Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

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ElijahW
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Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:55 pm

NTS,

Today I spent some time in Hamilton County, NY, at a place called the Pine Orchard. I'm sure most of you are familiar with or at least have heard of this forest, but I didn't find any reports on it on the bulletin board. Perhaps it's on the old site, or I missed it, but just in case, I'm starting a new thread.

This was my first visit to the Pine Orchard, after driving within five miles or so of it probably a couple of hundred times. It's relatively easy to get to, with access via NY State routes 8 and 30, though the walk is much shorter from the Rt. 30 entrance. The Sierra Club Guide to the Ancient Forest of the Northeast has excellent directions. The weather was great, bugs weren't a problem at all, and the forest overall was a beautiful experience. Wildlife seemed to enjoy itself, as well; I spooked a deer and a turkey, and saw several small snakes and toads.

Now, on to the trees. The Pine Orchard features Eastern White Pines, and lots of them. After walking a mile or two through unremarkable Red Spruce-Balsam Fir forest with old hemlock, young white pine, and the native northern hardwoods, the white pines get much larger and more frequent. According to the Sierra Club Guide description, these trees grew in openings left by a hurricane in 1815, making them exactly 200 years old. This age seems appropriate to me; the pines lack the character, if not the size, of the Elders Grove in Paul Smiths.

Some views from among the giants:
DSC00563.JPG
DSC00564.JPG
DSC00565.JPG
DSC00566.JPG
DSC00567.JPG
DSC00568.JPG
I measured nine white pines; these are the heights in ascending order (the second column is the CBH):

125.4'
130.9'
131.7' 11'4"
132.6' 9'10"
136.4'
144.7' 11'4"
146.1' 13'4"
151.0' 12'10"
14'10"

The largest circumference pine I wasn't able to get a clear shot at the top, but it seemed to be around 125' tall. A double-trunked pine next to it was much larger, probably 18' or so, but it was clearly a fusion.

Before getting into the tall pines, I measured two Balsam Firs at 90', one alive and one dead. The best I got for hemlock was a 92.6', 6' CBH individual. The tallest Red Spruce I measured was 82.3'; the species was abundant but not as tall as they looked. There's probably one over 90' in the vicinity, but I didn't find it. I also measured two tamaracks at 84.6' and 89'.

These are the hardwoods I measured, mostly to get a Rucker Index. There may have been taller examples at this site for each species, but not by much.

Northern Red Oak 78.0'
Red Maple 99.4' 6'1"
Red Maple 99.0'
White ash 80.5'
Bigtooth aspen 78.9'
Black cherry 81.0'
Paper birch 83.0' 6'7"

The Paper birch, Bigtooth aspen, and Balsam Fir were personal bests for heights. Here's a couple of shots of the birch:
DSC00560.JPG
DSC00561.JPG
Overall, this trip was really exciting. Though I only measured nine white pines, there are probably more than a dozen over 130' in height, and maybe another one or two over 150'. My favorite tree in the woods today had to be the Paper birch - I've never seen one even close to that in size. If I had to choose to visit either the Pine Orchard Paul Smiths's Elders Grove, I'd have to go with the Pine Orchard. What a cool place!

Elijah

P.S. On the return trip, I drove a loop east, north, and back west along NY Rt. 28N. East of Huntington Forest in Newcomb, I measured a roadside Balsam Fir to 104.6, with a CBH of 5'1", breaking my personal record earlier in the day by almost 15'.
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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George Fieo
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by George Fieo » Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:42 am

Elijah,

As usual I enjoyed reading your post. Those white pine are truly impressive. I believe the roadside balsam fir you measured is a new NTS height record. I wonder if there's an even taller one back off the road. Congratulations on your new find and keep them coming.

George

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dbhguru
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by dbhguru » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:12 am

Elijah,

I echo what George said. Great job! It has been years since I saw that grove and it sorely needed remeasuring. The 151 is especially sweet, adding another site to the list for the Dacks. Years ago, I started a 12 x 150 club for white pines. It has been inactive recently, but I think it would be neat to resurrect it. I think the DACKs now have 3 sites that would contribute to the list.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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ElijahW
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:09 pm

Thanks, fellas.

George, the property was posted, so I didn't venture in to see what else was there. You may be right, but I'd have to get permission to go further.

Bob, the Pine Orchard pines were pretty much upright trees with vigorous tops, quite a contrast with the bent and leaning Elders Grove trees, perhaps 150 years older. I haven't seen your Mohawk Trail pines in person, but I would guess they would be more similar in form with the Pine Orchard trees than with the Elders Grove, given their relative youth. The Pine Orchard seems to have 160'+ potential. Whether that's due to soil quality, location, or some other factor, I don't know. I'd like to get into the Schroon Lake/Paradox area next, to see what's in all of that old second-growth. That's planned for this fall, but I may get out there earlier than that.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:27 pm

NTS,

This morning I returned to the Pine Orchard and remeasured the tallest White Pine to 151.6'. The girth remains unchanged at 12'10". Last year's height measurement was made with my Suunto clinometer and Nikon 440; this year's with the Trupulse 200X. Especially when one year's growth is accounted for, the reliability of the Nikon 440 is impressive. I don't think you can get a better bang for your buck.

I found another White Pine at 148'+, though I'm pretty sure now that I've identified the tallest tree here. Other new finds include three White Ashes, at 108.3' x 7'8", 107.7' x 7'2", and one with a dead top at 9'1" CBH.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend,

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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dbhguru
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by dbhguru » Sun Jun 12, 2016 8:44 am

Elijah,

Good job. Only be returning to these aites repeatedly, can we get their full measure. The 151.6-footer is illustrative of what the Dacks can grow. My current belief is that 160 is pretty much the ceiling for the region. Any thoughts?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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ElijahW
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:56 am

Bob,

After seeing what I saw in Newcomb yesterday, I'm uncertain as to how tall White Pine can get in the Adirondacks. Logically, the species should do better in a place like Wells, which is further south and at a lower elevation, but the Newcomb trees apparently are capable of growth rates between 1.4 and 1.5' per year, while the Wells trees might achieve half that. I also got a couple of pines in the North Hudson area, east of Newcomb, to just over 140'. These were likely just over 100 years old.

My current hypothesis is that for a protected site in the eastern Adirondacks with average precipitation and soil quality, 160' may be its height ceiling. For a top-quality site with rich soils and more precipitation, as well as the right topography, however, the height ceiling may be 10-15' higher. I believe these sites exist, but may take some hiking to get into.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:57 am

Elijah, how might we go about tracking down the sites you have those suspicions about? I haven't gotten to do any adirondacks backpacking in years, and the urge is there- some truly expeditionary measuring in the dacks in the next couple years is something I really think we should work to make happen. Based on Newcomb, old regrowth areas that were logged in the 19th century might have more potential for these heights even than old-growth areas like Elder's Grove.

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ElijahW
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by ElijahW » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:15 pm

Erik,

I think the areas with the most potential are the lower elevations of the southern High Peaks, mostly concentrated near the Hudson and Schroon Rivers. Several wilderness areas interest me, but the one I'll probably start with is Dix Mountain. I'm open to an extended trip, but I can't give you a timeframe right now. This part of the Adirondacks is also bear country and open to hunting, so that would have to be taken into consideration. We can talk more about this until something gets nailed down.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Pine Orchard, Wells, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Jun 14, 2016 3:56 pm

Certainly. I'm pretty tied up until the fall regardless. I'm in love with the High Peaks area so I'm glad to hear that's among the major areas of consideration. The low area surrounding Elk Lake just south of Dix Mountain and the terrain around the Ausable Lakes always looked enticing on the topo. Looking at the satellite images right now there's a formation called "beech ridge" just above Elk Lake and the canopy on the west side of the ridge looks pretty enticing. Heterogenous with some large crowns, shadows of emergents, etc. Lots of time to look at the possibilities!

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