As I was leaving the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in Thornton, I struck up a conversation with the specialist in lichen. I have never considered lichen as a source of study. But I guess I have never considered lots of things as something that deserves careful attention and worldly study. The air quality has an impact on the lichen, therefore healthy lichen healthy forest. Pondering I packed up my things and set off for another adventure. This new adventure brings me to the top of Star King Mountain where there is an old fireplace at the summit, the remnants of an old observation cottage of some kind. And so I begin.
Hiking up, and this goes UP, some 2500 feet in 2.5 miles means it is all up all the time. actually it wasn't bad, a nice even pitch. Not too much rolling, just a nice even climb. at some point about 2/3 of the way up the mountain it changes from hardwood to softwood. Changes from wide and more mud than rock to narrow to more rock than mud. from leaf litter to fern. And I am struck, not by what is there, but by what is not. NO huge old growth trees, But lots of fallen old fallen blow down. I wonder if this is the remains from the ice storm in 1998 So much downed and downed a long time ago trees. Of course there are newer blown down trees, but there seemed to be SO many old trees, covered in Green Mosses and Lichen, Little fungus and chipmunks living underneath, and I am sure Lots of BUGS, but I didn't see many of those. And what I came to ponder amongst the pondering of Lichen, is how vastly important the dead stuff is to the living stuff. IF there wasn't the fallen trees, the mosses wouldn't have proper place to grow, full of whatever it is that they need. And that stuff is what the bigger stuff needs to anchor its roots in place so that the bigger stuff still has a place to grow and flourish. All the wile being consumed, trees being turned back into trees, or moss or ferns, or what not, and yes, even trees. The decomposers doing their job, and I think this wet summer they are in overdrive with all the mushroom caps all over the place in the forest. It strikes me that these dead trees are at Least as important to the health and life of the forest as the ones standing, and the lichen. Trees, Moss, Grass, Fern, Rock, and fungus....... all just as important, and all worthy of the same study. Today I will only study with my vision, using my eyes to see through what is there to an understanding that I am just as important part of this collection, but only if I don't take more than I need, and let the rest do what they need to do to be. Be it studied and understood makes no difference to the forest, It will just keep on overcoming whatever comes along, be it Mother Nature and her storms, or Man and his desires for what he doesn't have.
Leaving Lots of footprints, and taking Lots of photos. And the forest leaves a mark, deep and open now within my consciousness, what it fills with depends not on my will, but it seems upon that of the creator of all things.
From the top of Star King Mountain. Look at the Lichen flowing off of the branches like seaweed in the ocean.