Monday, March 12, 2012

A home for a day

Above is the stand of tall pines that became our home base for a day. The dappled sunlight was shining on the forest floor. 
Fungus with green algae, ferns. In all the grey- and brown-ness that is the woods this time of year this soft green covered log was shining as well.

A gentle wind swayed the pines, making a soft but mighty sound.

Our goal was to climb one of the tallest of the pines. While ropes were set (by people who can set ropes higher than I can) I explored the very nearest surroundings. Lots of red maples, pines, quite a lot of storm damage from an October storm that affected this area.

The only thing that gave the identity of this scraggly little tree away was the oak gall.
 

This was a mystery tree. Looking like nothing else on the site, we thought it might be a very young Cucumber Magnolia, who happens to extend north into this very forest. When I was back at home I used my excellent tree bark ID key. Turns out our young tree might be a hickory - pignut, shagbark or mockernut. Since there were no mature shagbarks around - they're easy to spot - it might be one of the others. The cucumber magnolia likes wet feet, and this was close to a swamp but on a hillside. Next time we go we will take a good look again.

It was spotted with lacy strands of lichens or liverworts.
As they often do, preparations took some time (that I didn't mind the least - I was in my home the forest) but eventually the 4 of us were ascending this giant. Pine trees often loose their lower branches while growing and to find a live, safe branch to hang a rope from, we needed to aim very high. In this picture you can see three of the ropes, I'm in the yellow helmet.
The tree was so high we had to use what's called SRT or single rope technique - the branch was simply too high up for hanging the rope over it and climb on both ends. This way, one end of the rope was fastened in the top (by the most experienced climber of us, Andrew), and then the rest of us climbed up using the hanging end. It was a nice bouncy feel. And see what a trunk this tree has!

At about 90 ft up we reached our rope ends and re-set them higher up. At approximately 115 ft I took a snack break and ate my apple.

Up there, we had two different worlds to take in. One small, close by, with lichens and beetles and shining drops of sap.  
Maybe this beetle lives his whole life in the tree tops, or maybe he's just passing by.


The bark of a pine tree looks very different up here - smooth and grey.
   



A closer look at the ropes and the gear that is holding us up.

Looking out from the tree we could see a distant horizon. We could see the red maple buds close to bursting. We heard winter wrens, golden crowned kinglets, chickadees and distant crows.

Going down is always with a certain sadness - you will end up in the usual world again, the flat and two dimensional one. Plus, all the effort you spent getting up means you want to get a good chunk of time up there! But there's always another time.

Getting back to the car took its time. Rarely do I meet someone who likes to talk about trees non-stop  like me, so there was lots to see and explore on the way back.

Here is the enormous cucumber magnolia. I'll be so excited to see it in bloom!

Pine branches and moss make a nice color composition.
A wild holly.

A little swamp, inhabited by turtles, frogs and other critters.

I look forward to coming back here!

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