Friday, May 31, 2013

The Tree That Got Away

When George Vancouver brought his ship, Discovery, into the bay he called Port Discovery on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula he noted that along both shores "thousands of the finest spars the world produces". This was perhaps the first reference to Washington State's forest resources.

Portions of the slopes above Discovery Bay still produce excellent spars. Demand for spars is not what it used to be, but demand for power poles more than makes up for the drop off in the spar market.

Timbered slope above Discovery Bay

A very mighty fine spar and more

Harvesting of spars and other timber began early in Discovery Bay as the site had steep slopes down to deep water. A perfect combination in the earliest days of timber harvest. Cut trees could easily be transported down the slopes to the water and easily loaded onto ships for ports elsewhere. Vancouver may have been the first non First Nation timber harvest when he had a new spar cut for his own ship. Spars and other timber were being harvested in the bay by the 1840s with a saw mill at the bay as early as 1858.

I suspect the trees above might actually be third growth given the harvest periods and growing conditions around the bay. But while traversing a slope above the bay I came a across a tree that managed to survive at least one round of harvest.

Notched Douglas fir with healed ax cut

I have seen plenty of stumps with notches cut in the base for planks that were then used to cut the tree above the lower but of the tree, but this was the first I have seen of one thus cut that was still standing. There must have been something that the cutters did not like after they began there work and the tree still stands.

1 comment:

Geoffrey Middaugh said...

There is a new book out now by Eric Rutkow called the American Canopy. He writes an intriguing environmental history of trees in the USA. He spends a couple of chapters on the spar tree, or mast trees. When the crown claimed ownership of all trees in New England, folks got a little cranky about their trees, and tea. Roots of a rebellion. Good writing and history. Also, the notch could be marks from a high line or lead, which was often used. Depends on where it sits on the slope. Just a guess.