Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

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#1)  Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby tomhoward » Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:17 pm

NTS,

Jack Howard and I visited this accessible old growth forest on the last day of our New England trip. It is on VT Route 100 just north of US 4, in some of Vermont’s most beautiful high country. Before went to Gifford Woods, we drove up to the main ski area at the base of Killington Peak (4141 ft.) – the air felt fresh and crisp, and it was glorious to see forest climbing the mountains (as well as ski lifts) with Spruce-Fir forest on the mountain tops.

The contrast with the enclosed and much warmer hardwood forest of nearby (and not all that much lower) Gifford Woods could not have been greater. At Gifford Woods were large Sugar Maples everywhere, and there was no feeling of being in the mountains. The day had rapidly become very warm. Gifford Woods is an impressive place, but not as awesome as I was led to believe. Sugar Maple dominates, and other trees include Hemlock, Yellow Birch, Beech (with Beechdrops on roots), White Ash, Striped Maple (common). There are shrubs like Canada Yew, Hobblebush.

Gifford Woods has 2 excellent interpretive trails, one identifying trees (and underestimating average heights, like Sugar Maple 80 ft.) and other plants (herbs like Blue Cohosh, False Solomon’s Seal, Interrupted Woodfern. The other interpretive trail is called the Old Growth Trail, and it is the best old growth forest interpretive trail I’ve ever seen, with illustrated signs explaining old growth characteristics in a way that can be easily understood. If there were signs like these in the old growth forests here in and near North Syracuse, the signs would be vandalized by obscene graffiti, destroyed, or stolen in no time.

The forest these signs interpret, however, is nowhere near as impressive as its sister site in my area, the Liverpool School Maple Grove. There are more openings than canopy, and many old stumps. The forest is very highly disturbed. Yet there are some really old trees here. We saw the huge ancient snapped off Hemlock Adam Rosen said in his post (about my New England trip) that could be 500 years old – it could be, but is maybe 300-400 years old? An interpretive display contains the cross-section of a tree I couldn’t identify (it had no bark) on which I counted 301 rings on about 14” radius (a park worker said it was a Hemlock log with 240 rings). Elsewhere on the trail I counted 200 rings on a 14” radius cross-section 40.5 ft. above the base of a Hemlock fallen across the trail.

Some trees measured:
Sugar Maple                105.6 ft. +        36.1” dbh – tallest tree measured at Gifford Woods, by trail near road, possibly 110 ft. tall, couldn’t see highest point
Sugar Maple                  82.6 ft.  more typical of trees here
Sugar Maple                  84.9 ft.
Sugar Maple                  98.7 ft.  by entrance road – Sugar Maples around the 1930s park building seem to be about 90-95 ft. tall.

We did not have time to see the best of the Gifford Woods old growth. Adam Rosen, The Sierra Club Guide, and Joan Maloof’s Among the Ancients recommend the woods across VT 100 from the main part of the park. This narrow area between the road and Kent Pond is said to be a trackless old growth forest, where the biggest Sugar Maples grow. We drove by that area, saw a forest with scattered fairly large Sugar Maples with Kent Pond right nearby. Well, maybe next time, but from the road the trees did not look exceptionally large.

Tom Howard

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#2)  Re: Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby adam.rosen » Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:07 pm

That trail is great, isn't it?  It must have been a fun project for some tree lover.  I've been driving that stretch of road since 1986.  I've walked it, ran it, cycled it and never saw the big grove until I went into the underbrush. You can't see it from the road. Now I've got to go back with a tape measure and get some data and photographs to match my words.  Worse things could happen.

Here is the description of the grove you missed, the one across the road, from the Vermont Natural Areas sections of the Vermont State Parks website.

"11. Gifford Woods Natural Area. 7 acres, Gifford Woods State Park, Town of Sherburne. This is perhaps Vermont's best known old-growth northern hardwood stand, with many grand-sized individual trees of sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, basswood, white ash, and hemlock. The understory is rich with native wildflowers. Though small, it has been much visited and researched. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980."

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#3)  Re: Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby adam.rosen » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:50 am

               
                       
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I brought my camera to Gifford Woods yesterday, June 15, and went to the forest--not the interpretive trail on the west side of Route 1oo, but the 7 acres of unmarked woods on the other side.  A few steps off the pavement and the mystery unfolds.  I wasn't measuring for tree height, but I took some CBH measurements and photographed some of the old growth evidence--coarse woody debris (I love that term!), twisted trunks, buttressed roots, and an amazing twisted crack halfway up the bole of an OG hemlock.  I've seen a couple sources--one an ents liked data base, and the other the Longstreet Highroad Guide to Vermont Mountains, that date that hemlock at at least 400 years old.  For the numbers, I took a CBH on the hemlock of just over 10 feet, and CBH on the largest Maple I measured at 13 feet and two inches.  Neither is one for the record books, but, Tom Howard, how does that compare with the ancient giant of the Liverpool grove.

So, here are pictures:  looking up trunks, details of trunks, cracks and fissures, standing snags, and that great hemlock.

Why am I dressed up?  I was returning from a good friend's memorial service.
Technical advice on how to rotate the images is welcome.
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#4)  Re: Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby tomhoward » Sun Jun 16, 2013 12:43 pm

Adam,

Those pictures of Gifford Woods are awesome! The next time I am in Vermont, I plan to visit the old growth forest across Rt. 100 from the developed part of the park that we visited last year. It is very impressive indeed. The site compares well with the Liverpool School Maple Grove in size of trees and age of maples, but the Liverpool Maple Grove is a little larger in area, and Liverpool has no 400 year old hemlocks (or 400 year old trees of any kind, I don't think). 13 ft. 2 in. cbh is really big for a Sugar Maple and the great tree you found is only a tiny bit smaller than Liverpool's great Maple (the Liverpool Sugar Maple is 13.8 ft. cbh and est. 350 years old). Liverpool and Gifford may be comparable height-wise - it should be interested to get out in Gifford after the leaves are down to get some heights - Liverpool's tallest trees just touch 120 ft. and the biggest Maple is 116 ft. tall.

Tom Howard
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#5)  Re: Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby edfrank » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:19 pm

Adam,

Your technical problem is one that is perplexing.  I will try to find an easy solution for you.  It is how the camera saves your images.  It encodes something in the jpg file that tells it an orientation.  Even if I rotate it in a photo editing program, when I save it, it goes back to the same orientation.  For the magazine I had to convert the images to gif files to remove the rotation information and get the pictures pointed in the right direction.  There must be some way to edit that data, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky
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#6)  Re: Gifford Woods State Park Aug. 22, 2012

Postby adam.rosen » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:09 pm

Hi--I was in such a hurry--wanting to get those images up!  I think I can resave with proper orientation in another program (irfranview) and then post.  When I'm not in a hurry.
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