Lee Canyon, NV

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#1)  Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Matt Markworth » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:24 pm

NTS,

On Monday Chris and I headed up to Lee Canyon in the Spring Mountains. I knew that I wanted to see bristlecone pines on this trip and this was the perfect place. A big thanks to Chris for being my “guide” for the day. The route that he chose allowed us to measure some exceptional trees! In addition to the measurements and photos, there is a short video at the end with more tree scenes.

On the drive in we spotted some big ponderosa pines and decided to measure them on the way out. They would turn out to be bigger than I ever dreamed of seeing on this trip. Gaining more elevation, we hit the trail and found some nice ponderosa pines and white firs. Here are the measured trees and a couple photos from the first part of our hike:

Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine
12’6” x 112.8’
11’3” x 112.2’
9’6” x 68.7’

White Fir
9’2” x 88.2’
8’5”

               
                       
Spiral Pattern - Ponderosa Pine.jpg
                       
Spiral Pattern - Ponderosa Pine Bark
               
               


               
                       
Limber Pine Needles.jpg
                       
Limber Pine Needles
               
               


After hiking the trail through this nice grove of ponderosa pine, white fir, quaking aspen, and to a lesser extent limber pine, we headed up to the ridge to check out the old, gnarly bristlecone pines. I believe we topped out around 9,700’ elevation. They are certainly stunning trees! The tallest measured was 75.3’. I don’t have a good feel for bristlecone pine maximum heights, but I think this tree represents a tall specimen and should be a good benchmark for any future measurements. I’d love to see more numbers for this species if anyone else has measured them. The tree has an interesting trunk with a dead stem in the middle and a bigger stem apparently wrapping itself all the way around the dead stem. The biggest girth we measured was 15’1”, which was an interesting tree to measure based on a significant lean.

Here are the measurements and photos for this portion of the hike:

Bristlecone Pine
15’1” x 44.1’
10’6” x 75.3’
7’3” x 72’

               
                       
Bristlecone Pines.jpg
                       
Bristlecone Pines
               
               


               
                       
Bristecone Pine 2.jpg
                       
Bristlecone Pine - dead
               
               


               
                       
Bristlecone Pine.jpg
                       
Bristlecone Pine
               
               


               
                       
Bristlecone Pine - dead.jpg
                       
Bristlecone Pine - dead
               
               


               
                       
Bristlecone Pine Needles, Cone.jpg
                       
Bristlecone Pine Needles, Cone
               
               


               
                       
Mountain Scene 3.jpg
                       
Mountain Scene
               
               


               
                       
Mountain Scene 4.jpg
                       
Mountain Scene - Pines
               
               


               
                       
Big Ponderosa Pine.jpg
                       
15'1" CBH Bristlecone Pine
               
               


               
                       
Tall Bristlecone Pine - 2.jpg
                       
75.3' Bristlecone Pine
               
               


               
                       
Tall Bristlecone Pine.jpg
                       
75.3' Bristlecone Pine
               
               


               
                       
Tall Bristlecone Pine - 3.jpg
                       
75.3' Bristlecone Pine
               
               


On the way back down we spotted more nice ponderosa pines and got back to the ones spotted earlier in the day. The biggest one came in at a whopping 16’11” CBH. Chris pulled up the NV big tree list and based on the closeness of the measurements we determined this is the same tree submitted by Bob Van Pelt in 2003. The tree has lost some height and crown spread, and girth is virtually unchanged. With dead branches up high the tree is clearly in decline, but it’s still an impressive pine!

Compared to the ponderosa pines I saw at Hermosa Creek last year, it seems that the pines in the Spring Mountains have the advantage in girth/volume, whereas the pines at Hermosa Creek have the advantage in height. The pines in Lee Canyon thrive in flat, open areas and can really put on the girth.

Here are the measurements and some photos for the trees we encountered as we made our way back down:

Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine
16’11” x 133.5’ x 51.3’
14’2” (not in Lee Canyon, spotted on the drive out)
13’11” x 108.6’
13’4”
13’
11’11”
11’

White Fir
9’9” x 114’
CBH: 8’4”
Ht: 99’

               
                       
White Fir.jpg
                       
White Fir
               
               


               
                       
Big Ponderosa - 2.jpg
                       
16'11'' CBH Ponderosa Pine
               
               


               
                       
Big Ponderosa.jpg
                       
16'11'' CBH Ponderosa Pine
               
               


Video Highlights:
21 Second Mark – Full View of the 15’1” CBH bristlecone pine
28 Second Mark – Random snowball comes flying in:)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8LjuLglGSY

Matt

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#2)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Rand » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:44 pm

One thing I've always wondered about all those gnarly half-dead bristlecone pines, do they tend to die back gradually or does the death mark some traumatic climatic event?  Or just a lightening strike.  I suppose after several thousand years it could be all of them.
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#3)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Don » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:01 pm

Rand
Good question...when you're among them, you see a continuum of everything between fully "cambium-ed" to naught but a thin strip of bark/cambium running up to the last remaining live branch/foliage.  It's my sense that, as you say, "...they die back gradually..."   They, more than any other species (closest is a sister species, the Foxtail Pine, located 30 miles due west in the Sierra Nevadas ranging between 9-11,000 feet) are emblematic of the old-growth as a function of spartan economy of photosynthate productivity...they do less with less.  In that sense, they are responding to a more lengthy climatic event than the one we're currently considering.
Don
               
                       
Winter Bristlecone.jpg
                       
Winter Bristlecone Pine along northern gradient of Bristlecone Forest, White Mountains
               
               
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
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#4)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Matt Markworth » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:47 pm

Rand, Don,

Good insight. They're definitely the ultimate survivors.

Here are two more angles for the "S Curve" tree shown in my original post. This tree has been through a lot.

               
                       
109.jpg
                                       
               


               
                       
107.jpg
                                       
               


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#5)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Larry Tucei » Fri Mar 20, 2015 10:23 am

Matt-  That Ponderosa is huge!  BVP is the Man!!! Can't wait to get back out west, west is best!!!  Wide open spaces- to many folks out East!  Larry
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#6)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Matt Markworth » Sat Mar 21, 2015 3:28 pm

Larry,

I agree, it's a beast. I never thought I would see a bigger Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine than the Larry Tucei Ponderosa Pine on this trip! When Chris and I get together we seem to sniff out the superlative Rocky Mountain ponderosa pines.

Per conifers.org, this is the biggest known var. scopulorum. American Forests shows a bigger tree in Lolo National Forest, MT, but I think that part of MT is more likely to be var. ponderosa.

Matt
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#7)  Re: Lee Canyon, NV

Postby Josh Kelly » Sun Mar 22, 2015 1:11 pm

Matt,

I had the pleasure of visiting the Spring Mountains back in the winter of 2004-2005.  I was also impressed with the bristlecones and ponderosas there.  It's an amazing biodiversity hotspot and fairly unique with its limestone geology. I'd definitely visit again if I were in the Las Vegas area.  

I also enjoyed your post on Red Rocks.  Another spot I enjoyed there was Valley of Fire SP, though trees are hard to come by there.
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