Enhancing the Experience of Your Woods
Posted: June 26, 2009
26 , 2009- For Immediate Release
Contact: Allyson Muth, Phone: 814-865-3208, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enhancing the Experience of Your Woods
Written by: Jim Finley, 814-863-0401, email@example.com
What do you like best about being in the woods? What do you remember? Think about it for a moment. You might enjoy the quiet, the peacefulness, the calm of nature. You might enjoy surprises -- the tree you did not see before, the little red toadstool, the glint of water on an unfolding fern frond. After thinking about what you like best, think about memorable forest walks or a special day afield. Do they often involve the unexpected, the glimpse of a fleeing animal, the quiet place, or a view that looks different today than yesterday?
Likely when you are in the woods, you are really looking for the unexpected, the little surprises of beauty, difference, and change. Understanding this, it is possible to manage for and emphasize the unexpected.
Woods have many dimensions. They vary from the ground level to the tops of the trees. They vary from here to there, as you walk through the landscape. And, they vary by time, throughout the day and across the seasons. All this change has the potential to add variety and discovery to the woods.
Can you create a level of discovery? Yes, as you walk down a forest path or woods road, you look ahead, almost anticipating the unexpected. The turn in the path or the bend in the road often obscures our view of what is ahead. What is around the corner? What might be there that will be suddenly seen? The simple act of building a path or aligning a woods road carefully today can provide years of enjoyment tomorrow. Building roads and paths to include turns, places to crest little rises, or using obstructions to block views can create interest and build in surprises. Have you ever taken the turn and seen that fleeing animal, the bird resting on the limb, or the change in light?
Forests inspire grandeur. Entering a woods, our eyes often lift to the forest ceiling. Looking up we marvel at the height; we enjoy the swaying and dancing canopy, the flickering light. Everyone seems to enjoy big trees -- they inspire. However, the solitude of a woods is also enjoyed when the trees close in around you. There is sanctuary in the feeling of protection, a grotto where the ceiling closes in and the walls are closer. One of my favorite places is a tight little stand of white pine and hemlock where trees are young, short, and close. It is a dark place on the edges, but in the center, the light enters from above. In gardens, we often create such places under the sweeping low branches of trees or under arbors of vines. Cutting an opening in the woods and allowing it to fill with small trees can create a special quiet place.
While we love to see the tall big trees reaching to the sky -- they represent growth; however, that giant lying on the forest floor can provide hours of inspection and discovery. In a forest dead trees and plants represent a reserve of nutrients -- unique habitat for many species of insects, fungi, amphibians, reptiles, animals and plants. Many of our woods do not have sufficient large, dead, and standing or down woody debris. Ecologists are learning big dead trees add to biodiversity and a careful observer learns they add to the interest of forests. A log torn asunder by a passing bear looking for a spring snack might stop you in your tracks, but also bring excitement and anticipation to the next walk in the woods. Maybe the next time, you will see something exciting near the log. Woods are often more interesting if we can leave them a bit more messy – not everything needs to produce products.
A diversity of plants in the woods adds to the experience. Learning the names of plants and other components in the woods adds interest and leads to discovery. Psychologists tell us we appreciate things more when we know what they are called. When you find an unexpected plant in the woods, making the effort to learn its name is fun and rewarding. The unique and unfamiliar plants are often very special. When you walk in the woods look up, down, and all around to learn how the woods changes in the seasons -- just a few weeks ago, the spring flowers were in bloom and in full leaf. Now, the flowers are gone, the leaves are dying, and the fruit may be apparent. Knowing how things change heightens our interest in the woods.
As you walk through your woods or the woods of others, take the time to walk slowly, look for the interesting things that surround you. Share your discoveries with others --especially kids; open your eyes to see the surprises. If you care for the woods, think about how careful stewardship will conserve opportunities for those who follow to enjoy the place as you have enjoyed.
To learn more about discovery in your woods, request Forest Stewardship Bulletin No. 8, Planning for Beauty and Enjoyment, from the Forest Resources Extension Office.
The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management for private landowners. For a list of free publications, call 1-800-235-WISE (toll-free), send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org , or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the Penn State's Forest Resources Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.
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