stayed there with none of it’s branches falling. It looks like it will be leaning on that live tree for quite some time.
I was still careful when I walked under it though.
The shelters and camping sites are spread out in the Shenies so I had to hoof it to get a decent day before nightfall. I joined Batman and Robins Nest at Pinefield Shelter and it wasn’t too long before we were joined by a Park Ranger. Friendly enough, the ranger checked to see if we had our backcountry permits and weren’t carrying weapons. He even sniffed Robins Nest spice bag to rule out drugs. He was carrying a book of blank citations. Usually when a uniformed officer is holding a citation near me, he is putting my name on it.