In addition to the fire tower incident on Friday, I finally drove far enough south to see some of the damage from the Warren Grove fire back in May. There’s a gunnery range there and well… an F-16 dropped a flare during target practice that set fire to 15,000 acres or so. Oops! It all ended well, with no one hurt, and the pines got a taste of fire again.
I took this pic along Rt. 539 and you can sort of get an idea of what the pine plains are like – those are dwarf pines growing in the distance – stunted and twisted from the dry, sandy, nutrient-poor soil to reach no more than 10 feet tall, but mostly they’re shorter. The trees grow so closely together so as to be impenetrable, but here or there is a way in.
It’s worth looking for an opening because there’s a subtle beauty to the plains. There’s pleasure in the absence of people and the stillness. The soil underfoot crunches with reindeer lichen and if you‘re patient enough to look for it, there’s bearberry, a neat little arctic plant that stayed behind when the ice retreated.
I didn’t spend very much time that day, mostly I was in a hurry to be somewhere else, but it was a worthwhile detour. I think my favorite time to visit the dwarf pines is in the middle of winter with a cover of snow and the company of a few chickadees searching the pine cones for a tasty morsel.