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chknfngrs
04-20-2018, 07:09
I hiked from Thornton Gap north to Elkwallow Wayside in the dark and windy night on Wednesday. I thought I had finally found what the wild and lonely Skakagrall sounded like... alas it was just tree parts rubbing together. Spooked me to pieces. But got me thinking have you all seen widowmakers that made you hike faster?

nsherry61
04-20-2018, 07:40
. . .But got me thinking have you all seen widowmakers that made you hike faster?
In the Adirondacks a couple years ago with my son, hiking around the Cranberry Lake 50, we were walking through a pretty significant wind storm and I was about 20 yards behind him when I saw a tree start to fall right for him. As I was screaming for him to run (he had no idea why) he stopped. The tree I was screaming about landed about 20 ft behind him and the tree he was stopping for landed about 20 ft in front of him. So, the answer to your question is yeah, sort of.

This last month when we had the first of our 3 noreaster storms in one week (just south of Boston) I headed out into the woods behind our house to take the dogs for a walk before the storm got blowing to badly. It was blowing pretty hard, but, was early in the storm and it hadn't picked up too much yet. My wife asked me not to go out into the woods. I figured early on in the lighter winds (only 40 mph or so) it should be fine. As the tree fell across my path, I turned around and heeded my wife's request. Below is a picture I just took out our back window showing the area of the path I was walking on.

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The trail enters the the woods at the left edge of the picture and crosses the rock wall right at the base of the 2 ft diameter tree that fell across it and slightly to the left of the leaning tree. Of course, this image doesn't come close to showing all the tree limbs down all around that made other parts of the trail nearly impassable until I cleared them.

Yep, trees fall. And, they do so most often in storms whether we're there to hear them or not. This one was really loud and awesome.

moldy
04-20-2018, 07:54
When singing songs of scariness,. Of bloodiness and hairyness,. I feel obligated at this moment to remind you. Of the most ferocious beast of all: Three thousand pounds and nine feet tall ---. The Glurpy Slurpy Skakagrall. Who's standing right behind you. -
The other creature to live in this area. Wild Tree Squeaks. They hide way in the tops of trees and on windy nights they get lonely and call to each other with those squeaks.

Old Grouse
04-20-2018, 07:55
I've seen trees fall even in clear, calm weather. Like Johnny Cash said, "I keep my eyes wide open all the time."

garlic08
04-20-2018, 08:16
Sometimes the thought of hiking faster comes way too late. Like the time I was chatting with friends during a break on the trail in Yellowstone NP, and out of the clear blue on a calm day, a large tree came down a few feet from our group of four. No warning, no time to even think about moving. Over ten years later, we still talk about that often.

MuddyWaters
04-20-2018, 09:02
See the woods?

Every single tree in it will fall one day, unless picked by a harvester

Trees fall. One by one.

Or in the case of beetle killed forest in CO, that is uncut, the whole thing is rotten standing widow makers. I pushed over a 10" dia standing tree by leaning on it there.

Tipi Walter
04-20-2018, 09:29
The biggest problem here in the Southeast where I backpack are the millions of completely dead towering hemlocks which are breaking apart and dropping either limbs or their tops or the entire tree. Think "torture device with spikes". These babies must be avoided if possible when camping, i.e. don't set up underneath.

But beyond this, as Muddy Waters says, all trees will eventually fall and I've seen completely "healthy" trees with green leaves fall for whatever reasons. And big healthy oaks can randomly drop a thousand lb limb with no warning. Let's do a photo essay---

42518
Here's a favorite campsite on the Nutbuster trail (Upper Slickrock #42) where I always put my tent.

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Here's the same place a few years later after a locust blowdown cut the campsite in half. Lucky I wasn't squatting there when it happened.

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Here's the blowdown just after it happened.

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There's also a favorite camp on the Benton MacKaye trail near Yellowhammer Gap that got obliterated by this giant oak falling where I usually put my tent. Lucky me I wasn't camping here when it fell.

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And then there's this phenom---a tree dropping a limb as a spear and stabbing into the earth---or whatever else is below. I see these things all the time. There's no way to avoid this---except by camping out of all trees on a bald or in a stand of small saplings.

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Here's the hole this little limb made---it's deep.

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And then there's the aforementioned hemlock spike blowdowns . . . .

rocketsocks
04-20-2018, 09:41
I think it was 2 or 3 years ago someone was wild by a tree that fell on him at a around a shelter...don’t recall where.

rocketsocks
04-20-2018, 09:41
Killed...ugh!

FrogLevel
04-20-2018, 09:44
I think it was 2 or 3 years ago someone was wild by a tree that fell on him at a around a shelter...don’t recall where.

I think a father was killed and his son seriously injured by a falling tree in the Boundary Waters a few years ago.

MuddyWaters
04-20-2018, 09:47
And big healthy oaks can randomly drop a thousand lb limb with no warning.




Yep. Sudden summer limb drop has killed people camping, picknicking or even just taking photos under healthy trees . I recall some people sued Yosemite a couple years back when it it happened. Seems they think National Park should have done something to prevent it.

chknfngrs
04-20-2018, 09:50
I think it was 2 or 3 years ago someone was wild by a tree that fell on him at a around a shelter...don’t recall where.
Ed Garvey shelter methinks

rocketsocks
04-20-2018, 09:54
I think a father was killed and his son seriously injured by a falling tree in the Boundary Waters a few years ago.


Ed Garvey shelter methinkssounds right

nsherry61
04-20-2018, 10:19
Yet another reason all backpacking, hiking, and camping should be banned. . . it's just too dangerous. :eek:

Tipi Walter
04-20-2018, 10:39
Yet another reason all backpacking, hiking, and camping should be banned. . . it's just too dangerous. :eek:

Miss Nature's in charge. She'll either kill us with a tree or a tumor or a virus or a heart infarction. Maybe couch potato-itis should also be banned.

grubbster
04-20-2018, 11:33
A 11 year old boy scout was killed in the Red River Gorge in KY in 2016 when a tree fell on his tent. Tragic.

Hatchet_1697
04-20-2018, 16:13
https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20180420/752c40611834adb6a03acdc97addd3ca.jpg

Not the biggest tree to fall near me, but man we got lucky.


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rocketsocks
04-20-2018, 16:35
https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20180420/752c40611834adb6a03acdc97addd3ca.jpg

Not the biggest tree to fall near me, but man we got lucky.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Prothis happen to me once in PA as well, dropped my pack and leaned up against what looked like an ok tree...whole damn thing fell over on and all around me, luckily it was only about three inches spongey wood.

devoidapop
04-20-2018, 18:52
I've finally convinced my wife that I most likely won't die from bears, hillbillies, lightning, or ticks. Please don't let her find this thread.

Tipi Walter
04-20-2018, 23:07
Hatchet---Perfect example of how a living green tree can fall and there's nothing you can do about it or know beforehand.

towerclimber727
04-21-2018, 01:03
Live ar let live I always say.... When I'm @ work worrying about what can hurt you could fill your mind if you let it, same thing on the trail I think... Imo it's best to to be as observant as possible and try to make the best decisions possible with the information you have available. If I only looked at the bad I'd never experience the good...

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Hatchet_1697
04-21-2018, 07:22
Hatchet---Perfect example of how a living green tree can fall and there's nothing you can do about it or know beforehand.

There was a storm coming in so we setup quickly and went to the shelter to eat, storm hit with a fury and we saw/heard the tree come down. If you look close you can see something was going on where it snapped. I later heard a lot of trees in that part of PA have issues (forget what exactly). But I was focused on the trees I was hanging from, distracted by the inbound storm/hunger/tired and just didnít pay attention to trees that far away. It was an established campsite after all.

No one was hurt or killed, except my new tarp got a 7Ē tear in it which HG fixed for free (thank you again HG!). I will say my widow-maker checks are much wider now.


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nsherry61
04-21-2018, 07:25
And, for what it's worth, the vast majority of trees fall at moments of higher than average stress, i.e. during strong storms. With my experience, I would suggest that if you can stay out of the forest during the strongest storms of the year, your risk of seeing, hearing, or being hit by a falling tree is exceptionally low.

Also, as I'm thinking about this, I see a lot more freshly downed trees in deciduous forests than I do in coniferous forests. That can only be true mathematically if the conifers live noticeably longer and/or there is a higher number of trees per given area in a deciduous forest. And, I would argue against deciduous trees being more dense, on average then conifers, at least until the conifer forest is matured into old-growth

In conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest "widowmakers" were dead branches on trees, not whole trees.

Okay, as per one Google source, Douglas fir trees apparently live, on average, for 750 years and can reach 1200 years and that's a heck of a lot older than any of the deciduous trees in my New England back yard that seem to fall at ridiculous rates.

rocketsocks
04-21-2018, 08:50
And, for what it's worth, the vast majority of trees fall at moments of higher than average stress, i.e. during strong storms. With my experience, I would suggest that if you can stay out of the forest during the strongest storms of the year, your risk of seeing, hearing, or being hit by a falling tree is exceptionally low.

Also, as I'm thinking about this, I see a lot more freshly downed trees in deciduous forests than I do in coniferous forests. That can only be true mathematically if the conifers live noticeably longer and/or there is a higher number of trees per given area in a deciduous forest. And, I would argue against deciduous trees being more dense, on average then conifers, at least until the conifer forest is matured into old-growth

In conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest "widowmakers" were dead branches on trees, not whole trees.

Okay, as per one Google source, Douglas fir trees apparently live, on average, for 750 years and can reach 1200 years and that's a heck of a lot older than any of the deciduous trees in my New England back yard that seem to fall at ridiculous rates.i think structure may come into play as well, deciduous trees with there branching can have areas where leaves collect and nests built, water then sits there like a damp sponge and promotes rot, seen this happen more than once.

Crossup
04-21-2018, 09:05
I believe I recently deleted the picture but while on the AT in Michaux SF, I took one of my usual breaks on a trail side log. When I leaned back to take off my pack I looked up to see a huge, like a ton worth of dead tree suspended 8-10' up by only a few branches snagged on adjacent trees...looking at it, there seemed NO way it could be supported by the branches. I kept my eyes on it the whole time I was stopped...very scary. That tree was hanging 2-3' into the trail path.
On the same trip I marveled at how in an entire week I was never once hit by an acorn despite non stop showers of them hitting my tent, shelters, tables etc and in general falling like rain all day, every day.

Tipi Walter
04-21-2018, 11:02
And, for what it's worth, the vast majority of trees fall at moments of higher than average stress, i.e. during strong storms. With my experience, I would suggest that if you can stay out of the forest during the strongest storms of the year, your risk of seeing, hearing, or being hit by a falling tree is exceptionally low.



For me staying out of the forest is not a viable option since I get dropped off and won't get picked up for several weeks. BUT there are things you can do to better protect yourself in big storms and windstorms.

** One time I was atop Flats Mt at 4,000 feet in TN when I heard a series of tornadoes headed my way so I dug deep and pulled a long backpacking day of around 10 miles to lose elevation and enter a river valley in Bald River wilderness. I knew of a tent spot next to a 15 foot high rock cliff which would protect me from falling trees. (These were the tornadoes that hit Chattanooga in April 2011).

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Here's the spot I had in mind on Bald River when I heard about the tornadoes on my radio while standing atop Flats Mt. The big rock face better protects my tent from falling trees.

42530
On another trip I was camping on Fodderstack Ridge on the BMT in Crowder Camp and my little radio pinged "100mph winds headed east from Nashville into the mountains" and it spooked me so I packed up and did a nighthike off the 3,500 ridge down into Slickrock Creek valley and reached this campsite as shown. In the camp and near my level spot I found a rotted standing dead snag and with some effort pushed it over where it broke into pieces as shown in this pic---and then I set up the tent.

This technique is useful if a snag is old and rotted and needs to come down.

42531
Another technique in a windstorm to avoid death by blowdown is to set up right next to a blowdown already fallen as is in this pic. If a behemoth does fall the horizontal trunk on the ground could save my life.

nsherry61
04-21-2018, 22:00
Good thoughts Tipi.

Although I haven't thought this through in much detail in recent years, really, camping as close as you can to any large strong object from a big rock, to a downed tree or cluster of downed trees to a cliff as you did certainly offers some protection.

Other features that might offer some protection might by a gully if you are not expecting hard rain along with high wind. I know of people that have sought out stands of shorter and younger trees withing a forest of older larger trees.

Tipi Walter
04-21-2018, 23:33
Good thoughts Tipi.

Although I haven't thought this through in much detail in recent years, really, camping as close as you can to any large strong object from a big rock, to a downed tree or cluster of downed trees to a cliff as you did certainly offers some protection.

Other features that might offer some protection might by a gully if you are not expecting hard rain along with high wind. I know of people that have sought out stands of shorter and younger trees withing a forest of older larger trees.

Your post reminds me of backpacking in the Big Frog/Cohutta when Hurricane Irma came thru and I was on Jacks River and needed to rack my brain to come up with a spot I could hunker in and find some sort of protection.

I got an early start just before the storm hit and reached Big Frog wilderness because I knew of a sheltered spot on an old logging cut with a steep dirt bank on one side of the tent. It was a long haul but I set up near Rough Creek on the BMT next to the high bank on the right in this pic. Often when trees fall near logging cuts they form an archway and don't completely fall to the ground.

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Steep bank on right of tent offers some safety . . .

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These are logging cut blowdowns. This one show the cut with the dirt bank on the left supporting the tree.

42545
This pic shows an old logging cut with the dirt bank on the left. Putting a tent as close as possible to the bank wall is smart in a windstorm.

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Here's another pic showing how old bulldozed logging cuts can be safer places to camp in a windstorm. In this case hug the left bank.

blw2
04-22-2018, 08:19
Yeah, it looks like in hind sight hatchet's example tree could have been spotted. Looks like a diseased area at the break point. I can imagine though that it's not necessarily the kind of thing you might notice..... or it might be the best of all the evils you can see. Often when I look around at established camp sites I can't really find a completely risk free looking spot. Every tree it seems has some dead branches, diseased spots, bad looking leans, etc..... so with calm weather you just have to pick the worst and stay away from them. Rough weather would be a different story

My hind sight seems like it's often better than my present sight. I have done a pretty good job of trying to look for widowmakers when setting up, even when parking my RV......but it seems like I often spot things later that make me second guess myself. I'm reminded of a time in the RV in the NF near Grand Canyon. I parked, looked around for widowmakers.....moved because of a suspect leaning tree.... then later while eating dinner noticed that in my move I placed it right under another suspect tree!
And another time camping with my son's scout troop at the local scout reservation in an established camp site, I noticed that some of the scouts had set up under a fairly ugly looking potential widowmaker. Sad thing was I really didn't see it till the next morning when looking at things with fresh eyes and from a different angle.

I've been in the woods a few times, hunting and maybe while camping, when rather large branches fell with a thud close to me, but luckily so far never a whole tree that I can recall.

Tipi Walter
04-22-2018, 11:29
I remember back in 1980 when I was camping near Boone NC below Howard's Knob when a giant limb fell next to my tent in the middle of the night and it shook the earth and definitely got my attention. I called it "the T-Rex Event." That was before I really paid much attention to what was above me.

But hey, people have been dying from blowdowns for centuries. I remember reading an account of early American Lakota Indians and one story involved a woman who was killed in her tipi when a tree fell on it.

BuckeyeBill
04-22-2018, 14:38
As a hammock hanger, I have gotten into the habit of finding what I feel are two good tree to hang from, then look up and around where I will be for dead limbs that could fall if they or God saw fit. I have had to change locations after looking up and even though it may take awhile, I sleep much better knowing that i pick the best spot I could find.

Hatchet_1697
04-22-2018, 17:53
Just back from a 21mi hike/fish trek in SNP, I canít tell you how many times this thread came to mind! Lol. Widow Makers everywhere after the winter storms. AT sections werenít bad, but on the trails along the streams the trees were just waiting for their next victim. This pic shows what we were faced with trying to find good hammock trees someplace relatively safe.

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20180422/2c0e86fec060bc20064a189180282406.jpg


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shelb
04-22-2018, 19:07
Sometimes I start to set up camp - and stop to realize that I didn't look up first.... and then have moved due to a dead limb above!

rocketsocks
04-22-2018, 20:41
Sometimes I start to set up camp - and stop to realize that I didn't look up first.... and then have moved due to a dead limb above!...which is a heck of a lot easier with a self standing tent.

Feral Bill
04-22-2018, 21:33
On another trip I was camping on Fodderstack Ridge on the BMT in Crowder Camp and my little radio pinged "100mph winds headed east from Nashville into the mountains" and it spooked me so I packed up and did a nighthike off the 3,500 ridge down into Slickrock Creek valley and reached this campsite as shown. In the camp and near my level spot I found a rotted standing dead snag and with some effort pushed it over where it broke into pieces as shown in this pic---and then I set up the tent.

This technique is useful if a snag is old and rotted and needs to come down.

42531
Another technique in a windstorm to avoid death by blowdown is to set up right next to a blowdown already fallen as is in this pic. If a behemoth does fall the horizontal trunk on the ground could save my life. Be careful about pushing over dead trees. I was doing so once and the top broke away. It pegged the ground right next to me. Scary, to say the least.

bushwhacker88
04-25-2018, 06:34
Be careful about pushing over dead trees. I was doing so once and the top broke away. It pegged the ground right next to me. Scary, to say the least.

I came here to say this. Dont push on dead trees unless youre ready to wear the top like a hat.

martinb
04-25-2018, 09:38
First thing I look for at a camp spot is potential widowmakers. Then, bear poop.

Tipi Walter
04-25-2018, 10:43
First thing I look for at a camp spot is potential widowmakers. Then, bear poop.

First thing I look for anywhere in the woods is a flat spot for my tent---even in a field of brambles as they can be cleared. Then I look what's above tree wise. Once camp is set if I have the time I walk around the area looking up the trunks of trees and see if any have that deep gouge from top to bottom indicating a lightning strike. Some spots are more prone to strikes and bolts than other spots.

1azarus
04-25-2018, 12:01
this happen to me once in PA as well, dropped my pack and leaned up against what looked like an ok tree...whole damn thing fell over on and all around me, luckily it was only about three inches spongey wood.
i'm gonna buy me one of those blue tree repellent tarps...

rocketsocks
04-25-2018, 13:16
i'm gonna buy me one of those blue tree repellent tarps...the brown ones will make ya more stealthy, and they’re just as strong.

egilbe
04-25-2018, 20:16
And, for what it's worth, the vast majority of trees fall at moments of higher than average stress, i.e. during strong storms. With my experience, I would suggest that if you can stay out of the forest during the strongest storms of the year, your risk of seeing, hearing, or being hit by a falling tree is exceptionally low.

Also, as I'm thinking about this, I see a lot more freshly downed trees in deciduous forests than I do in coniferous forests. That can only be true mathematically if the conifers live noticeably longer and/or there is a higher number of trees per given area in a deciduous forest. And, I would argue against deciduous trees being more dense, on average then conifers, at least until the conifer forest is matured into old-growth

In conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest "widowmakers" were dead branches on trees, not whole trees.

Okay, as per one Google source, Douglas fir trees apparently live, on average, for 750 years and can reach 1200 years and that's a heck of a lot older than any of the deciduous trees in my New England back yard that seem to fall at ridiculous rates.

In our neck of the woods, most of the old, healthy trees were logged off not that long ago. The organic soil those old trees might have become if they had fallen naturally got carried away. What was left was slash that burned. The soil was then rained on and was washed down the Saco and Androscoggin rivers. What was left can barely support an unhealthy forest. If you hike up the Wild River Wilderness and look at the flanks of the Carter-Moriah range, even though it's tree covered now, you can see the gullies down the flanks of the mountains caused by erosion. They are pretty dramatic. The White Mountains doesn't really have a healthy forest.

Gambit McCrae
04-26-2018, 12:41
I tented with the Union soldiers at Sheltons Grave last weekend down here in East Tn and man o man were there ever dead limbs hanging everywhere. I was able to find a spot safe to tent but that place could sue a solid day of cutting dead stuff down.