Lower White Pine Trail

By Joe Feeman 

Lower White Pine Trail begins just upstream of the Big Spring off of Clear Creek Trail, 0.9 miles from the pump house (and 0.7 miles from Upper Clear Creek road). I would rate the trail as easy to moderate as it gains 220 feet in elevation in 1.0 miles. At its beginning, the trail crosses a small creek on crude stepping stones and continues on up the creek bottom where there is an abundance of spicebush, a native shrub with very fragrant stems. You can see the small yellow blooms in early to mid March.  You will then come to another small stream branch where the trail skirts along the side. Across the stream, at the base of the slope, there is a small spring that has a concrete weir, constructed by TVA in the late 30s. The trail continues along the stream where you will see trout lilies, spring beauties, Jacob's ladder, and toothwort in the spring, and the tropical-looking umbrella magnolias are plentiful in the understory. A short distance up the stream is another concrete weir with the remnants of the measuring stick; this weir is completely full of silt. About a hundred feet up from the weir, the creek goes underground, but will reappear again about 300 feet upstream. It is not uncommon for small streams to go underground in East Tennessee because of the karst geology (underlying limestone dissolves and the water goes underground).

The forest along this trail is distinctly different; the left side is mostly old fields and former pasture that is now occupied by yellow poplar, red and sugar maple, white ash, and northern red oak. It appears that some pine was planted along the upper slopes, but most has since died from southern pine beetle. The right side is an older forest with predominantly white oak, hickories, and black oak.  There is a difference in the ‘aspect' of these two forest areas. Aspect is the direction the slope is facing. The left side is generally facing northeast, where there is more moisture and little afternoon sun. On the right side the slope is more southwest facing, which is drier because of the afternoon sun. The lower slopes of both sides are moister because of their relative position in the hollow, which receives less sun and also more water from upslope.

The trail becomes an old road and climbs a short hill before it flattens out. A short downhill section brings you back along the creek and then to a ford. This ford crosses several large, flat rocks (bedrock) that can be very slick when wet, so be very careful when crossing. I usually cross on rocks below the bedrock when it is wet. There are several remnants of old structures along this section of the trail, the first of which is just below the ford, on the right side. As you hike on up the trail you will see daffodils, forsythia, and other ‘yard shrubs' where home sites were present. Several different families lived in this area with the creek being one of the property lines. 

Once you cross the creek the trail is still an old road and there are several wet seeps at the base of the slope which keep the trail wet in some areas. The 2010 trail crew constructed a stone culvert in one of these wet areas and it is now dry. See if you can spot this nice piece of work. The creek still has a pretty good flow along this section, but will soon disappear. White pines become more numerous as you continue up the trail and several old home sites are evident. Old home sites are a common sight in the watershed and can be spotted by their old stones foundations, but also by the vegetation that is present. Often you will see black walnut trees, daffodils, vinca (periwinkle), forsythia, yucca, and other common yard plants. This trail is a good example of these conditions. There are also many other exotic plants along the trail including multflora rose, Japanese wine berry, and Japanese honey suckle.

The trail crosses several wet weather drainages before reaching Raccoon Run Road. As you approach the end of this section you will see a clearcut timber harvest upslope on the right. The cut parallels Raccoon Run, a short distance up from the road, and extends to the beginning of Upper White Pine Trail. This 25-acre harvest was conducted in 1973. 

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