I hope that many of you have visited Pete Holzmann’s photo gallery here. If you click on each picture on this page, you get a separate “gallery”. Today, I’m going to post up a quick overview together with a few maps.
First here is a map showing the location of Almagre Mountain relative to Colorado Springs. We got to the site by driving up the main highway and then coming in from the back. An old geologist friend of mine warned me that in the mountains in Chile you often “went around your elbow to get to your nose” and this was the case here. The drive approaching the site from below went through some very picturesque meadows as you’ll see from Pete’s gallery.
Figure 1. Location Map, Almagre Mountain
As others have already observed from the gallery, we did make a point of literally documenting the Starbucks Hypothesis – we were not idly testing whether it would have been possible in principle to have a Starbucks (but instead only having roadside coffee). We convened on Day 1 at the Starbucks and one of the other customers took a photo of our little party. Pete and Leslie Holzmann are on the left; I’m in the center with my B&R Squash hat on; my sister Leslie is on my immediate left and my wife Nola is to her left.
Here we are (Nola took this picture) up at a site that we christened “Elk Park” in front of a bristlecone – notice the distinctive bark.
Now one of the excuses made in dendro world for the lack of proper site location information is the lack of availability of GPS instruments in the 1980s. Don’t get me wrong – GPS instruments are great, but long before GPS became available, people drew maps. It would have taken negligible effort for dendro collectors to draw at least a sketch map showing their sample location. Geologists ALWAYS have proper location maps and geologists can routinely locate showings in remote areas from maps drawn 50 years ago. In the case of many U.S. dendro maps, there are excellent Forest Service maps and it is easy to mark site locations on a Forest Service map as shown below. I suspect that Forest Service maps were available in the 1980s, but even if they weren’t it would have been easy to draw a sketch map showing the roads and the sample location relative to the roads. In most mining jurisdictions, people with exploration licences are required to archive maps showing their work and it would be easy for the WDCP to also archive maps – it’s easy now in a digital world, but paper maps could have been archived in the past. The problem here seems to be – according to one dendrochronologist that I asked about this – is that dendrochronologists do not routinely make maps – or perhaps more accurately, routinely do not make maps. Thus the problem. Had a map like the one below been available, then it would have been relatively easy to locate the Graybill trees, when, in fact, the actual location required a considerable amount of serendipidity.
On the map, you can see McReynolds Reservoir to the north of “Elk Park” where our first samples were taken. The vista from the hill was really pretty, as the following picture form Pete’s gallery shows:
Just for fun (and so as not to under-estimate the detail available using sun views from Google Earth), here’s roughly the same view from Google Earth and you can see the amazing amount of detail captured at Google Earth here.
When we left this site, after a little while, we encountered the following situation in the road. It’s actually worse than it looks. The boulder would rip the underbelly of the truck we were in, stranding us on the mountain and the sides of the road on either side were pretty steeply pitched. Pete is a skillful 4-wheel driver in addition to other skills (computers, wood working) and figured out how to slalom the 4-wheeler down the gully, riding the wheels just to the side of the boulder with the truck at what seemed to be about 35 (Pete amends: 35-45) degree angle to the horizontal, while the rest of us held branches back at the side with all our limited might. We got off the mountain with a deep $500 scratch to the truck and thanked our stars that that was all. You’d want a different and less highway-comfortable vehicle for this section of the road, that’s for sure. But at least there was no precipice at the side and the pictures of a similar situation in Pete’s later adventures look much more hair-raising.
In the second part of Day 1, we sampled at the site labelled above as “Almagre Base”. We were looking for Graybill’s “Frosty Park” site, which we figured was near this site. I don’t think that this site matched Graybill’s Frosty Park but did have bristlecones and the same lack of understory vegetation. I was very tired and getting affected by the altitude (to which I wasn’t used) by this point and look even more bedraggled than usual; however, the three women and Pete were doing fine. By this point, we figured that Graybill’s Mount Almagre site was somewhere up the road where it was eventually located, but we’d done enough for the day. We’d collected about 20 cores. I’m sure that Rob Wilson would have collected more, but typical dendro site collections were often around this size. Pete has some nice panoramas at the gallery – look at them full-size for a wonderful vista. Below is a scaled-down jpg of a panorama of Almagre Base showing just how little understory vegetation was on the top of the knoll where we sampled. Is this evidence of dryness as well as cold? The understory at Elk Park was equally sparse or sparser.
By this time, Pete and Leslie were very keen on the project. It’s an interesting way to visit the mountains, that’s for sure. I had to go home, but they were determined to track down the Graybill sites. Here is Pete’s email to me on his second trip.
12 trees sampled, multiple samples from most
* Found enough bristlecones that we largely ignored the stripbarks
* I’m quite certain we were where Graybill was, at least partly.
I was able to re-take one of the photos he took😉
* We ended up sampling a couple of trees that were already tagged!
Could these be exact matches?
– Round metal tags nailed on each tree
– One was labeled “252”, another “254”
* We were horrified to discover a major “offroad” group campsite, where ancient bristlecones were harmed by…
— makeshift latrines created by nailing boards to the trees
— one very large tree was “topped” about 1m off the ground;
the entire upper tree had been sawn off and used for a variety of other purposes
* Sad news: locked gates keep people away from the top of Almagre. Also, a locked gate blocks access to the road that leads to Ruxton Park… we could only go about 100 meters past where we turned uphill when you were here.
Recovery, some processing, and the materials will be shipped/uploaded
Here’s an interesting panorama from this part of the expedition. Look at this picture in conjunction with the two photos shown below.
The picture on the left shows the location of Day 2 sampling; the picture on the right shows the location of Day 3 sampling where the Graybill trees were located. If you go back and look at the panorama, you can pick out the shapes of the two sample locations within the panorama. At present we’re not sure what program the identification tags located on Day 2 – “252” and “254” – refer to. On Day 2, Pete and Leslie were within a 100 feet or so of Graybill trees but a little bit off.
But on Day 3, Pete and Leslie found 17 Graybill tags with ID numbers 84-55, etc. Since these are definitely Graybill tags, the provenance of the 252, 254 tags is uncertain. You can also see just how flukey it was to have identified these tags – especially since we didn’t even know that the trees were tagged and Pete says that the tags were not easy to spot. Not all the tagged trees are included in the measurement data archive. In a post last year in connection with Graybill’s sampling at Niwot Ridge, I observed that there were a number of missing numbers in the measurement data archive and that auditors don’t like missing invoices. As noted previously, our tree 30 has a Graybill tag (84-55) but the tag numbers do not reconcile to archive identification numbers. Complicating matters, there are missing numbers in the archive sequence. As I’ve said before, auditors don’t like missing invoices and I’m certainly going to try to reconcile this information, but this sort of reconciliation is very time-consuming.
Go visit the full gallery here.
We measured the elevation of Graybill’s trees to be at about 3550 m (Graybill reported 1,800 feet-3600 m.) There are not many archived sites that are higher than this and about half of the higher sites are also from Colorado-New Mexico (7); there are 4 sites in Nepal; one in Germany; one in Mexico and one in China (Wulan near Dulan, which we’ve discussed at CA.) The California bristlecone and foxtail sites are a little lower than this – Sheep Mountain CA – 3475 m; Campito Mountain CA 3400 m; Graunlich’s Upper Wright Lake 3519 m and Boreal Plateau 3420 m. Despite having lower treelines, the California sites are further south (Sheep Mountain is 37 22N; Boreal Plateau 36 20N versus 38 46N at Almagre.) Note that the Dulan sites in China (and the Dunde and Guliya ice cores are at similar latitudes.)