Measuring Trees, Vicky-Style

May 24, 2008 at 8:00 am 6 comments

Another personality followed in Richard Preston‘s book, The Wild Trees, was Michael Taylor. Michael Taylor was not a scientist or a climber. He was just a normal man (one afraid of heights at that) who one day decided that the tallest trees in the world were yet to be discovered. So he went out into the woods and looked for them. When he first started his explorations of northern California, his measurement technique was crude, but cost effective.

Taylor made his clinometer out of a plastic protractor […], along with a piece of string, a thumbtack, and a wooden pencil. The device cost him forty-five cents.

Later he started using a 19th century surveyor’s transit and then even later he used a laser range finder. But according to The Wild Trees, “there is only one way to determine the exact height of a tall redwood, and that is to climb up into it and run a measuring tape down it.”

That’s exactly what researchers did in September 2006 when they measured Hyperion at 379.1 feet and confirmed it was the world’s tallest tree.

For the layman, like myself, there are a lot of a different ways to measure the height of trees, some using angles, some using sticks and some simply measuring shadows. Over the years, I’ve half-assed my own technique which makes Michael Taylor’s hand-made clinometer look cutting edge.

  1. Make Jimmie stand or sit next to the tree.
  2. Take a picture
  3. Upload picture to Flickr for safe keeping

Now, if I am ever inclined, I can open the picture up and count the number of Jimmies to the top.

Jimmie “measuring” an American Chestnut tree (the tall skinny one next to his butt)

The tree is at least 8.5 Jimmies tall. Since Jimmie sits at 29″, the tree is roughly 20 1/2 feet tall.

Jimmie’s expertises are by no means limited to trees. His services are just as applicable to rocks or tree tumors.

Dragon’s Tooth is a little more than 10 sitting Jimmies high.

Jimmie, with apprentice Henry, “measuring” a tree tumor.

Of course, one day Jimmie will have to retire from hiking. So I suppose I should practice some of those other techniques.

You know, as backup.

Though added accuracy wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

Entry filed under: Hiking, Jimmie, Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, trees.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. scienceguy288  |  May 25, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Haha! A bit easier then trig huh?

  • 2. geekhiker  |  May 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    *wipes tear from eye*

    Best use of photoshop evah! 😀

  • 3. Vicky  |  May 26, 2008 at 11:48 am

    @scienceguy288 – Yup, no tangents here.

    @geekhiker – Heh. Not quite Photoshop. I used….. Microsoft PAINT!!!!

  • 4. The Great Craft Explosion « TGAW  |  July 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    […] are some pictures of the process. Just like with measuring trees, Jimmie comes in handy to give […]

  • 5. Virgin Islands: Gorda Peak National Park « TGAW  |  January 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

    […] bigger. On Virgin Gorda, I saw the biggest one of the entire trip. Jimmie wasn’t around for his measurement duties, so I had to step up to the […]

  • 6. M. D. Vaden of Oregon  |  June 6, 2009 at 12:08 am

    If you ever happen to find the redwood Sir Isaac Newton, you may find amusement seeing how many Jimmies tall the 40,000 pound burl on the side of it is.


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