Relics of the Northwoods
“When I am privileged enough to find myself in northern wilderness, and have time to ramble, I stroll slowly noticing features of the forest, big and small. On many of these wanderings, I pass through the mosaic of tree species that make up the northern forest. As I walk I am sheltered by a canopy of fir and spruce, maple and oak, uniform in height and girth. But then I encounter seemingly hidden great pillars, giant white pines, standing among the other trees like elders among children. These behemoths are like no other, standing three or even four times the height of the surrounding trees, bark cracked in deep furrows, and a presence resembling stone more than wood. They stand ageless, demanding I pause and gaze straight up to their crowns. But where did they come from, why are they here?
The youth of the surrounding forest and relic stumps suggest the era of logging had reached this stand a century ago. Yet here these white pine giants, the prize of any lumberjack’s eye, still stand. My only explanation is that, for a reason unknown, they were missed. Some of the giants split into several trunks at a low height, and a hundred years ago, this may have rendered them undesirable lumber. Others in more rocky open areas are short and riveted with knots and branches, and it may have looked more like a large bush than lumber at the time a man stood beside with saw in hand. Still there are trees that are tall single trunks without blemish reaching high above the canopy. A hundred years ago, they would have already been several centuries old, perfect for the lumberyards. What about them? I like to think that the lumbermen drew near their trunks with a double handled saw, and a thunderstorm blew in just as they were about to break through the cambium. Or perhaps a hive of bees once resided between the massive anchoring roots, unintentionally warding off any man looking to send the giant tree down river. Whatever the reason, I am grateful because a hundred years after the forests were logged, I lean my pack against one of the remaining giants, using its great roots as an armchair and rest.”
-By Austin Homkes who has written for this blog periodically before.