A heck of a four days   dbhg-@comcast.net
  Oct 27, 2003 13:13 PST 


     The 1st forest summit lecture series enters the pages of forest history. The two-day series was very successful by the goals we had established. More will be said about the two-day series in the future, but for now, we are off to a good start and look forward to the next event.

      In terms of big tree confirmations and tree climbs, all we can say is WOW! But before getting into the details, I must first humbly bow to my better, Will Blozan. On October 23rd, Will began a tree-measuring blitz by confirming a hop hornbeam in Monroe State Forest. Ed pointed out the tree. It is one I had walked passed on at least a dozen prior occasions, usually leading groups of people and talking. The hop hornbeam's circumference is 3.7 feet, and as such is respectable, but its height is amazing. At 78.1 feet, it is the new eastern U.S.A. height record for the species. Mark up a big one up for Will Blozan. I'm sure that with the spotlight on the species, the Monroe State Forest record will soon fall, but for a few weeks or months, may Monroe bask in glory.

     Elsewhere in Monroe, an 89-foot tall, 15-foot circumference northern red oak held our attention. It was no slouch, nor was the 126-foot tall white ash. Monroe State Forest continues to tease us and beckon to us to take this small state property seriously as a worthy big tree site. With a Rucker Index already above 120, I think we can eventually get it up to 122 or 123, but don't see much of a possibility for a higher value. The species that needs to be improved vis a vis the Rucker Index is oddly the sugar maple. I just haven't found the mother load yet. There is almost certainly a 120 somewhere and possible a 125.

      On Friday, a re-measurement of the three giant Connecticut River Valley sycamores produced some nice surprises. The statistics now favor the Sunderland Sycamore even more than they did. The measurements are:

   Name         Height      Girth  Spread Points Measurer

Sunderland     114.4      24.9     143     449      WB
Hatfield           117.1      23.9    129      436    WB/BL
Deerfield         122.1      21.7    112      411    WB/BL

     Crown spreads for the Hatfield and Deerfield trees are from older measurements and may be understated. Incidentally, the point total for Connecticut's Pinchot sycamore is 456 points.

     After the Sunderland sycamore measurements, Will bagged two more 120+ foot cottonwoods on the Hatfield flood plain. Both scale out at 123.6 feet in height. This brings to 11 the number of 120+ foot tall cottonwoods measured in Massachusetts. The significant cottonwood database has 120 trees in it. Perhaps we can add another 2 or 3 before the snow flies. The average height for the 120 trees is 108.8 feet.

     In terms of climbs, ENTS's distinguished president Will Blozan scored big successes. On Friday Oct 24th, Will and his climbing partner Ed made it up the huge Tecumseh tree and we taped it to 160.1 feet. This tree had given us fits for years, but we now have a good baseline measurement. Actually Howard Stoner gets credit for the closest measurement with laser and clineometer. Howard is getting to be a whiz. Congratulations Howard! You da man! Several other measurements by Lee Frelich and myself were slightly under to slightly over the taped length. If they were all averaged together, we'd be very close to the taped height of the Tecumseh Tree. Incidentally, Will and Ed were hit be a snow squall while at the top of the tree. Wow! Ed dropped down 8 feet to provide better counterbalance. It got a bit sporty for them. Those of us on the ground were getting worried.

     On Saturday morning, the day was gorgeous. We had a large group sponsored by Mass Audubon. Will skipped on ahead to look for trees to bring up the Rucker Index. In short order, he truly humbled me. I was both delighted and embarrassed. Will found 3 new 150-footers in Mohawk Trail State Forest in the Pocumtuck grove! That brought the total of 150-footers in Mohawk up to 39. The three additions are all in the Pocumtuck grove, a tightly packed stand of pines 100 to 110 years old. Three new ones? That is beyond my wildest hopes. More on where the sneaky 150-footers were hiding in a future e-mail. But first, I've got to toot my own horn.

     Later that day on our walk through the Encampment grove, I managed to break 100 feet on a white oak at 101.8 feet tall and 8.2 feet in circumference. This white oak becomes the 20th native species to break 100 feet in Mohawk. There is a total of 22. So much for my exploits. Back to Will. Will made 116.7 feet (I think) on a red pine. The tree grows in the 1930s CCC pine stand in Mohawk. Will's confirmation makes the tree the second tallest of its species in Mass. It is a darn good find. Will also pegged a Norway spruce at 117.7 feet in height, which becomes the new height record for the species in Mohawk, beating my old record of 117.1 feet. By this time Will was really starting to rub it in. Then it happened. He bagged another 150-footer! I'm serious as a heart attack and right on the side of a trail. It wasn't even hiding. Well, that was number 40 for Mohawk. Oh the shame, the shame. In my own back yard! Under my nose. In a matter of hours, Will had increased Mohawk's total of 150-footers by 11%! How long had it taken me to make my incremental gains? Oh, the shame, the shame.

     Well, I was feeling more chipper on Sunday morning Oct 26th, when Lee, Will, Ed, and I headed north to Claremont, NH. Will's objective was to climb a splendid white pine that John Knuerr and I had measured the year before. The pine grows at an altitude of 400 feet and a latitude of a little less than 43.4 degrees. It had been given the status of New England's tallest accurately measured tree per John's and my measurements. However, we needed to get a good fix on it. We had bagged four 160-footers the year before at the private Claremont site and 150-footers had proven to be more common than I had originally thought. On this trip, a number of laser-clinometer measurements taken by Lee Frelich and myself averaged out to be about 164.5 feet. However, the taped height of the tree turned out to be 164.1 feet. Not too shabby. The key to accuracy is the laser-clinometer combination and statistics, statistics, statistics. - which is what we've been saying all along to bring the measured height to with +/- 1.0 feet of taped height.

   Will and his climbing partners can now claim to have climbed higher into trees in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire than any other person. Tennessee can probably be added to the list.

   While Will and Ed swayed to and fro in the top of that extraordinarily skinny Claremont white pine, Lee Frelick and I measured other trees. I was trying to nab all the 160-footers and thought there were six. To cut to the chase, I discovered this morning, to my surprise, that we had confirmed a total of seven 160-footers. I had thought the number to be six, but no, we actually have seven. Two are in a shallow ravine just north of the ravine with the tree that Will and Ed climbed. One of the two new trees was measured by Lee to a height of 166.1 feet. I got 165.5 feet. It is probably the tallest. So Lee now holds the record for Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Well, Will will just have to return in 2004 and confirm Lee's measurement. Its girth is a respectable 10.3 feet. By contrast, the girth of the tree that Will climbed is a slender 8.2 feet. When the wind blew, and it did, the tree swayed mightily. Will has plenty of images and hopefully he'll share some with other Ents.

    One observation Will made that I'm now hesitant to dispute is the density of 150-footers in the private Claremont Stand. Will believes that it is the highest in the Northeast, including the indominatable Cook Forest. I'll bet Dale's mouth just went agape. After spending about 4.5 hours in a fairly confined area measuring, counting, and observing. I think Will may be correct. Let's see why. There are about 20 acres of the tall pines, maybe more. The stand averages between 160 and 190 years of age with a few trees near the Connecticut River over 200 years. Within the concentration of seven 160-footers, it stood to reason that there would be a lot of 150-footers. Well there are. They are all over the place. I would guess that a 10 acre area averages at least ten 150-footers per acre and we can probably get another 2 or 3 per acre out of the remaining 10 acres for a total of about 125. However, there is a chance that there could be double that number. At this point, I'm from Missouri. We will just have to do a lot more measuring to settle the question. The problem in quick passes through the area is that many of the pines have re-grown from broken crowns. Long side branches make seeing the full length of a tree quite difficult. Also a scattering of deciduous species, especially black and yellow birch, when leafed out, creates a sub-canopy that makes seeing the tops of tall pines virtually impossible. The bottom line is that gathering data on the Claremont forest's vertical structure can only occur when the deciduous trees have lost their leaves and even then is extremely time consuming. We'll be at it likely for several years. Nonetheless, Will's observations about the density of 150-footers is not to be taken lightly. He's probably right. Plus, Will has a distinct advantage. He's seen the forest from the top of the canopy and he reported to us tall pines jutting up everywhere.

    The hardwoods growing among the white pines at Clarremont are not exceptional, but neither are they whimps. Lee measured a white ash to over 115 feet in height. Many hemlocks grow among the pines, but appear to reach heights of 110 to 115 feet with a few topping 120. The Rucker Index of the Claremont site is likely between 117 and 120. However, it would take a lot of time to nudge it past 120.

    Well, we're nearing the end of the report covering the whirlwind events of the past few days. As the Eastern Native Tree Society continue gains in prominence, the need grows for us to solidify an organizational structure to keep us rolling and to keep us focused. Dr. Lee Frelich has agreed to act as the society's vice president. It all came about in an unplanned way, but that's okay. With Will as the president and Lee as the vice president, we are assured of a continued strong focus on science to include plenty of views from the canopy. We don't just putter around at ground level.

    Finally, on Saturday, we paid tribute to the passing of a dear friend. We dedicated a splendid white pine in the Algonquin grove of MTSF to our friend Karl Davies who recently passed away from cancer. The dedication was attended by 60 people. Karl's tree stands near Michael Perlman's tree. Mike passed away in April 1998. Karl passed on October 2003. Both Karl and Mike were protectors of the forest. They chose different, but equally important and necessary routes.

   One of Karl's close friends and fellow Quakers told me that he often walked the Mahican-Mohawk trail and had always admired the tree we dedicated to Karl. It seemed so fitting. We appreciated all who came to pay their respects to Karl. The tall pine stands as living monument to Karl and his work. We invite all to walk the trail and to remember Karl and Mike as they pass their trees.