Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

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M.W.Taylor
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Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by M.W.Taylor » Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:19 pm

I just returned from the Mokelumne Wilderness in search of extreme trees. My exploring partner was the intrepid John Montague. About 10 miles from the nearest road or campsite we found this giant of a ponderosa. It has the largest lower trunk by far of any known ponderosa. It appears the white sand granite topsoil is an ideal environment for big pondys. I took trunk measurements using the vortex scope and TruPulse 360. I calculated the total volume at almost 5,000 cubic feet, making it the 4th largest known ponderosa by volume. It also has the largest breast height diameter of any pacific ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa benthamiana) at 8.7'. At 11' above the ground the trunk is still 8.1' thick. At 62' above ground the trunk is 7.6' thick ! Can anybody tell me a bigger ponderosa trunk this far above the ground ? Total height is only 176 feet so the tree is a bit on the squat side for the species. I attribute this to adiabatic wind that is almost constantly present here, making the area colder and breezier. Site elevation is 5,400 feet.
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Mokelumne Giant, still over 8 feet thick at 11 feet above the ground
Mokelumne Giant, still over 8 feet thick at 11 feet above the ground
Mokelumne Giant and John. He is 6'1"
Mokelumne Giant and John. He is 6'1"
Last edited by M.W.Taylor on Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:24 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by Larry Tucei » Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:52 pm

Michael- Woe what a monster!! Conrats on such a great find! Would this and the other largest that you have measured be near the maximum for the species? One more question- would you say that at one time there were thousands upon thousands like this? It dwarfs any Ponderosa Pine I've seen in Colorado. Larry

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M.W.Taylor
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by M.W.Taylor » Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:42 pm

Larry Tucei wrote:Michael- Woe what a monster!! Conrats on such a great find! Would this and the other largest that you have measured be near the maximum for the species? One more question- would you say that at one time there were thousands upon thousands like this? It dwarfs any Ponderosa Pine I've seen in Colorado. Larry

larry, according to my research a ponderosa over 8' in diameter was quite a rarity and seldom encountered, even to the first who logged the western Sierra Nevada and Cascades. John Muir described the biggest ponderosa he ever saw as being slightly over 8 feet in diameter. There are only a few historical accounts of ponderosa with a trunk this large. The giant ponderosa that once marked Peter Lassen's grave on the shores of Honey Lake -Lassen County, was 8.6 feet in diameter at 5 feet off the ground.

John Montague
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by John Montague » Sun Aug 03, 2014 4:03 am

As notable as Mokelumne Giant is for its volume and dbh, it is equally notable for its remoteness. This was one of the most remote notable trees I've ever encountered. If anyone is ever tempted to find it, please keep in mind:

A) Day hiking would be reserved for a super-athlete accustomed to ironman triathlons. Anyone else would need to pack in overnight supplies. You might get it in your head that you can hike 22 miles in one day, but unless you are an ultra-endurance athlete, these particular miles aren't doable in one day. Michael and I took 2 days, and even that was a handful. If you have 3 or even 4 days, you could really take your time and bask in the abundance of beautiful swimming holes along the way.

B) Getting there isn't easy, but it's 10 times easier than getting back.

C) Don't go alone. An injury in such a remote area would put you in a very bad situation. If someone in your party did encounter an injury, there is strangely a phone signal up on the boulders, and there are places up there for helicopters to land. Also, we saw regular evidence of mountain lions in the area. When you're camping in a mountain lion's domain, there is strength in numbers. Bears are in there too, so you'd want to take the standard precautions for bears. We were lucky enough not to see any rattlesnakes on our trek, but portions of the hike require you to navigate through tight areas that are ideal habitats for rattlesnakes. Michael is outstanding at sniffing out old trails, which meant he led the way through many of the snakiest sections. Thank you, Michael!

I highly recommend visiting Mokelumne Giant, not just for the tree itself, but also for the magnificent vistas and interesting history that dots the path to and from the tree.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by Larry Tucei » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:01 am

John- Thanks for sharing such a fantastic description of you and Michaels adventure!!!

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Ranger Dan
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by Ranger Dan » Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:02 am

Michael-

What an incredibly rewarding find!! 8.1' in diameter at 11' off the ground! So, what is the DBH? Did you take a ground-level measurement?

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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by M.W.Taylor » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:00 pm

Ranger Dan wrote:Michael-

What an incredibly rewarding find!! 8.1' in diameter at 11' off the ground! So, what is the DBH? Did you take a ground-level measurement?

Dan, The dbh is 8.7'. There is a huge debris mound around this tree. If that mound was removed the tree would probably be well over 9' dbh. I attached a screen capture of the volume calculator sheet with trunk diameters. Height 0, 3 and 4.5 feet were tape wraps and 11 feet and higher were taken with the Vortex SoloRT scope. I usually try to get more trunk diameter/height readings but I had to leave the area before the mosquitos drained another pint of my blood.

Michael

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Mark Collins
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by Mark Collins » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:25 pm

I highly recommend visiting Mokelumne Giant, not just for the tree itself, but also for the magnificent vistas and interesting history that dots the path to and from the tree.
Congratulations guys! What a tree! John, what was some of the history there? Gold mining? How did the Sugar Pines compare?

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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by M.W.Taylor » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:37 pm

John, Good points. Going here alone is not a good idea in my opinion. The manzanita lined boulder jumbles of Summit City Creek looked very "snakey". I know this is not an actual word but that is the best description I can come up with for the area. Also those polished granite boulders are slick. If you were alone down here and got snake-bit or broke your leg you probably wouldn't make it out alive. It would be a long time before your body was found, if ever.

John Montague wrote:As notable as Mokelumne Giant is for its volume and dbh, it is equally notable for its remoteness. This was one of the most remote notable trees I've ever encountered. If anyone is ever tempted to find it, please keep in mind:

A) Day hiking would be reserved for a super-athlete accustomed to ironman triathlons. Anyone else would need to pack in overnight supplies. You might get it in your head that you can hike 22 miles in one day, but unless you are an ultra-endurance athlete, these particular miles aren't doable in one day. Michael and I took 2 days, and even that was a handful. If you have 3 or even 4 days, you could really take your time and bask in the abundance of beautiful swimming holes along the way.

B) Getting there isn't easy, but it's 10 times easier than getting back.

C) Don't go alone. An injury in such a remote area would put you in a very bad situation. If someone in your party did encounter an injury, there is strangely a phone signal up on the boulders, and there are places up there for helicopters to land. Also, we saw regular evidence of mountain lions in the area. When you're camping in a mountain lion's domain, there is strength in numbers. Bears are in there too, so you'd want to take the standard precautions for bears. We were lucky enough not to see any rattlesnakes on our trek, but portions of the hike require you to navigate through tight areas that are ideal habitats for rattlesnakes. Michael is outstanding at sniffing out old trails, which meant he led the way through many of the snakiest sections. Thank you, Michael!

I highly recommend visiting Mokelumne Giant, not just for the tree itself, but also for the magnificent vistas and interesting history that dots the path to and from the tree.
Last edited by M.W.Taylor on Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Don
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Re: Gigantic Ponderosa Discovered In Mokelumne Wilderness

Post by Don » Sun Aug 03, 2014 4:41 pm

Your comment about the debris at the base caught my attention...I've seen a fair number of ponderosas with an accumulation of pine cone detritus littering the base...often 3-5 feet. When in USFS managed lands, they'll often have a "Wildlife Tree" sign on them, and have protected status. What's a tree measurer to do? If the debris pile appeared to be 5' deep immediately around the "base", I'd measure the dbh at the "base", and describe the pile (document pile, tree's base, with a reference object) in a photo.
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