Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Trees in Estes Park, Early 1870s

Isabella Bird's account of "The dense, ancient, silent forest..."


Another "Tree Note"Isabella Bird visited the pine forest near the treeline in Estes Park, Colorado, in the early 1870's and recorded her observations:

WE RODE UPWARDS through the gloom on a steep trail blazed through the forest, all my intellect concentrated on avoiding being dragged off my horse by impending branches, or having the blankets badly torn, as those of my companions were, by sharp dead limbs, between which there was hardly room to pass--the horses breathless, and requiring to stop every few yards, though their riders, except myself, were afoot.

The gloom of the dense, ancient, silent forest is to me awe inspiring. On such an evening it is soundless, except for the branches creaking in the soft wind, the frequent snap of decayed timber, and a murmur in the pine tops as of a not distant waterfall, all tending to produce EERINESS and a sadness "hardly akin to pain." There no lumberer's axe has ever rung. The trees die when they have attained their prime, and stand there, dead and bare, till the fierce mountain winds lay them prostrate.

Horseback riders in Estes Park, late 1800s
The pines grew smaller and more sparse as we ascended, and the last stragglers wore a tortured, warring look. The timber line was passed, but yet a little higher a slope of mountain meadow dipped to the south-west towards a bright stream trickling under ice and icicles, and there a grove of the beautiful silver spruce marked our camping ground. The trees were in miniature, but so exquisitely arranged that one might well ask what artist's hand had planted them, scattering them here, clumping them there, and training their slim spires towards heaven.

Hereafter, when I call up memories of the glorious, the view from this camping ground will come up. Looking east, gorges opened to the distant Plains, then fading into purple grey. Mountains with pine-clothed skirts rose in ranges, or, solitary, uplifted their grey summits, while close behind, but nearly 3,000 feet above us, towered the bald white crest of Long's Peak, its huge precipices red with the light of a sun long lost to our eyes. Close to us, in the caverned side of the Peak, was snow that, owing to its position, is eternal.

Soon the afterglow came on, and before it faded a big half-moon hung out of the heavens, shining through the silver blue foliage of the pines on the frigid background of snow, and turning the whole into fairyland.

--From "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains," by Isabella L. Bird (1831-1904)
Published in 1873.

4 comments -- please add yours:

speecialpants said...

I always have liked weeping willows despite knowing about all their foibles too...

I grew up in Christian County, in Hopkinsville near Dink Embry's radio station on Buttermilk Rd.

Not there now though. ;)

Genevieve said...

Thanks for visiting, speecialpants. I still love the way they look, and I'm hoping that other one will last a few more years. We are thinking about having the broken-up one taken down this summer so we can plant something else there. My husband thinks he wants a bald cypress, and it would probably do well there.

Larry said...

At my former home in Knox County I made the mistake of planting a row of hybrid willows, which were advertised in a nursery catalog as being a fast-growing screen tree.

That they were; five years later they were thirty feet tall, but to my chagrin I found that they had extended a shallow layer of roots under our entire garden, which was some distance away!

I cut them down and herbicided the sprouts with RoundUp; it took a couple of years to kill them out completely.

A bald cypress is definitely a better choice!

Genevieve said...

Larry, thanks for your comment. Honestly, we have made our share of tree mistakes. We put in a row of hybrid poplars in a narrow area between us and a gravel road, to try to block some of the dust. They have served their purpose, I admit, but several have died in just 15 years though they were supposed to be "long-lived" hybrids that lived 30 years or more.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com