The U.S. Forest Service is warning hikers to stay back a good 50 feet or so from a towering poplar tree in Macon County that is now rotting and falling apart.
The Wasilik Poplar is the second-largest tree of its kind in the nation, but now — because of falling limbs and other debris — poses a potential danger. Lightening struck the tree more than two decades ago, and the poplar is long dead, though it remains an imposing sight and is a popular hiking objective for both locals and visitors to the area.
The Wasilik Poplar’s girth measures 26 feet in circumference. To put that into perspective, consider that a one-lane road is generally 10- or 11-feet wide.
“It’s amazing,” said Cindy Laninfa, who hiked the short but steep 1.4-mile Wasilik Poplar Trail near Standing Indian Campground one day last week with husband David to view the Macon County landmark. “You just stand here in awe — I’d like to have seen it when it was living.”
The poplar isn’t in good shape. In addition to lightening and storm damage, the tree has slowly been rotting away for years. There isn’t much bark left, and the tree’s lifespan probably wasn’t enhanced by some people’s need to carve their initials into the trunk. Bits of limbs are scattered about, visual evidence of why the Forest Service has warned people to stand safely back.
Signs have been prominently posted, at the trailhead and near the tree itself.
The Laninfas said they were happy the Forest Service hasn’t opted just to cut the tree down.
“I don’t think they should cut it,” Cindy Laninfa said. “Let it fall, naturally.”
The poplar tree was named for John Wasilik, a former ranger on the Wayah District for the Nantahala National Forest.
To reach Wasilik Poplar Trail from Franklin, travel west along U.S. 64, past Winding Stair Gap to the sign for Standing Indian Campground and the Appalachian Trail; turn left. Continue for about one mile to a sign for the campground, and turn right onto Forest Service Road 67. Travel one-half mile to Rock Gap and the trailhead, located on your left.
The U.S. Forest Service has backed off a proposed shooting range in Clay County following public opposition.
The forest service planned to build a new shooting range near Perry Creek in the Nantahala National Forest, but the site has been challenged by 13 separate appeals. Appeals cited noise, increased traffic and associated dust on access roads.
The Forest Service had looked at several possible sites for a new shooting range. An acoustical analysis contracted by the forest service showed noise impacts for neighbors would be minimal.
However, Tusquitee District Ranger Steve Lohr has now called for additional analysis and will announce a new decision on whether to go through
The US. Forest Service has banned alcohol use at 11 recreation sites in the Nantahala National Forest.
The sites include: Balsam Lake Recreation Area, Big Choga Dispersed Camping Sites, Bristol Fields Campground, Cheoah Point Swimming Area, Dry Falls Recreational Area, Fire’s Creek Hunter’s Camp, Fire’s Creek Picnic Area, Jackrabbit Recreation Area, Pine Ridge Dispersed Camping Sites, Wayah Bald Tower and Picnic Area, and Whiteside Mountain Recreation Area. All sites are within the Tusquitee, Cheoah and Nantahala Ranger Districts.
Several sites have been vandalized in association with alcohol consumption. Law enforcement officials have been called out for related incidents. Broken beer bottles in streams pose safety concerns for barefoot children and adults in adjoining creeks. Cheoah Point Swimming Area is the only public, free swimming on Lake Santeetlah and brings large numbers of visitors.
For more information on recreation sites across the forest and Ranger District contact information see the Carolina Connections publication online at www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/recreation /connections/Connections2010.pdf or call 828.257.4258.