Will's Perspective Forest Summit / ENTS Rendezvous 2007  Will Blozan

TOPIC: Will's perspective: Forest Summit / ENTS Rendezvous 2007


I flew in to Hartford Connecticut on Wednesday, October 16th for the ENTS and Forest Summit events. Gary Beluzo picked me up (literally) in his usual bear-hug kind of way and we were off to Monica and Bob's house. However, neither of them was there, as Bob had been in the hospital with his assortment of well-timed ailments. Seemed Gary was to finish and present Bob's lecture for the Forest Summit Meeting which was all packed onto ONE PowerPoint slide. I think Gary would have traded for Bob's pain when he saw that task...

Thursday found Lee Frelich, Gary and me at Abbey Lake in Sandisfield State Forest to visit a huge hemlock Gary had found in the late 1990's. This tree, named Tunkasila was one tree Bob had never seen before (we made sure to rub it in) and I went prepared for a climb. The huge trunk immediately demanded a climb, and when rigging the stout tree I nearly threw the throwline over it! In the Tsuga Search: Southern Appalachians Jess Riddle and I have documented hemlocks 40 inches in diameter at 100' up; this tree was like 1.5 inches. I was not used to the striking difference in scale! Regardless, this western Massachusetts beast scaled an impressive 699 cubes, and a perch with my head above the forked top offered an awesome view overlooking the lake and brilliant fall foliage.

On the way out a sweet looking black cherry caught my eye. It was a whopper at 9.1' CBH and 122.3' tall. Its slow taper reminded me of those at Cook Forest SP in PA. During all the climbs and measurements Gary impressed us with his utterly professional demeanor!

After the hemlock climb we stopped a Reed Mountain Farm to see a huge tuliptree Gary had just located. The farm has a great collection of young, spunky tuliptrees. All but one shorter tree I measured was ~ 122' tall and still growing. The big tree, 14.75' in girth, was 122.1 feet tall and had a huge crown spread. Bob plans to model this tree for volume as it may be one of the largest- if not the largest- in Massachusetts. There is another tuliptree (~17' cbh) near Boston I would like some ENTS to check out as well- however it may not be native there (photo below). Unfortunately, Gary, Lee and I confirmed a heavy outbreak of HWA on the Reed Mountain Farm site.

Friday was the only day of rain. That was great because the Forest Summit ran all day and we were inside anyway. It was great to see fellow ENTS again like Dave Stahle, Dave Orwig, John Eichholtz, Erhard Frost, Anthony Kelly, Lisa Bezzuto, Eleanor Tillinghast, John Knuerr, Howard Stoner, Susan Scott, and others I don't intend to leave out. Of course, Bob was not in attendance but he was there in spirit and unbeknownst to him, was the butt of all jokes ;) As usual, the presentations were great- even without Tom Diggins there for Lee to pick on. We missed you Tom!

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous classic New England fall day. I climbed the Saheda Pine in Mohawk Trail State Forest with many ENTS in attendance. Fortunately, John Eichholtz was there to confirm my tape drop to within .1 feet or less with his laser ;)

Although I had climbed Saheda before (11/1998) I was shocked at how complex the top was. My last climb of the tree was simply to find the top and drop a tape for total height. This time I aimed to model the tree for "poor old Bob" who was lying on the couch at home, miserably watching TV. In contrast to the rather bumbling, snowy climb in 1998, the weather this time was perfect and I set the rope on the first try at 88'. The Tsuga Search Project climbs over the last two years gave me a lot of practice with the throwline!

As I ascended the trunk I realized that Saheda was a bit more than I was anticipating probably due to the 9 years of luxuriant growth since the last climb. The Saheda Pine differed from all the other pines I have climbed and modeled since it was the first one that had a bifurcated top. And how! This tree split at 115.2 feet into two leaders roughly oriented north and south. The slightly larger south leader split again- twice. The north leader split again as well- into four more tops. Howard Stoner again allowed his measuring pole to be dragged into the tree so I could explore the multiple leaders to find the tallest (his pole has now climbed in several states). As it turns out, the high point was on the south leader (uphill side) and claimed its place in the air at 163.4 feet.

The top 48 feet of this complex pine took me close to 40 minutes to measure. This was because I measured the volume of 183.8 feet of tops. The volume of this complex mess was 43.6 cubic feet. Were this section a cone from the first split it would be 41.6 cubic feet. Interesting; the bifurcated top, complex as it was, was not much larger in volume than if it was a single leader. If it was a single leader would that section be taller? My guess is the bifurcated (and thus wider, more heavily foliated) top section is "drawing up" the girth of the trunk below and beefing up the mid section of the tree. I think this tree is packing on the pounds faster than if it were a single trunk but that is just a guess. Monitoring or proving this supposition would be very interesting but take a long time! So, Bob, I guess the conic form may hold pretty close even on the bifurcated trees. Of course, Saheda is a "young 'un" so the huge, forked beasts like "Yo Mama" may be a different story altogether.
Saheda now has 695 cubic feet of wood.

After the climb John Knuerr graciously carried my climbing gear down to the cars so I could hike to the top of the ridge with the rest of the group. We explored some rich boulder fields with superb sugar maple. I focused on the "little people" Bob seems to forget about and measured a striped maple to 60.4 feet on the fringe of an old-growth hemlock forest. Gary Belluzo, Lee Frelich, and a spunky guy whose name escapes me discussed near-death heart-related experiences as David Stahle began to have sympathy chest pains. All made it to the top of the ridge and we went down the trail on the other side to the main office. We made it back to the Charlemont Inn for the ENTS buffet dinner and evening concert. Other ENTS showed up for this event and reconnected.

Then came the two-for-one climb day. Gary and I head out for Dunbar Brook in Monroe State Forest to climb and model the Grandfather Pine and the Dunbar Brook Hemlock- arguably the two largest specimens I have climbed in New England. John Eichholtz and Anthony Kelley came up later to meet up with us and assist with the climb. Gary took numerous photos and videos of the climbs as did I from within the tree. I was able to get a great stitch of Gary and the huge trunk (of the tree, that is).

The weather was again perfect and the views outstanding. I had a great view of the top of the Thoreau Pine and the grove of hemlocks upslope. None of us had seen the great hemlock before so I took some shots from the top of the Grandfather Pine so we could orient ourselves on the ground. I was impressed with the size of the pine and the smell of the bark and needles in the sun. I shot a get-well-soon video for Bob in the top.

The climb data documented that the tree was 143.3 feet tall and contained a whopping 967 cubes of wood. I found it striking that even these giants of the species are so much smaller than the hemlocks in the south. The hemlocks simply taper slower and maintain larger amounts of wood up high. The Grandfather Pine has a modest girth at 100', with the Cornplanter having the largest known. Admittedly, I haven't measured too many yet but the ones I have climbed or reticled are known to be superlative.

White Pine girths at 100 feet
Cornplanter Pine, PA 8.1' (1008 cubes)
Mill Creek Pine, TN 7.3' (941 cubes)
Zahner Pine, NC 6.8' (1147 cubes)
Ice Glen Pine, MA 6.7' (920 cubes)
Grandfather Pine, MA 6.5' (967 cubes)
Saheda Pine, MA 6.2' (695 cubes)
Dyleski Pine, NC 6.2' (~1000 cubes)
Hearts Content Pine, PA~6.1' (900 cubes)

Based on the slim tops we have thus far documented in white pine it seems extremely unlikely that white pine could become as large as eastern hemlock given the same 4.5' girth and height. The hemlock holds the taper higher up the tree than does white pine. As one example, the Cornplanter Pine and the Jim Branch Giant hemlock in the Smokies are nearly identical in diameter and height, yet the hemlock is nearly 20% larger than the pine in total wood volume. This is likely an extreme example but in trying to find others I really don't have data for hemlocks in the same size combination as the pines above; they are either larger, taller, or highly reiterated. Anyway, back to the day.

After the pine was measured we packed up and headed upslope in the direction of the hemlock grove. John measured a super tall one (126'+) but we found none that matched the dimensions of the tree Bob described. We perused the photos taken earlier to scan for large trees. Well, it turns out Bob left out an important detail about the tree- it had a dead top. Probably the ONLY tree with a dead top in the grove! Details, details... So, as we were admiring a small but columnar, dead-topped hemlock wondering where Bob's tree was we had no idea we were looking right at it! Finally, John went down to measure its girth. Turns out it was an illusion that it looked so small from above. Since it was the only tree with a girth big enough we figured it must be the tree.

I headed up into this ancient crag of a tree and stopped climbing at around 105' when the dead top started to wiggle more than I liked. At least I could be tied in to some living branches. The top was also hollow, crumbly and used by wildlife inside and out. Although a short tree at 115.5' tall it had already chunked up to over 20 inches diameter at 100'. The trunk quickly widened to ~ 3 feet in diameter and then was nearly columnar to the ground, allowing this tree to amass 758 cubic feet of wood. Just a tiny fraction was missing from the top so the tree was essentially complete. The view from the top- just barely over the surrounding canopy- afforded a clear view of the Grandfather and Thoreau Pines across the slope. They really are isolated and quite emergent.

The rest of my stay was hanging out with Bob, Gary, Monica, Erhard, Lee and trying out the TruPulse 360 (yes, he did let me touch it...) and exploring on my own in Monica's Woods behind the house. I managed to bring the Rucker Index up a point or two with a nice 14.56 cbh X 135.7' twin white pine and a 106.1' white ash.

I spent one afternoon on Petticoat Hill Reservation to discuss the HWA problem with some managers and measure a few trees. I was very impressed with the site and envious of Bob's close proximity to this forest as well as living in Monica's Woods! Lucky guy!

Great trip!


== 2 of 6 ==
Date: Sun, Nov 18 2007 10:08 am
From: "Gary A. Beluzo"

Actually, there was an AK47 in the briefcase to provide for Will
Blozan's safety as the groupies began to arrive and the redneck locals
began to infiltrate our perimeter armed with sawed off shotguns...
And my cbh (circumference at belly height) definately outcompetes the
Grandfather pine as can be seen in the stitched photo. Back to Atkins
I guess.

Great report Will.