The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Kevin Martin and a New Hampshire giant Red Oak. Courtesy photo.

Meet Kevin Martin

Where: Toadstool Bookshop, 614 Nashua St., Lorden Plaza, Milford
When: Saturday, June 21, at 2 p.m.

Champion trees
Epping author’s quest to find the state’s biggest

By Kelly Sennott

You don’t have to go to California to get your big-tree fix. Kevin Martin shows off the Granite State’s own, including seven national champions, in his new book, Big Trees of New Hampshire.
“We can’t compete with the trees out west, but we do have some very large hardwood trees in the state,” Martin said in a phone interview. “Through the book, I encourage getting to know the different types of trees in the state. Red Pine isn’t a huge tree, but once you see them on different hikes, the state champion [the largest in New Hampshire] is impressive.”
Measured by height, circumference and average crown spread, the Granite State holds the largest Eastern White Pine, Pitch Pine, Sweet Birch, Black Spruce, Staghorn Sumac, Carolina Silverbell and American Mountain Ash in the entire country.
Granted, they’re not as enormous as the country’s largest Redwoods and Sequoias, but the state’s biggest Pitch Pine and its enormous Black Spruce are impactful in their own right. 
Martin, who grew up in Portsmouth and lives in Epping, has been enamored with trees big and small for years. At first it was because they’re a prime source for lumber; you can’t help but admire and respect large trees when you’ve been a carpenter and boatbuilder for more than 30 years.
But it was his time on the Epping Conservation Commission and then the Lamprey River Advisory Committee that made him appreciate the trees as they are, and it was through his service that he discovered the New Hampshire Big Tree program, which recognizes and records the state’s biggest. 
There are currently about 700 recorded state champions, but when Martin first started delving into Big Tree’s data, much of the information he found was outdated. Many of the big trees hadn’t been measured since the ’70s or ’80s.
“There was never a clear direction of where these trees were [but] it was known which properties they were on, so I decided I’d go out and look for them. It took quite a bit of searching,” Martin said. 
This was three years before the book’s publication. Initially, his effort was to help with the state Big Tree program, which is part of a national Big Tree database. After a year and a half, he decided to illustrate his labor in a book.
“It’s something I just grew to like doing that I thought other people would enjoy,” Martin said. “People will hike through the woods to see a lake or a mountain, but now they can go do something else in the woods, too.”
Big Trees of New Hampshire is comprised of 28 hikes to 85 of the largest trees on New Hampshire public land or in cities. Included are maps, GPS coordinates, clear directions, historical/geographical background, and, if significant, what the tree is used for. (White Ash, for instance, makes baseball bats, hockey sticks and snowshoes.)
Scattered among the hike descriptions are photos he took during the adventure. On the cover are pictures of his grandchildren, and inside are images of more family members, foresters and others who accompanied him in the tree hunts.
His top three hikes? First, the trek to the state champion Northern White Cedar in Clarksville, which is decorated with claw marks made by black bears.
“To mark their part of the world, these big animals stand on their hind legs and reach as high as they can, then claw and bite the trees,” Martin wrote in the book.
The White Ash, Red Oaks and Paper Birch in Forest Lake State Park are worthy visits because of their scenic route (plus, they’re all close to one another), and so are the trees within Martin’s Portsmouth Big Tree Tour, which stops at nine within the city. 
“Lots of people who enjoy woodworking in the state will be impressed by the lumber and the trees that they come from. But it also seems like there are quite a few people who just like to get out and see the trees, without knowing much about them,” Martin said.  
As seen in the June 19, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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