I’ve lived and worked here in the Adirondacks for more than two years. It is in many respects a hard place to live.

That balances with cross-country skiing across the frozen lake a half-mile from my house, the good people I’ve met and the work that I do at my job. The view below is from the backyard here, on a Fall afternoon with a cold, breezy rainstorm bearing down on me, coming in from the forest.

backyard view

This place is full of trails, paths, forests & trees. There is always another path to go down and a dozen to revisit. I don’t spend enough time just walking in the woods. Right now, that’s probably ok since it has been raining for 4 straight days and its deer hunting season.

It seems the forest is always able to teach you something if you’re take the time and know the signs. On my always expanding to-read list is Tom Wessles Reading the Forested Landscape, a work which I’ve heard is the best way to learn how to tell why a stand of trees has fallen down in a particular direction, whether it was blown down by a storm or died and then fell over. I can remember walking a section of the Appalachian Trail close to my childhood home in New York and seeing all the disused rock walls marking out fields or pastures. With a little more knowledge I could look at the trees filling this once-farmed land and take a guess about when it was last farmed.

a stand of beech trees

I went for a walk a couple of weeks ago with my underused tree identification guide. As I walked noticed a large number of a particular kind of tree.

I determined, as far as I can tell, that the tree I kept seeing is American Beech.

beech ID

Wikipedia tells us that:

American beech is an important tree in forestry. The wood is heavy, hard, tough and strong, and until the advent of power tools in the 20th century, lumbering beech trees were often left uncut to grow. As a result, many areas today still have extensive groves of old beeches that would not otherwise occur. Today, the wood is harvested for uses such as flooring, containers, furniture, handles and woodenware.

my collected leaf, in detail.

There’s always something to notice out there and I hope I can make the time to not only be out in the trees but have the forest teach me things while I am, so that I might be a kind of participant in it and not just a tourist. I want to have the knowledge to see the forest and the trees.

That said, the forest is never, and can’t be all trees. There is, despite being dominated by trees & leaves, an abundance of things here if you slow yourself down enough to look at them.1

an unidentified insect

a large fruiting body in my frontyard

Still, I think I’ll stick to more charismatic sorts of organisms: trees, mammalls & birds and leave out those above for now.

  1. As an aside, I have given up thinking about walking in the woods as “hiking”, since that activity carries associations of completionism and arbitrary goal setting. I don’t care about getting to the top of a mountain, I care about seeing the place I am in. I’m also lazy and afraid of falling down mountains, but it sounds better to give myself a solid intellectual reason for not seeking a summit.)