Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Project documenting the old growth and special forests along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shennandoah National Park in Virginia and North Carolina.

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dbhguru
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Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Post by dbhguru » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:30 am

ENTS,

Monica and I just returned from our Blue Ridge Parkway trip, which served as the kickoff for our planned Parkway book project. There is a lot to report on with plenty of images. I will begin with a trip summary and get into the nitty gritty in the coming days.

We left Florence, MA a week ago on Monday, heading straight for New Jersey's Morristown National Historic Park. There, we met with Robert Masson, the Park biologist. He took us straight to the best of the big tuliptrees, and not too surprising,they turned out to be in the area I had already measured. But this time I collected more data. I got the best of the best. The bottom line is that the site has one 150-footer, and maybe 8 to 12 140s. The largest single tuliptree is a 15.3-foot whopper that measured 141.2 feet in height. My measurement of it last trip was 15.5 feet, but I got a better determination of mid-slope this time. Also, I had reported that it as 129 feet tall on my first visit, but I had shot it from the trail, which is below its base. That is an old lesson relearned. There are several big tulips over 14 feet in girth. Surprisingly, I got a black oak to 126.1 feet and 8.5 feet around. That is the best I could do for height with the other species. I got red oaks to 115.

Morristown National Historic Park is literally choked with invasives. The Park budget doesn't allow for a truly aggressive plan of eradication. They need help. We left on very good terms with the biologist. He officially named the big 15.3-foot girth tuliptree the George Washington tree. Unquestionably, there will be return trips to Morristown and surrounding sites. All our data is new to the Park and well appreciated.

We revisited Montpelier near Charlottesville and I continued the ENTS search for outstanding tuliptrees. The best I can pull out of Montpelier is 167.5 feet in height and 13.8 feet in girth. We did also officially crown the Dolly Madison tree, a 12.6-foot, 161.3-foot tall, well-formed tree. Altogether, there are at least 5 tulips that top 160 feet. The largest tulip is out in a field. It has a broken crown, a very old tree. Its girth is 22.3 feet and its height is 86 feet to a broken top. A full report to the horticulturist at Montpelier is forthcoming.

We headed down the Parkway on Thursday and stopped at Humpback Rocks, milepost 6 . There is old growth there and it is fairly impressive for top of the mountain northern and chestnut oak old growth. Trees are conspicuously larger than in the surrounding areas, which are dry. But there are no champions of girth or height. Still, it is a highly significant site. I took images of bark, which I'll present later. Interestingly, the underlying bedrock of the Humpback Rocks area is Catoctin Greenstone, attesting to a volcanic origin.

At Otter Creek Flats, around milepost 58, I measured some impressive pitch pines. They were the first that I'd feel comfortable pointing out to travelers except to identify forest communities. The forest includes white pine, red and white oak, beech, and tuliptree. Two pitch pines slightly top 101 feet. A third at the end of the parking lot measured 7.8 feet in girth and 95.7 feet in height. For the area is is quite large.

Farther south at the James River area, I remeasured the sycamores down the hill from the parking area. Several top 120 feet and one makes 126. That is about as tall as they get. They are 6 to 8 feet in girth. What is more important is that they form a conspicuous stand following Otter Creek and provide travelers a look at a riparian community dominated by sycamores - a very uncommon sight along the Parkway.

We pushed on to the Peaks of Otter at mile post 85, where we stated for 3 nights. We climbed Sharptop again and I had a chance to re-evaluate the old growth community there. There is plenty to write about and report on around and on Sharptop and Flattop. One bummer for me is the Sharptop trail can be like Grand Central Station, which is what I ordinarily try to avoid, but the book we're writing isn't for me, but the public, so the heavy visitation is overall a good thing - I guess. Monica and I will write up our Sharptop climb in the next few days.

On our return trip back up the Parkway, I finally pulled over on the north side of Apple Orchard Mountain to measure the conspicuously tall tulips growing in a cove below the Parkway. There is no official pull-off, so I always hesitate to stop, but this time I did. The tulips soar. Here are the heights I got in the order I measured the trees: 134.5, 139.9, 141.6, 152.9, 148.4. and 150.1. Yes, a rich cove with 150s visible from the Parkway. How many times, had I driven by the cove, noticing the trees and wondering? Well, I don't have to wonder any more. It is the real deal. There are many more tall tulips in the cove. I don't know how far down the mountain they go, but quite a distance, I suspect. Girths are 8 to 11 feet. Apple Orchard Mountain has sculpted old growth on the top of its 4,225-foot summit, and tall trees in the coves below. Who could ask for more.

There were three more spots we stopped at, but nothing of particular noteworthiness. I'll save comments for later. The one feeling we both left with is the enormity of the undertaking. We have lots of ideas, but they all involve labor, a lot of labor. This book is going to require several years and lots of visits. Lots to talk about.

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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James Parton
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Re: Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Post by James Parton » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:55 am

Bob,

I had wondered where you had been. Now I know! Your Parkway exscursion is awesome. I look forward to the pictures.

Though small, here is my latest outing on the Parkway. To a neat but beautiful grove of Tuliptrees. Oops, you've already seen it!

http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=1600
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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dbhguru
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Re: Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Post by dbhguru » Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:03 pm

James,

I sent a rough write-up on Humpback Rocks. It has some images. Here are a couple more.

Humpback Rocks.
TheRocks.jpg
Rocks and old forest
OGAndRocks.jpg
I'll soon send an improved version of the Humpback Rocks narrative.

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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dbhguru
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Re: Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Post by dbhguru » Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:18 pm

James,

One more image. Coralberry. Do you see much of this little shrub?
Coral-berry.jpg
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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James Parton
Posts: 1576
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:47 pm

Re: Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway book

Post by James Parton » Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:04 am

Bob,

I will have to look Coralberry up. It does not look familiar to me.

JP
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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