Measuring Trees, Vicky-Style
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.”
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.
- Make Jimmie stand or sit next to the tree.
- Take a picture
- 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.
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. 🙂