Tag Archive 'northern forest'

Jun 12 2019

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A Glorious Time of Year

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After an unusually cool rainy spring, the past few days have come as a welcome reprieve. Finally we’re getting into sunshine with temps shooting into the 80s. That’s high summer by Vermont standards, but who’s knocking it? Put those flannel shirts away!

Green vegetation wherever you look, and a dreamy breeze. Add to that wildflowers blooming in fallow fields along with lilies, irises and other showy flowers in cultivated places and, well, it’s a glorious time of year. “Days of heaven,” I like to call it, when just walking around the neighborhood, lounging on the porch, or sitting at an open-window cafe is enough to make a person feel good about the world.

At this latitude, roughly 45 degrees, the days are delightfully long this time of year. Factor in the lingering twilight and it’s hard to stay awake for it all. People like me, who suffer through the dark days around the Winter Solstice, are energized by the approaching Summer Solstice. I become absurdly upbeat as a consequence of it. Every day, it seems, is a good day.

Soon I’ll be on the trail again, hiking for days on end as if nothing else matters. Oh sure, the bloodsucking bugs are out but I don’t care. Their bites are a small price to pay for the wonder and beauty of The Northern Forest in June. Like I said, I’m absurdly upbeat this time of year. And these long, magnificent days are too precious to waste.


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Oct 08 2011

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Boreal

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Walking the boreal forest, I feel the tug of wildness stronger than anywhere else. It’s the starkness of the landscape that brings this urge out of me, I think.  I grow fangs when I’m in it.  The forest itself makes me want to drop down on all fours.

This isn’t a forgiving landscape. You don’t come here to groove with benign nature. You come here to howl.

Mostly bogs and conifers, it’s easy to get turned around in the boreal forest. And hypothermia is an ongoing concern. Even in the summer, it’s often cool and damp. Because the landscape in Vermont turns boreal at higher elevations, it’s often shrouded in mist as well. That only adds to its mystery.

The closer one gets to the equator, the greater the diversity. But in the lean, cold northern latitudes, only the heartiest life forms survive. Even then by a dangerously thin margin. Think spruce and fir. Think pitcher plants, club moss, and the ghostly white Indian pipe. Think moose, wolf, bear.

There are only patches of boreal forest in Vermont’s Green Mountains. There’s a bit more in the mythical Northeast Kingdom. But northern Maine is mostly boreal, as is a good part of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Alaska is utterly boreal. In other words, the places I like the most are boreal. Clearly I’m a creature of the north.

More than once I’ve been chilled, wet and almost lost in the boreal forest. “Almost,” I say, because the disorientation is intentional. I have my ways of getting out of the woods in a pinch, but I’d rather go deeper and get just a little bit more turned around. The dread of not knowing exactly where I am is a tonic that I imbibe on a regular basis. It keeps me from being too civilized. It keeps me from taking my lofty, philosophical notions too seriously. It keeps me in touch.

Go ahead and tell yourself how great humanity is – what we’ve done both individually and collectively, and what we are still capable of doing. Then go spend a week or two alone in the boreal forest and feel yourself whittled down to size. Granted, it’s not for everyone. But I can’t think of a better place to gain perspective on computers, cars and everything else. When the forest itself howls, you either run for cover or howl with it.

 

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