The snow white path leading into the forested area we know as Cross River Preserve lay before me. With my pamphlet for Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Self-Guided Winter Tree Identification Walk in my hand, my camera and water in a shoulder bag and mittens in my coat pockets, I was very excited to learn how to ID trees by their bark rather than their leaves – who knew? (That was a rhetorical question, thank you.)
The path is chopped and crunchy from other visitors. If you have some of those ice grippers for the bottom of your boots, bring them along. Better still, put them on! I slowly made my way toward the first of the 13 trees. You can’t miss them. There are signs and ribbons.
Each tree’s bark really is distinctive in its own look and feel. Yes, this is a visual, tactile and faintly olfactory experience. If you do go for the trio of senses on this walk, which took me about 90 minutes, try to remember to thank each tree after you touch them – I know – you all probably think I’m nuts ...
Some of the trail highlights for me: the chokecherry tree. Although its bark runs in a circular pattern, rather than a vertical one, around the trunk ... I could sense the energy slowly moving through what appeared to be a young tree near it. Very interesting. Moving on, and I’m not recalling these trees in order, the Northern red oak caught my fancy. Aren’t oak trees simply magnificent? And this variety has red-brown scales. And the crevices between the vertically running bark are arresting … deep, dark and kind of reminded me of pinstripes. There are three or four trees at Cross River with “red” in their names.
The balsam fir will draw you to it ... to get right up close moving your fingers over the extremely soft needles. The scent is fainter than I’d expected, but still lovely. I smiled as soon as I saw it.
If you’re like me, you enjoy checking out the swath of land around you as you walk … not so easy with all that chop and crunch! You’ll have to stop moving. Stop and take in the beauty of the woods in winter and see if you see the trees as sentinels, living columns old and wise, many high above the rest – 60’to 100’ depending on the tree.
The paper birch is one of my favorites and many of my friends and family love it, too. The white trunks … the dash marks pattern moving horizontally across those trunks and branches that light up in the moonlight ... It’s the kind of tree that makes you stop. Sigh. It’s very magical indeed.
The preserve was silent save for the sound of the wind, and that of the tall, youthful branches slowly and softly moving, and creaking far above. There was the occasional cry of a crow … the sound of the snow beneath my boots. And that is all. And it is enough.
And then there’s an Eastern hemlock that captured my attention for I don’t know how long. The bark on this tree is literally entrancing. No, really. The bark on these hemlocks looks like it’s been carved … there are shapes resembling feathers and circles. Looking skyward, the bark looks like a material used for house roofs in storybook designs, like the “Mushroom House.”
I was distracted from the path, drawn by the sight of two crossed young trunks in the shape of an “X.” I had to get a photo of that Elder Futhark rune “Gebo,” which means gift; it symbolizes the connection between nature, us and the gods. People out there who are into runes will see it right away … and several others.
Occasionally, as I moved slowly along the trail, animal tracks distracted me. Some looked like fox tracks, deer (or as my oldest daughter called them at 2 1/2, “deer holes”); and maybe moose or a stag made the larger, deeper tracks.
I don’t usually see other people when I go on these outings, but this time on the last leg of the walk I did. And Winston and Catherine Kipp brought along their ski poles to make their way across the snowy, rough terrain. They came out for this BRLT adventure because they were intrigued and had never done a walk like this one.
Thanks to BRLT, I discovered that sometimes you really can see the forest through the trees ...
Cross Point Preserve is diagonally across from Knickerbocker Group (headed toward Route 1). The parking lot was quite icy when I went last Saturday, so a pair of those ice grippers would be an excellent accessory! For more information on this preserve and others that are part of BRLT, visit www.bbrlt.org