A rare species of disputed origin: Washoe Pine

Hello all,

On July 23rd, I set off with my siblings and grandparents for a day trip.  Our destination: the stands of Washoe Pine, a disputed species of pine related to Ponderosa and Jeffrey, located on Babbitt Peak.  On our way over, we detoured across Sierra Valley through a major migratory waterfowl area known as Marble Hot Springs.  On our way, we caught glimpses of White Faced Ibis, Sandhill Crane, and American Coo, as well as Burrowing Owls in a drier area near Dyson Lane’s junction with Highway 49.

From Marble Hot Springs, we went through Loyalton and up through Sierra Brooks, taking the Loyalton-Boca Road to the Babbitt Peak turnoff.  On our way through the small valley known as Jones Valley, we encountered a gigantic Jeffrey Pine snag in a grove of Quaking Aspen.  The monster was 121′ to a snapped top and 21’0″ CBH – a legitimate 6-footer!

Eventually, we entered an area with a definite flora and soil change.  The trees looked somewhat like Ponderosa Pines, but were also very similar to Jeffrey Pine.  We concluded that the trees were likely Washoe Pines.  Afterwards, we continued up to the lookout and had an enjoyable chat with the ranger stationed there, observing geographical features as far away as Mount Lassen.  You really get a damn good view from 8,760 feet above sea level.  A notable feature was Mount Rose 20 miles to the southeast, home to the type locality for Washoe Pine.

It was also interesting to observe the subalpine forest community around the lookout tower.  A thriving community of Western White Pine, Mountain Mahogany and possibly even the rare Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulus), mostly in krummholz form (krummholz is German for “bent wood”).

Then, it was time to go back downslope in search of a new record.  Several fruitless stops were made, before we reached a spot I had noticed on the way up.  I ran upslope to measure the tree.  Sadly it was not a record, but it was still one of the largest on record.  Measuring 15’6″ CBH and 143′ tall, it is not far from record status.

Later, we found out that a return trip would be in order, since we missed the stand of Washoe Pine that the Research Natural Area was established to protect by a few miles.  Who knows, the largest may really be up there…

Thanks for reading,



A true champion: The new largest Mountain Mahogany

Hello all,

Yesterday may grandfather and I met local resident John Preschutti.  Our destination was a huge Mountain Mahogany that John found on a talus slope about 10 years ago.  He took us down a long and rough dirt road, and we parked at the base of a draw near Table Mountain.  The hike was a mere 1/4 mile – AKA the roughest 1/4 mile ever!  It was mildly hot, and the hike was up a steep, rocky hill that was covered with invasive cheatgrass.  However, at the top we found a gigantic tree, which was the same tree from John’s memory.  It measured 12’0″ CBH – colossal for a Mountain Mahogany, 22′ tall, and 36′ of Crown Spread.  The final American Forest Association Point total was 175 Points – the largest ever recorded!

We hiked back down, and headed home, while Grandpa proposed a press release.

Now for the photos, courtesy of John Preschutti and myself.



The Lumpkin Pumpkins: Damn, that’s huge!

Hello all,

On Saturday, the 9th of July, I went and explored Lumpkin Ridge with Michael Taylor.  We first bushwhacked to his two previous discoveries, the “Lumpkin Lunker” and the “Lumpkin Pumpkin”.  The Pumpkin was the first that we visited.  It is a slow tapering, well formed specimen of a Ponderosa Pine.  DBH is 7.13′, CBH is 22’3″ and the Height on it is 188′.  The volume chart was released by Michael yesterday, and the volume is an astounding 4,277 Cubic Feet!  It is one of the largest Ponderosa Pines alive.

The Lunker is 220′ away.  It is a huge tree with a rotted base.  DBH is 7.36′, CBH is 23’1″ and its’ height is 176′.  The volume is, surprisingly, less than the Pumpkin, reaching 4,096 Cubic Feet.  Still a huge tree.

While measuring the volume on the Lunker, poor Michael was stung several times by a hive of bees.  My recommendation is that he should try some StingStop.

Our last tree was located via Google Earth.  Just in case you were wondering, Google Earth is the best friend of any tree measurer.  It is THE tool.  But I’m getting off target.  Anyway, we located this huge Ponderosa on the edge of an old clearcut.  It has the biggest debris pile I have ever seen on it.  DBH is 8.24′, CBH is 25’11” and the height is conservatively estimated at 190′.  Volume is over 4000 Cubes easy.  8′ Ponderosa are also very rare – only 9 have been measured in the past 30 years!

This area clearly contains some of the largest known pine trees in the world.  I’m excited about the idea of returning.

Photos courtesy of Michael Taylor and myself



McMahon Mine 6/25/2016: Trees of Legend

Hello all,

Yesterday, the 25th of June, 2016, my family and I went down to Cal-Ida to meet Cy Rollins again, and to meet up with Michael Taylor.  Our destination was the McMahon Mine, an old mine site that has remained unlogged since its’ discovery.  The McMahon Mine is located in an area far off the beaten path.  And getting around was, of course, a gigantic bushwhack.

The first hint as to the sort of trees we were going to see was when we encountered a 7’+ DBH Douglas-Fir on the hike down to the mine.  All that is left of the mine itself is a few hydraulic mining craters down the hill, and two ruined cabins.  After a quick tour, which included finding a piece of rock art saying “HELLO PUTNEY” (which was bizarre.  See photos below.), we went on uphill to find the trees.  The first tree we measured was 23’1″ CBH, and was the same one appearing in a historical photo from 1898.  After that, we discovered a Ponderosa with a CBH of 18’11” and a Sugar with a CBH of 21’0″.  Later bushwhacking discovered two Douglas-Fir, one 19’4″ CBH and one a real whopper at 24’2″ CBH.  Another Sugar we found was 21’11” CBH.  But, the real giant was a huge Sugar Pine 25’11” CBH and 200′ H.  It was named “the McMahon Monster”.  It was the only tree that day to make Michael Taylor’s “Gobsmacker List”.

Afterwards, Michael showed me some of his newly-developed measurement methods, we went off to have ice cream in Downieville, and went to measure the actual height on King Pond, the Ponderosa outside Calpine that was giving me a bull$h!t result of 290′ H.  The actual height is only 193′.

After such a great day, my feet were extremely sore.  But boy, was it worth it or what?  Now for the best part: photos!  All but one are courtesy of Michael Taylor.

Two Big Trees and a Kind Old Gentleman: Cy and the Live Oak

Hello all,

First post in some time!  But boy, do I have a treat for you all or what?

Anyway, today Mom and I traveled to Goodyears’ Bar to meet Cy Rollins, an old-timer who knows pretty much every big tree in the area.  Some of the trees he knows have me salivating right now!  But anyway, our first stop after finally tracking him down was a Live Oak between Goodyears’ Bar and Downieville.  To access this tree, a uphill hike with some poison oak was necessary.  But boy, was it worth it!  The Live Oak measured 8.80′ DBH, 27′ 8″ CBH, and 57.21′ H.  After that tree, the next stop was a Ponderosa Pine on the back of Cy’s property.  It measured 6.07′ DBH, 19′ 1″ CBH, and 203.39′ H.  Both trees were extremely impressive, and I am SO ready to see more of these trees.  Now, for photos.


The Tallest known Lodgepole Pine in the world

Hello all,

Today I got the chance to head over to the other side of Calpine Pass, to a Lodgepole Pine ( Pinus contorta var murrayana) Grove that CA-89 cuts right through the heart of.  This forest contains many very tall Lodgepole Pines, including one that I measured today that is now the tallest known Sierra Lodgepole Pine in the world!  The tree measures 131.10′ tall, and 8′ 4″ CBH.  Next to it is another very tall Lodgepole (didn’t measure the height), with a CBH of 10′ 11″.  Afterwards, Grandpa noticed a very big White Fir snag up the hill.  It is 14′ 3″ CBH.

It really delights me to have a world record under my belt now.  Photos courtesy of Bill Harnach.


I found out on 1/28/16 that the tree ISN’T the world’s tallest.  According to Arkansas Big Tree hunter Jess Riddle, he measured two 147′ Lodgepoles and a 150′ Lodgepole in the Bucks Lake Wilderness a few years ago.  However, this still means that the four tallest Sierra Lodgepole Pines are all in the Plumas National Forest.  A little disappointing, but I still believe I will find the tallest in not too long.


The Chrysolepis Expedition : A Chestnut and two Live Oaks

Hello all,

I’m going to recount to all of you yesterday’s expedition.  On January 16th, 2016, we headed down the Yuba River Canyon to the Cal-Ida Campground in Indian Valley, to look at some big hardwoods.  The first tree measured was a Chestnut that was probably planted between 1855 and 1870.  To be honest, the Chestnut was actually two trees.  The larger trunk was 10′ 3″ CBH and 54.77′ H.  The other, a leaning trunk, was 46.09′ H and 9′ 7.5″ CBH.  The day was starting to look a little like a flop, but then in another part of the campground I spotted a Canyon Live Oak that was ENORMOUS!  At 24′ 1″ CBH and 76. 86′ H, it was the largest tree of the day.  Afterwards, we bid Grandma and Grandpa’s friends Robyn, Arlo, Bill and Rodger adieu, and then travelled up Highway 49 a few more miles to Depot Hill.  There we measured another Live Oak in the pouring rain.  The tree was 17′ 10″ CBH.  The circumference had to be measured by Grandpa and I while holding on to ropes attached to the back of the car.  The slope was incredibly steep.  We didn’t get a height measurement either, because at that point the rain increased in intensity.  Then we headed back towards Calpine, absolutely soaked.

Now for the photos, courtesy of both myself and Grandpa.

2015 Year in Review

Hello all,

I first had the inspiration to do this when I saw John Montague, one of Michael Taylor’s many tree-hunting friends, do one of his “year in review” posts on Facebook.  His list of accomplishments for 2015 is quite impressive.  But without further ado, it is time for the Sierra County Big Trees Project’s 2015 Tree Year in Review!

5/11/2015 t0 5/17/2015:  Family trip to Olympic National Park, Washington.  The seeds of tree interest are sown in my mind after this trip.

Early June 2015: Grandpa, Grandma and their friend Sharon first bring a giant Sugar Pine in Goodyears’ Bar to my attention.  Grandpa then suggests that we should start documenting the giant trees of the area.  The Sierra County Big Trees Project is then born.

8/8/2015: After a hike, Grandpa, Grandma and my sister Jade run across three giant conifers on a back road.  We eventually find out that this area of old-growth extends across the entire mountainside for several miles.  The area is given the name “Forest of the Kings”.

9/20/2015: A return to the area known alternatively as “Forest of the Kings” and “Giant’s Forest”.  Two giant Douglas-Firs are measured with the owner of part of the forest, Mr. William Copren.  One, the “Chuck Hardesty Tree”, becomes the largest Doug-Fir known in the two counties and my personal favorite big tree.

9/30/2015: On Grandpa and Grandma’s final meet-up of the year with Sharon, I accompany them to measure the Sugar in Goodyears’ Bar.  It becomes the largest known tree in the county.

10/17/2015: A trek looking for a grove of Giant Sequoias planted on the Yuba Pass in the 1960s by Chuck Hardesty.  We didn’t find the sequoias, but we did locate two giant Western White Pines and a giant Red Fir.  One Western White and the Fir went on to become County Records.

11/6/2015: The locating of the “Collins Pine”, largest known tree of Plumas, Sierra and Tehama Counties, by Michael Taylor and myself.  The tree’s exact location will remain undisclosed to respect the Collins Pine Company’s wishes about the tree’s secrecy.

11/22/2015: The year’s final tree measuring day; Michael Taylor teaches me how to use the Criterion 400 forestry laser that he gave me on a trip to measure the height of the “Grandfather Giant” in Goodyears’ Bar.  The tree turns out to be 31′ taller than the previous measurement.

And that was 2015.  A great first year for the project, and hopefully 2016 will be even better.  Thanks goes to Jennifer Kennedy, Christian Kennedy, William Harnach and Nancy Harnach for their constant support.  Thanks also goes to Gregg Scott, for interviewing me, drafting up, and then publishing a news story that has boosted the number of tree reports I have been getting, to Michael Taylor for his mentorship and the Criterion 400 laser, to B.J Jordan and Michael Hogan for their interest and to William Copren for his tour of the giant Douglas-Firs and access to his tract of forest.  If I’m forgetting anyone, please feel free to leave a comment.

Happy New Year,



The local Big Tree Register

Hello all,

Happy 2016!  May your new year be quite fine.  To start off 2016, I’ve decided to embark on something ambitious.  I am going to launch a big tree register; similar to the ones at the state and national levels that gauge tree size by a points system.  Sierra County Big Trees will continue to measure and document this year and for some time to come.  Last year was a rip-roaring success, and this year looks even more fantastic.

Since I’ve got some down time this winter, I’ll begin organizing the register.  A website now exists, but there won’t be anything on it for a while.  Sierra County Big Trees will still be the main site, and will be where all the trip reports and such are posted.  I’m in the process of designing a nomination form that will be downloadable from the other site.  I will also write articles explaining the measurements – Circumference, Height, Crown Spread and Volume.  The new Register will also have something in common with the Washington State, British Columbia and Great Britain registers – all list not just the points champ, but also the height, crown, diameter and volume champs.

Anyway, Happy Holidays and New Year.



The “Across the street” expedition

Hello all,

Today I went tree hunting in a grove of big trees across the street from where I live.  The area is private property, so ask first.  From a distance (my front porch) I had seen large crowns, but I was uncertain of how big the trees actually were.  So I went out to look.  The first tree I came to was the largest of the bunch, and the third largest known Ponderosa Pine in the county.  It was 17′ 3″ CBH, or a DBH of 5.53′.  It was previously measured by me (almost a month ago on my first expedition) using a clinometer for the Tangent method.  The problem with this method is that it makes the (obviously erroneous) assumption that the top is directly over the base.  The Tangent measurement was 83.4′ in height, but my new Nikon Forestry Pro laser rangefinder debunked that height and measured it out at 134.0′.  The Nikon Forestry Pro uses a Sine-based height routine and is accurate within one foot or less of the actual height.

Then I measured the other two largest in the grove.  One measured out at 15′ 8″ CBH and 132.0′ tall, and the other was 14′ 4″ CBH and 130.0′ tall.  Afterwards I got back on my bike to head home, but not before taking a picture of the bulls chewing their cud within 70 feet of me-and there were no fences between me and the bulls while I was measuring.  Yikes!  Now for the photos:

The Nervino Giant with my backpack for scale
The Nervino Pine #2 with a 5-foot ladder for scale (the ladder was there first)
The third Ponderosa with my pack for scale
Handsome and he knows it.