Spring in the high country is not just about longer sunnier days, new birds,
intrepid wildflowers, green tipped aspen trees
and bear paw prints on the glass door leading out to the deck
and INTO the house.
Early May, 2012, arrived buffeted by strong winds and spring snow,
heavy and wet.
We welcomed the moisture, but soon lamented the loss of two of our
favorite aspen trees often visited
in a quiet meadow snuggled deep between
steep canyon walls.
Two summers ago when we first hiked into what we came to call
“The Big Ass Aspen Meadow,” we proclaimed the giants
“The biggest we’d ever seen.”
Later we returned with a tape and measured one:
Six feet, 4 inches in circumference at chest height.
Estimated height: close to one hundred feet.
The windfall in the photo measured 5 feet 8 inches around and 96 feet from exposed root to now accessible canopy.Near the base of the trunk lay an enormous shelf fungus
sheared off in the catastrophic uprooting.
but fall into bleached piles like so many dead ‘n down pick-up-stickswhen ravaged by heart rot or overwhelmed by heavy snows and fierce spring winds.
Quaking aspen,Populus tremuloides,
are surely one of the most admirable works of creation
as they provide food and shelter for more wildlife (both flora and fauna)
than any other tree in the forest.
A shady aspen grove is a nursery for tiny fir and spruce trees.
For elk and deer, an aspen grove provides
the food source that makes winter survival possible.
Elk held tightly in the frozen grasp of winter,
gnaw the trunks above snow line to forage on the high-energy, still-green chlorophyll
layer beneath the silvery bark.Before grass grazing gets into full swing,
elk eagerly nibble the tips of tender young aspen shoots.
Mature, glowing white trunks and trembling heart shaped leaves
offer humans a pleasant place to walk
or pause in peaceful reflection.For me, being in an aspen grove, no matter the season,
is a magical experience, a solace I would have thought impossible to find
this side of paradise.