Showing posts with label aspen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aspen. Show all posts

April 18, 2022

Amber and Her Arborglyphs

M. and I were poking around in the Wet Mountains two days ago, at the site of a now-vanished picnic ground that I think dated from the 1920s creation of campgrounds and picnic grounds under the guidance of landscape architect Arthur Carhart.

Here he launched his vision of national forest recreation for people driving Model T Fords — as opposed to arriving by train at big resort hotels in national parks.

I wrote some posts about that, so if you want the history, go here.

This site, however, was apparently a victim of Reagan-era Forest Service budgets, where recreation was de-emphasized and the message to the San Isabel National Forest was "get the cut out," in other words, sell timber. Back then, there were more sawmills in the area. Now there are not.

When I started visiting the area in the early 1980s, my friends referred to the "[Blank] Picnic Ground" as a real place, even though there was nothing there but a capped-off well. 

But Amber, whoever she is or was, must have liked the place.

Amber came with Aaron . . .

. . . and Amber came with William. I don't know the sequence.

Assuming it was the same Amber. I like to think so. The trees are barely a yard apart. 

The technical term is "arborglyphs." Quaking aspen is a good species for such carving. (If you do it now, it's vandalism, but if you did it a century ago, it is a historical record of American diversity.)

A lonely sheepherder mourns a lost love by carving a poem to her in aspen bark. A Cherokee man, forced from his home and leaving on the trail of tears buries his possessions at the foot of a tree, marking the tree so he can find it later. A young couple celebrate their love by carving their initials in a nearby sapling. The scars left in the bark of trees by these activities are called arborglyphs, literally "tree writing", and the study of these markings is revealing much about our history. . . .

Another common source of arborglyphs were the young Basque and Irish who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Many went to work as sheepherders in remote mountain meadows, and carved poems, names, dates, faces and other images telling of their lonely, isolated lives into the Aspen trees. Some of the most famous Basque arborglyphs are found in Southern Oregon,

There is a digital archive of aspen carvings from southwestern Colorado, and also a book, Speaking Through the Aspens: Basque Tree Carvings in California and Nevada.

So does Amber count as "history" or "vandalism"?

September 21, 2021

Aspen Foliage as Required by the Ektachrome Act

It is about six days before Peak Aspen, but this photo of fall aspen colors is posted pursuant to the Colorado Photography Act of 1964 (familiarly called the "Ektachrome Act"), which requires that all professional and semi-professional photographers in the state—essentially anyone who has ever sold a photo—shoot at least one full roll of slide film on scenic shots featuring golden aspen groves.

That most photography is now digital appears to have escaped the legislature, which has not updated the statute's language.

October 06, 2006

Aspen gold, aspen fears


The photo shows aspen trees among the conifers in the Wet Mountains of southern Colorado on Monday, October 2nd. The following day a little squall line of thunderstorms came through and ripped off most of the golden leaves. The same thing happened with the big willows and cottonwoods along our road.

Meanwhile, news reports are full of gloom-and-doom about the decline in aspen groves. (Link may expire.)

One Forest Service ecologist said the causes were drought, increasing grazing by both cattle and elk, disease, and insect infestations.

I am surprised no one has mentioned fire suppression. Around Cripple Creek, for instance, so many aspen groves along Colorado 67 clearly represent little 19th-century forest fires, probably started by sparks from steam locomotives back when today's state highway was a railroad grade.

How many of the aspen groves we are used to seeing resulted from 19th or early 20th-century forest fires, before the era of serious fire suppression started mid-century?

When some acquaintances of ours, who live amid thick firs in the Sangre de Cristo Range near Westcliffe, did a massive tree-thinning to protect their home from wildfire, suddenly they had aspens! The last time I was there, the area around their house was full of knee-high aspen. Will they make it to maturity? That seems to be part of the issue.

Update: I went prowling on LexisNexis and found a trade-journal article that quoted David Skinner, wildlife biologist on the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho:

Because aspens take advantage of the regenerative opportunities provided by forest fires, Skinner emphasized that the only real solution to their regrowth in the region would be less fire suppression.