Succession


Wilderness Ranger Heather Eggleston

By Heather Eggleston, Wilderness Ranger


It is my third time into Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness area. I am starting to trust the trail, to wait patiently for the Wilderness boundary, to remember the creek crossings.


I hear birds, the croak of frogs, the far-away rumble of air traffic and thunder. Insects are buzzing about, and today the whir of a hummingbird blesses my ears.


Ant's eye old-growth view.

This wilderness used to be well known for its large stands of virgin timber. People came from all around to witness their majesty. Now, some of those massive trees are dead, stripped of branches and bark, quickly rotting back into the earth; death by unintended consequences. The Hemlock wooly adelgid came from Asia in the newly opened world market and has taken the Hemlocks in its new home range.


The first time I came here all I could see was a graveyard, a beautiful flourishing graveyard.


Now I see that there are still old-growth trees in here (the bark on some Tulip Poplars have ridges so deep I can fit half my hand in their valley!) and saplings are vying for the newly created canopy openings.

Deeply ridged tulip poplar bark.

It is wild in here! The plants along the trail reach out at you as you pick your way along the creek, newts play in a secret wetland, and this morning I came upon a bear cub foraging near the trail—a thrilling encounter.


I look forward to spending more time in here. I need to witness this forest growing over its loss, to consider what I can do to prevent more unintended consequences. How can I protect these wild places? I know that the world will go on without me (and all of us humans), but I also know that it doesn’t work the other way around.

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