Monday, July 17, 2006

into the grand holler

The Bradley Fork watershed starts high up above 6000' on the crest of the Smokies between Charlie's Bunion and Peck's Corner. It drains a sizable chunk of land, maybe 4 miles between ridges at it's widest (10 miles along the ground? You know if you ironed West Virginia flat it would be bigger than Texas?), and joins the Oconaluftee river at Smokemont. The lower parts of the valley were certainly occupied by early white settlers and the Cherokee before them, but pockets of the area were never logged and while it's a longish hike to get away from most human sign (~5 miles), it's a fairly easy climb (just less than 1000 vertical feet) and most of the hike is on an old road bed.

And the upper reaches of the creek are as beautiful as anything I've seen in the park.

The access to the heart of the Bradley Fork wilderness is the Cabin Flat's campsite (there aren't actually any cabins).

The trail stops there.

Last Sunday I only made it about 1/2 mile up the creek above Cabin Flats, but that was far enough. No foot prints. No trash. No trails. There are probably some other fisherpeople and park service folk who venture up this way, but probably not too often.

The forest is shockingly beautiful. The stream is shockingly clear. A much richer forest than I saw in the Raven Fork watershed. This might be because we were at almost 4000' on Raven Fork and I was just over 3000' on Bradley Fork. And of course it was pretty much winter on Raven Fork when I was there. The two creeks are very close in size. Raven Fork is certainly more remote. Much harder to get to. But once I was up a good distance from Cabin Flats it felt just as wild as anything on Raven Fork.

I caught more Rainbow trout than Brook trout. No Brown trout. I saw many beautiful Rainbow trout. I don't hate them so much anymore.

Yet I persist in my view that, beside the Brook trout, they are dull.

I think Brook trout and Rainbow trout epitomize the difference between eastern and western wilderness in the U.S. The Rainbow trout is blankly metallic; galvanized against the harsh western environment. The Brook trout is dark, soft, and mysterious; sheltered in pockets of rain forest. The western mountains are wide open, sterile, and intimidating. The eastern mountains are closed, fertile, and nuturing.

I'll work this all out soon and get back to you.

Be can of these some made bigger by on them clicking.

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