Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Out Back

Whose woods these are I think I know. It never mattered to me, though. The trees grew tall and no one cared, 'til loggers came and none were spared.

Sorry, Bob.

I used to wander around the mountainside out back, rarely encountering the tracks of any human but myself. I nursed no fantasy that I owned the place. I simply enjoyed the appearance that no one did, that it simply lived its natural existence indifferent to humanity.

Logging points out most clearly that someone does own this land. The trees are someone's property to hack down and cart away for monetary profit. The loggers could be followed by developers or the land could be left alone again for twenty or thirty years until its owner wants to harvest the trees again. I have no say in the matter.

The logging appears to have changed water runoff patterns. The streams on my property are running more strongly than I have ever seen before. Unfortunately, this was also the wettest autumn on record, so I can't be sure how much of the flow is just more water, and how much might have been held back by the departed trees.

Clearings, especially clearings with skidder trails, attract motorized vermin, snow machines and all-terrain vehicles. It hasn't happened yet, but it could at any time. Motorized recreation becomes more and more popular. It seems strange as gasoline grows more and more expensive, and the end of the petroleum era looms on the horizon, but so many human choices make so little sense that I don't try to analyze it. It's more like an illness I hope does not strike, because there is no vaccine, and the cures are mostly drastic.

I felt safe when trees covered it all. Only in deer hunting season would anyone else be interested in walking around out there. There were no spectacular views. No beautiful waterfalls. No caves, no cliffs, no impressive summits. But now there's open space, where the banzai morons might churn the soil, rip the silence and foul the atmosphere with smoky stench. I don't know that they will. I just can no longer be so sure they won't. I know they live around here. I hear them. And I know they drive around as if it were their divine right.

When I find a clearing, I tend to skirt around the edge of it, staying in cover. It's funny to see my visiting urban and suburban friends just stomp right out into it. I'll go with them, because there isn't any good reason to stay concealed, but I'd be more comfortable on the edge, at least until I've checked it out thoroughly. I'll let someone see me after I've seen them.

In New Hampshire the tradition has been that land was open for use unless posted. The user accepted personal responsibility for saftey and agreed to be courteous. Don't tamper with equipment, pull down sap lines, build permanent structures or make temporary alterations without permission. But I always feel better if I've been as invisible as possible. I'll leave no trace at all except in winter, when I leave ski tracks.

On public land I move less cautiously. I don't mind wearing a bright jacket when I'm headed to a winter summit in the National Forest or some other area where the rules are clearly defined. That's America's back yard, where we all can play. If we lost all other open space we would see how much we had depended on people just having land and leaving it alone.

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