Monday, July 21, 2008
The North Tract
The North Tract; its practical descriptive name somehow manages to be evocative of its landscape at the same time. I rarely go there. It is both vast and barren. In summer the heat can be brutal, in winter the landscape bleak. The North Tract is both the largest and the northernmost of a cluster of regional forests near to my home and heart. Like the others, it too is a site of both ecological disaster and subsequent recovery. In 1924 the North Tract was denuded by generations of settlers and farmers, the exposed topsoil eroded by rains, or blown off by winds, leaving a landscape of shifting sands. Reforestation began as a 'make-work' program to employ and engage victims of the Great Depression. Hikers, cyclists, horse-back riders, countless off-lead dogs and a huge variety of wildlife now reap the benefits of what was essentially a pine plantation. Years have gone by, and in other sections the forests have regrown to some semblance of what they once were, but the North Tract still bares its scars. In many sections the trees grow thin and stunted, and a fungal outbreak called 'red-pine decline' doesn't help. The middle trail is deep sand underfoot with fields of mullein and raspberry flanking either side. A few thin red pines struggle skyward amidst wild-flowers and long grasses (not to mention the knee high poison ivy).
I don't travel the North Tract much. Its big, but its boring, lacking the lush growth, twining streams and rolling hills of the other tracts, but yesterday was grey and raining and I was thinking those open meadows might be a good place to collect raspberries. I was right about the raspberries, but they went down with a large chaser of rain, and I stepped into a bee nest (see me run!), and I only got a few handfuls of berries for all that trouble. But in the end, it was worth it, because the sandy middle stretch looked striking and lonely and majestic under the rain swollen sky with all the human visitors long since driven away.
Image: 7"x9" 130lb cold-pressed watercolour paper, watercolour and coloured pencil