Page 1 of 1

A new visit to Cabin #6

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:44 pm
by dbhguru
(written on the evening of 11-8-2010)


Here Monica and I sit in our cabin under the venerable pines of Mohawk Trail State Forest, snug and secure. Cabin #6 has become a favorite getaway for us. This is our third stay. The cabin is only a little over 38 miles distant from our house in Florence, MA. This is hardly a long drive, but once at Mohawk, we enter another world - a world dominated by tall trees, rushing water, meadows, steep ridges clothed in old growth forests, and solitude, especially this time of year. It presents a recipe all ingredients of which Monica and I savor.

On our first visit to the cabin, a heavy wet snow nearly marooned us. The snow started gently and the magic of new falling flakes turned our woodland abode into a winter wonderland that put us in high spirits – at least initially. But soon we encountered the dark side of the force. Snow bombs started falling from pine branches high above. Snow cascaded down onto the roof of not only the cabin, but the top of our vulnerable car. As the heavy, wet snow accumulated, its weight became too much for our beloved pines and they began acting in their own self-defense. They started shedding weak branches. The sharp cracking of breaking limbs sent shivers down our spines. We could envision a huge limb failing and careening down, squashing our little Buick. So, despite the beauty of the snow, that first cabin experience was unnerving. The following morning we high-tailed it out after the plows dug us out and the forecast was for continuing snow. We spent the second night communing with the ghosts of New England past at the historic Charlemont Inn.

If we were tested on visit #1, all went well on our second stay in Cabin #6. It was idyllic. I sent images to the BBS from that visit as well as the first. During visit #2, I placed colored pushpins in many of the Pocumtuck pines to identify them as newly measured and classify them as 130s, 140s, or 150s. It was a simple, but effective system, but alas, most of the pins have since disappeared – probably children playing behind the cabin and noticing nice brightly colored pins to collect. An innocent game of the young has undone old Bob’s handy work. Guess I need to think of a better system for efficiently identifying trees that have been measured recently and classifying them. Yes, I have GPS coordinates, but the trees are too closely packed for that method of relocation and quick categorization to work.

Based not so much on weather reports, but the appearance of the sky, this third stay promises to be as quiet as the second. We’re thankful. Good weather will insure that we can enjoy the features of this unique Massachusetts forest in comfort. With an old Indian Trail running through the length of the state property, the surrounding forest has a colorful history stamped on it like a watermark on a document. However, Mohawk’s story is not one that must be relegated to past tense. History is being currently made in Mohawk, both natural and cultural. Tomorrow, we will meet a couple of Wampanoags, a sister and brother from eastern Massachusetts who hold responsible positions within their nation. The woman has been to Mohawk before a couple of times and wants to share Mohawk with her brother. We will show our Native friends the trees that have been named for prominent Wampanoags: Massasoit a leader in the distant past, and Frank James, an elder who passed away only a few years ago. Naming a tree in Mohawk for Frank James seemed fitting at the time and has become more so with his passing. Incidentally, Frank James was part of the Sunbow Five Coalition – a Native American initiative to promote world peace that included Ernie Benedict, Mohawk; Thomas Benyakya, Hopi; Jose Lucerno, Navajo; and William Commanada, Algonquin.

Shortly after getting settled in the cabin, we took our traditional walk to Monica’s secret spot on Thumper Mountain. I’ve described the spot and sent images of it in the past. Huge, lichen-covered boulders create a protected space in which rock dominates. Solid earth trumps plant and animal. Trees are present nearby, but held to subordinate status. Still, I can’t help pursuing my craft. So while Monica meditated, I left the ambience of the rocks and measured nearby oaks, hemlocks, and birches. For me, mediation and measuring are two faces of the same state of mind. Despite how it may sound from my posts, there comes a point in the measuring process where the end result doesn’t matter. It is about melding with the tree’s form. I think of myself as becoming one with the tree.

Leaving Monica to mediate, only a short distance from the rocks, the trees reasserted dominance. Slender northern red oaks reach to 100 feet. Still, were it not for my preoccupation with tree measuring, I am forced to admit that I would hardly notice the oaks when in the presence of the imposing rocks, and would not be inclined to want to leave.

After our return from Monica’s hideaway, I set out to model the Frank James pine with my trusty Macroscope 25, Nikon Prostaff 440, and Laser Tech TruPulse 360. Nothing like being armed with the big guns. The light was starting to fade, so I hurriedly set up the Macroscope on a tripod. My quarry stands only a few yards in front of the cabin. It is down a small hill. This affords a better base to crown view from either the Cabin’s porch or parking area.

I’ve tracked this tree’s growth for about 12 years. It was in the mid-140s when I first started measuring it. Today I got 157.1 feet. Very impressive! The pine makes good use of its well-watered growing spot. However, the young Frank James pine’s modest girth of 8.7 feet robs it of a robust volume. It has a long way to go to reach the big numbers. My calculations support about 385 cubic feet of trunk space. With limbs, the volume will slightly exceed 400 cubes. Although the Frank James pine’s visual impressiveness falls short of the huge Tecumseh and Saheda pines, nonetheless, I think our Native American friends will be impressed with this tall, handsome tree named in honor of one of their Elders.

After modeling the Frank James tree and eating some of the chili Monica had prepared the day before, we went for a second walk. Monica wanted to pay tribute to the Jake Swamp tree, so we headed straight for the Trees of Peace. She was thinking about the recent passing of Chief Jake Swamp, the legacy he has left, and his association with MTSF. We had previously done a tobacco ceremony at his tree, honoring him. We will periodically perform the ceremony, keeping the connection alive.

Once past the group campsite, following the road to the meadows, the Trees of Peace loom on the left and below the road. The Cherokee-Choctaw pines are on the right and uphill. We were getting ready to cut down off the road into the Trees of Peace, when a tall pine that I had measured last year to 149.3 feet on the uphill side of the road caught my eye. When walking down the road, at one point if you happen to look up in the direction of this tree, it dominates in a narrow window to the sky. Its presence becomes magnified through the narrow window. At that spot, the tree calls to the viewer to admire its grace. I stopped and stared. Monica continued down hill into the Trees of Peace as I briefly shook my head to regain focus and then I immediately scampered uphill to a vantage point that allowed me to see into the crown of the “Window Pine”. Yes, that is its new name – at least for now. After four good shots, I loudly proclaimed a height of 150.1 feet for the tree. The actual measurements were 148.8, 148.8, 150.3, and 150.1. I settled on the last, trusting it most because I had gained a better perspective on the tree’s crown architecture and had positioned myself for the best shot to the crown while retaining an adequate view of the base, a view not possible during summer. The average of the four measurements is exactly 150 feet. Well, 150 or 150.1 feet, the tall pine becomes number 115 for Mohawk. The tree enters into Mohawk’s living history, a story told in blue-green needles that reach high into the New England November sky.

As I write this account of our third stay in cabin #6, I have beside me the pocket manual “FOREST TREES OF MASSACHUSETTS”, a publication put out by DCR for the general public. The date of the publication is 2009. On Sunday a friend gave me the publication. I was previously unaware of its existence. However, it didn’t take long before the descriptions of the species began raising my eyebrows. There are many examples I could cite, but I’ll give just one. On page two, the manual states of the white pine that “The tree becomes very irregular and picturesque in old age, commonly growing eighty to one hundred feet in height and one to two feet in diameter.” That statement caused me to blink a few times. We in ENTS recognize these white pine dimensions as something of an understatement. Was the publication written by an amateur with little understandingof the species? Supposedly not. The list of contributors in the preface is meant to impress the public, suggesting a depth of tree expertise.

From the white pine dimensions description and many others, I am left to wonder if any of those who ostensibly had input to the DCR pocket manual actually read it. If so, have any stood beneath the crowns of the statuesque Mohawk pines? Are they unaware of the exceptional stature of Mohawk’s pines and of the giants in Monroe State Forest? These pines are on DCR properties and the contributors to the guide are supposed to be experts on the forests of Massachusetts and certainly those on state lands. I personally know that at least one of the contributors to the guide has indeed walked beneath the lofty crowns. He was present in October 2001 when Bob Van Pelt, Will, Blozan, and Michael Davey climbed the Jake Swamp and Joe Norton pines.

In truth, the situation described above is not isolated. Anthony Cook and I encountered a similar situation in Cook Forest of Pennsylvania before the days of super Ent Dale Luthringer. I suppose this myopia stems in part from our propensity to see what we’re trained to see. But these are forestry professionals.

One would expect the eyes of the contributors to the DCR guide to be fine-tuned to what is commonly seen around Massachusetts and to know the full growth potential of a species regardless of what is described in popular tree guides or what may have been common in 1922. In particular, one would expect that experts from the State’s Bureau of Forestry to know quite well the growth potential of such an important species as the white pine. One would expect this.

Well, the time is getting late and tomorrow will be a new day, a day of communing with the trees and sharing with our Native American friends. I’ll close now, content to let the gentle breezes through the trees outside the cabin lull us into a restful sleep.


Re: A new visit to Cabin #6

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:01 am
by James Parton

I so much enjoy reading of your exploits into Mohawk Trail State Forest. Your love of the forest shows in every trip report you make on the place. I read it and feel almost is if I am there with you seeing those magical pines. Of all the ENTS on the list I feel you may be the most " wood spirited " of us. You may be more of a druid than I am, my friend.

Keep those Mohawk adventures coming and sleep well under the lullaby of the pines.

Re: A new visit to Cabin #6

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:49 am
by dbhguru

Thanks for the gracious words of support. They motivate me to think about how to more vividly share with fellow and lady Ents our sense of fulfillment from the Mohawk visits. I say 'our' because Monica is a full partner in what has increasingly become a joint experience. To reinforce the point, this third stay in Mohawk was especially satisfying for Monica. On our return to Florence, she explained to me that she had absorbed a potent dose of pine elixir, and it was still resonating. I think Monica experienced a kind of spiritual rejuvenation from sitting beneath the pines around the cabin, in the Council Grove, and in the Trees of Peace. But despite how it might superficially appear from my measuring preoccupation, I am no stranger to forest meditation. When I lay my lasers aside and seek to enter a meditative state, my consciousness is projected outward into the forest as opposed to drawn within. This, I believe, is the secret to forging a deep, transformative connection to individual trees and the forest as a gestalt. Through outward projection, trees can be perceived as possessing unique personalities. This allows individualized tree-person connections to evolve. Not every connection is of equal deep or intensity just as with people and pets. The bigger, older trees are at the top of the pyramid. The younger trees are still forming their identities. It is through this hierarchical awareness that the power of big trees is understood, absorbed, and appreciated. But for those not open to such intimate tree-person associations, a tree will likely remain only a tree. An analogous situation exists for forests as a whole.

Understanding the forest-person association can be likened to entry into a dark room with no movement allowed. Objects in the room are present, but one remains unaware of them. But suppose we imagine what might be around us. Could our imaginations shed light on our surroundings? Is there a pathway to knowing that doesn't depend on using the physical senses? When we give free rein to our imaginations, I believe other sensory apparatus, little understood to conventional medical science, goes to work. After time, a dim light develops and reveals forms among the shadows. Gradually physical features around the room become known to us, and if we develop this sensory apparatus enough, the full nature of our greater surroundings can eventually be comprehended.

I thinking learning to commune with a forest and its trees may be like the dark room analogy. For some, the forest will always be a dark room. Others may never get past the purely physical forms, forms perceived as stick figures with set purposes and functions. For this class of perceiver, the leap from the physical to the psychic is never made. But for the spiritually attuned, the room is understood as more than a repository of items of furniture. They are there and serve practical functions, but through their service, they gain a kind of soul. Trees in a forest are no less, and indeed the forest as a whole. Well, enough of my silly chatter.


Re: A new visit to Cabin #6

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:09 am
by James Parton

Yes, I sense that Monica is your spiritual partner and shares the same gift of forest perception as you do. You two match well. To both of you a tree is not just a tree.

I understand your " dark room " analogy. Yes, I feel most people never get past the dark room or seeing trees as purely physical forms, and that includes most of us ents. But a few of us, ones like you and I have learned to see trees as individuals, more like people. We have a spiritual connection to them. I do like studying and measuring trees but getting to know them and see them in a more personal and spiritual way brings so much more of these beings personalities to light. It is the trees that led me to druidry and my friend, you and Monica are more of a druid than many I come across on on the NOD and OBOD websites. You keep the forest at the center of your attention and do not get lost in more trivial matters.

Enjoy more of Mohawk and if you make it back to the James Parton pine, Tell it I said " Hello ". I do plan to make it up there in the future.