McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area, Essex County

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Erik Danielsen
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McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area, Essex County

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:02 am

The McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area is over 37,000 acres of mostly-trailless forest immediately north of Lake Placid. In working to "crack the code" of detecting big white pine sites like Halfway Brook via aerial imagery, Rob Leverett has noted a number of sites with potential within this wilderness area, two of which I was able to check out in September 2020. We're still refining the formula, but one of these prospective sites certainly did deliver.

McKenzie Brook via Jackrabbit Ski Trail 9/11/2020

The Jackrabbit Ski Trail trailhead is pretty much still "in town" in Saranac Lake. Heading north and east from the road it crosses a broad powerline cut and skirts private land before finally getting into the designated wilderness area. The forest lining the first couple miles of trail is young and much of it is low and wet, especially towards McKenzie brook which runs parallel to the north. During a detour to the brook I did note a particularly thick Balsam Fir but didn't realize at the time it might truly be large for the species. Hopefully I can relocate it in the future.
Tall, youthful pines in the main stand.
Tall, youthful pines in the main stand.
The trail turns north and crosses the brook, after passing a single massive 12.05'cbh white pine with a stumpy top broken off at 80'. On the north side of the brook I left the trail to bushwack east into the complex of wetlands lining the brook that showed promising white pine crowns from above. Traveling through alternating low wet forests and slightly raised areas with more white pine, the trees get progressively older and larger the further east you go. The easternmost cluster was where I started hitting pines worth measuring- a 123.5'/12.02'cbh loner among smaller pines was the first sign of good things to come. Heights kept rising until just beyond the lone 150-footer, after which the stand started to peter out. I would think this stand is less than 150 years old, vigorous reachers just starting to smooth over their lower branch scars. A single very tall Tamarack also showed up in here. Its base is starting to crack and a neighbor of similar stature was broken off halfway up. Thinking of the 130' Tamarack at Newcomb, it seems to me Tamarack certainly has the growing capacity to get tall, but perhaps lacks the structural integrity to back up that potential.
Looking up the trunk of the tall Tamarack, which has a nice double leader.
Looking up the trunk of the tall Tamarack, which has a nice double leader.
Turning back south to skirt the head of the wetland complex a lonely giant trunk loomed in a stand of much smaller trees- after clearing away a lot of fallen debris this turned out to be a great 13.89'cbh pine, which was exciting, until I turned to glimpse through the trees another trunk that I figured would be another 12-footer... but turned out to be a new girth record for a singlestem White Pine in the adirondacks at 16.1'cbh. This tree has much older bark and a more weathered crown than the 16-footer at Halfway Brook. I'll have to return to do volume modeling sometime when there aren't so many leaves, but I think the form on this one has a good likelihood of making it a proper 1k-cube tree.
The 16.1'cbh Pine
The 16.1'cbh Pine
That was pretty much it. Just young forest with youthful emergent pines on the south bank as I looped back towards the trail. This section of bushwack is unpleasant, lots of pushing through spruce/fir thickets. In the future I might see about heading north to intersect with the trail further on instead.

White Pine

154.3' / 10.3'cbh
147.5' / 10.27'cbh
144.5' / 9.15'cbh
143' / 11.5'cbh
142' / 9.9'cbh
141.01' / 16.1'cbh
136' / 9.65'cbh
135' / 12.35'cbh
134.3' / 8.85'cbh
127' / 11.4'cbh
126.5' / 13.89'cbh
123.5' / 12.02'cbh
80' / 12.05'cbh


116' / 6.05'cbh

This section of McKenzie Brook definitely seems to be drinking some of the same "secret sauce" as the Halfway Brook pines, but is smaller in area and much younger. Even still, sporting a 150-footer, 5 12-footers, and a new girth record, it's an impressive site.
Full view of the 16.1'cbh 141' tall pine.
Full view of the 16.1'cbh 141' tall pine.

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