!!!SMOKIES RULE!!!   NR, Cook Forest
  Oct 21, 2002 15:42 PDT 
Will, Heidi, Bob, et. al:

My first trip to the Smokies was nothing short of incredible! It was also my first experience with southern hospitality... between Will's expert guide service, Heidi's home cookin', and Marv's company (one of their seriously laid back housecats) it was quite the memorable experience. My excitement has now rubbed off on my wife who now wants to join me on a return trip.

DAY 1 "Cataloochie Madness"

Will showed me some totally unbelievable spots. Will spoiled me rotten right off the bat. The first tree we measured was the Boogerman Pine. Awesome tree! It reminded me of home. Will's plumb bob measurement was 185.5ft last time he climbed to it's top. It was a great tree to be "tested" on. At least I know my new laser works... I put it at 185.1ft.

On our way up the grueling 3.8mile hike uphill to the next stop there was a large tulip on the trail which was a precursor of the things to come. I was able to walk right inside this tree without bending over. It was hollow close to 30ft up and easily 3ft across inside.

I still have to pinch myself when I think of the next stop... two words describe it "MASSIVE TULIPTREE". This is where I finally broke down with my war hoop. I couldn't hold it back anymore. I never dreamed tulips could get this big, or better yet, ever see one! At about ~22.5ft CBH and 167.7ft tall it was a definite site to behold. All I really remember saying over and over again were words like, "INCREDIBLE, UNBELIEVABLE, HOLY MOLEY, GEEEEEEZZZZ!!!!".

Next, Will and I played laser tag up and down the drainage measuring 150ft hemlocks that seemed to be as common as weeds! Will has 150ft hemlocks down there like we have 150ft white pines up here. Talk about knarl factor, many went off the Richter Scale! The 'Bob-hobble', errrr, dog hobble and rhodes did there best to consume us, but to no avail. There was no stopping us in getting to the next wonder of the Smokies... The Sag Branch!

Another monster white pine. The diversity of plants growing on its base were mind boggling, even a rattlesnake plantain! Getting to a good vantage point to get its height from across the stream was going to be a challenge... for me that is. The quickest point between A and B is a straight line, but to do so meant to cross a slippery downed log that spanned the stream, not counting the doghobble and rhodes on your way to it. It took me a bit of time to negotiate the slick lock and spike branches while traversing it upslope, while trying not to think how high I was off the ground (since I couldn't see through the rhode thicket and slope I was climbing up and over) but Will did it no time flat. I think he's got a pair of James Bond boots that have a secret button on them that when pushed eject runner's spikes from its soles. Will measured it with his tripod and put it at 180.9ft!!! That measurement now ties the Longfellow Pine in Cook Forest. Well, Bob, looks like the Longfellow Pine now has a sister in the Smokies.

The rest of the day was spent traversing the steep slopes back to the Boogerman looking for 'Dale's Demise', but it wasn't to be. The taller trees all seemed to be on the other side, but I bet if we were on the other side I'm sure we would've said the same thing for the side we were standing on. We still had some nice contenders though for other species, including one white pine that we just couldn't get to break 170ft class. Day 1's tally as follows:

Specie CBH Height Description

white pine 185.5 Boogerman
white pine 180.9 Sag Branch
white pine 12.5 ~168
white pine 167.2
tuliptree ~22.5 167.7
tuliptree 15.3 151.6
tuliptree 11.3 149.5
tuliptree 8.8 139.5
tuliptree 11.7 152.7
tuliptree 157.9
white basswood 6.3 133.3
E. hemlock 152.7
E. hemlock 159.6
E. hemlock 10.2 152.1
E. hemlock 11.7 155
E. hemlock 10.1 143.8
E. hemlock 134.3
E. hemlock 7.2 152.6
E. hemlock 160.3
E. hemlock 148
black birch 7.2 108.6
N. red oak 9.75 135

DAY 2 "Big Creek Contenders"

The next day took us to Big Creek, just across the North Carolina border into Tennessee, my first trip to Tennessee by the way. It was also my first experience in a rain forest. It rained almost the entire time we were in this drainage which was only a 5 minute brisk walk from the car. I found that I had to use my flashlight to read my clinometer in this cove which wasn't so surprising, but when it's 10:45 in the morning you'd think you wouldn't need one! More surprises and record breakers were the norm.

First off, Will noticed a nice sweet gum. Will said, "Looks like that tree will be the new record". He graciously allowed me to climb up the hill to measure it, and sure enough it topped out at 127.6 feet! A new Smokies height record! Will then spied out a monster sycamore that he confirmed at 159.6ft! Another record, this one is the tallest recorded in the entire Eastern U.S.! The monster white ash was next at 163.9, which I also believe is a new Eastern U.S. height record! One unbelievable tree after the other. The day's tally as follows:

Species CBH Height

white ash 10.9 163.9
sycamore 9.0 159.6
sycamore 6.6 150.1
sycamore 8.3 144.3
sycamore 6.7 136.2
sycamore 144.2
sycamore 7.1 151.1
sycamore 5.9 113.3
sycamore 5.5 134
sycamore 6.5 141.7
sweet gum 5.5 127.6
tuliptree 9.6 154.3
tuliptree 9.4 145
white basswood 121.9

Even though I was a personal witness to these massive monuments, I still had a hard time believing my eyes. Well, Bob, you guys succeeded in totally blowing away my scale. It's going to take awhile to re-adjust to get back to looking for 120-130ft hardwoods, vice 150-170ft hardwoods! We had three hardwood species alone in the 150ft class in Big Creek!

I also learned a few valuable lessons on tree measuring and manipulating triangles while bouncing laser beams back and forth from each other from hillside to hillside. Measuring trees using triangles in geometric planes finally hit a new threshold for me. I tend to ingest knowledge by application, and what a place to do it, the big tree capitol of the east. All I can say is that there is a wonderful Creator, and He's left a little bit of heaven in the Great Smoky Mountains. If it's this good here, I can only imagine what it'll be like in eternity. To Him be the glory! Amen and Amen!