Hemlock trees

Hemlock trees are native to western North Carolina but suffering from damage caused by infestation of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a sap-sucking insect. The Hemlock Restoration Initiative works to restore hemlocks to their native habitats and mitigate damage caused by the HWA.

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN STATE PARK — The Hemlock Restoration Initiative is leading a hike on the Profile Trail in Grandfather Mountain State Park on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 9 a.m.

The hike will begin at the Profile Trail parking area off Hwy 105 and wind its way up to Foscoe View through one of the hemlock conservation areas. The trail features hemlock trees right from the beginning, and hikers will pass through several large stands of hemlocks that are in great health and have been treated by HRI and state park staff as recently as fall 2020.

The trail includes several creek crossings and follows close to the Watauga River before turning south and climbing to Foscoe View with overlooks popping up throughout, allowing for views of the valley below. Foscoe View overlooks the community of Foscoe and has an interpretive sign showing various viewpoints and mountain peaks as well as some of the local ecology.

At Foscoe View, hikers will turn around and descend back the same way to reach the parking area. The trek out to Foscoe View and back is roughly 4 miles roundtrip with about 700 feet of elevation gain. During the hike, participants can expect to learn about hemlocks, how to identify them, their ecosystem impacts, the threats they face, control strategies and more. The group will take a lunch break during the hike and will likely finish around 3 p.m. The Hemlock Restoration Initiative recommends participants bring lunch, snacks and plenty of water.

If participants want to continue the hike on their own from Foscoe View, the group welcomes them to do so. The Profile Trail officially ends at Calloway Gap where hikers can head either east toward Calloway Peak or west toward the swinging bridge at the top of Grandfather Mountain. Note that the trail gets markedly more strenuous after Foscoe View and anyone continuing on should be ready for steep gradients, rock scrambling and the use of ladders.

This hike is a great opportunity to learn about hemlock conservation in the region and see the natural and recreational value that hemlocks provide. Early fall is also a great time to hike this trail, with the chance of seeing leaves at or near their peak colors. This also means that the parking area could be crowded due to increased visitation to the region during this time, but the early start time should help miss the times of highest traffic. The backup date for the hike is Thursday, Oct. 21 in case of poor weather.

Please RSVP to Aaron Whittemore at education@savehemlocksnc.org or call (828) 252-4783. Participants should include a contact phone number and email address when they sign up.

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