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Thread: Mother Natures revenge on Lower Rocky Branch

  1. #1
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    Mother Natures revenge on Lower Rocky Branch

    I went with a few of my redlining friends on their quest to burn up red ink on the Rocky Branch trail. I have done the easterly section from RT 16 many times over the years but always turned right on the Isolation trail or used the Engine Hill bushwhack. This time we took the left turn after Engine Hill and headed south. The water level was low so the Rocky Branch was rock hop. We soon passed the old Shelter site and its overflow sites and after a short muddy stretch we transitioned to the old rail bed. These old mountain railbeds always impress me and this one was no exception. The builders cut a bench out of the side of steep rocky slope and went on regardless of what they encountered. Soon we started to get a small taste of recent storm damage. The rail bed is 30 to 40 feet up off the water and usually set back a bit but some recent storm, Irene I would guess, eroded the bank right up and through half the rail bed. We gingerly walked along the top of the slope but expect that option will go away in a few storms. We then popped back into the woods and continued cruising on the railbed.

    The trail sticks to the west side of the stream for quite awhile but at some point just north of the county line the fun begins. The USGS map shows a spot where the stream jogs west and then quickly east. The trail is shown to cross the stream and then cross back. Well it does cross a large dry stream bed which formerly was the Rocky Branch but Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	6269 but the Rocky Branch cut a new channel so the trail runs along the west side of the new stream bed and then eventually heads up through the flood debris onto the old easterly shore of the streambed. It them drops down and crosses the former stream channel and back on the railroad. Looking back up the channel of the former stream bed reveals that the old stream bed wasn't long for the worldClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	6270. We kept going until we encountered one last reroute off the rail bed which went up slope to a pleasant hemlock "bench" that bypasses a few hundred yards of nearly vertical washed out slope. It wasn't undermined but expect a future storm will gnaw away at the slope.

    We then shifted back to the railbed and came up to the junction with Stairs Col Trail and the path to the shelter. I was quite surprised that the shelter is in good shape with several well spaced tent platforms in the area. From there the railbed transitions to an old road and we came out at the former trailhead. We then walked down the road and crossed over the bridge Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	6271. The bridge looks to be in good shape including its abutments but it was obvious that the river had flow over and around the bridge and washed out the approaches. Just a bit down the road is another major washout of the road bed and then its just pleasant walk down to the new trailhead.

    My friend had what was represented was a recent post storm GPS track. In a couple of spots the track did not reflect the current post storm route. The FS has put a few directional arrows at reroutes in the northbound direction but none in the southbound direction. There are no blazes and careful route following is the name of the game in spots. Overall it was fun early fall feeling day.

    Thanks to Theresa for the photos

  2. #2
    Senior Member Grey J's Avatar
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    Wow, those photos are impressive, especially the first one. You can just imagine the incredible raging force of the high water that eroded the bank to that degree.
    Part of me would have loved to have witnessed it (if I was a hawk maybe) but the sensible me is thankful I was not on that "trail" or anywhere nearby when the deluge hit.
    Good route finding and nice photos by Theresa. They add weight to the story.
    "I am a pilgrim and a stranger"

  3. #3
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    Theresa was standing in the center of the old channel, with the old channel behind her. The old channel is completely dry and is several feet above the new channel.

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