The "Yellowjacket" Spruce - Big, but not a Champ

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cggordon
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The "Yellowjacket" Spruce - Big, but not a Champ

Post by cggordon » Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:05 am

I traveled to the North Oregon coast (Clatsop County) in early July of this year -- meeting up with family for a vacation. I planned on scouting several old growth forest locations and hunting for trees. Focusing on Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar.

There was definitely one spruce that I had on my mind and wanted to finally measure. I had not visited it in years, but remembered running around the woods, playing "army" around it, many times in my childhood. Back then, it was just the "big tree" in that area of the forest, nothing more to me. But I had memories of the tree, and I really wanted to see if it was as big as I remembered.

The tree is not located on park land. It is on timberland, the edge of it, and for some unknown reason, it was spared when the loggers came. But it is quite close to "civilization" and is visible from the beach when walking on the sand, if you know where to look. It is far taller and thicker than all other trees around it, even with its top completely ripped off, which must have occurred in some long-ago wind storm. (It has lost more of its top since I was a boy, as I remember a savage "dagger" shape to the top far above any branches, which is now no longer present.)

I dragged my dad to the tree with me so someone could help me measure the trunk. (Unfortunately, after buying a Forestry Pro Laser, it broke somehow, so I could not estimate any tree heights during the trip.) The tree was big and thick like I remembered. I thought it was probably 12+ feet in diameter. Not a tree that could challenge the Cape Meares Spruce, or Mario Vaden's Falcon's Tower for Oregon Champ status from what I could tell, but a big one nonetheless. There was an old tag nailed to the trunk (which I remembered from when I was a kid) which looked like some sort of surveyor transect marker. A very impressive specimen. Though the top is broken off, it otherwise appears robust and quite healthy.

As my dad and I started to move around the tree to start the circumference measurement, my dad was suddenly attacked with multiple stings. A second later, I was too. Yellowjackets. We had been bashing about some of the detritus around the base of the tree and must have disturbed a nest. Well, measuring the tree was quickly forgotten and we sprinted like mad through the forest as we were pursued. I'm sure it would have looked pretty funny if some random observer had been there. My dad got a sting on his ear and forehead, thicker clothes I believe saving him from more. I managed to get 4 randomly placed stings -- my left forearm, right shoulder, right ankle, and lower back. Lucky really. I think we easily could have received 10-20 a piece. So, bottom line -- no CBH measurement available at this time. (My dad was real happy he came along for this one (/s). Definitely brought that up a few times afterwards.)

I did return to the tree 2 days later and took a rough DBH measurement with tape on the non-nest side, with my Dad eyeballing the tape from a (safe) distance. You can bet I was real careful moving around the base of the tree. Approximately 11 feet 6 inches DBH. Like I said, big, but not champion caliber. But the tree is stout and is quite girthy throughout. Were I far more skilled, I'd be quite curious as to its wood volume. As I said, could not measure the height, but my very rough guess (can't wait to show how wrong I was when I return to measure next year) is about 140-180 feet tall.

Glad this tree remains. It will continue to grow, and get battered by coastal storms, as it stands a lonely watch above all the second growth below, until its exposed visage can take no more. I hope that's quite a while from now.

-CG
Attachments
CG at the trunk
CG at the trunk
"Yellow Jacket" Spruce looms over the forest
"Yellow Jacket" Spruce looms over the forest

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