Exploring the forests of the Smoky Mountains

Exploring the forests of the Smoky Mountains

I have now been working in the Smokies a little over 2 weeks! I have already learned a lot in the short amount of time I’ve been here. In helping out with spruce-fir monitoring, I feel like I have already improved in skills including plant ID, data collection, and using fieldwork equipment. I have also gained much more knowledge about backcountry safety, navigation, and the local flora and fauna here in Tennessee.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am helping with a long-term vegetation monitoring project on spruce-fir forests here in the southern Appalachians. Field days typically consist of us driving and hiking out to a plot, running transect tapes to create our plot boundaries, re-tagging trees, and recording data on the tree species, dbh, crown condition, and crown position. We also collect data on seedlings and saplings to monitor recruitment, as well as down and dead trees to monitor mortality.  

My favorite part about living in the park is being able to easily go out and explore all the different hiking trails on the weekends! While there’s definitely more trails in the park than I could possibly hike in my short three months here, I am trying to complete as many as possible during my stay. One of my favorites so far has been Andrew’s Bald. Andrew’s Bald is one of the two grassy balds in the entire park. A bald is an open meadow located on mountain crests consisting of little to no tree cover. Often consisting mainly of shrubs and grasses, the balds are great destinations to see wildflowers in the spring and early summer. When I hiked up to Andrew’s bald, the flame azaleas were still coming out, with probably about half still in the process of blooming, but the rhododendron were basically in full bloom!

Had the whole bald to myself!
Beautiful view from the bald
Blooming flame azaleas (orange) and Catawba rhododendron (pink)
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