Adirondack Discoveries

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 855
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:33 am

ENTS, the following is an account of a visit I made to this site on November 12, 2017, between the initial posting and the several-day expedition with Jared and Elijah that we posted about in this thread recently. Sorry for the chronological jumping.

After that first visit that Bob described in his Adirondack Tree Mission report, we were all quite eager to return to the site and further explore its potential. The aerial imagery was tantalizing, and who wouldn't be excited by the prospect of putting this site in the lead for 12'cbh white pines and potentially finding additional 150'+ trees?

Just a couple weeks later, on a trip to see a Bur Oak site near Ogdensville, I was able to carve out an early morning to swing down into the high peaks and hike in to the place on the map that was tugging at me most. The morning of my November 12 solo visit was frigid. The landscape I'd started familiarizing myself with a couple weeks before was brightened by a fresh layer of snow, and wet soils and vegetation that had been soft underfoot were now decidedly crisp. I had my eye on a long esker ridge curving around a nearly-filled-in boggy wetland that had a small island in it. Both the ridge and the island had suggestions, from above, of some serious white pines.
Nice tall White Ash
Nice tall White Ash
Picking a route nearly straight east from an entry point a bit further north along the road from Halfway Brook, I was resolved to hike right through to the most serious-looking pines to maximize my available time, and not stop for any other trees, no matter how tempting! This discipline broke down when I encountered, in a shallow ravine, some old White Ash- a species we had not seen anywhere else in the surrounding old-growth. The tallest of several specimens came to 106', and while I was stopped to measure it a Sugar Maple of particular girth caught my eye, and, well, you get the picture. As I continued along my route I did allow myself a number of new measurements, representing new height maximums (for that moment) for Hemlock, Bigtooth Aspen, and Red Spruce. The rolling topography crossed a series of ridges, with old-growth hardwoods interspersed with denser patches of Hemlock (especially on the slopes and ridges), and occasional disturbance patches of various ages with more bigtooth aspen and paper birch, some of which were impressive for their species. The irregular nature of these early-succession patches suggests to me that they're probably natural, perhaps from periodic microbursts.

Eastern Hemlock
111' / 9.32'cbh
White Ash
106' / 5.9'cbh
Bigtooth Aspen
105' / 7.05'cbh
Red Spruce
104' / 6.07'cbh
Sugar Maple
100.5' / 10.3'cbh
Looking out over the bog through a screen of red and white pine
Looking out over the bog through a screen of red and white pine
At last I came to the backside of the long esker ridge above the bog, and white pines began to appear immediately. Many grow just north of the ridge, where lesser ridges interact with a trough that runs alongside the esker. The first I measured joined the 12x150 club (151.5'/12.61'cbh), while its comrade to the left about a foot shorter at 150.5' was a bit less girthy. The majority of the pines on this north side of the ridge were not quite as superlative, however, so I continued to reach the island. Ascending the ridge I was elated to find a large population of Red Pine. These appear to be quite comfortable on the esker ridge, especially dominating its south-facing slope, but nowhere else. I measured a couple representative specimens, though none were of superlative size.

White Pine
151.5' / 12.61'cbh
150.5' / 10.96'cbh
Red Pine
100.5' / 6.17'cbh
94.5' / 5.58'cbh

After a cautious bog-crossing, I finally found myself on the island. Almost immediately above me, rooted below a large boulder on a slope was a gorgeous pine. Shooting up at it, I was able to find a top that gave me a height of 158.5'- just 0.4' shorter than the tallest known tree in NY at the time. It was also clear that I was probably only hitting the edge of the crown's highest cluster. After measuring a couple pines just downslope, I scrambled up to find a viewing angle from the top of the little rise that would hopefully allow me to sight the tree's true top. Finally, after much backwards-stumbling over debris while peering through my rangefinder, I had settled on the tree's true top. Wrapping a tape for proper midslope reference and establishing an intermediate reference point (no single viewpoint would sight both top and base), I completed the measurements and crunched the numbers, hoping that just maybe it would manage to edge above 160'. When I got 162.87' I was astounded! Finally, a White Pine in the adirondacks had reclaimed the title of NY's tallest. It felt like a real breakthrough- at last NY, which is so vast and varied, had broken the 160' barrier. In the months that have followed, it's as though the dam was broken as Elijah and I have located another 4 160' trees in various locations and expect to record more before long.
The 162.7' tall white pine!
The 162.7' tall white pine!
The record only stood for about 30 minutes. Wandering the rest of the island, I found a couple more 150s and another 12'cbh tree. Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, some hemlock, and a few scattered hardwoods made for a modest understory but the great white pines are absolutely dominant. Many trees that don't quite achieve either of those superlative categories went unrecorded. Among the living pines are many immense snags, some broken off and others standing tall. I followed a slow drumming noise to catch a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker working over one of these snags. Down below, near where the island's slope met the bog, I spied another tree that looked like it would make the 12'cbh category. A quick shot with the laser suggested it would be fairly tall as well.

Wrapping my tape I realized that the tree was even larger than it had looked- after scrambling over a recently fallen balsam fir that covered one side of the base, the girth came to 13.27'cbh. I felt that this would be the last tree I'd have time to measure, so I headed up a slope perpendicular to my original viewpoint to try to make sure I got the absolute top. The rough numbers suddenly became much more exciting- the true top, now visible, was much higher than I had expected from the earlier shots. Locking it in, I crunched the numbers and came up with a new height maximum of 163.2!

White Pine
163.9' / 13.27'cbh / 48' ACS / 815 ft3
162.87' / 12.04'cbh
152.5' / 10.92'cbh
150.5' / 11.51'cbh
149' / 9.48'cbh
148' / 12.1'cbh
133.5' / 12.23'cbh
The Slow River Pine is a hard tree to photograph- front and center in this photo.
The Slow River Pine is a hard tree to photograph- front and center in this photo.
As mentioned in the post discussing my revisit with Jared and Elijah, this height was later revised to 163.9', with crown spread measured to 48' and volume to 815 ft3. I felt this superlative tree deserved a name, and its location together with a concept I'd been mulling over decided that this tree would be named the Slow River Pine, as I'll explain:

As to the location, this tree is perched directly above the narrow strip of boggy ground separating the island from the ridge. This bog is not a static body of water like most true bogs; it's a slowly moving body of water draining to Halfway Brook, filtering through sphagnum and tree roots- including the roots of this pine, no doubt, who has one foot on the dry slope and the other down with the cedars and firs that fill this slow, boglike river.

As for the broader concept- just as rivulets and tributaries carry water downstream to larger rivers and eventually to lakes or oceans in accordance with gravity, trees convey water in defiance of gravity via capillary action to rejoin the vast vapor reservoir of the atmosphere via transpiration. Since the bulk of a tree's structural carbon is derived from atmospheric CO2, one could think of trees as vertical biotic rivers to the sky, made of solidified air. Of course a tree is a tree, and a river is a river- but I think it's an interesting analogy to contemplate, that emphasizes the relationship trees have with our atmospheric carbon and water cycles. I feel that this tree, with its long, smooth trunk ascending to an upward cascade of fine needles, really embodies the concept on an aesthetic level.

And so it is the Slow River Pine- for now, NY's tallest tree.

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 245
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by JHarkness » Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:43 am

Erik,

Excellent reports and beautiful photographs as well! I especially like the tall sugar maple and white ash! I'm glad to see an Adirondack white pine take the title of NY's tallest tree, and it's a beautiful tree at that, I really like your name for the tree, too. It makes me wonder, when will someone find a 170' pine in NY? I can't believe that there aren't any seeing how much vast wilderness there is in the Adirondacks that no one has covered.

More on the search for Adirondack white pines, I believe I found an exceptional site in the central high peaks, it's definitely an old growth site, but it seems to be dominated by white pine, there are thousands of them at this site. I'll be paying the site a visit in the next couple months to get laser measurements on some of the pines, fortunately there appears to be a lot of canopy gaps so seeing the tops shouldn't be too much of an issue. I have another pine I need to pay a visit to, on a hike in the high peaks last year through what is heavily logged regrowth, I found one exceptional, arrow-straight old growth white pine perched on top of a bare boulder on the shore of a lake, for some reason, it was not cut. I still believe this pine is the tallest tree I've seen in my life, I would guess that it was at least 155', but could have been much more.

Joshua
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 855
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:36 am

Joshua,

The high peaks area is absolutely ripe with possibilities. I don't doubt that the area (and other parts of the state) can produce 170s in advantageous spots, and I would even suspect the two 160s there might achieve that someday. The issue with most explored areas seems to be timing; the very old growth left is rarely on the soils and topography that might produce 170+ trees, and the sites that could grow them have mostly been disturbed too recently for a cohort of trees in the 200-250 year class that would most likely be in that height bracket. Younger trees just haven't been growing long enough, and trees that survive to get older often get less tall with age. My impression is that places like Mohawk were disturbed and began regrowth earlier than the dacks and certainly earlier than the historic forests of great whites in my home region near lake erie. If you can find a stand that originated earlier with a natural disturbance on the right soils that's now entering the right age class and is dense enough for a lot of competition, that's almost certainly where the 170s would be.

Glad you'll be sporting a laser soon! I know we'd all like to make future adirondack rendezvous plans, would be great to intersect with your explorations there as well.

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 245
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by JHarkness » Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:36 pm

Erik,

It would be great to meet up with you and the others as well. I'm not far from the Adirondacks at all, only two and a half hours, three and a half to the high peaks, I just don't get up there that often, I wish I could more though. I'm not really west of Saranac Lake that often, I'm generally in the eastern and southern high peaks (less crowded!) and in the remote areas in the south-central high peaks. At least this gives us a chance to collectively cover more ground.

What are the state maximums for northern white cedar? I've encountered many in the more remote areas of the high peaks that are quite a lot larger and taller than what is in your report here. I guess I'll have to work on tracking down these cedars and measuring them.

Joshua
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 855
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:48 am

I believe the tallest whitecedars ever recorded don't quite crack 100'. Elijah's measured taller and girthier specimens elsewhere in the Adirondacks, I'm not sure I'm up to date on what the state maximums are.

I've always wanted to get into that area described as a temperate rainforest of old-growth northern whitecedar in the Panther Gorge area. It's been far too long since I've done any backpacking up there. I don't know if there'd be any large specimens at that elevation, but it's got to be gorgeous. Have you been in there?

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 245
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by JHarkness » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:38 am

Erik,

No I haven't been in Panther Gorge, and didn't know of the old growth white cedar forest, but I was recently on Allen Mountain and thought I saw what looked like a lot of cedars mixed in with the firs.

Here's a photo of one of the cedars I saw in the high peaks recently, this one is in the Santanoni Range, a very wet area with lots of cedars. I returned this spring and ventured off trail and found myself immersed in an old growth forest of hemlock and cedar, the white cedars there were incredible, some may have been up to four feet in diameter and some may have been close to 100', unfortunately, I didn't get any good photos that show the scale of these trees, I need to return soon.

Joshua
To give a sense of scale, the red spruce fir saplings here are between 15 and 20' tall.
To give a sense of scale, the red spruce fir saplings here are between 15 and 20' tall.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
ElijahW
Posts: 812
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:04 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by ElijahW » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:40 pm

Erik,

Well done, and thank you for completing this. It’s possible that we’ll find taller and/or larger trees in the Adirondacks, but very unlikely that another site exists with so many superlative pines. I like “Slow River Pine.”

Joshua,

That’s a terrific looking cedar. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the High Peaks region, but you’re not the first person who’s mentioned finding big ones up there. Must be something to it. Anything over 10’ around and/or 80’ tall is worth noting. I’ll look forward to seeing what you turn up.

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

User avatar
ElijahW
Posts: 812
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:04 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by ElijahW » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:33 pm

Bob,

I welcome the idea of an NTS book. If based on trip reports already completed, it would just need to be compiled and edited. I’m game.

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

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 245
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by JHarkness » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:21 pm

Elijah,

I was very impressed with this tree, it's not the tallest or largest I've seen, but it's isolation from other mature cedars really gives it a lot of character. I'll be back in the area this fall, though the cedar is a little out of my way, I'll get over to it and measure it if I have enough daylight. The most impressive ones I've ever seen, though they weren't that old, were a stand of very tall, straight cedars, most were at least 80' tall and 2' in DBH, quite a few were probably 3' DBH. I likely won't be able to visit this grove this year, but next year I certainly will. Many of the ones I've seen in the high peaks remind me more of western redcedar than of northern white cedar, they just have that same character and leave quite an impression on someone who sees them.

Joshua
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
Lucas
Posts: 837
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:55 am

Re: Adirondack Discoveries

Post by Lucas » Tue Jul 24, 2018 12:56 pm

The 'dacks are turning out to be a superb place. The Smokies of the north.

It surprises that I have been following info on wild places, like the parks, for many years but the 'dacks have not come up much. Why this lack of press given the wonders there is strange.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

Post Reply

Return to “New York”