NW Pennsylvania, Cook Forest and a great white beast   Will Blozan
  Apr 30, 2007 09:00 PDT 

The trip to the ENTS Rendezvous at Cook Forest was an ideal opportunity to
gather useful information on several species. Our intention to model eastern
hemlock and eastern white pine was fulfilled as was a revisit to a tree in
West Virginia.

Topping the list for the trip north was a revisit to the Webster Springs
sycamore in West Virginia. Jess Riddle, Ron Busch and I stopped at this tree
and first measured it in 2004. 

Photo from 2004

                                           Jess and I returned this time with the
reticle to model the volume of this enormous tree. With leaves off and no
snow falling I was able to shoot the tree from two locations close to 90
degrees apart and replicate all points within a maximum of 2.1 feet of each
other. For the base, Jess and I simply measured the diameter through the
hollows in the trunk, and which point it was 9.4' across. To our surprise,
the leaning trunk was nearly round in cross section based on the reticle
measurements. As such, the two separate sessions yielded volumes almost
identical. Differing by less than 14 cubic feet, the average of the two
points indicate a trunk volume of 2214 cubic feet for the trunk only. The
trunk was only 74 feet tall, at which point it was broken off. At the point
of breakage, the trunk was still 5 feet in diameter! Huge limbs ascended
from near the break and formed the remaining crown which is still quite
impressive. I remeasured the height and obtained a solid 142.6 feet. Here
are examples of the trunk diameters (rounded):

Height   Diameter

74.0'     5.0'

68.1'     5.2'

56.8'     5.3'

44.7      5.4'

31.2'     6.0'

15.8'     6.3'

8.4'       7.3'

7.1'       7.6'

3.9'       9.1'

0'          9.4'

After modeling the sycamore we stopped at Holly River State Park following
the suggestion of Russ Richardson. We were not disappointed and will post a
more detailed report soon. So on to Cook Forest!

The next day we met Dale Luthringer, Scott Wade, Anthony Kelly, Carl Harting
and Brian Miller, biology technician, who works for Aboud Associates Inc. in 
Ontario at HQ and headed out to three sites north of Cook Forest State 
Park. The main goals were to model the Cornplanter Pine for volume, a
large eastern hemlock in Tionesta Scenic Area, and another big hemlock Dale
located in Hearts Content Recreation Area. The weather and Dales driving (he
stayed out of ditches this time) allowed for the completion of our goals. I
was richly rewarded with seeing thick, green and healthy hemlocks; an
increasingly rare sight down here in the s. Appalachians.

Cornplanter Pine 2005

The Cornplanter Pine, dead since ca. 2004, had begun to lose bark in some
sections but was essentially intact. After we zeroed the base and set up a
pole for a target I lasered the height to 167.7 feet. The surrounding forest
was dense but my single vantage point allowed for the modeling of the two
top sections individually. Still over 8 feet in girth at 100 feet up, the
tree scaled an impressive 1011 cubic feet of trunk volume. Thus, the
Cornplanter Pine has the distinction of being the first eastern white pine
ENTS has documented to 1000 cubic feet of wood! By the sounds of it, it will
be a member of a very exclusive club of white pines, with only a scattering
of trees thought to achieve this size threshold. There is one contender in
North Carolina, one in New Hampshire, and perhaps one in Wisconsin. There is
a slim chance in Michigan and New York but overall, the eastern white pine
is a slender tree in comparison to the mighty eastern hemlock. It is
unfortunate we no longer have forests representing the "great whites" of
historical dimensions.

We next went over to the Tionesta Scenic Area near Warren, PA. Here I
modeled a gorgeous eastern hemlock Dale had located several years ago.
Somehow it had shrunk in diameter since Dale last measured it, but I found a
great reticle station and shot the volume to an impressive 838 cubic feet.
Although only 11.8 feet in girth at 4.5 feet the trunk was slowly tapered,
allowing it to rack up the cubes and stake claim to the largest known
hemlock in the Northeastern US! Second volume record of the day! This
hemlock barely escaped annihilation from an F4 (5?) tornado that wiped the
adjacent forest completely out just a few hundred yards away. Dale pointed
out other tornado swaths during the day- very impressive expressions of the
powers influencing our forests.

Tionesta_Giant.jpg (108498 bytes) Tionesta Giant

We again boarded Dale's DNR chariot and headed to Hearts Content Recreation
Area, a 20 acre remnant old-growth white pine/hemlock forest. I have read
about this place for nearly 15 years and have long wanted to see it. I have
to say it is one of the finest forests I have ever seen. The pines are
extraordinary and the hemlocks very dense and healthy. Although suffering
from its small size with the encroachment of edge effects, deer and exotic
plants the forest still maintains a sense of wildness and grandeur. It felt
larger than it was, and sections of dense, pure hemlock were engulfing to
the exclusion of sound.

Happy_hemlocks_Tionesta_Scenic_area.jpg (91238 bytes)
 Happy Hemlocks at Tionesta Scenic Areas
Hearts_PIne.jpg (54716 bytes)
Hearts Pine

The hemlock we had come to measure was determined to be small relative to
the Tionesta tree, although a large one nearby with multiple reiterations
was quite large. Since the reticle would not do it justice we went on to
seek a larger tree. However, once Dale showed us the HUGE pine on one edge
of the tract we could go no further. This tree had all the qualities of
white pine rolled into one; tall, large, untapered, gnarly reiterations, and
orange, platy bark. Furthermore, the tree was in the middle of a blowdown
and was entirely visible and back dropped by the deep cobalt sky. For lack
of better words, it was a perfect tree in a perfect situation on a perfect
day! I set up the reticle after taking numerous photos and measured the tree
to an outstanding 902 cubic feet. With reiterations included, the volume of
this tree will be close to 950 cubes. If ever there was a white pine I
wanted to climb THIS WAS IT!

The final tree modeling happened the next day back at Cook Forest. This was
my climb of the Seneca Hemlock, the tallest known eastern hemlock in the
northeast US. I went up to the tree early with Carl Harting and Ed Frank to
rig the tree. My fears of a difficult rigging were unfounded as the first
set at 85' worked just fine. When the group arrived I ascended while Jess
zeroed and measured the base while Dale spotted the pole extension to the
leaning top. From the top, the view of the HQ area and the river below was
spectacular. The old pines of the Forest Cathedral could be seen emerging
from the hemlock midstory. The tape drop was 145.4' and incremental girth
measurements indicated a trunk volume of 753 cubic feet. For those
wondering, this is as much wood as is in the lower 44 feet of the largest
hemlock Jess and I have documented for the Tsuga Search.

Seneca_Hemlock_2.jpg (65857 bytes) 
Seneca Hemlock - full view
IMG_0372.JPG (161518 bytes)
 View from the Top
IMG_0374.JPG (221921 bytes)
 View from the Top looking toward the bridge on Route 36 and Park Office
IMG_0381.JPG (149396 bytes)
 Looking Upward  - Ropes on the Seneca Hemlock

So, a weekend full of new records and good data points. Overall, I was
impressed and alarmed by the massive amounts of eastern hemlock in NW PA.
The hemlock woolly adelgid will seriously alter the sites we visited. Mile
upon mile of roadsides lined with hemlock will be corridors of hazard trees.
Without treatment, large areas in places like Cook Forest will need to be
closed, felled or logged if to remain "open" for visitors. The impacts on
adjacent trees and wildlife are incalculable. Cook Forest is such a heavily
used area that large scale treatments can be easily justified. NOW is the
time to get a plan and funds into place. A place like Hearts Content, with
its profound ecological and long-term monitoring significance would be a
devastating loss. Since the site is so small it could be effectively treated
in it's entirely to preserve the continuity of the studies concurrently
being performed there. I just hope the pertinent managers will see the HWA
threat as the huge beast that it really is and act promptly and

Will Blozan

President, Eastern Native Tree Society

President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.

Back to Will   Robert Leverett
  Apr 30, 2007 10:32 PDT 


   We all second your fears. The loss of hemlock stand after hemlock
stand across PA and elsewhere in the Northeast seems unacceptable to
those who love the species. But it has been happening. Here in
Massachusetts, we still have an opportunity to avoid disaster - if we
act quickly. Shame on us if we allow our last, best opportunity to pass.
However, to get action on public lands, we will be pushing a largely
unsympathetic Bureau of Forestry. I am hoping the private sector can be
mobilized to put the pressure on the Bureau to move.

   We are all indebted and inspired by your example in the southern
Appalachians. You da man, Will.