Joint Forest Service - ENTS outing (20) Bob Leverett
June 24, 2009


Today was a good day. Laura Stransky, a Forest Service planner, inventory specialist, and old growth expert took Monica, me, and Rocky (the dog) to Lower Hermosa Creek to look at the big trees that Monica and I have been documenting. Laura and I measured several of the trees together. I wanted a second opinion and official recognition of the location and heights of important trees by the Forest Service. Laura was the right person to have along. She is very good on old growth characteristics and was impressed with the ages of many of the big Doug Firs and Ponderosa Pines in Lower Hermosa Creek. She also identified White Fir in the area. I'm embarrassed to say I had casually identified it as Colorado Blue Spruce. We measured the fir to 117.0 feet in height. It has a DBH of a modest 24.3 inches. Later, we measured a second White Fir to about 120 feet in height. Girths of the White Firs in the area that we saw are not exceptional. 
What is really exciting was that Laura identified a Southwestern White Pine up the ravine that has the White Fir. She later located a second. I counted needles in bundles of 5 on the second pine. There weren't any big Southwestern whites, but just to see the species was very exciting.

We remeasured a great old Ponderosa in a ravine which Laura is going to name. We will await her choice. It is one that I had measured before. We compared notes and settled on statistics of: height = 147.0 feet, girth = 10.1 feet. Laura estimates its age to be at least 200 years.

We then remeasured Lee Frelich's pine. We settled on 154.0 feet as the most reproducible height. So, 154.0 it is. Sorry, Lee, for the loss of the half foot. One of the attached photos above show Monica and Laura beside the fine tree. Oh yes, Laura examined the bark of the pine and other characteristics and believes that it is over 350 years old. I was very pleased to hear that. Laura traced a healed lightening scar around the trunk and compared bark and bark loss to other old pines in the vicinity. Lee's pine grows in a beautiful meadow with lupine and Rocky Mountain rose all around. Oh yes, Lee, Laura's assistant attended a presentation on old growth definitions you gave in 2001. Both are aware of your work.

On the way down the ridge to Lee's pine, we first stopped by a huge old Ponderosa, the largest one in girth I've seen in the watershed. Its girth is an impressive 13 feet (49.7 inches DBH). Its height to a flat top is 106.5 feet. It has been named the Kip and Laura Pine in recognition of their roles as stewards of the forest. Laura believes the old monarch is over 400 years old.

We then remeasured the champion Ponderosa, the Schrater Pine. If you recall my first measurement of the tree was 162.0 feet. I then went to more conservative measurements and set its height at 160.7 feet. I knew that was conservative. We took the most often repeated high numbers today and ended up with 162.0 feet. Laura put her blessing on the numbers, so 162.0 feet it is. 

We also remeasured a Colorado Blue that I had measured to 151.5 feet. We settled on 152.0 feet today. It is the Laura Stransky Spruce. Its neighbor is the Kip Stransky Spruce. 

I also took a photograph of Monica against a glorious old pine right above the trail. I called it the SweetiePiePonderosa. Its girth is exactly 10.0 feet (38.2 inches DBH). It is the first attachment. Based on what Laura saw as age characteristics in the pines, I would estimate the old Ponderosa is between 300 and 350 years old.fschrater@gobrainstorm.
Basically, folks, Lower Hermosa Creek is loaded with old growth and tall trees. It has now produced the world records for Pinus ponderosa scopulorum and for Picea pungens. I don't know what the record for the Rocky Mounatin Douglas Fir is, but the one near the champion Ponderosa is 158.0 feet tall. 

In addition to the trees, we had a wild flower feast and a fairly good birding day. That is another story. Ooh, what did I just hear. The train whistle. I look forward to my next train ride. Hmmm, wonder if they would consider periodically stopping for me to measure a tree? I'm sure all the passengers would be delighted to hear tree numbers spouted every few hundred yards. Don't think so? I guess you're right. I'll let that one pass.

Oh yes, after my misidentification of a White Fir as a Colorado Blue, I asked Laura to ID the champ as a Blue. She did and it is. Whew!


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