Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Old Trees and Old Knees

[The Fourth November: February 2012. The Last in a Series.]

February 20 , 2012
Spring Overlook Trail, Moreau Lake State Park

For years my appetite was so strong that I fed -  
     I browsed -
on the pine forest's edge seen against the winter horizon. …
I ranged about like a gray moose,
     looking at the spiring tops of the trees,
     and fed my imagination on them, -
far-away, ideal trees,
     not disturbed by the axe of the woodcutter,
     nearer and nearer fringes and eyelashes of my eye.
Where was the sap,
     the fruit,
     the value
     of the forest for me,
but in that line where it was relieved against the sky?
That was my wood-lot; that was my lot in the woods.
The silvery needles of the pine straining the light.
      HDT Journal, December 3, 1856

And here we come to the Fourth November in a row this year -- the month of February. We received another inch or two of snow, but it’s really been a dull gray month.

I too have been in a gray moose mood, restlessly looking for anything of interest my walks.  While it hasn’t been snowy, it has been cold, windy, and icy for days on end. These old knees could use some exercise, I thought. We've missed the padded landscape that snow provides.
I wondered where I could go to stretch my legs, without slipping on ice.

Today, Jackie and I decided it is a good time for her to show me where the tupelos are growing on top of the mountain. They are yet another surprise found in Moreau Park; usually they are a more southern-ranging tree. Jackie had found several others in the park, but they are down along the river.
This winter, our pal Laurie discovered these particular specimens growing in a swampy col on TOP of the mountain. She led Jackie to them, one recent icy morning.

Conditions today were perfect for another visit – hard-frozen swamp, a little fresh snow for tracking, no bugs etc. So off we went, following the gentle grade up up the north side of the mountain slope.

But wait ! just steps from the cars, we had to stop and admire a spider, who must have been out exploring before succumbing to the cold night.

Then another twenty feet,  Jackie stopped again:
“Oh I just love seeing the flashes of color in the snow!”

O- kaaayy … I continued on for another few yards, shaking my head skeptically –
then paused – there it was ! -- as I turned my head, toward the slanting morning sunlight, the large snowflakes glistened.  In colors !

We are desperate for color, in this long brown Winter. We take it where we find it.
(And I learned never to doubt Jackie's visions !)

As we approached our first stop at the Overlook, more colors appeared.  The usually massive icefalls along the rocky cliffs were down to mere remnants of winter. Vibrant green mosses were coming alive in their place.

All sorts of textures and shapes could be found in these miniature landscapes.

The gray moose was delighted !

A larger landscape was ours to admire, as we ate lunch at the overlook.

No Cabin Fever here !

Then it was more walking, this time in deeper snow, a bit further along the top of the mountain. I guess it never melts up here until Spring.
We came  to the little swamp with the big tupelos.

And they were big ! Probably passed up by any loggers in the last century or two, due to their extremely tough wood. What stories they could tell!
In the future, we hope to get some professionals to help figure out how old they really are.
Meanwhile, I could not help but reach out my bare hand, to touch the rough bark of this elder of the forest.


  1. How I treasure your accounts -- and especially your exquisite photos -- of our adventures together. And your always appropriate quotes from Thoreau lift our personal experiences out of the ordinary into the legendary. Keep up the good work.

  2. Lovely photos on your walk today. I hope your "old knees" held up well enough.