Wintergreen Gorge update    Dale J. Luthringer
   Oct 15, 2004 08:58 PDT 

I also got into Wintergreen Gorge to check up on a number of tall trees
there that I haven't been able to measure since last year. There is
more escarpment old growth here than I originally thought. The greatest
extent is that which is closest to the campus near the main cliff face
down into the gorge. It's generally a thin strip of old stunted hemlock
that may range from only at the edge and down the escarpment, to about
75 yards back from cliff edge. Other old species include Am. beech and
select N. red oak and tuliptrees.

I also explored down a steep feeder ravine on the far eastern side just
upstream from the main cliff face. The sides of this eastern side
ravine are very steep and almost impossible to climb out of without
climbing gear due to the slippery muddy shale slopes. Trees were not
large here, nor appeared to be over 75 years old.   I was in amazement
at the utter beauty of the place as I walked down the shallow stream at
its base which was composed of steep shale ledges and small waterfalls.
The valley was so steep on its sides, that at one point a log/debris jam
had covered the whole span of the stream over top of one of the small
waterfalls. The temperature dropped a good 10-15degrees here also. It
went from a nice cool 60F to exhaling "steam" at under 50F easy in the
bottom. I got a new appreciation for how 'anchor ice' can develop in
small stream deep valley gorges.

This side ravine empties into the main stream just below the main cliff
face. The cliff face at this point just north and downstream from the
side ravine confluence is close to 226ft. Decent sized 2nd growth
northern red oaks can be found along the finger going back up the south
side of this eastern ravine. I found no escarpment old growth at the
top of this finger.

I continued down the main stream, 4-Mile Creek, to check on the
northeast height record red maple, the gorge's tallest tuliptree, and
what is now the tallest cuke in the northeast.

The red maple's top is thinning and possibly losing height, but I
couldn't get a good shot to confirm with all the leaves still on. It
is, along with many of the tall trees in the gorge, fairly difficult to
measure. I wasn't able to confirm any change in height in the tallest
tulip, but was finally able to get a decent shot to the previous
co-height champ cuke in the gorge. From underneath I got a shot to
123.2+, but was finally able to find a window through the canopy to one
of the top branches. I still can't see the whole top, although I think
I did find the tallest sprig which I confirmed at 125.6ft. The cuke now
stands at 8.7ft x 125.6ft which now puts it well over the Cook Forest
cuke at 123.1ft, and makes the Wintergreen cuke the new northeast height

On my way out, I chose to follow a trail I hadn't been on before which
worked up another smaller side ravine that again comes in from the east
but downstream from the main cliff face. This is where I found 2 more
tree species that I hadn't seen in the gorge before, shagbark hickory
and sassafrass. The new northeast sassafras height record at 4.3ft CBH
x 100.5ft turned out to be quite the surprise since it was near the
hilltop. I still think we can document higher somewhere in PA, my guess
is southeastern PA.

The day's tally follows:

Species                        CBH    Height Comments

Bitternut hickory           4.6       110
Black locust                  N/A     98.9
E. hemlock                   N/A     107.7   hilltop
N. red oak                   N/A     89.8
N. red oak                   N/A     95.6
N. red oak                   11.2     102.1+ hilltop
N. red oak                   8.5       105.1+ hilltop
Sassafrass                    4.3       100.5   new northeast height
Shagbark hickory         2.4       77.4+   1st found here to date

Wintergreen Gorge Rucker Index follows:

Species                        CBH    Height Status
Rucker Index

Tuliptree                       9.5       145.4
Red maple                    7.8       136.7   tallest NE
White ash                     9.9       129.8
Sycamore                     7.7       129.7
E. hemlock                   7.8       128
Cucumbertree               8.7       125.6   tallest NE
Slippery elm                 8.8       123.7   tallest NE
Sugar maple                 5.7       123.4   tallest PA
Am. basswood             9          121.7
Black cherry                 8.8       121.3

Looks like I let the cat out of the bag a little early for the Forest
Summit, but I just couldn't wait.

RE: Wintergreen Gorge update    Robert Leverett
   Oct 15, 2004 11:44 PDT 


That is an amazing sassafras. I continue to marvel at the Great Lake
forests. It is very clear that the woodlands on the eastern and southern
sides of Michigan, Ontario, and Erie deserve a lot of ENTS attention.
They exhibit remarkable species diversity and tree dimension for the
latitude. That Pennsylvania is an OG and tall tree haven cannot be
denied! You continue to smoke us here in New England. You're a one man
army, Dale. It's about time for another field promotion.

RE: Wintergreen Gorge update    Dale J. Luthringer
   Oct 15, 2004 18:33 PDT 


I've been finding that some of the basswoods around here are turning out
to be "sleepers". I have to keep reminding myself to not just scope in
on one species. I was sooo close to walking past that Ricketts Glen
basswood it's not funny. With the few we have in the 120's here, I bet
that there's got to be a low 130 class somewhere.