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Friday, October 9, 2020

The King of Maine

Today, while exploring old-growth forest in northern Maine, I noticed a large double-trunked eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) from a distance on different land. Its size was deceiving as part of its crown was stunted, but still tall enough to tower well above the surrounding forest as giant emergent trees in the tropics do. I was intrigued enough to hike to it and I’m glad I did (it was just off the road). I’ve visited some of the largest white pine stands in the country, but I’ve certainly never seen anything with such girth. Keep in mind, the photo that I’m posing in only shows half the trunk! I believe this tree very well could be the new Maine champion eastern white pine, which would make it the largest known eastern white pine in the country. A champion tree means that a tree is the largest specimen of its species in a given state. To be considered a state champion tree per the American Forests guidelines, the diameter at breast height, crown circumference, and overall height needs to be measured. I was only able to measure the circumference, which turned out to be 22 feet; that’s nearly 20” greater than the current state champion! What’s so special about this tree is that it’s found in natural habitat high up in north country unlike the current champion that grows near a house and road. This tree has endured extreme conditions and has grown very slow - it’s probably somewhere in the range of 350-400 years old! The next step is to have a professional measure the height and crown circumference. Regardless of whether this tree is in fact the new champion, it's certainly not a bad find in the so called “Pine State.” Stay tuned!


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Big Reed Forest Preserve

 This morning, I woke up at 7am in a Hannafords parking lot out in Bar Harbor, ME. A strong cup of coffee later, and I was en route to Big Reed Forest Reserve in northern Maine, which is the largest contiguous virgin forest in New England. In total, it took over 5 hours to get there - 2 of which were spent driving on 75 miles of dirt logging road. Although I visited last year, I hadn’t had a chance to explore as much as I wanted. Today, I saw the best example of true virgin forest of I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot. Giant sugar maple, red spruce, American beech, American ash, slippery elm, white pine, and yellow birch were large, spaced out and in some cases dying of old age. Because of the harsh northern conditions, old-growth trees here are often smaller than found in points south, though, every so often you’ll see a giant. The preserve holds the largest red spruce, hop hornbeam and slippery elm I’ve ever seen. In fact, some hop hornbeam here has been dated to 400 years old! When you enter the forest, you immediately see deep tip-up mounds from giant trees fallen over. You notice fungi everywhere, and large tall trees with gnarly wind-swept crowns and trunks straight as an arrow.  Despite the near dearth of people who visit or even know about this site, and it’s distance from any nearby town, American beech is nearly entirely gone from sudden beech bark disease, which humans introduced to America; and the increase in moose herbivory was all around due to human’s eliminating its main predators. Thus, this is one glaring example that humans don’t have to directly touch a site for these larger anthropogenic stressors to impact them. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Acadia in Autumn

“Down” in Desert Island, the ridgetops are covered in ericaceous shrubs like blueberry, huckleberry, and sheep’s laurel. Lichens cling to rocks and trees. The trees range from big balsam fir, scrub oak, gnarly pitch pine and northern cedar. Lookout out at the islands from Acadia mountain, I’m reminded of British Columbia- the spruce-for forests meet the light blue harsh ocean water. Pink granite on the summits gives clues to how this land was formed, and so too do the grooves in the outcrops which all face the same direction. Acadia is second to none in the fall.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Berkshires’ Mohawk Trail Primeval Forests

Today, I woke at 3:00am at a trailhead in Keene Valley, NY ready to explore old growth forest in the Berkshires. I headed for the historic Mohawk Trail and searched for coordinates of some of the only remaining primeval forest in Massachusetts. Giant beech, sugar maple, ash and black cherry few in patches along a steep northeast  slope. I saw striped maple, mountain maple, and hobblebush in the understory; and owl pellets and early American artifacts on the way out.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Old Growth Beech-Maple-Birch

 On my way down from Cliff and Redfield mountains, I came across some stellar old growth red maple-sugar mable-beech-basswood forest. In fact, it’s the best example I’ve ever seen. Towering trees spaced far apart with downed nurse logs, standing dead wood, pit and mounds, and all the other fixings that make old growth what it is. The patch was right off trail between Marcy Dam and the Adirondack Loj. I’ve never seen such large red maple or basswood in a northern hardwood forest. The sweet birch I saw was so large and old that it’s bark was plate-like and form was straight as an arrow with gnarly branches. One of the smaller downed sugar maples was cut with a chainsaw as it lay across the trail, so I counted its rings to be around 350 years old. I estimate the sweet birch to be close to 500 years old. What a treat!

Cliff and Redfield

 Hot damn, it’s mud season in the Adirondacks! Woke up too late to do the giant 32-mile, 5-peak day as planned. So I tackled just Cliff & Redfield for 18 miles and 4,602 elevation gain. I jogged the entire way in just over 7 hours. The foliage is waning, but the mud is waxing after the recent rains. My shoes are waterlogged and every bone in my body hurts, so it was a successful day. I’ll only have three peaks left to finish the northeast 115, thereby completing the Adirondack 46 in one season. Out of all the mountain ranges, this is by far the most grueling. The trails are not always well marked, summits are much farther on average, and the terrain is unforgiving! But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Allen Peak

Today, I woke in the trunk of my CRV at the trailhead to headlights at 6:00am. I could see my breath, and dew covered branches everywhere I looked. The parking lot was full already. Allen Mountain was in my sights - a 19.8-mile. Though, the nimbus clouds would obscure any views today. Allen Peak is the Owl’s Head of the Adirondacks. Like the latter, Allen is nearly flat for 7 miles before sharply climbing nearly 3,000 feet - a long slog to minimal views. It’s everyone’s least favorite Peak.  The rotting fallen leaves and bright foliage beyond the clouds was memorable. I love this time of year. My favorite part of this hike was seeing sporadic leviathan virgin white pines peaking high above mature hardwoods far into the valley. 


Friday, October 2, 2020

Autumn in the Adirondacks

I got the 5:15pm ferry from Oak Bluffs to Woods hole. I couldn’t wait to grab an Italian sub from Falmouth - it felt like years since I had had one; “large Italian toasted with everything on it including hots. Don’t forget the hots!” Just like that, I was back in the continental US, and my annual fall vacation had begun. On the docket: Become an Adirondacks 46er, see some old growth in Western MA, do the Pemigiwesset Loop, hike North Brother mountain in Maine, see the Big Reed Forest Preserve in northern Maine, drop down to see my uncles Paul and Walt downeast, check out Acadia, then visit my siblings and mom before returning to the banana belt. Whew, that was a mouth full... 

Today I woke up in the trunk of my SUV at a rest stop outside of Albany NY to learn that the Donald has the Rona. I made an early morning push to see Chapman Museum in Glenn Falls per an old lady at an antique shop in Warrensburg a few trips ago. She sent me to see Seneca Ray Stoddard’s (What a guy) collection of vintage photographs and maps after I bamboozled her for an original map of his for half price. The curator and I hit it off, spending 45 minutes talking forest ecology, maps, and history. He taught me quirks about the Stoddard 1912 “Adirondacks” map I had scored, and then I was off to the Hudson River to paddle. Last time I was at this spot, Kinley and I camped here and we woke to Whipporwills singing. I ended the day at my favorite Anorthosite outcrop overlooking Middle Saranac Lake, which did not disappoint. I’ll share some photos, but not the pot of gold I found. Cheers-