"I couldn't keep that tree a secret." Giant U.P. white pine named tallest tree in Michigan
Nick Hansen went looking for fish, but what he found was something a lot bigger.
Hansen, a freshwater stream ecologist and second year graduate student at the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, went hiking in the Upper Peninsula's McCormick Wilderness last May to investigate the area's fisheries.
"It was my second time to that location — the first time was nearly ruined by the insects," Hansen wrote in an email to Michigan Radio. "We vowed to come back in the off-season and explore the area due to the massive trees and seemingly untouched environment we noticed on our first trip. Fish are what brought me to this location, in which I was successful, but the trees are what made me decide to go back."
There was one tree in particular that caught his eye: an Eastern white pine that towered above the rest.
He knew it was special — a hunch that was confirmed after a call to the Michigan Botanical Club. Certifier Byron Sailor visited the tree in late September, and found it to be 155 feet tall.
For context, the tree could just about fit under the Mackinac Bridge at its highest point above the water.
According to the Club's Big Tree Registry, the previous record holder was another white pine observed in 2007 - but that clocked in at a measly 143 feet tall.
Although Hansen and the MBC are keeping the exact location of the tree secret for its protection, Hansen says the area itself was as incredible as the tree.
"This location is like no other I've seen in Michigan. It feels like walking back in time into what I would think pre-colonial Michigan would look like. The campsite which we found the tree from seemed ancient, and I know I'm not the first person to lay eyes on that tree," he said.
"I don't like being labeled as the discoverer of this tree, because I know Indigenous communities probably watched it grow."