1. Carolina Hemlocks Campground (Difficulty level: easy)
In November of 2019, a team HRI’s volunteers and forestry technicians journeyed to the South Toe River at the base of Mount Mitchell to protect stands of large hemlock trees that give the Carolina Hemlock’s Campground its character. Thanks to previous treatments by the US Forest Service, these hemlocks were providing a thriving canopy to shade the campground.
The campground was flat with little understory and had been closed for the season, so our treatment teams could spread out and easily walk around the campsites and recreational areas to administer treatments. Our crew took a break to enjoy lunch along the river before continuing with treatments. Due to the large number of hemlock trees in the area, we focused our treatments on trees over 15 inches in diameter with plans to revisit the rest of the trees in 2020. The stand was a mixture of eastern and Carolina hemlocks with some giants reaching over 40 inches in diameter. These largest trees are likely a few hundred years old and we are grateful to be a part of their continued protection.
2. Sandy Mush Game Land (Difficulty level: strenuous)
Over the past several years, the Hemlock Restoration Initiative has been conducting treatments with volunteers in the Sandy Mush Game Land in north Buncombe county. Treatment days in Sandy Mush occur all over the game land as we find more stands of hemlocks to protect.
Many of these hemlocks are far off-trail on steep hillsides or alongside creeks in deep gorges supporting riparian and aquatic ecosystems. These trees are in beautiful areas rarely visited by humans, so accessing these sites can often be challenging and require trail blazing through underbrush and down steep slopes. Our crew works a full day in the field, so we pack in all our supplies to the site and do not have access to a bathroom or additional drinking water. When advertising each treatment day for volunteers, we will indicate how difficult we expect the terrain to be and any additional considerations to take. Although access is sometimes challenging, we also value the privilege of protecting hemlocks in these rarely visited places. HRI has a number of volunteers dedicated to helping us protect the trees in the Sandy Mush Game Land, but we are always looking for more enthusiastic volunteers!