Admiring a great pine in Oregon    Rory Nichols
   Jul 05, 2003 16:52 PDT 


Here's an article from the Salem, Oregon newspaper. One thing I have to say
is that I'm glad she (the journalist) got my words down fairly accurately.
Soon as I hung up the phone I became worried if she didn't quite understand
something I had spouted out. I wanted to make sure it came out well since
that's how I got in touch with her in the first place; correcting her on
some errors she got from sources that were too old on a previous article. So
it would be nice if I gave her good info on her next story since she asked
if I knew anything about a tree she was writing about.

I found it kind of funny that when I told her of what I used to measure tree
height, she couldn't quite comprehend the whole clinometer thing. I even
spelled it out for her 3 times. I think I recall Dale, Will or someone
saying when they told a journalist the same thing, they later went on
misspelling clinometer. But here she just wrote "other equipment" which
works just fine. Anyway, she did a good job. I'm happy with it.


Column: Admiring a great pine in Oregon

Statesman Journal
July 5, 2003

Some say Americans are obsessed with superlatives - the best, the biggest,
the smallest, the oldest, etc.

When I came upon Oregon's biggest ponderosa pine in La Pine State Park,
however, I knew immediately that - obsessive or not - it was a good thing
that I followed the signs that read: "Big tree."

A paved quarter-mile trail from a small parking area rolled gently through
the forest.

When I first saw the tree, I stopped dead in my Chacos and said to no one,
"Oh my."

The tree stood regal and dignified despite its broken top.

It used to be 191 feet tall before its crown fell, but it still is an
impressive 162 feet high.

Its circumference is 28.9 feet and diameter is 9 feet. It is about 500 years

Its bark looks like oversized slabs of patio slate. Great burls bulge out of
its trunk like caramel popcorn for a giant.

Through the ages, Native Americans likely gathered here as well as pioneers,
while the tree survived fire and logging saws.

This is the stuff that gets people hooked on big-tree hunting.

"It's the fact that they are still around," said Rory Nichols, 19, a
big-tree enthusiast from Silverton and student at Chemeketa Community
College. "They are whacking away at a lot of them and yet it's still there.
I find that pretty amazing. You kind of wonder: 'How come they didn't log
this one?'"

Nichols had that thought when he saw Oregon's biggest tree, a Sitka spruce,
off Highway 101 near Seaside.

"It is a national co-champion although it is the third largest in the U.S.,"
Nichols said. (Signs mark the way to the tree from the highway, he said.)

Nichols said his interest in big trees began when his mother bought a book
from the Department of Forestry containing the 1994 Oregon registry of big

He said he uses a laser range finder and other equipment to measure tree

"You put them together and do some trigonometry with a basic science
calculator," he said.

He learned the most about big trees by communicating online with members of
the Eastern Native Tree Society.

The American Forest National Registry uses a points system to rate which
trees are the biggest.

Sometimes, however, the system can "get people squawking," Nichols said,
because a tree can score more points than another that has more volume,
which can be difficult to measure.

When it comes to the truth about big trees, botanists and big-tree mavens
such as Nichols would swear on what they consider to be the big tree bible,
Robert Van Pelt's "Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast."

"This is a very outstanding book that came out in 2001 and nothing has ever
been published like it," Nichols said.

The book has the most current information, he said. For instance, according
to Van Pelt, the Brummit Fir, in the coastal forest between Roseburg and
Coquille, is no longer the Douglas Fir national champ.

It still is the tallest Douglas fir in Oregon, however, and a beauty,
Nichols said.

The reigning national champ is Tichipawa in the Olympic Peninsula, Nichols

Back at the big tree in La Pine, I walked just beyond it, where the
Deschutes River flows by grassy banks. It remains a favored fishing spot, as
it presumably has been for centuries.

I made my way to the Donald G. McGregor Memorial Viewpoint, where the river
formed a lazy horseshoe glinting in the sun with the snow-streaked Newberry
Volcano looming in the distance.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, there was not a car or visitor was in sight as
I listened to the pines squeak in the breeze.

Call me obsessive. It was the best.

Cathy Carroll is a freelance journalist who covers outdoors and recreation
for the Statesman Journal.