Pack Forest Aug. 2015

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tomhoward
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Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by tomhoward » Mon Aug 17, 2015 4:06 pm

NTS,

On this sunny, very warm Sunday, Elijah Whitcomb and I traveled from North Syracuse to the famous old growth site, Pack Forest in the town of Warrensburg on the eastern side of the Adirondacks. We took NY 31 east, partly along the south shore of Oneida Lake, to NY 365, NY 365 east to Holland Patent Cemetery, where we examined some big trees, including central NY’s largest White Pine (which is still alive, and is in a separate report). Then we took NY 365 into the Adirondack Forest Preserve, to NY 8, and then NY 8 north (actually east) across the southern Adirondacks to NY 28, NY 28 east to US 9, US 9 a short distance north to Pack Forest Rd. on the left side.

Most of the journey through the southern Adirondacks was through beautiful 2nd growth forest with lots of White Pine, Balsam Fir (often in dense spire-like stands), Red Spruce, Tamarack, planted Scots Pine, Hemlock, Aspen, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Black Cherry, beautiful forests of White Pines along streams. This day would be dominated by White Pines. We saw blue mountains over 3000 ft. high, blue lakes with pine-forested shores. We went through lovely White Pine groves around Lake Pleasant and Speculator. Most of these White Pines seem to be 100-120 ft. tall, towering above all other trees.

Speculator is about 1700 ft. above sea level, and our highest point on NY 8 is over 2000 ft. above sea level. As we descended, a sign by the road, said we were 1908 ft. above sea level. We would keep going down all the way to Pack Forest, which is 750-800 ft. above sea level. Groves of tall 2nd growth White Pine would be with us all the way to Pack Forest. We crossed the Hudson River on NY 28, amid the groves of White Pines.

We took narrow Pack Forest Rd. through more 2nd growth White Pine to a parking area near the start of the Nature Trail. This lot has several old white wooden buildings, surrounded by tall fragrant White Pines. The air at Pack Forest was wondrously fresh, pine-scented, a beautiful paradise-like place among the White Pines. Most of these pines are 2nd growth, seeming to be 80-120 years old, and averaging 110-120 ft. tall, with a few well over 130 ft.

Trees at Pack Forest: Dominant: White Pine (in younger areas near roads, buildings), Hemlock (in main part of forest on Nature Trail; all Hemlocks seem healthy), Yellow Birch (several big ones on Nature Trail)
Associate: Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Striped Maple, Mountain Maple, Basswood, Red Oak (not common), Red Spruce (several dead), Balsam Fir (1 dead seen), Red Pine (few), Black Cherry, American Elm (few), Ash


From where we parked, we could see extremely tall White Pines in the distance – these were the old growth trees we had come to seek.
We took the Nature Trail down into the forest. Before we came to a road, we came to the first of what would be 3 groups of large old growth White Pines. This first group had 4 trees, and I measured one of them at 44.8” dbh (others about the same size), and Elijah got a height of 120 ft. on this tree. We would see much taller White Pines.

We continued into the forest by a stream, toward a flooded beaver meadow. Trees were not big here, and this section is almost certainly 2nd growth, dominated by rather small Hemlock – Elijah measured one of these Hemlocks to 101 ft.

We entered a nearly pure stand of 2nd growth Hemlock – a sign placed by SUNY ESF (which owns Pack Forest) says this is a classic example of Eastern Hemlock Forest. The Hemlocks soon became bigger (but not taller), gnarlier, older, and we entered old growth, and then came to the 2nd and densest of the 3 groups of old growth White Pines we would see at Pack Forest. This 2nd group has about 6 very large trees, very close together, much larger in circumference than all the other trees around them, and these great old gnarled White Pines soar high above the other trees around them. They look alike like the old, rugged towering White Pines my brother and I saw in Cook Forest and Hearts Content last year.

I measured the following 2 White Pines in this group: 135.1 ft., 141.2 ft.

Elijah measured another White Pine in this group to 138 ft., and then he measured another White Pine (this tree with a dead top) to 146 ft. This would be the greatest height we would get in this group, but it is unlikely that we hit the highest points of these battered, complex old crowns. Later on we would see this group from Sweet Rd., and at least 3 other green, healthy White Pines looked taller than the 146 ft. tree with the dead top.

In the same area, I counted 202 rings on a 9” radius stump of a Hemlock that had fallen across the trail.

Farther along the trail, in a forest dominated by old Hemlocks, I counted 357 rings on a 12” radius cross-section of a Hemlock that had fallen across the trail. This cross-section came from at least 10 ft. above the base of the tree, and there could even be more than 357 rings – these rings are very tight, and in the inner part, hard to read. This tree may have lived nearly 400 years.
In this same area, Elijah measured a typical Hemlock to 108 ft.

Next we came to the 3rd (and last) of the 3 groups of old growth White Pines. This group consists of only 2 huge towering White Pines, that utterly dwarf the old Hemlocks around them. The biggest of these 2 great trees is the famous Grandmother’s Tree, which seems to be at least 350 years old. A SUNY ESF sign by it says it is almost 150 ft. tall, at least 325 years old. This tree was saved by the Woodward family, who settled there in 1796 – according to the story, Mrs. Woodward protested her husband’s plan to cut the tree down – he relented, and the tree still stands today. This great tree has an immense, green, healthy crown. Elijah and I made several attempts to measure it, but we couldn’t hit the highest point of its wide, rugged crown. My best attempt reached 148 ft. Elijah got 147 ft. from another part of the crown. The highest part of the tree seems to be in the middle of the crown.

Grandmother’s Tree – 55.5” dbh (14.52 ft. cbh). This is the largest circumference forest-grown White Pine I’ve ever seen, even bigger around than the biggest White Pines we saw in Cook Forest and Hearts Content, but those PA trees are much taller than Grandmother’s Tree. Even still, Grandmother’s Tree is one of the tallest trees in NY; I believe Bob Leverett measured it to 152 ft. about 2013. I measured 53 ft. to the first live branch of this great tree.

I saw a green Inchworm starting to climb the great tree from its big roots, near a small scar on the base. It has a long way to go.

A much smaller Hemlock grows at the base of Grandmother’s Tree.

Grandmother’s Tree may be the largest White Pine in NY. There may be a larger tree in Elders Grove at Paul Smiths farther north in the Adirondacks.

The White Pine next to Grandmother’s Tree is smaller, and seemed much shorter – that is not so – see later in this report.

All over Pack Forest, we could hear the wonderful sound of breezes soughing through lofty White Pine tops.

There seem to be no more than 12 large old growth White Pines in pack Forest. These 12 trees are in 3 groups – first group with 4 near beginning of Nature Trail, second with 6, and last with 2 (including Grandmother’s Tree).

We continued along the Nature Trail, still in old growth, but with much smaller, lower trees.
I measured a rather slender Hemlock to 98.8 ft.:
Elijah measured a Hemlock near an old Sugar Maple to 94 ft. and the old Sugar Maple to 85 ft.

The trail ends at a dirt road, and across a pond is a grove of tall young White Pines, a beautiful site. These White Pines seem to be about 80-90 years old, slender and young. I measured one of them to 111.2 ft., and another White Pine in this group, this one with 2 leaders, with the leader to the left at 110.5 ft.:
Elijah measured a White Pine in this group to 119 ft., and another White Pine in this group to 122 ft. There could be even taller ones.

Then we walked near a swamp with dead White Pine snags, surrounded by tall live 2nd growth White Pine, and almost pure stand of tall young White Pine.

Along the busy road leading to ESF’s Pack Forest camp, we came to a grove of tall, beautiful young White Pines (but older than the previous group – these larger trees seem to be about 100-120 years old). These trees are near some white wooden buildings. Elijah measured several of these White Pines to 127 ft. 136 ft. (and this tree could be taller), 2 trees at 129 ft., 121 ft. These trees have wide crowns, and there are many we didn’t measure (but we did measure some that looked tallest); the tallest White Pine in this grove should be about 140 ft.

We returned to the car. From where we parked, we could see Grandmother’s Tree and its companion – both of these ancient White Pines tower above all other trees, and the companion seems to be less than 5 ft. shorter than Grandmother’s Tree.

Pack Forest could have 3 or 4 150 ft. White Pines.

We left Pack Forest, returned to US 9. In the 2nd growth White Pine forest along Pack Forest Rd., Elijah measured a Jack Pine to 69 ft.

We took US 9 south through Warrensburg, to Lake George Village, a touristy place, with big crowds, but in an utterly beautiful setting. Lake George is glorious, a blue lake amidst pine-forested mountains, and even the crowded village is filled with lovely stands of tall 2nd growth White Pines. This site, despite its beauty, has a tragic history (one of the reasons why it has been a tourist attraction for many years); it is the site of Fort William Henry, which was captured by the French in Aug. 1757, in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the French and Indian War.

We took US 9 south to Glens Falls through forests of 2nd growth White Pine (now mixed in with Pitch Pine). We had dinner at Friendly’s in Glens Falls, then took I 87 south to NY 67 (by this time there were more hardwoods than White Pines), NY 67 west through Ballston Spa to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam west on NY Thruway back to the Syracuse area, and home. We took the Thruway west along the tranquil Mohawk River, between Big Nose and Little Nose with old growth White Cedars clinging to nearly vertical cliffs. There is some Paper Birch among the Cedars.

On our way back to Syracuse, we stopped at the Thruway Rest Area in Oneida County; I reported on this site back in 2010, with its tall Maples (that are Freeman Maples, not Silver Maples as I thought). The details of this visit in Aug. 2015 will be in a separate report.



Tom Howard

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ElijahW
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Re: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by ElijahW » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:50 am

NTS,

This trip to Pack Forest was my second, but first with any measuring equipment. I really enjoyed the outing with Tom, and like he, was surprised especially by the quality of the second growth white pines. Pack Forest may possibly contain the largest overall white pine in the Adirondacks (and NY State) in the Grandmother Tree, but as for the number and quality of trees, I would rank it third or fourth. Among the Adirondack sites I've visited, I would consider Pine Orchard to be the most impressive, followed closely by the Elders Grove at Paul Smiths and perhaps the Cathedral Pines at Seventh Lake near Inlet.

I apologize for the delayed post, as I've been away from my computer quite a bit lately. Here are some pictures of Pack Forest:
Old hemlock stump
Old hemlock stump
Grandmother Tree
Grandmother Tree
DSC00578.JPG
DSC00579.JPG
DSC00581.JPG
Tom measuring the second-growth pines
Tom measuring the second-growth pines
Mountain maple.
Mountain maple.
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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tomhoward
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Re: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by tomhoward » Tue Sep 22, 2015 7:50 pm

Elijah,

These are great pictures. They convey the wonder and majesty of Pack Forest.

Tom Howard

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ElijahW
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Re: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by ElijahW » Sat Jul 09, 2016 10:26 pm

NTS,

I remeasured the Grandmother Tree today, and its updated height is 155.6'. This is a new top Tom and I were unable to locate last year. The Grandmother Tree is currently NY's tallest White Pine, and at least a co-champion with the largest Elders Grove pine.

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: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by dbhguru » Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:54 pm

Elijah,


Soooper! You da man! Grandmother has always been tricky to measure. It is worthy of its new status. I look forward to getting back to see in in mid-fall.

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

wisconsitom
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Re: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by wisconsitom » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:03 am

So, evidently, hemlock woolly adelgid not present in that part of NY? If so, glad to hear it!

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Pack Forest Aug. 2015

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:24 am

Tom, here's a current overview of adelgid detections in NY state: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/86382.html

The adirondacks may never see the kind of adelgid decimation more temperate forests have seen, at least in the higher elevations. Winters are sufficiently deep and harsh to suppress them.

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