Search report: the "Woolly Mammoth", Kalanu Prong, TN-
02, 2006 19:09 PDT
Search report: Climb of the Woolly Mammoth hemlock May 17th,
Like the rediscovery of the "Winding Stairs Loner"
this tree was located
from a past recollection of mine of a huge hemlock somewhere on
in the Greenbrier District of Great Smoky Mountains National
Park (TN). A
reconnaissance trip was justified, and Jess and I were
accompanied in early
February by Kristine Johnson and Tom Remaley of the National
GRSM to locate the tree for the Tsuga Search. After a long day
tuliptrees (no big hemlocks were to be found) we came upon this
against a steep bank very late in the day. A full four miles
trailhead, we decided to take the time to complete some
monocular shots to
estimate the volume rather than return later (we hiked out in
the dark). Our
ground-based measurements indicated the tree to be a whopper,
fully 15'1" in
girth, 152.9' tall and containing ~1270 cubic feet of wood.
The numbers put the tree on the top of the list for a climb, as
it would be
the third largest hemlock documented in the Smokies- if the
estimate was accurate. This huge tree grows on the western face
Tops Mountain, a rugged spruce covered peak topping out at 5463
this tree is vastly larger than any other in the area that we
know of I
dubbed its pet name to be the "Woolly Mammoth".
Apparently this tree
impressed Tom and Kristine as they returned a few weeks after
to complete a soil treatment to combat the hemlock woolly
We set up the trip and ironically, fellow ENT and
Neil Pederson and his assistant were down the same day to core
silverbell and yellow buckeye- species abundant in the same
area. So, the
four of us packed in the gear for the climb and plot work. We
tree after much ascending and rock hopping and I climbed for the
measurements, Jess began the vegetation plots, and Neil's team
The tree grows at the transition of a hemlock/birch and a rich
hardwoods forest at close to 3900 feet elevation. The diversity
of trees was
astounding and the view one direction was entirely different
from the other.
Just about 25 feet north of the stream, the Mammoth has enjoyed
competition on the south side which has resulted in a huge mass
of limbs on
that side and a slight but pronounced lean towards the creek.
are huge, one of which I estimated at 40 feet long as it twisted
descended for the best light. In one section, two huge limbs
jutted out of
the trunk just inches from each other in the same direction
perhaps?). One of these turned up and splayed out into a complex
reiterations. The tree was very gnarly and full of a dizzying
twisted and cascading limbs.
Views from the stout top were incredible; high vistas of
fresh greens of new sugar maple and basswood leaves, and the
discovered vibrant display of yellow buckeye blooms and moss
boulders as viewed from above. The hemlocks however, were not in
spring plumage as the hemlock woolly adelgid has a firm grip on
The mammoth was covered head to toe with adelgid and portions of
had begun to decline. Surprisingly though, the top was still
places and flower buds were about to break.
The tape drop indicated it was 2.5 inches taller than the laser
(not too bad ;), but more impressive was the result of the
measurement. The taped increments and girths gave a volume of
feet, just 7.7 cubic feet (.6%) different than those of the
Here are some specs of the tree:
Total height 153.2'
Basal girth= 18'4"
Girth at 20' 13'0"
Girth at 50' 12'1"
Girth at 100' 8'6"
.And just for you Bob Leverett, 1004 cubic feet by 79.9'.