Green Lakes S.P./ Witch's Hole   Lou Sebesta
  May 08, 2002 10:50 PDT 
Fellow 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, etc. 

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 later.....   Lou