Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spring Trees Glowing in New England

There's a grand show on the road right now in New England. It's been running for weeks, and is traveling from south to north. You can still catch it in its prime in the more northerly areas of Massachusetts, and up into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

It's the annual spring colorfest that Nature produces in her forests. I'd like to think it's all for our enjoyment. Whether it is or not, it's rivaled only by her fall show. I can't decide which I like better... in the fall, the air is crisp, cool and dry, free of biting insects, and is charged with the aromas of newly fallen leaves; in spring, after a white winter without horizon, the dazzling, sunny pastel colors are a warm, spirit repleneshing ambrosia.

Mountainside streams have been thundering for two months with meltwater frantically fleeing forests of higher elevations, to escape eventually to the sea.

It's been the best time to visit ice cold waterfalls. You'd find yourself gleefully grinning like a kid with excitement at the overwhelming sounds and sights of pounding water. Although water is everywhere, and we may take it for granted, this simple substance is one of the most mesmerizing in nature when it's in a hurry. 

Upon the retreat of the last snows, streams relax their pace a bit, and the forest landscape is a mix of browns and grays, save for a few dark evergreens. You might think that we've had enough of white at this point. Ironically though, one of the first trees to brighten our spirits does so with... yes, white flowers. Serviceberry (genus Amelanchier), known also as shadbush, is a small, nondescript, understory tree. Most never even notice it;
Shadbush flowers
until, that is, its flowers appear like popcorn on the hillsides.

But even before the shadbush flowers, maples have hung their showy blossoms out on the breezes. Red maples are so named because many of their parts are red: the flowers, keys (samaras), and new twigs are all red; even their leaves turn red in autumn.

Before this fleeting spring season surrenders to summer, maybe you'll find time to answer the forest's invitation to come see the show. You'll have to head northward to chase its tail end though.

"The best things in life are free."

Red Maple Flowers
Red Maple Keys
Sugar Maple
Sugar Maple Flowers

Along the Westfield River

A northern Berkshires Pond in May

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Icing on the Trees

My pal Arnie is always in the mood to go for a hike in a forest when I call him, in most any kind of weather or temperature. A few days ago, we headed out in frigid conditions to further explore an old growth forest tract in a mountainous region of Western Massachusetts.

There was snow on the ground, but not particularly deep. We were expecting that. What we weren't expecting, but were delighted to see, was a frosty white coating of ice on entire distant mountainsides along the route to our woods. A few more miles down the road and we were now driving through a crystal forest. The heavens overhead were azure blue. The sun was putting silvery white sparks of life into the thick ice overcoats encasing every tree twig in sight. This is probably the finest glamor show that winter ever puts on. We had no choice but to stop the car and do some photography. Old growth forests are high on our priority list of places to see and be, but the ancient trees weren't going anywhere and would wait a little longer for our visit. Ice crusted mountainside forests are ephemeral, you don't keep them waiting.

So here are some of the images recorded that day. They can't replace the personal experience of being there, of course. But we hear so many sensationalized "dangerous winter storm" warnings in today's media that it seems only right to celebrate and share the beauty of such events once in a while.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Old Growth Forest for a New Year

It's day three of a brand new year. Who knows what's in the works for us in the coming months? Looking out my window, I see that today is gray, damp, and somewhat gloomy. It occurs to me that new years probably should begin on a sunny, breezy, greened-up kind of early spring day, not a day like this. I find myself longing to be in a verdant, old growth forest. Even though I've lately been exploring a 200-year-plus stand of hemlocks and hardwoods, those several outings were bright white with snow. Thoroughly enjoyable, yet missing so much.

I craved a tonic, like a steamy drink on a bitter cold day. Something to bring me back to the lush, leafy forests that flood my senses with a pleasing wavelength of green light, scented air, and the renewing rush of mountain streams. I knew what that would be: a meander through the photos of those places. So that's what this is, a visual essay in green. I hope it does for you what it's doing for me. All the scenes are from aged forests of Western Massachusetts.

Happy New Year !