30 Sep Life in the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail
It is on this trail, where I would discover salamanders, fungus, birds, plants, and lichens surviving in a high-elevation forest and remote habitat of the Great Smoky Mountains. It also turned out to be one of my favorite trails in the park.
This is without doubt, one of the most remote, underrated, accessible, and just gorgeous trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With just a 0.4 mile loop trail, it is very easy to walk and admire nature at the same time. It shows an amazing introduction to life in the Smokies and how high-elevation forest can be completely different from lower parts of the park. I loved visiting this trail for its climate, plant and animal life, and sense of life and calm in the air. That is why I continued to repeatedly visit every time I was taking the Clingmans Dome road. I shall shortly describe my visits and discoveries in this trail before I give my final conclusion about it.
First visit (06/09/22)
On my first visit to this trail, I could feel the different atmosphere compared to the rest of the park. This high elevation forest is more reminiscent of a Canadian temperate forest. The trail welcomed me with muddy grounds, singing birds, moist moss, and flowering plants.
Second visit (06/10/22)
I loved it so much the first visit that I had to come back the very next day. This second time a Dark-eyed Junco would model and sing for me for around 15 minutes, an other worldly experience. I continued to explore the plants and fallen logs around the trail. To this day I wonder what type of rock is that.
Third Visit (06/23/22)
This third visit was a mayor change in the way I saw this trail. This is the day I met two salamander enthusiast in the trail looking for salamanders. Up until that moment, I stopped looking for salamanders in this trail since my first search was unsuccessful. They showed me how to better find them and so I did, from there on I discovered a lot of salamander species here. Thanks to them, I saw my first Blue Ridge Spring Salamander and Red-cheeked Salamander.
Fourth Visit (07/02/22)
This visit was very successful in salamander observations. I also found very amazing looking fungi and other salamander species I’d not seen.
One of my favorite salamander species:
Red-cheeked Salamander (Plethodon jordani)
Fifth Visit (07/06/22)
This visit was actually a nocturnal adventure. Salamanders are nocturnal animals, it helps them avoid bird predators and hot climates. After seeing the sunset at Clingmans Dome, I began my salamander census at 10 pm. This was an amazing idea since most of them were out and about on top of moist leaves, this helps me in avoiding flipping rocks.
Sixth and last visit (08/05/22)
This was also a very special visit as it was my last day in the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a whole. My flight would be august 6th, 2022. I decided that I would spend my last few hours doing one of the things I most loved and will forever miss, salamanders. You do have to understand there are no salamanders in Puerto Rico, so I needed to see as much as I could.
In under four minutes I was able to count 31 Jordani salamanders. If you are looking for that wanted Red-cheeked or Jordani Salamander, the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail is the jackpot for it. The reality is, this trail is not just a trail, it offers a short escape from more heavily visited attractions in the park, it offers a crisp, clean air that smells like Christmas, the Spruce-Fir trees and climate makes it feel like you’re in a Canadian Forest, the birds will chirp and sing for your delight, the mushrooms will grow bigger with every rainfall, and the salamanders will continue to rule it come nighttime.
“In a world of constant change and streaming technology,
I find solace in the forest where a tree remains a tree.”
– Angie Weiland-Crosby