I have a thing for trees. The bigger and older, the better. I love the bush on our property, as there are lots of large, old trees. There are two stands of mature hemlock, one on the west side, and one on the east side.
There are lovely big, straight cedars in the wetter areas, their lowest branches high above the deer nibbling range. They must have grown up before the deer became as plentiful as they are now, as there are no cedar seedlings anywhere. There are also lots of gnarly cedars, with a lot of character.
and there, interspersed in the bush, are some big white pine that must have been too small at the time, to
fall to the logger's axes and saws.
Our bush has a lot of beech trees, some quite large in girth, but sadly, this year they are really succumbing to 'beech bark disease'. The disease becomes very evident as the trees reach a certain size. Last summer, we started to notice the leaves browning and dropping long before they should, in the natural scheme of things. There will still be young beech trees growing, but they will never reach the size of the huge grey trunks we are seeing around us now.
On the east side of the pond, there is an huge black ash tree. We created a little walking trail to go past the base of this behemoth, and on around the pond, crossing over a split log bridge at the exit stream.
In past years, we have traveled and paddled many miles to see the remaining stands of virgin white pine in Ontario. In Algonquin Park, we visited the pines at Dividing Lake on a long, August weekend, portaging up the Golden Staircase from Livingstone and Kimball Lakes to set up camp on Rockaway Lake, where the following day, we paddled over to the portage into Minky and Dividing Lakes, and walked in to see the trees, some apparently over 400 years old. One of my favorite pictures is of our son, quite young at the time, leaning against the bole of a Dividing Lake white pine.
year, we did a 10 day trip in Algonquin, starting at Magnetawan Lake,
paddling, portaging and camping down the upper Petawawa River,
to Big Trout Lake, then across through Lake La Muir to Hogan Lake. There, we set up camp for two nights, and on the next day took a day
pack and the canoe, portaging down to Big Crow Lake to paddle down
the Crow river to visit the stand of virgin white pine along the Crow river. That was the trip that we lost track of counting the moose we saw, as there were so many!
Another Algonquin trip took us into Dickson Lake, where we paddled and portaged to see the stand of 350 year old red pine. That was an experience to stand beneath the giants. “It was calm as we detoured into the shore at the red pine peninsula and walked around among the trees. Of the bigger ones, I could encircle the trunk with my arms, leaving a 10 inch gap between my fingertips. There were a few impressive white pine there as well, much bigger around than the red pines and also a few large hemlock. The red pine tower over the surrounding bush, letting lots of light down through their comparably sparse needles. Despite the light, the undergrowth is very thin, just the odd baby red pine. The ground is padded thickly with brown needles, and there are quite a few, fallen entangled dead limbs from far above. Huge toadstools stand out whitely here and there.”
Another summer trip, we traveled N and W beyond Lake Superior, to the stand of 300 year old white pine at Greenwood Lake in western Ontario. That involved a long drive along dusty logging roads, through acres of barren clear-cuts, to finally crest a hill and find the stand of white pine. Our Jeep, pulled over on the side of the road looked toy-like among the towering trees. It was an almost spiritual experience to stand among those giants. “There was total silence except for the constant 'shush' through the needles, even though there was no wind. It was a calm, warm, sunny day. We followed a barely discernible trail through the bush, over dead logs to stand among the giants. It was awe inspiring to stand beside those grey trunks which reached toward the heaven.”
I try to imagine what history a big tree has seen. If they could only speak.