Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

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edfrank
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Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

Post by edfrank » Fri Aug 22, 2014 4:10 pm

On Wednesday August 20, 2014 I drove over to Cook Forest State Park, PA to meet fellow ENT Tom Howard and his brother Jack Howard. I had not met Tom before, but I loaned him a rangefinder and inclinometer several years ago so he could get numbers from central New York. We mat at the Park Office and drove over to the Log Cabin Inn. We did a quick tour there before heading up the Longfellow Trail. I gave them the standard talk I give to visitors telling them the history of the park and the chunk of remaining old growth forest and pointed out where the old growth began at the hemlock growing on the rock alongside of the trail.
Tree of Peace planted by Chief Jake Swamp
Tree of Peace planted by Chief Jake Swamp
We talked about the trees and Tom was enthusiastically measuring things with the rangefinder. We reached the top of the hill along the trail near where the tornado cut through the park in 1956. The trees from that encounter were salvage logged at the time, but there are still some limited traces of the old path of the tornado running up the valley.

Shortly after this we cut off the path and went cross-country to see the Seneca Pine. This is the largest volume tree in the park and was one climbed by Will Blozan at an ENTS Rendezvous several years ago.
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From this point it was easier to head father up and meet the Rhododendron Trail than to back track. As we hiked I kept on the lookout for “wildlife.” Soon I was rewarded and came across a red eft. This is a salamander species that spends most of its life in the water. Here it was near the top of the hill among the duff on the forest floor. The Red Eft is the juvenile terrestrial phase of the Eastern Spotted Newt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_newt Tom said he had only ever seen one before and he had Jack get some photos. Soon we found another and another, maybe five or six all together.
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Then we hit the Rhododendron Trail and headed over toward the Indian Trail, and thence back to the Longfellow trail. I am always impressed by the trees growing atop rocks and there are several nice examples along the Rhododendron Trail as it is near the top of the hill which is itself capped by a thick sandstone layer that produces the big boulders.
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We followed the trail back to the Longfellow trail. There were many freshly downed trees, perhaps from windstorms over the last few weeks. We walked along the Longfellow and tom was randomly shooting up at the trees to get a feel for their height, but we did not make any real effort to actually measure any of them. These were the tallest eastern trees Tom had ever found. Soon we were in the vicinity of the Longfellow Pine. We stopped by what was left of the log bench and I had Jack pick out which of the tree he thought was the tallest. He picked the right one. I forbade Tom from playing because he had seen too many photos of the bark scar on the tree and could have easily picked it out once he knew he was in the right area.
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkK11ZcDVos&feature=youtu.be

From here we went down to the Red Eft Trail and turned back toward the parking area. I pointed out the small cucumber tree at the intersection of the trail. It is likely the offspring of the large cucumber tree that fell ten years ago. After a short distance we reached the fallen cucumber tree. A cookie cut from the tree at a height of about 18 feet had a ring count of 436 years amking it significantly older than the oldest cross-dated cucumber tree (from Virginia) which was a comparative youngster at 375 years.
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Then on down the Red Eft Trail to Tom’s Run and up the Tom’s Run Trail. The light and mist made some wonderful scenes along the stream. My camera was not adjusted quite right, so most of the images did not come out well, but I got a few adequate shots.
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Just before the reaching Picnic Shelter #2 along the run, past the hemlock with the big burl, there were two freshly fallen hemlocks across the path. They were fresh falls and the scent of hemlock was in the air.
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We returned to the car and headed up to the fire tower. In the parking lot I pointed out the 40 foot tall flowering dogwood. We went to the fire tower, climbed to the top and looked around the panoramic view. We looked at the tree canopies. Next we went to Seneca Point to check out the view before leaving the area. Tom and Jack had to hit the road, so the last stop we made was to see the large devil’s club located behind the park office. We shook hands and went our separate ways. I hope Tom posts an account and some of the photos taken by Jack from this trip
Edward Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

Post by Larry Tucei » Fri Aug 22, 2014 4:28 pm

Ed- It's good to see you back on the Forum. Cook is one really nice looking Forest and your photos show that well. I must get up sometime soon and see this wonderful place. Larry

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tomhoward
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Re: Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

Post by tomhoward » Sun Aug 31, 2014 1:30 pm

NTS,

Here is my post on Cook Forest Aug. 20.

On this sunny beautiful day (that at times had big clouds and threatened rain, which had been forecast), Jack Howard and I left where we were staying at Falconer near Jamestown, NY, and traveled south into PA on US 62. We stopped at the headquarters of Allegheny National Forest, and it is a good thing we did, as the man working there gave us directions for a scenic route to Cook Forest. It was the first time that either of us had been in this part of PA. We bypassed the little city of Warren, and then took US 6 east to Sheffield, to PA 666, which we followed deep into the rolling hills and fragrant 2nd growth of Allegheny NF; then we took the very scenic Blue Jay Creek Rd. from PA 666 to PA 66, heading south all the time, through some of the most beautiful forest country I’ve ever seen in the East. We continued on PA 66 south to the road connecting to Cook Forest – White Pines were steadily becoming more abundant, and we passed through a forest of large White Pines in the northern part of Cook Forest State Park – these trees are most likely old 2nd growth; we reached the main part of Cook Forest, and came to Cooksburg on PA 36, an utterly idyllic spot, by the wide Clarion River, with pine-forested hills all around. The air in all of Cook forest was wondrously fresh, and fragrant with White Pine in most places. By the park HQ at Cooksburg, we met Ed Frank, who showed us many of the park’s wonders – I have never seen a more glorious forest in the East. Ed showed us the cross-sections of ancient trees in the Log Cabin Inn, including the incredible record age of Cucumber Magnolia. In 2012 Ed graciously loaned me a laser rangefinder and clinometer, and I have made great use of them in central NY, New England, and other places. I’d make a few measurements with them in Cook Forest, but the fully leafed out canopy and understory prevented me from making conclusive measurements, but most of the really tall trees at Cook have already been measured, so pointing up at the lofty White Pine crowns was more of an exercise of wonder.

Ed took Jack and me on the Longfellow Trail, which goes into the heart of the Forest Cathedral, to the Longfellow Pine, the tallest tree in the Northeast. We first stopped at a small White Pine in a cleared area – this tree was planted a few years ago by the internationally recognized Mohawk leader Jake Swamp. Soon after this, we entered the old growth forest, a forest dominated by Hemlocks of all sizes from very large to very small, and by ancient White Pines towering above all other trees. We passed the remains of an old gnarled White Oak lying on the ground under the smaller Hemlocks, and on and up into the deep forest. Ed led us off trail, into a stand of larger and larger White Pines; the ground was damp, spongy, mossy, and the area had something of a rain forest aspect. Ed took us to the Seneca Pine, the largest White Pine at Cook Forest, and possibly the PA State Champion White Pine. I measured this great old tree, the largest forest-grown White Pine I’ve ever seen at 49.3” dbh. Ed said it is over 172 ft. tall. Despite reports that the Seneca Pine is dying, it looked healthy to Ed. There were several other White Pines in its immediate vicinity nearly as large and as sky-piercingly tall. Near it was the giant Cornstalk Pine, with its broken, gnarled top over 135 ft. above the ground, far below the heights of its neighbors. These White Pines are truly ancient, easily in the 350 year or more range. These are the oldest White Pines I’ve ever seen in a forest. There was a lot of moss, which Ed said should be over 200 years old, many Ferns (everywhere in this section of Cook Forest), Hemlocks, Red Maple seedlings, and so forth, and everywhere Fungi of many types (about which I know little) were abundant. Ed pointed out some wildlife, and it turned out to be a Red Eft Salamander, the first one I’d seen since I saw one in a 2nd growth near Binghamton, NY 40 years before. We soon saw several more Red Efts. They are common in the Forest Cathedral of Cook Forest. The air, which Joan Maloof calls “Old Growth Air” smelled wondrously fresh, healthy – this is the most glorious old growth I’ve ever seen in the East. We saw some big Black Cherry trees. The forest was quiet most of the time, but we heard a sound like a giant door slamming – Ed said it was the sound of a big tree falling.

The ancient, rough-barked White Pines towered like skyscrapers over much lower Hemlocks. I got a straight up shot of nearly 150 ft. into the crown of an especially tall White Pine, but that was nowhere near the top. I stepped back some and could see much higher up (I could not get a basal shot as I was too close to the base of the tree for the laser rangefinder to get a measurement so I could only get the height to a high point above my eye level, and even this is not the highest point of the tree; I came up with a height of 168.7 feet; this tree is easily over 170 ft. tall, the tallest tree I have ever measured.

Ed said that the White Pines of the forests that long ago covered vast areas of the Northeast, were no bigger than the awesome ancient White Pines we saw in Cook Forest this day; they never were much bigger than this, and reports of White Pines well over 200 ft. tall are not credible. NTS members like Bob Leverett have written extensively about this.

I counted over 250 rings on a 9” radius cross-section of the log of dead White Pine fallen across the trail. This cross-section was about 20 ft. above the tree’s base.

Soon after this we saw a Deer, a Doe. This was the only Deer we’d see at Cook Forest, despite the evidence of Deer overpopulation everywhere.

Now we came to the great Longfellow Pine, 185 ft. tall, according to Ed Frank’s 2013 measurement. Bob Leverett measured 183.2 ft. with his advanced lasers earlier this month; at any rate, it has no rival for tallest tree in the Northeast. Ed took a picture of Jack and me standing by this great tree. It appears to be very tall, but not much taller than other White Pines at Cook. Yet this is the tallest known tree in all of North America, north of the Great Smokies and east of Idaho (where Western White Pine is believed to be over 200 ft. tall); in all eastern North America, there may be only 10 or 12 trees taller than Longfellow (most of them White Pines in the southern Appalachians, and a much smaller number of Tuliptrees in the southern Appalachians), and none are as much as 10 ft. taller than Longfellow; as far as I know, the tallest tree in eastern North America is the 192 ft. Tuliptree Will Blozan discovered in the Great Smokies in 2011. The Longfellow Pine is most likely over 350 years old.

We walked by the log of the fallen oldest Cucumber Magnolia, a tree that possibly lived as much as 450 years. The great log is covered with ferns and other dense growth. We began to see some large Rhododendrons in the understory, and a much smaller living Cucumber Magnolia, which is the great old tree’s descendant.

We came out to Tom’s Run, a beautiful stream bowered by green leafy trees. The mist hanging low over the rushing water created a magically mystical scene. A big Hemlock had just fallen across the trail and across the stream, and this huge tree took down another, smaller Hemlock, and we had to clamber over both of them. The needles on the big tree were still green, and the air was filled with the fresh, deep fragrance of Hemlock.

Trees seen in Forest Cathedral – White Pine, Hemlock, Beech, Yellow Birch, Black Birch, Red Maple, Cucumber Magnolia, Black Cherry

We got back to where we parked by Log Cabin Inn, the site of the Cooks’ millpond over 100 years ago. Most of this area is occupied by lovely bushy White Pine about 110 years old, far younger than the monarchs of the Forest Cathedral. I measured a typical White Pine by the parking lot to a height of 113.37 ft. – this would be a very tall White Pine in central NY, but it is puny in the wonderland of Cook Forest.

Ed showed us the remains of the dam that blocked Tom’s Run to form the millpond, some timbers in the stream, and a Yellow Birch with gnarled roots growing on top of the dam’s earthwork.

We followed Ed to our next destination, the Fire Tower in the southern part of the park. We went on a dirt road at first through more old growth forest (according to Dave Stahle, “Tree Rings and Ancient Forest History” in Davis, ed., Eastern Old-Growth Forests (1995), p. 329, a White Oak dating to 1662 was found along the Fire Tower Road along which we were traveling), into 2nd growth Oak forest, mostly Red Oak, then, as we reached the Fire Tower, mostly Chestnut Oak, low trees, with a dense understory of big clonal Rhododendron colonies. We parked by the tallest Flowering Dogwood in Cook, a tree over 38 ft. tall. This was a very interesting forest, in a normally dry rocky area (wet now due to frequent rains), with sandy soils. There was Mountain Laurel mixed with the Rhododendron (and Teaberry below both), and with Chestnut Oak was White Oak, Red Oak, some Red Maple, Black Gum, White Pine, Pitch Pine, Hemlock. Ed showed us an ancient Indian Acorn Grinding Hole on a sandstone outcrop – Indians ground the large Chestnut Oaks acorns into meal. Although none of the Oaks today are very old, the original forest on this spot most likely consisted of Chestnut Oak.

We climbed the Fire Tower, which was built in 1929, and is about 80 ft. tall, a scary, but thrilling climb, and it was amazing to be able to look down on the tops of the trees. The Chestnut Oaks below us were swelling with acorns. The view from up there was glorious, vast over forested hills, with old growth stands of White Pine visible.

We came down from the Fire Tower (easier going down than going up), and Ed took us to the Seneca Point Overlook, a stone outcrop amid rather young low White Pines; we listened to the breeze soughing through the White Pines, a magical sound, while taking in the wonderful view of the Clarion River winding beneath forested hills.

It was getting late, and Jack and I had to leave for our motel in Clarion. There are several tall Norway Spruces around the Cook Forest Visitor Center at Cooksburg – Bob Leverett measured one of these trees to 132 ft. I measured what I thought was a tall Norway Spruce but it was only 108.1 ft. tall. Ed showed us a strange small tree, with compound leaves, spines, big flower head on top – it is a native tree, which he called a Devil’s Club (or Devil’s Walking Stick).

Cook Forest contains the greatest White Pines Jack and I have ever seen.

Jack and I continued on to Clarion in the beautiful evening, along country roads, rolling hills, fields, 2nd growth woods to I-80, and then to the Comfort Inn, our lodging in Clarion. Red Oak is the dominant tree around Clarion.

Here are some pictures Jack took. The pictures are posted in reverse order, with the last picture posted first.



Tom Howard
Attachments
Devil's Club (Aralia)
Devil's Club (Aralia)
Seneca Point View
Seneca Point View
Indian Acorn Grinding Hole
Indian Acorn Grinding Hole
Fire Tower View
Fire Tower View
38 ft. Dogwood near Fire Tower
38 ft. Dogwood near Fire Tower
Tom's Run Mist
Tom's Run Mist
Freshly fallen Hemlock blocks trail by Tom's Runi
Freshly fallen Hemlock blocks trail by Tom's Runi
Red Eft
Red Eft
Fallen Log
Fallen Log
Forest Primeval
Forest Primeval

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dbhguru
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Re: Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

Post by dbhguru » Sun Aug 31, 2014 2:11 pm

Tom,

Excellent report! I'm so glad you and Jack got to see Cook. It is a one of a kind place and why we keep returning there for events such as the one we will be holding in April. I'm glad you were able to have Ed as a guide. He knows the place well.

You have a good sense of height maximums across the East. Not many people do.

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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Larry Tucei
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Re: Cook Forest SP, PA short hike

Post by Larry Tucei » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:47 pm

Tom- I second Bob's excellent report. I have been wanting to get up to Cook every since I became an NTS back in 06. Hopefully I can get up to that magical Forest this year or next. Larry

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