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Old 01-22-2022, 12:48 PM   #1
Bunchberry
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Old Growth Forest Hike Suggestions

This summer my son and I would like to take a hike in an old growth forest. When we hike we like to take iNaturalist observations and research the plants and fungus when we get home. If we hiked in an old growth forest we might see something new. Plus it would just be cool hiking in one.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 01-22-2022, 01:24 PM   #2
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https://courses.hamilton.edu/forests...growth-forests

I've been to a few. The smaller, fragmented sections of big white pines are nice, but they don't necessarily exhibit all the old growth characteristics of a more diverse stand.

Last edited by montcalm; 01-22-2022 at 02:40 PM..
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Old 01-22-2022, 03:11 PM   #3
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A couple primary sources I personally want to read, and I'd recommend you look for Bunchberry:

Davis, Mary Byrd. Eastern Old Growth Forests - Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery. Island Press, 1996.

Kershner, Bruce and Robert Leverett. Sierra Club Guide to Ancient Forests of the Northeast. Sierra Club Books, 2004.

McMartin, Barbara. The Great Forest of the Adirondacks. North Country Books, 1994.

Leopold, D.J., C. Reschke, and D.S. Smith. "Old-growth forests of Adirondack Park, New York." Natural Areas Journal 8, 1988, pp. 166-189.

Last edited by montcalm; 01-22-2022 at 07:25 PM.. Reason: corrected date on Leopold
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Old 01-22-2022, 03:31 PM   #4
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Davis, Mary Byrd. Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Revised edition. APSI, 2003.
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Old 01-22-2022, 04:26 PM   #5
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The Easy Street stand in Gabriel's/Paul Smith's is a pretty short/easy hike, although the trail is only informally marked/maintained so it can take some careful research/planning to find it.

There's also the Pine Orchard in Wells, which is on a marked/maintained DEC trail.

If you ever get a chance to visit the southern Appalachians, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina is absolutely worth visiting.
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Old 01-22-2022, 05:14 PM   #6
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The Tug Hill Land Trust offers free guided old growth hikes through several detached forest preserve lots on Tug Hill, with naturalist Bob McNamara as the guide. Check their website for dates. These forest have huge hardwoods along with a few old growth Red Spruce that survived the 1951 blowdown.
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Old 01-22-2022, 06:53 PM   #7
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I read through Ms. Davis' book above on the Adirondack section (I highly recommend clicking that link above). It's not a primary source though, but rather a list of other reports. Some hers, from previous publications, some from others.

Anyway, a couple things of note:

- In Pine Orchard Kershner claims there are 300 year-old hemlock and yellow birch. I recall the hemlock on the north side of the stand, but I don't remember any of them being remarkable. I didn't notice any of the yellow birch, so I didn't investigate near as well as they have. Might be worth keeping your eyes open for those things if you go.

- Michael Kudish claims there are 1000's of acres in St. Regis Canoe Area. One area to the southeast of the east side of Fish Pond. I believe this must contain the esker that the upper carry trail around Mud Pond takes because there are some monster white pine and hemlock there, and probably other stuff that I didn't even notice. He also claims there is extensive acreage on the lower southeastern slope of St. Regis mountain. The trail climbs up East-Northeast so it probably wouldn't be hard to access this area. There's a designated campsite there about 1.5 mi in from Keese Mill Rd.

- Mays Pond and Queer Lake make the list. I was mistaken about Otter Pond, the "old-growth" Otter Pond is a different pond, not the one in Pigeon Lake Wilderness. Queer Lake is accessible via a trail and there's a lean-to there. It would be a prime area to explore.

- Ampersand mountain. There are claims of up to 500 year-old yellow birch in this area. Again, another one that has relatively easy access from the hiking trail up the mountain.



There are many more on that list, and I think it's not complete either. Those are just some that are somewhat easy access.

Southern Five Ponds remains the largest unlogged area, but has suffered blowdown damage and is difficult to access and navigate.

Last edited by montcalm; 01-23-2022 at 01:15 PM..
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Old 01-23-2022, 10:00 AM   #8
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I was able to find and purchase McMartin's book for a fair price. MB Davis' "Eastern Old Growth Forests" can be found and purchased online for about $40. I decided to pass on that one for now. Kershner's Sierra Club book is much harder to find, but I think I found an option to borrow it from a library. Leopold et. al. publication is not accessible on the internet that I can see, I haven't even found any leads. He teaches at ESF so perhaps their library hold his publications. I'm going to contact them and find out.

If I find anything of note in these publications that isn't covered in the MB Davis' linked synopsis above, I'll be sure to post it.
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Old 01-23-2022, 02:21 PM   #9
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One of the claimed 450+ year-old yellow birches near Ampersand:



It doesn't quite look like old growth yellow birch that have been dated which exhibit a flaky, gray bark:




There's quite a wild swing in claims regarding old-growth forests. Some claim yellow birch can live to 300 years. I believe that specimens have been cored to over 350 years (I need to find that reference). There are claims all the way up to 500 years, but I don't believe the trees were actually cored and measured.

There's also some wild claims about how much old-growth (or approaching old-growth) is in the Adirondacks. McMartin claimed there was as much as a half million acres (1/12 of the Blue Line). Leopold and others have been much more conservative in the range of about 100k acres. That's still a substantial amount of old-growth. More than the rest of the state by far.
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Old 01-23-2022, 07:27 PM   #10
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My focus here on yellow birch may not be apparent, but in terms of old growth northern hardwoods, this may be one of the best indicators. It's also a good tree to look for because the bark does change when they get old.

Individuals like Leverett have been trying to correlate age to when this change occurs. It seems around 150-200 years is the transition range, where you might see the old, bronze, peeling bark being pushed away and the plates forming. Bronze, peeling bark, likely <150 years old. Light gray, plated bark, likely >200 years old.

Black birch (Betula Lenta) is a component used for old-growth diagnostics as well, and has similar age and characteristics of the yellow birch, but its range seems to be just out of the Adirondacks as we're at its northerly limit.

Hemlock are a long-lived tree and can be indicators of old-growth, but it's really hard to tell because they don't really change a lot between middle age and very old. They also need not be very big.

White pine are easy to spot and get quite large, and have led to a lot of discovery of old growth, but an old white pine, or stand of old white pines is not necessarily an indicator that the surrounding forest is old. They also can look similar in ages from 100-350 years.

Sugar maple is another long-lived hardwood, present in northern hardwoods and beech-maples forest types, but again, not a great one as an indicator. A 100 year old sugar maple can look no different really than a 200 year old.

Beech would be another species that would show up as very large and very old trees, but beech bark disease has limited this presence, and I think beech doesn't necessarily show any easy diagnostics for age beyond 100 years.

A perhaps significant indicator might be sparse presence or complete lack of red maple. Apparently they can get up in age in the right environments, but their competitive advantage is less in an old, undisturbed forest.

Old red spruce will typically occur in stands from what I can understand, much like white pines will*. Dating could be tricky, but much of these forest have been documented by McMartin and others because they became exceedingly rare due to logging demand.

There's also other environments that would be considered "old-growth" as well that probably wouldn't interest many people. Fen and bogs, krummholz, etc...


*I think that I was incorrect - Red spruce should comprise a significant portion of Adirondack forests in many different zones.

Last edited by montcalm; 02-01-2022 at 08:46 AM..
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Old 01-24-2022, 01:38 PM   #11
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Red oak is said to have some indicators as it ages. Perhaps in parts of the eastern Adirondacks there are oaks approaching old age.

I've been able to look at a few different age classes of red oak on my own, and I don't see a ton of difference based on age alone. Granted, the oldest that I know the date of is only around 170 years. These species could reach 300 years in old-growth conditions.

This is what I see as typical, mature but not old red oak:



Between 18-24" diameter with ski trails on the bark.

I don't have any pics of the 170 year olds, but they don't look a lot different, just bigger. They aren't in a forest setting, but a cemetery (which is why they are easy to date), so they tend to get fatter than a forest tree.

As they age, apparently from the pics I've seen they start to look more like chestnut oak bark, with more corky looking ridges and more horizontal cracking. WTBS, I've also see this on red oaks that were probably no more than 150 yo (again, in a cemetery). So I'm not sure that's a great indicator of age.
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Old 01-24-2022, 09:09 PM   #12
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I should add there's no written rule as to what age these "old" trees should be to constitute old-growth. I generally see the individuals in the references above referring to old-growth with trees as young as 200 years or so. Out of these eastern species, that's apparently about the qualifier. There could be older trees. There should be a lot of younger trees, but if you don't have individuals that old, it's probably not quite there.

There's always been a lot of debate over what old-growth means. In terms that generally interest most people looking to observe these forests, it probably means that the trees have reached close to their maximum age in between disturbances and that seedling or sapling of the next succession exist simultaneously. For instance, old-growth sugar maple should exhibit both very old maples, and all other age classes filling in where old trees died. Some trees won't do this, like white pine, they need disturbance to regenerate and won't generally regenerate where an old white pine died. Mainly because those who are shade tolerant will fill that gap and wait for the older tree to go. The white pine needs full sun from the go or else its seedlings will die.

That whole thing complicates things... a lot. That's why, I think, a lot of those folks who have been researching this for some time have looked at those indicator species I'm talking about above.
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Old 02-01-2022, 01:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montcalm View Post
Leopold, D.J., C. Reschke, and D.S. Smith. "Old-growth forests of Adirondack Park, New York." Natural Areas Journal 8, 1988, pp. 166-189.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/43911003


You need to register but this is free to read (who knows what concessions I made on my life to get it, but it was worth it).


Some great research on the structure of Old Growth forest types in the Adirondacks - remaining, and some comparison to historic data.

Thanks to KB for finding this for me!

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Old 02-01-2022, 01:49 PM   #14
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Also worth a watch:

https://youtu.be/5MCk-sWgdbU

Thanks again KB for this.



Kudish doesn't talk a lot about the structural components of old growth i.e. old growth characteristics - but he makes some good points about distinction.
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Old 02-01-2022, 04:03 PM   #15
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Here is another reference that I don't recall seeing in this thread:

https://www.oldgrowthforest.net/new-york

I have visited couple of West Virginia forests that I found on that site. I expecting to see a lot of large thick trees, but that was not the case. The distinguishing characteristic was the way in which the old tall trees filtered out the sunlight, which led to an understory that was thinner and more mossy that what I have seen in other forests in those same areas. The tree ages also seemed more varied than what one would encounter in a more recently logged forest. It changed my perspective.
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Old 02-02-2022, 05:03 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montcalm View Post

- Michael Kudish claims there are 1000's of acres in St. Regis Canoe Area. One area to the southeast of the east side of Fish Pond. I believe this must contain the esker that the upper carry trail around Mud Pond takes because there are some monster white pine and hemlock there, and probably other stuff that I didn't even notice. He also claims there is extensive acreage on the lower southeastern slope of St. Regis mountain. The trail climbs up East-Northeast so it probably wouldn't be hard to access this area. There's a designated campsite there about 1.5 mi in from Keese Mill Rd.

Studying the old fire maps - it does look like the section between the Truck trail and Mud pond are old growth. I believe you can see a good portion of it just from the trail - Kudish pointed out some directly from the Truck trail and the pics are in the presentation above. It looks like the esker did not burn - this whole area, including most of St. Regis mountain was burned over. It looks like the marsh around Mud pond stopped the fire from spreading up the esker. On the west side, I'm not sure what stopped the fire there, but it nearly engulfed the entire shoreline of Fish pond. It looks like the south shore of Fish Pond where the lean-to is may be old growth. At minimum, it was not burned.
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Old 02-02-2022, 05:51 PM   #17
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It does look like most of Pigeon Lake Wilderness area is first growth (unlogged, not necessarily old).

On the northern portion near Moose Lake, Herkimer/Hamilton Co. line is the border - to the east was considered "virgin" at the time the state made it forest preserve in 1892 (unsure when they actually acquired it). The other boundary runs roughly from the southwest corner of Queer lake to the east corner of Cascade. The rest of the area is contained and those lands extend on to Sargent Ponds WF.
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Old 02-07-2022, 07:57 PM   #18
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Saw a video last night where some old-timer with a long white beard explained the history of the forest going back 200-300 years just by reading the ground. Fascinating. I'll see if I can find the link.
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Old 02-07-2022, 07:57 PM   #19
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Tom Wessels?
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Old 02-07-2022, 10:35 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Tom Wessels?

Yes On Utube


"Reading the Forested Landscape" part 1


New England Forests
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