falling trees and branches...

9:37 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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What do you do to avoid being in the wrong place at the right time?  I'm not really interested in being a tragic news report if I can help it.

9:48 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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this question is specific to choosing a spot to set up camp/tent.

10:27 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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There really isn't any secret to it...just look directly above where you intend to sleep...this is one of the reasons I like to pitch camp before dark...as it is more difficult to see dead branches by headlamp.

11:05 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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i get that.  i just wondered if there are certain areas to avoid aside from the obvious "don't sleep under a dead tree".  seems particularly difficult to recognize when leaves are down.

11:43 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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Right!...it can be more difficult to distinguish dead from living branches in some species of trees in the winter when there are no leaves or buds. If you cannot avoid sleeping under branches...then looking at branches with broken ends can provide hints as to whether the branch was living or dead when the end of the branch broke off (fiber-like suggest living)...but there is certainly a little less confidence in the winter:-)

10:46 a.m. on January 21, 2014 (EST)
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In many places the damaging winds come from the same general direction.  Beyond checking over head I like to scout out what I'm down wind of by noting which way previous limbs and trees have broken and/or fallen.

Especially in mountain areas it may be calm when you set up camp but there can be big wind movements during the night...and I'm not just talking about inside your tent 8p

2:10 p.m. on January 21, 2014 (EST)
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As others have mentioned all you can really do is look around and observe. Avoid anything obvious or anything your uncertain about. In the end there isnt much else you can do.

5:06 p.m. on January 21, 2014 (EST)
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Good words of caution here…..

Sorry for the morbidity, but in the park nearest me (smokies), the most recent tree/limb deaths I can recall were from a storm in 2012 and interestingly neither of the deceased were in tents (one was on a motorcycle and the other was swimming): http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/06/us/tennessee-park-storm/

Last year a fellow was trapped under a downed tree while hiking and rescued via Blackhawk helicopter per this story: http://www.wate.com/story/22594106/smokies-officials-rescue-hiker-trapped-under-fallen-tree

5:17 p.m. on January 21, 2014 (EST)
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Reading this thread reminded me of an article I read in Backpacker a few months back.  

http://www.backpacker.com/out-alive-chased-by-widowmakers/survival/16930

5:56 p.m. on January 21, 2014 (EST)
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Jason Ruff said:

Reading this thread reminded me of an article I read in Backpacker a few months back.  

http://www.backpacker.com/out-alive-chased-by-widowmakers/survival/16930

 Reading that reminded me of a night in a canyon below Mt Figueroa in the Santa Ynez when the worst sundowers I've ever seen came to play.  We'd go from dead calm to 70mph wind headed down the canyon towards the coast, then calm and it would head back the other way.

Totally destroyed the poles on my brother's tent, just smushed it flat into the ground. We stood in a dark camp listening for the sound to start high on the mountain and than come roaring down on us.  Then time stood still as on the ridge above us there was a tremendous sound.  It shook the earth and you could hear trees snapping in front of whatever great beast was headed towards us.  In an instant my mind knew exactly what it was; Dinosaur!!

Well actually it was a giant live oak being torn out by the roots and then rolling down the steep slope taking out smaller trees along the way.  Still, for that one moment the dinosaurs once again walked the earth.  I'll never forget that moment or a few others that night trying to sleep in my tent and getting ready to catch falling trees each time the wind came roaring down the canyon.

We headed for the coast in the morning and spent the rest of the trip safely away from trees!

7:25 a.m. on January 22, 2014 (EST)
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Great story and imagery Lone Stranger...

9:49 p.m. on January 22, 2014 (EST)
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On my first backpacking trip. I was with more experienced guys on Isle Royale. We were camped among White Birch trees when 30-40mph sustained winds (and higher gusts) came up and blew through the night. Tree tops were crashing around us. We had no where to go. We were removed from any shelter. Trying to get to the lee side of the island in the dark would have been nearly impossible. All we could do was crawl into our tents and pray. It was a terrifying night.

12:18 a.m. on January 23, 2014 (EST)
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jonathansc said:

i get that.  i just wondered if there are certain areas to avoid aside from the obvious "don't sleep under a dead tree".  seems particularly difficult to recognize when leaves are down.

 Couple of ways to recognize dead trees in the winter. Take the end of a very small twig/branch-end and try to snap it. If it snaps immediately and easily, it's dead. If it bends under pressure it's alive, That being said Trees that have been dead for a while often won't have any small branches or twigs... they'll all have broken off because of brittleness. Try feeling the bark, bark on a dead tree will feel drier than living tree's and should flake or break off when pulled. If the tree is alive you will get some resistence trying to pull the bark off.

4:07 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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James Sage said:

 Couple of ways to recognize dead trees in the winter. Take the end of a very small twig/branch-end and try to snap it. If it snaps immediately and easily, it's dead. If it bends under pressure it's alive, That being said Trees that have been dead for a while often won't have any small branches or twigs... they'll all have broken off because of brittleness. Try feeling the bark, bark on a dead tree will feel drier than living tree's and should flake or break off when pulled. If the tree is alive you will get some resistence trying to pull the bark off.

 

 Great input, James.


And welcome to Trailspace! Hope you stick around.

4:19 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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My backpacking career started with crashing blowdowns near the tent and I learned early on to look up more often for these killers.  But even a green tree can fall so it's a crap-shoot.

For obvious dead limbs I have thrown my weighted bear line over them and pulled down---it works fast.  On my last trip I found a big upright dead snag next to where I wanted to put the tent and used my trail tool folding saw and after 20 minutes had it on the ground.  This can be done at every campsite if the tree is small enough.  A bigger dead tree means you don't camp under it.

Another system is to get a stout line wrapped high around a dead snag and sway it back and forth until is snaps.  I've done this several times when without the saw.

One time I was on a 3,500 ridge when I turned on the radio and they said "A 100mph storm is coming east from Nashville into the mountains" and by 8pm I was packed and on the trail down 2,000 feet on a nighthike to lower ground.  No point in tempting Miss Nature.

9:24 a.m. on January 25, 2014 (EST)
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I worked as a logger etc for a number of years and have run courses on risk management survival etc. It is important to know what to expect the area you are in. weather, potential for high winds, storms, forest type, etc.. There are many risks to be aware of but i will stick to the trees. I use a cube system to access potential risks. first look up. how big are the trees that could fall any parts with out bark, red needles cracks, . Look down is the ground littered with dead branches, blow-downs etc. Look around same thing try to spot any potential hazards. The face or edge of a forest has the most risk for blow downs also old burnt areas. I have had large trees fall around me and on me in the past, not fun. Always have a plan and leave a copy with a reliable person or two. So if the unthinkable happens you can get help.

10:53 a.m. on January 25, 2014 (EST)
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What is sobering is getting to an old favorite and often-used campsite and finding it newly divided by a big tree blowdown right where you used to put your tent.  Oops.

Another is finding "spears"---single big branches (or even small ones) which fall vertically and burrow into the ground several inches deep.  Some of these branches are large and heavy and dig a 10 to 12 inch hole into the ground.  Problem is, you never know if the tree you are under will drop one of these spears.

And then there are ice storms which in the Southeast means falling branches, certainly, split trees and all the rest. A good ice storm with wind can destroy a small patch of forest and obliterate a trail.

And then there are the effects of capitalism---the woolly agelgid from Japan which has killed off all the hemlocks.  These big trees when dead are designed to kill humans by the very fact that they are trunks covered in spikes---and right now all the tops of these trees are snapping off and falling everywhere.  Have fun. When the big behemoths fall they completely ruin an ecosystem by letting in more sunlight ergo more briars and brambles.  And they destroy a trail, of course.


SOLUTIONS?

Naw, nothing really, except maybe---camp in an open meadow (my fave), put the tent right up next to an already fallen blowdown (this is excellent because anything big will lodge atop your blowdown), or camp next to a rock face or small cliff which will catch a blowdown at an angle, and you'll be in that angle.

12:50 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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Falling trees dont ruin an ecosystem. Its how forest successes. When a monarch of the forest falls it allows sunlight to enter the subcanopy, and one of thise subcanopy trees that has been waiting for its "opportunity" will success and become a main overstory tree. Even if there are no subcanopy trees there waiting then a glade will be formed. Its the natural process of how a forest matures and succeses.

2:13 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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I'd certainly say the woolly agelgid has ruined the ecosystem of the mountains of NC and TN as thousands are standing dead and just waiting to fall.  And the beloved Joyce Kilmer Memorial forest was known for it's giant trees (many hemlocks and poplars) but now the behemoth evergreens are dead due to free trade and the market economy.  The dang bug finally reached the East.


TRIP%20131%20188-M.jpg

Here's an example of the recent hemlock dieoff on the Upper Slickrock Creek trail.  The old trail used to go straight up into the center of this pic.

4:59 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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As others have mentioned, check nearby trees for sign of decay. There are going to be situations out of your control, especially during storms. A tree hit by lightning 60 feet away could fall, hit another, smaller tree, and that tree could be in your campsite. It's highly unlikely, but always a possibility, that Ma Nature could call your number.

7:44 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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Tipi, that is one of the main problems with these areas. When they were replanted after logging they were planted with only a few species of trees mainly hemlock and pine. So when a pest comes into an area it can be decimated. Monocroping is bad for this reason. In any case the forest will success forward and a new diverse ecosystem will take hold with many new species of trees if we keep out paws out of mother natures business.

9:26 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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You're right about the hemlock canopy disappearing as it starts to fill back up with white pine and hardwoods.  Problem is, in the interim the open spots gather in too much sunlight and choke up the trails with sawbriars and brambles.  Some people hope these current low temps will kill off both the agelgid and the pine beetle.  Maybe, maybe not.

7:04 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Amen Tipi, lots of us are hoping the actually wintery Winter this year will at least knock back some of the invaders.  We have moths, beetles and a host of other wee beasties trying to wipe out the forests up here and they are having some success.  This whole state will burn if our forests have a mass die off because most of the state is forest.

11:03 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Here's hoping for many dead bugs...

10:02 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

What is sobering is getting to an old favorite and often-used campsite and finding it newly divided by a big tree blowdown right where you used to put your tent.  Oops.

 My kids and I just watched a National Geographic documentary on California Giant Redwoods. A scientific team decided to hammock in the canopy of a leaning tree, some 200' off the ground. A big storm came up, and freaked them all out, but their thought was, "This tree has been standing here for 500 years or more. It's not going to fall on us."

The next time they were in that area, they found the tree had fallen over.

4:32 p.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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Watch out for snags, standing dead, and leaners. Mature trees have limbs large enough to kill someone if they come down. I like to sleep near younger trees and look for large boulders as protection in a wind storm.

October 24, 2014
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