Upper White Pine Trail

By Joe Feeman 

Upper White Pine Trail begins where Lower White Pine ends at Raccoon Run Road and runs 0.7 miles, climbing 280 feet, to Hi Point Road. I would rate this section of the trail as easy to moderate; there are some hills to climb with short steep parts, but the trail surface is good over most of the trail.  The trail follows with the road to the right after leaving Lower White Pine and passes through a small wildlife opening with a pond on the left. If you look to the right, across from the pond, you can see the remnants of the large white pine that this trail was named for. When the road turns right (up the hill), White Pine goes straight, into the woods. At this point the trail climbs a small hill, then flattens out and continues on an old road. The trail travels through an older upland hardwood forest dominated by black oak, white oak, chestnut oak, and hickory in the overstory, and red maple, sourwood, beech, and blackgum in the understory. This is typical of older forest in the watershed; most were selectively harvested in the past and are now changing from oak dominated woods to maple, beech, and other non-oak hardwood trees. Over time there will be fewer and fewer oaks in the watershed because of competition from other hardwoods. Oaks need plentiful sunlight to develop, while beech, maple, blackgum, sourwood, and various other hardwoods can tolerate and develop in shaded conditions. In silviculture, the culture of growing trees and forests, this concept is known as shade tolerance. Oaks are considered ‘shade intolerant' and the other hardwoods mentioned above are ‘shade tolerant'. You can see this in older, oak dominated woods; oaks are prevalent in the canopy, but there are few small oaks in the understory.

At about 0.1 miles the trail leaves the road (which ends) and veers right up the slope. The trail becomes single track and starts to climb, passing left, through a new section that was recently built because of trees falling along the old route (you will notice where mountain bikes continue to use an informal trail to the right). A short steep climb leads to the top of a side ridge, which was once dominated by shortleaf pines that have since been killed by southern pine beetles. This small ‘nose' is very dry and rocky with scattered trees and shrubby plants. In May there are often Pinxter-flowers (a native azalea) blooming on this spot with beautiful and fragrant pink flowers. This is one of the two native species of azaleas found in the watershed. The other is a flame azalea, found on some areas with underlying sandstone rock.

The trail descends a short hill and then climbs up through some large chestnut oaks whose roots crisscross the trail, creating an uneven surface. You will see yellow paint on some of the trees; this is the safety zone that extends down the hill from Hi Point road. There is a 300 foot safety zone where hunting is not allowed along Hi Point Road, from Hi Point to Upper Clear Creek Road. This allows non-deer hunting users to access the watershed on Hi Point Road (from Hi Point to Upper Clear Creek Road) during deer season. As you reach the top of this slope, and curve to the left, notice the change in forest types. There is an abrupt change from chestnut oak -dominated woods to yellow poplar dominated woods.  This is because of a change in the aspect (direction the slope is facing); the chestnut oak is on a south- and west-facing slope and the yellow poplar is on a more east-facing slope. The yellow poplar originated through natural regeneration on an old field that was abandoned after TVA purchase. Yellow poplar is a common ‘pioneer species' on productive sites in the watershed area. A pioneer species is one that invades open areas or old fields and quickly takes over the site. These species are usually fast growing trees with light seed that is dispersed by the wind. The most common pioneer species in this area are yellow poplar, Virginia pine, and to a lesser degree sweetgum.

The trail climbs steadily up the slope. You will see the many ‘dips' in the trail surface as you hike along. These are erosion control structures which have been installed to divert the water off the trail surface. Water is a strong force, which gains energy as it travels down the trail and can cause gullies to form if not diverted off the surface. You will see these type structures on other trails and on the roads, as well. The road structures are called ‘broad based dips' and are an integral component of ‘best management practices (BMPs) for silvicultural activities', a set of guidelines to minimize erosion associated with forestry operations.

As you climb, notice the flat bench in the hill to the right; this is an old foundation for a structure, probably a barn. This is obviously an old field because of the dominance of yellow-poplar, which is uniform in size. There are few wildflowers on upper White Pine, but you may see pennywort, toothworts, and wild oats, a diminutive bellwort. You will soon reach Hi Point Road, the end of White Pine Trail.

White Pine Trail is a long trail with many opportunities to create loops with other trails. Hikers can utilize its entire length while horses and bikes can only ride on the upper section. One possibility is to start on Eli Nine Sinkhole Trail and go up to Hi Point Road, take a left and go less than a hundred feet and turn left on Red Hill Road, then go down to Raccoon Run, right and down the hill to Upper White Pine which cuts right. Travel up White Pine to Hi Point Road; go right, up to Hi Point (the tallest point in the watershed at 1460 feet) and continue to the right on Hi Point Road to Mockingbird Road, to the right and back down to the start of Eli Nine, at Upper Clear Creek Road. This loop is about 3.7 miles long and is not difficult, gaining about 600 feet in elevation for the loop.

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