Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Toothpicks

Day 114-August 5th
Destination: Irish Lake
Miles: 25.5 (plus 1.5 off trail miles)
Cumulative Miles: 1612.5

Twenty Seven miles today, and we didn't even start until just past 9am. We've done 27 before (if memory serves correctly), but not on a day with such a late start.

Our hike took us up past the Rosary Lakes, which shown like gems in the hill when we had climbed above them. We continued along through relatively simple terrain, and generally unscenic after we had gained enough distance from the Rosary Lakes.

The real joy of hiking through a forest without views is in training your eyes to see the subtle changes, training yourself to "see the forest for the trees." Throughout the hike, we have seen more than our fare share of blowdowns. What is amazing is the variety of ways that trees "combat nature."

Some trees are like the green stick that is too large for the campfire. When you try and break the stick into smaller pieces to fit in the fire, you end up twisting the fibers, never quite breaking the stick. The stick is broken, yet still one piece connected by string-cheese-like strands of wood tissue. Storms pass through knocking several trees down in this stingy fibrous fashion.

Still other times the wind knocks a tree down that has withstood storms for decades or even centuries. Wind combined with saturated soil allows the tree to rip right out of the ground, tearing it's own roots as it lifts the earth in its crashing end. This generally is the case with the larger trees, and often results large pits in the ground next to the torn roots.

Once we saw a tree that we couldn't figure out what happened to it. The small tree, maybe 6-10 inches in diameter was split down the core. It's sapwood split and splayed outward, drooping like taffy on a hot summer day. Perhaps the tree was struck by lightening and exploded in some fashion, rendering the pealed banana look to it, but there were no signs of burns caused by lightening.

Lightening is a powerful force. A single storm can ignite 40 plus wildfires, as was the case with the Hat Creek Rim. This evening we walked through the remnants of a burn zone. The forest had begun it's restoration process; Fireweed was blooming, resetting the soil pH to something more hospitable to the wider diversity of a typical forest. The rain had soaked most of the blackened wood ash into the soil, leaving a burn zone which was largely clear of black charred wood.

The bark had fallen off all the trees, and the sun and weather had smoothed over and bleached all the tree trunks. The fire burned the limbs from the trees, and wind has taken the tops of most the trees. What is left behind is a shadeless forest of large white toothpicks. The afternoon wind blew through the desolate area, creating an eerie, yet pleasant, whistling as it passed through the trees.

Over time and miles, and countless opportunities to "stare off into space" does one start to notice the "forest for the trees." We passed a burned out tree stump. The hollow place, where the heartwood once lay, held a sapling. The sapling had it's own fence to protect it, the hollowed out stump. Everything anew.

The mosquitoes were not as bad today. In fact the only times they were bothersome was during lunch, at a small pond, and at camp tonight. This is to be expected when near bodies of water, especially this time of year. So in light of our recent mosquito surplus, we will share a poem passed to us by Apricots' mother.

Taken from Mississippi River Journal to benefit the Audubon Society John Pugh and Jessica Robinson

Ode to A Mosquito

Mosquito. Oh you @!*^%*# mosquito.
My loathing toward you has no bounds.
You are my nemesis.

No friend would torment me so.
Painful proboscis poking.
Suck, suck, sucking away at me.

Why must you torment me so?
I've done you no harm, yet.
So small, yet such a big pain.

Come hither my pretty.
Just a little closer.
Steady now. That's it.
No quarter for you.

Mosquito. Oh you @!*^%*# mosquito!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

1 comment:

  1. "I'm walking, yes indeed and I'm talking" Fats Domino Wow 27 miles....great going...

    Yes everything is anew...sounds like this was an inspirational hike of keep on keeping on with blessings of safety.