Sailor Flat Expedition - Remote Old Growth Forest

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#1)  Sailor Flat Expedition - Remote Old Growth Forest

Postby M.W.Taylor » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:31 pm

Last weekend I explored Sailor Flat with Duncan Kennedy. This is the largest tract of unlogged old growth in Tahoe National Forest. Site elevation is about 5,600 feet. The flat is approximately 1.5 miles x .75 miles in size. The area was partially explored by Russell Towle in 2003 who blogged about it having large trees, including a douglas fir over 10' dbh. Overall the forest is mostly unexplored with only the remnants of an old pack trail down by the meadow. Sailor Flat's forests consisted of a variety mixed conifers, with no oaks. Most abundant were sugar pine (a number of specimens 7' - 8' dbh), white fir (up to 5' dbh), ponderosa (up to 7.4' dbh), incense cedar (biggest about 5' dbh), douglas fir (a few 7' - 8" class dbh). At the rim of the flat are red fir and Jeffrey pine of average size.   The trail to get there was long and arduous. The biggest trees we could find grew around the edge of the largest meadow in the flat (Sailor Meadow). One pocket of trees here had 3 ponderosa pines over 7' dbh. We were not able to find the 10' dbh douglas fir that supposedly grows there. Within the flat there was a pond, creeks and numerous smaller meadows. The soils were volcanic with large red boulders popping out of the topsoil here and there. Were is not for the volcanic soils (ph is basic and locks up nutrients) and site elevation being a little above the optimal, these trees here would likely be larger, perhaps giants. I saw little evidence of any fire scarring. This place looks to be almost immune from fire due to the way it is situated. The tallest tree of Sailor Flat according to the LiDAR map I downloaded and processed is 241'. It is a sugar pine at the southern edge of Sailor Meadow. The largest ponderosa we could find that day I have named the "Richard Towle Tree" after the late Russell Towle who was killed in a car accident on Highway 80 about 9 years ago. As a hobby, he was a mathematician, explorer and blogger.
duncan-towle tree.jpg
7.4' dbh RussellTowle Tree and Duncan Kennedy - He is 5' 11"
towle ponderosa.jpg
I measured this one with the Vortex and Impulse200X. Would have been bigger but top blew out many years ago. There are probably bigger ponderosa somewhere in this giant flat.
sailor flat rocks.jpg
red volcanic rocks of Sailor Flat. This entire basin is a glacial moraine with jumbled layer of volcanic rocks to 1,000 feet deep
sailor meadow.jpg
Sailor Meadow looking south
sailor old growth.jpg
Sailor Meadow and Old Growth as seen from the rim above the basin
sailor meadow 60mred-70mwhite.jpg
LiDAR height banding for Sailor Meadow. 60m is red, 70m is white. Tallest tree is to the south of Sailor Meadow - Three 7'+ dbh ponderosa are at the NW edge

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#2)  Re: Sailor Flat Expedition - Remote Old Growth Forest

Postby Don » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:24 am

Great foray Mike/Duncan!
Lot to like about undisturbed Tahoe area forests/meadows!
And the Towle Tree, what big platy blocks of bark!
Could it be a ponderosa/Jeffrey hybrid?
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#3)  Re: Sailor Flat Expedition - Remote Old Growth Forest

Postby AndrewJoslin » Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:28 pm

Wow, stupendous ponderosa, amazing place, thx for the report!
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