Views From The Cottage – By Melanie Martyn
CAN’T SEE THE FOREST – FOR THE TREES?
Much of my life as a youngster involved life at the cottage, as I’ve mentioned many times, I’m sure. Swimming, biking, canoeing, and hiking through the forests around Bass Lake, inparticular, was a daily event in the summers of the early 60’s. There is a wealth of knowledge to gained through the quiet (no cell phones way, way back then, LOL), un-interrupted, slow-paced meander under a green canopy of maple, oak, birch, or elm populated stand of trees. Often the undergrowth would feature smaller cedar, spruce and other pine-related species and the pungent smell of the leaf-laden earth still lingers in my earliest childhood memories.
You could hear the ‘soft winds’ wisping through the tree-tops reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Pussy Willows, Cat-Tails (soft winds and roses)’ hit of 1968. A favourite, I might add. Gran and Pop, having lived in Orillia in the 30’s and early 40’s were compatriots of the senior Lightfoots and often danced the night away at local parties or a New Year’s celebration. (Stories for another day including who she termed, “that reprobate Leacock”). But I digress, as always…
In a forest, you can get lost. Lost in the sense that you forget all the day-to-day problems and issues or petty intolerances of our so, so, busy world. I wonder how many youngsters today would prefer to trek the small, wooded areas, hoping to find a stream full of tadpoles, slimy green frogs or slithery Garter snakes. Batting away the blackflies and mosquitos was tantamount to earning your summer stripes (or I should say lumps and bumps that you scratched too much)! Discovery of a long-expired puffball (fungi that seems to ‘puff’ up overnight to amazing diameters) that you could stomp on meant you had instant entertainment watching the ‘spore smoke’ puff into the air. Well, I’m afraid it might sit a sad second choice (if at all) to the more popular Ipad or tablet game app.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve had the privilege of taking leisurely walks through the Orr Lake tract of the Simcoe County forests. Up and down the small logging lanes and far into the boggy areas of its southern boundaries would form a popular route as I scavenged no less than four types of raspberries (for my annual jamming session). Recently, however, I noticed an unusual sight as I was driving north on Hwy 93. A quick look to the right provided a clear view into the depths of the forest that I’d not seen before.
As the snow was gone and the bugs were still asleep, I decided to stop in at the access off Moonstone Road and take my first spring walk through my much-loved forest. I walked through a good part of my usual route and can tell you I felt sad, very sad. It looked like a few hundred elephants were startled in the middle of the night and could not find their way out. Wide swaths of pine logs, branches, brush, and bracken were strewn everywhere, laced with the deep wide gouges of the tracks from heavy equipment. Of course, we know the MNR (I’m assuming) has to manage and maintain this tract of forest, but it still felt much like a pillage of the landscape and theft of much of the natural habitat for the local flora and fauna. I could barely take a step without tripping over the wood refuse or falling through the weak clusters of branches and small logs that could trap a hiker’s calf or a doe’s fragile front leg. There would be no escape from a predator in this forest, where normally a White Tail deer could pivot on a dime and dash away at up to 35 MPH! Everywhere you looked seemed a trail of ‘left to rot’, disarray. I wonder the impact on the small animals that would normally have camouflage in the dense undergrowth, now flattened. The saddest part was seeing the main access into the forest so widened that the once lush, black and red raspberry patches were crushed into oblivion.
Is this the care and concern for our natural resource that I read about in “A Silvicultural Guide to Managing Southern Ontario Forests” or is it just…the way it is. I could certainly cite improvements. Take a long walk this weekend and you be the judge. Myself?
I feel like running over there this weekend and picking up a few branches or maybe saving a small tree with its roots still half in the ground. Hoping that is allowed…. guess I’ll find out.
Here’s to a summer of regrowth!!
Mel moments to be continued….