big/old forest scientists and tree lovers-
Yesterday I and a couple of my fellow state foresters and the
local forest ranger did a recon. of the state's newly acquired
"Witch's Hole" lands (approx. 500 ac. or so in the
ridge-strewn highlands south east of the Catskill Mtns.) which
includes deep gorges w/ streams and waterfalls, rocky ridges,
Hiking at times was an ordeal and hot, but well worth it.
We came upon a big old, battle worn yellow birch in the gorge
just beneath a 50-60' waterfall that I'd conservatively estimate
at ~ 500 to 600 years old. Such incredibly
shaggy bark that the other foresters were baffled to ID the
species. Heavy branched gnarled top, mostly alive, massive burls
up the trunk. It's got to be from before Columbus got here and
started the course of western "progress and
civilization" (Hah!... Right!)
There were also some old
hemlocks with heavy texture and purplish red bark typical of old
boys, tho perhaps not as old as the yellow birch. Unfortunately,
the helmlock wooly adelgid was in various stages of evidence and
so the prognosis for most of our old hemlock forests could be
bleak. A timber rattler surprised us and we it on a rocky ridge.
We schmoozed w/ a 4' black rat snake (harmless). Red frog that
we'd never seen before, etc. Amazing rhododendron and esp.
laurel forests in the understory.
A unit mgt. plan is being
written and I'm pushing to include mgt. to protect and savor the
old growth areas, to keep them off limits to logging, etc. since
it's likely to be designated a multiple use area, subject to
uses such uses as logging in specifically targeted areas. More