Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:31 pm
by M.W.Taylor
Last weekend I explored Sailor Flat with Duncan Kennedy. This is the largest tract of unlogged old growth in Tahoe National Forest. Site elevation is about 5,600 feet. The flat is approximately 1.5 miles x .75 miles in size. The area was partially explored by Russell Towle in 2003 who blogged about it having large trees, including a douglas fir over 10' dbh. Overall the forest is mostly unexplored with only the remnants of an old pack trail down by the meadow. Sailor Flat's forests consisted of a variety mixed conifers, with no oaks. Most abundant were sugar pine (a number of specimens 7' - 8' dbh), white fir (up to 5' dbh), ponderosa (up to 7.4' dbh), incense cedar (biggest about 5' dbh), douglas fir (a few 7' - 8" class dbh). At the rim of the flat are red fir and Jeffrey pine of average size. The trail to get there was long and arduous. The biggest trees we could find grew around the edge of the largest meadow in the flat (Sailor Meadow). One pocket of trees here had 3 ponderosa pines over 7' dbh. We were not able to find the 10' dbh douglas fir that supposedly grows there. Within the flat there was a pond, creeks and numerous smaller meadows. The soils were volcanic with large red boulders popping out of the topsoil here and there. Were is not for the volcanic soils (ph is basic and locks up nutrients) and site elevation being a little above the optimal, these trees here would likely be larger, perhaps giants. I saw little evidence of any fire scarring. This place looks to be almost immune from fire due to the way it is situated. The tallest tree of Sailor Flat according to the LiDAR map I downloaded and processed is 241'. It is a sugar pine at the southern edge of Sailor Meadow. The largest ponderosa we could find that day I have named the "Richard Towle Tree" after the late Russell Towle who was killed in a car accident on Highway 80 about 9 years ago. As a hobby, he was a mathematician, explorer and blogger.