I’m no tree expert especially when it comes to evergreens out in the forest. I know it’s fun to say Doug Fir for Douglas Fir’s but before today I couldn’t tell you the difference between Ponderosa, White Pine, Lodgepole, or a Spruce or Fir! I haven’t nary a clue. This may seem like urban ignorance to some in-law’s that grew up all around these giants and where townspeople talked about the lumber industry and whose daughters worked fighting fires for summer jobs, but there you have it. This doesn’t make me enjoy these trees or respect them any less. The one Pine I can recognize is the Bristlecone.
These trees are gnarly, they are ugly, aged and weathered, but they are survivors. In Nevada outside of Vegas we hiked and saw one that had a name… over 2K years old. In the Great Basin Park in Nevada I think there is one that is over 5,000 years old. Those trees are survivors. One of the saddest podcasts I’ve listened to was about a firefighter that mistakingly cut down a Bristlecone Pine that was thousands of years old… No!!!!! If you aren’t hip to the links that I always put below the pictures (Sarah Johnson Swinney)… gotta watch this Park Ranger talk about Bristlecone’s: HERE. Click on it Ma!!!
The picture above was just taken yesterday from Z&Me’s overnight car camping in the Cuddy-Hitt Mountains of Idaho. In the foreground, are those Ponderosa’s or Doug Fir’s? Lodgepole’s? Someone knows. From what I’ve read, a telling sign is that when Ponderosa’s mature they lose the lower branches exposing the square thick bark patterns, a redness… but mostly you can tell it’s a Ponderosa from the absence of lower limbs.
So why would I pick the Ponderosa Pine of all the forest trees here in Idaho if I can’t really tell the difference? Great question. It’s for this survivability. Every summer is fire season here in Idaho. You can expect clouds of smoke to rise over the mountain and occasionally fill the valley. You can drive in the mountains and drive by the forest fires, catch helicopters refilling their internal stores with water from ponds or lakes. Of all the forest’s trees the Ponderosa is one of the more survivable. If you want to read the ins and outs of it, I found this fascinating: Idaho Forest Trees and Survivability. Go to page 8 for a description of each tree and how susceptible they are to fires.
You can hike through a recently fire ravaged forest and find these giant mature Ponderosa’s with blackened trunks but green needles still growing strong!! It makes you want to say F Yeah!!! The Ponderosa’s in fact need fire to subjugate and remain healthy, lightning strikes, the landslide burns, it gets restored, circle of life shit.
Truth be told, it really ain’t all that pleasant to hug a tree. They aren’t very huggable. Chances are your home might be made from the wood of the Ponderosa or one of its cousins. When you are out among them, you will be grateful and it’s akin to religion just to be in their presence, the Ponderosa.