Kinesthesia under the trees



If I don’t move, I can’t think, and last week I had a lot of thinking to do. So I went for a hike along the Wilson River. There’s a new trail there, built three or four years ago, and it parallels Highway 6 along the river. The portion of the trail Joshie and I hiked ran from King’s Mountain trail head to Elk Campground. It was one of those spring Oregon days, sunny in places, open skies in others, and just a bit drippy in general.

I had to walk to think through the volume of reading assigned for my Environmental Leadership class. Last week, I never even got to the work for Professional Writing and Advocacy, but that’s another story, as they say. As well, I needed to spend some more time with my new digital camera; it has too many buttons for someone who usually shoots a Holga, and has only ever had one automatic camera in 20 years of photographic work.

When I walk in the woods I am calm. Life is rhythmic, and it makes sense. I never walk in the woods without thinking of my father. He took me there time and again when I was a little girl. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories was of being taken out of bed late at night, wrapped in a blanket, and taken to sit on the porch with him, to listen to the coyotes howl. I still love that sound. I will never forget that night.

So, homework set aside, we tromped on. I’m in this Environmental Studies program you see, but not to be an -ism Environmentalismist. Anything with -ism in the name scares me. Yet, as I walk I ponder the landscape and ecology. The trail along the Wilson is in the Tillamook Forest, in the Tillamook Burn, which rages in the years 1933-1951. The regenerative growth is what constitutes the forest of today.

There is one little piece of forest structure that is important for all of us to understand–the structure of replacement stands. To back up a bit, this series of fires that we commonly call the Tillamook Burn happened during the old logging days here in Oregon. Then, practitioners of forest science thought that a forest could be cut or burned, simply replanted, and it would grow back, sort of just like human hair. Scientists, foresters, now know this is not the case. Stand replacement structure is much more diverse and complex. Old growth forests are not replaced by the exact same thing. This can be problematic, and in places that have been heavily logged or burned is quite problematic. But no in-depth science lecture here…rather, and acknowledgment of that system of change, and then some appreciation of the beauty of the place.

In the pictures here are two examples of what happens when old-growth forests regenerate–one, the stump that is grown over by huckleberry; two, the replacement stand of skinny trees that have not survived a recent wind storm.

And then there are pictures of things that remind me of hiking with my dad.

Mind clear, shoes and dog muddy, I drove back to Portland to tackle my homework.

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