Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Led by John Evans, UTC Graduate Student in Botany
The Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail (CTSST) staff and the Chattanooga Climbers Association (CCA, a local chapter of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, SCC) are in discussions concerning a Temporary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to permit establishing climbing routes on the bluff above Deep Creek and Big Soddy. As part of this discussion, impact to the overall site as well as potential impacts to any populations of Scutellaria montana that might be present in the area need to be determined. Additionally, to be able to self-police activities and impacts to the area, climbers need to become familiar with the skullcap. On June 24, CTSST staff arranged for CCA members to guide John Evans (Botanist) along the bluffs that they are interested in establishing routes in order to accomplish the following goals:
- Survey the site for Scutellaria montana
- Instruct Climbers on identification of Scutellaria montana
- Take a snapshot floral inventory of the area adjacent to these bluffs
- Discuss on-scene real impacts of climbing, access trails, boundary issues, and any other topics concerning climbing in Deep Creek.
While surveying the bluffline, the group only located two Scutellaria montana plants. Unfortunately, they were near the dripline from the bluff and were coated in mud from the splashing. Several of the non-threatened species of Scutellaria were located along the way too. We began to wonder if we would be able to discuss identification on a good plant, or if we would be forced to settle for what we had seen so far. Towards the end of the day, we did locate some plants further downslope along the Cumberland Trail. From these fruiting plants, Evans and CT rangers were able to better explain how to spot one of these while in the area.
Evans proved invaluable in his botanical skills, as we skirted the bluffline. Sixty-four plant species were identified on this outing. A listing of those species is available. Although the climbers in attendance were familiar with the Cumberland Plateau’s biodiversity, they were impressed by the number of species readily identified on this one particular day. This has led to discussions concerning the establishment of permanent survey plots in the vicinity. Probably the highlight of the outing was the American Chestnut tree found growing along the base of the bluff (a portion of the bluff deemed undesirable for climbing). While admiring the young brave tree, we soon discovered that at his base lay the logs of the original full size tree and several other failed attempts at regrowth, all still extremely solid despite their time on the ground. The group could have stayed here all day and pondered the scene.
The remainder of the day was used to discuss elements of the MOU, and how climbing in Deep Creek would work. Access trails, how the bluff relates to the boundary line, self-policing, and in what manner climbers would access this area were hot topics of the day. The climbers expressed a willingness to be good stewards of this area, and to help protect it and all it contains for future generations.
Participants in the hike included: