Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

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Devin
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:41 pm

Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by Devin » Sun Mar 13, 2016 11:02 am

NTS,
A couple of weeks ago I made a tangent trip to Ramseys Draft wilderness. The Forest Service has managed the Ramsey’s Draft area essentially as a wilderness since 1935 and much of it has never been logged. This is one of the few places in Virginia where you can find old growth low elevation forest. I hiked the Ramseys Draft trail up to Hiners spring, then connected to the Shanandoah mountain trail and back down to the trail head via the Road Hollow trail. The first several miles there was an old service road and the forest seems like it has been logged in the past, at least selectively. Its not until ~4 miles in you encounter some mother trees.

This area was blasted by HWA around 2000, and is pretty much a hemlock graveyard. I hiked this trail about nine years ago and it was difficult then, but now much more trees have fallen and there are literally about 100 trees to climb over and about 12 stream crossings with in the first ~7 miles. On a positive note, there are still some specimens with apparent resistance, mostly riparian trees, and once you get to higher elevations the scattered ridge-top hemlocks look immaculate.
This is the first mother tree you come across, a tulip poplar that I would guess is easily 200-300 years old.
This is the first mother tree you come across, a tulip poplar that I would guess is easily 200-300 years old.
I counted around 50 layers of cork cambium in the deeply fissured bark pieces that have sloughed off.
I counted around 50 layers of cork cambium in the deeply fissured bark pieces that have sloughed off.
About 4~ miles in good-sized white pines start to become abundant and the woods start to get piney.
A pano shot of one the largest white pines
A pano shot of one the largest white pines
A regular shot of the massive white pine
A regular shot of the massive white pine
Some of the hemmys are looking pretty good!
Some of the hemmys are looking pretty good!
abundant, not monster but good-sized white pines
abundant, not monster but good-sized white pines
emergent white pines
emergent white pines
Around ~5 miles I came across a beautiful OG tree that I initially pondered as a tulip poplar, but after some speculation noticed the bark looked different and there were no marcescent seed cones still attached to the branches. The branching pattern also appeared opposite and there were lots of abscised rachis, or central leaf stalks on the ground. Wow I am quite confident this is an ash and has to be one of the largest forest-grown ash trees I have ever seen besides the hemphill ash in GSMNP. What do yall think? I need to go back to this tree before EAB hits and treat this beautiful soul.
little taper in the bole of this beast
little taper in the bole of this beast
bark of the tree
bark of the tree
leaves underneath the ash, there was also a shagbark hickory next to the ash. thoughts?
leaves underneath the ash, there was also a shagbark hickory next to the ash. thoughts?
The right prong of the creek has seen utter devastation, comparable to Cataloochee in GSMNP, with complete canopy loss and dog haired birch filling in.
totally blasted
totally blasted
What I believe is Fomitopsis ochracea decomposing the hemlock snags, along with the ubiquitous Ganoderma tsugae
What I believe is Fomitopsis ochracea decomposing the hemlock snags, along with the ubiquitous Ganoderma tsugae
This what much of the trail looked like, downed logs every 20 yards or so
This what much of the trail looked like, downed logs every 20 yards or so
Before Hiners spring yellow birch becomes abundant with many of them infested with chaga (Inonotus obliquus). While this mushroom is generally uncommon in the southern Appalachians I have noticed it can be locally abundant in birch stands above ~3500ft.
I only harvest a small piece for a medicinal tincture.
I only harvest a small piece for a medicinal tincture.
Above Hiners spring there is Hardscrabble knob that gives you a view of the watershed.
A small stand of red spruce about 12 individuals
A small stand of red spruce about 12 individuals
ridge-top hemlocks look amazing!
ridge-top hemlocks look amazing!
A view of the watershed with a gnarly old oak in left center
A view of the watershed with a gnarly old oak in left center
Shenandoah mountain trail is really nice and easy with some healthy looking stands of hemlock and unique acidic vegetation communities of mountain laurel, white pine, oak, and hemlock.
easy walking ridge line trail
easy walking ridge line trail
steep but gentle sloping hardwood forest
steep but gentle sloping hardwood forest

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sjhalow
Posts: 60
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:38 am

Re: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by sjhalow » Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:21 pm

I think the tree in question is a White Ash. The leaves however look like hickory. I've noticed that ash leaves seem to decompose pretty quickly, might be hard to find any this time of year. I visited Shenandoah last fall and also noticed that the massive hemlock stands were long gone (Limberlost trail), but there were still many scattered very healthy looking hemlocks. Which is encouraging.

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Will Blozan
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Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:13 pm

Re: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Mar 13, 2016 5:08 pm

Definitely an ash. Some hemlocks in Ramsey's Draft and Shenandoah have received insecticidal treatments to combat HWA. When you see a healthy tree look at the base and see if it has been marked with paint or a tag. Higher elevation hemlocks are likely in the winter HWA kill-zone so they are fine (for now). Same in the higher elevations here in NC.

-Will

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Matt Markworth
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Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:41 pm

Re: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by Matt Markworth » Sun Mar 13, 2016 5:10 pm

Devin,

Thanks for the report! I remember Bob's post about Ramsey's Draft some time ago and have wanted to get over there to measure some pines. I'm hoping to measure a lot of white pines this year.

Matt

Devin
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:41 pm

Re: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by Devin » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:08 pm

Thanks for the confirmation on the ash. That really is a special tree. Matt, it seems like a good place for some measuring, although there is a lot of coarse woody debris and just be prepared for some rough terrain. The largest pine I saw I estimated at maybe around 150ft, but I'm sure there are taller trees.

Devin
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:41 pm

Re: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, VA

Post by Devin » Sun May 08, 2016 9:16 am

NTS,
I went back to Ramseys Draft the other day and treated the old ash tree, along with a handful of smaller ash trees, with a dose of imidacloprid in preparation for emerald ash borer. Although EAB has been trapped in three adjacent counties, I don’t think EAB has reached the draft yet, at least there are no visible signs, but these signs are always latent and I would rather be too early than too late. Too many old trees have died because we didnt act fast enough.

The tree is 38inches in diameter, but with a minimally tapering bole with no branching for about ~90ft. Additionally its basal area is a perfect pith “o”, unlike those fast growing river ash whoppers with fat basal reaction wood flares. The deep furrowed bark makes me guess this tree is >150 years old, and appears healthy. What do yall think? Anyway, this is a relic tree that serves as a irreplaceable and dwindling example of the size and stature this species can attain in the forest. I will be going back to this tree in the following years to treat it, and I will make a priority that it will not succumb to EAB.
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