Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

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#1)  Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby Will Blozan » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:18 pm

ENTS/WNTS,

Logistical snafus, weather delays, and climbing restrictions gave me some opportunities to explore parts of Giant Forest in search of superlative trees. Dr. Bob Van Pelt gave me a list of what was considered superlative for several species in the area.

The first area I went to was an area I will call the “Giant Forest Appendix”. It is a narrow strip of sequoia dominated forest that runs down a steep ravine off the main plateau. The ravine gives good shelter and the moisture of the creek, some fire protection. I had spotted some tall-looking sugar pines (Pinus lambertiana) and incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) on the drive up the previous week.
According to Bob’s cheat sheet, 250 feet (76.2 m) was notable for a sugar pine. The first tree I measured was close- 245.5’ (74.8 m) on a 65.4" DBH (166.2 cm) trunk. Next to this tree was a fine cedar- and if I could find one over 175’ (53.3 m) I would be in possession of a new Sierra height record. The day was off to a good start as the cedar soared to 178.1’ (54.3 m) on a modest 54" DBH (137.1 cm) trunk.

I continued down the ravine and found more pines in the 220’s then the forest became dry so I drove down the road to Crystal Cave. More 170' (51.8 m) cedars were scattered about as well as numerous more sugar pines in the low 200’s (61 m). As I drove past a small creek, strange foliage caught my eye. It was a small grove of California nutmeg (Torrey californica)- one of which was a new Sierra height record of 71.2’ (21.7 m). In this grove were some pacific dogwoods in bloom (Cornus nutallii).
               
                       
3-Torreya bark001.jpg
                       
Torrey bark detail
               
               

               
                       
11-Pacific dogwood001.jpg
                       
Pacific dogwood blossoms
                       
11-Pacific dogwood001.jpg (182.4 KiB) Viewed 2065 times
               
               

               
                       
12-Pacific dogwood bloom001.jpg
                       
Pacific dogwood bloom detail
                       
12-Pacific dogwood bloom001.jpg (126.49 KiB) Viewed 2065 times
               
               


I explored many, many flats and slopes along the road but did not get any new records until a small sugar pine dominated ravine. The pines were large and close to 230’ but what caught my eye here was a slender cedar that I shot up into out of the car window. From the car I got over 200’ above eye- a height never thought possible for the species at this latitude. I parked and went to the base to measure diameter and zero the base. A clean shot from the opposite side of the ravine was an astounding 217.7’! Bob says this may be the second tallest ever recorded for the species.
               
                       
5-record Calocedrus001.jpg
                       
217.7 foot cedar
               
               

               
                       
6-18 foot sugar pine001.jpg
                       
~18 foot CBH sugar pine near tall cedar
               
               

As the road entered the drier forests of oak and pine (including some 220’+ ponderosa pine; Pinus ponderosa) I turned back and went back up to the Giant Forest plateau.
               
                       
4-220' pondie001.jpg
                       
~220 foot "Pondie"
               
               

Here I began a search in a sheltered, north facing bowl that showed great promise for tall trees. Earlier in the week Bob had measured a sequoia from the road that exceeded 300’. This was only the third tree known in Giant Forest to exceed 300’. I went way up slope to measure this young, double topped  tree and with my Nikon 440 and clinometer got a height of 306.1 feet (93.3 m). Intrigued, Bob came up with his impulse laser and after careful shots got 306.7 feet (93.5 m). Typically Bob and I have such close height numbers- a great endorsement for the techniques we use in ENTS. This is also why the western tree hunters bank on our numbers and don’t question our reports.
               
                       
1-306.7 foot SEGI001.jpg
                       
306.7 foot tall young sequoia
               
               

Near this tall tree were the crumbled remains of a former giant tree recorded by Wendell D. Flint at over 30,000 cubic feet. It has a teetering single limb system on the edge of a burned out shell of a trunk.
               
                       
306.7 foot sequoia with crumbling hulk.jpg
                       
306.7 foot sequoia with crumbling hulk to left
               
               

               
                       
2-Former giant001.jpg
                       
Cameron and Rikke on base of shatterred giant
               
               

I continued upstream from the new tall sequoia to see what else lurked in the bowl. I measured numerous sequoia over 280’- a good sign as this is a significant height for the species. Some of you may recall that 311’ (94.8 m) is the tallest recorded- a tree I climbed in 2009. http://www.nativetreesociety.org/fieldtrips/us_west/california/20091007-sequoia/sequoia_adventures_3_5.htm
While upslope measuring an adjacent tree I spotted a thrifty top arising from a big break on the top of a huge sequoia. I roughed it to over 300’ (91.5 m)! Number four over 300’! I went to the base to find midslope and measure the girth (these tall trees involved a lot of hiking to get the base referenced… and then get back up to a spot to see the tree).
               
                       
8-303.4' SEGI001.jpg
                       
Me at base of new giant tall sequoia
               
               

Holy moly! This was a big tree (19.5’ or 5.95 m at BH)- and I would later learn that it is the largest 300 footer ever discovered. The wood volume of this tree may be close to 30,000 cubic feet. I did the best I could on the base shot since there was still three feet of snow on the north side. My shot from two separate locations yielded the exact same height of 303.4’ (92.5 m). How was this tree not previously discovered? I hope Bob or Steve Sillett can return to this tree and reticle it for volume.
               
                       
7-303.4' SEGI 5.95m DBH-1001.jpg
                       
Stitch of 303.4 foot giant sequoia
               
               

               
                       
303.4 foot sequoia as viewed upslope.jpg
                       
303.4' from upslope
               
               

While at the base of the new sequoia find I spotted a Sierra (or California) white fir (Abies lowiana) that looked quite tall. My last trip here set a new height record for this species of 247.7’ (75.5 m). This tree was a tad shorter at 240.1’ (73.2 m). From the sighting position for the fir measurements I spotted a sugar pine that although young, was quite large and arrow straight. It turns out this tree would be the tallest found on this trip and the current park height record of 247.6’ (75.5 m). The fire-scarred base was a respectable 73.7” (187.3 cm) diameter.
               
                       
10-73.2 m Abielow001.jpg
                       
240.1 foot fir
               
               

               
                       
9-Tall sugar001.jpg
                       
Tallest sugar pine
               
               

I continued to measure more tall sequoia- one to 290’ but no more over 300’. I returned down the other side of the ravine and the only notable tree was an outstandingly small white fir that although only 52.2” (132.6 cm) in diameter rocketed up to a top 242.8’ (74.0 m) high! What was even crazier was this top was on a reiteration that arose after the main top broke out- indicating it was quite possibly much taller. Bob, Steve and I all believe it is just a matter of time until a 262’ (80 m) fir is found. 80 meters is considered the superlative threshold for the pine family.

For now, Giant Forest has only begun to be surveyed for trees other than sequoia. Bob and Steve are now in possession of high resolution LiDAR data that promise to reveal some exciting stuff. Bob already has several dozen points over 295’ (90 m) to check out- including one hit over 311’ (95 m).

Now, if only I wasn’t so far away…

Will Blozan

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#2)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby Larry Tucei » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:57 pm

Will,   Fantastic trees! It's amazing that the trees you are finding are records. There must be much Forest out that way that is yet to be documented.  You are one lucky dude! Congrats on all the finds.  Larry
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#3)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby mileslowry » Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:01 pm

Very impressed with the stitch work on that giant sequoia (303')... excellent idea to move away as far as possible in order to reduce the convergence.

Congratulations!

miles
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#4)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby James Parton » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:06 am

Will,

It's gotta feel awesome measuring so many trees above 200 feet. Something almost unknown in the east.
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#5)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby mdvaden » Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:27 pm

Nice trip report Will ...

As soon as you mentioned the cedar, it reminded me of bushwhacking with Taylor this year looking for pines, and starting to remember that cedars are in there too.

That meaty Giant Sequoia sure is a beaut of a tree.
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#6)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby bbeduhn » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:00 am

And you found these on just a little side trip from your primary research.  Not a bad day's effort!  The 303 foot sequoia appears to have been significantly taller.  It has an awfully thick trunk near the top.
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#7)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby Rand » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:08 pm

I visited the giant forest last summer, and saw this precariously burned out hulk:

               
                       
IMG_3939.jpg
                                       
               


Sugar Pine cones are a real eye opener up close.  For reference my shoe is 12.5" long.

               
                       
IMG_3754.jpg
                                       
               


Here's some of my other pictures I took in sequoia country:

http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/5788 ... nR?start=0
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#8)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby James Parton » Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:22 am

Damn, it looks like a white pine cone from hell! It's even bigger than a longleaf cone.
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#9)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby Rand » Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:55 am

James Parton wrote:Damn, it looks like a white pine cone from hell! It's even bigger than a longleaf cone.


I shudder at the clobbbering that thing would give after falling +150'.  There is a species called coulter pine that actually has heavier cones (~8 lbs), but It's a dryland species that doesn't get as tall.
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#10)  Re: Giant Forest tree hunt 5-22-2011

Postby James Parton » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:40 am

Rand wrote:
James Parton wrote:Damn, it looks like a white pine cone from hell! It's even bigger than a longleaf cone.


I shudder at the clobbbering that thing would give after falling +150'.  There is a species called coulter pine that actually has heavier cones (~8 lbs), but It's a dryland species that doesn't get as tall.



Oh, yeah. Could you imagine it still being green and hitting you in the top of the head!?
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