Fleeting Thoughts   Robert Leverett
  Oct 23, 2007

TOPIC: Fleeting thoughts

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 23 2007 7:32 am
From: dbhguru@


There's nothing like a good case of the shingles to cause one to count one's blessings. At this point, a blessing that is especially prominent in my mind is that of being surrounded by so many wonderful and talented friends engaged in the ENTS mission of celebrating the trees. Yesterday, I was thinking about Will, Gary, and John up in Monroe State Forest collecting data so specialized that only the tiniest percentage of people can relate to or appreciate their efforts. What a privilege to be associated with such dedicated troopers.

As I thought about them in the Dunbar watershed, the image of the two great pines they were visiting popped into my mind. I recalled when my son Rob and I first spotted the pines from the ridge side on the opposite side of Dunbar Brook. That was in the late 1980s. The story of that discovery is I hope sufficiently interesting to relate here on our list.

In the late 80's, Rob and I were searching across the landscape for big white pines and our not inconsiderable efforts to that point had allowed us to hone our cognitive skills sufficiently to distinguish likely candidates from a considerable distance. Early on, I had learned to beware of the pines on the tops and backbones of ridges as huge trees. Ridgetop pine stick prominently above any surrounding hardwoods, but dry ridgetops don't grow tall trees, so height is relative. Rob and I had covered lots of territory in the Dunbar Brook watershed and were familiar with the sizes of the hardwoods and softwoods throughout the drainages. Both classes of tree were among the most impressive of trees we had seen in Massachusetts. While scanning the north-facing side of the Dunbar Brook watershed, we spotted two absolutely huge looking pines. Both of us agreed that the trees might be the biggest pines we had come across. So, we dropped down a couple of hundred vertical feet to Dunbar, waded across, and headed the ridge in the direction of the pines. Before long, we came to the lower of the two, the pine we later named the Thoreau Pine. It was immense. I had not seen its equal. We then spotted the second farther up the ridge and scrambled up to it. The second pine was even larger in girth, but not as tall.

In those early days, I had minimal tree-measuring skills, but something told me that at least the lower of the two pines might break 150 feet. If so, it would be the first member of an exclusive club of 150-footers. It was a club that I sought to form and had a few tree people, mostly from other states, interested in it. The threshold of 150 feet was chosen because that is the number that Henry David Thoreau used in his descriptions of the last remaining great white pines of Maine. The threshold has stuck and a lot of effort has gone in since into finding individual trees and stands that reach the threshold. Will Blozan joined the quest in 1993 and it became a two-way partnership to search and confirm members of the 150 Club in the East.

In 1989, as I recall, I organized a trip for the Massachusetts Forestry Association to visit the big trees of Dunbar Brook and forester Rexford Baker measured the Thoreau Pine at 154 feet using a clinometer and tape measure. He did an excellent job or was just plain lucky. In those days I was unaware of the risk of measuring tree height using the percent slope, or tangent method, but found out embarrassingly from mismeasuring a sugar maple in MTSF. About a year later, Jack Sobon and I measured the Thoreau Pine with a transit. Its height was confirmed as 152.4 feet, and the transit measurement was sufficiently authoritative to declare the tree the first 150-footer to be confirmed in Massachusetts.

Since that early transit measurement, I have regularly visited the great tree anywhere from 2 to 6 times per year. But its broad crown with a nested top makes the Thoreau Pine virtually impossible to accurately measure from the ground. So in 2003, Will Blozan, Bob Van Pelt, and Ed Coyle climbed the tree and did a tape drop. The Thoreau Pine registered an impressive 160.2 feet in height, and according to John Eichholz's latest girth determination, is 12.9 feet around. But the Grandfather tree, uphill stood unclimbed. Yesterday that status changed. Will climbed and modeled the big tree. Its girth, as measured by John Eichholz is 14.0 feet. Its height is 143.3 feet. And its volume is an impressive 967 cubes. So, the Grandfather tree goes to the top of the charts for living white pines in the Northeast. The Seneca Pine in Cook Forest and the Ice Glen Pine in Massachusetts are the two other living pines over 900 cubes. I have little doubt that the Tamworth Pine in Hemmenway SP, NH will be larger than and of the previously mentioned. But until it is officially confirmed, the Grandfather Pine goes to the top of the list in the Northeast.

I'm thrilled at the volume ranking of the Grandfather Pine and will dutifully spread the word among interested parties plus relevant state officials. However, I separate the group of interested parties from the relevant state officials, because when dealing with the latter, I am usually met with blank stares when I quote big tree statistics. A few state officials seem genuinely appreciative of what ENTS does and have expressed their feelings on numerous occasions, but for the most part, the state officials seem unsure of how to treat the information that I give them. It doesn't fit into an official category. So, I think that we need to create a category - a legacy class of trees that deserve special recognition, if not protection.

Will's other climb was of the Dunbar Brook Hemlock. It cubes out to 758, with a 12.6-foot girth, and a pared back top to 115.5 feet. It presently is New England's largest volume hemlock. The Mount Tom hemlock may exceed it by a little. If everything goes right, Will will climb the Mt. Tom hemlock today and we'll have the answer tonight.


TOPIC: Fleeting thoughts

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 4:00 pm
From: nesfl@

Hey Bob, thanks for sharing...back when you were beginning to advertise
hikes around these parts I would notice the ads here n' there, make a
mental note to join up with your group on a given day, and yet years went
by that I kept saying to myself "I have got to hook up with this dbhguru!"
Meanwhile, hope your shingles has all cleared up...one of my sisters
endured a bout of the same a couple weeks back... now I'm left wondering
what the heck is going on around here, they say shingles can be brought
out of most anyone's body due to increased STRESS. So most of us are
sleeping shingles giants...