March 28, 2017
When we first began hiking the AT in February, a forest of impossibly tall, straight, featureless tree trunks reached high above my eyes, competing for sun and glory in a lacy winter canopy.
As the days turned to weeks, my eyes began noticing small differences. Colors, textures, patterns … individuality transformed these plain bare trees. I knew many types of trees by their leaves, but without leaves, I had lumped them all together. Maples, sourwood, oaks, dogwood, hickory – each had its own bark. I just didn’t know who was what!
And so I began making friends, recognizing the textures of bark, even though I didn’t know the names of the trees. Perhaps another hiker will recognize the description of a few of these unknown but new-found friends:
- Elegant lady – silvery gray bark, as smooth and unblemished as a silk gown
- Elegant athletic lady – the same smooth silver covering, but with bumps and ripples underneath, as if sporting athletic muscles and tendons under its bark
- Frilly – a yellow bark, with paper thin curls peeling off in long ringlets
- Fireproof – thick, chocolate brown armor, with ridges of bark squeezed and separated between deep, sternly parallel furrows running the length of the trunk
- Flyaway – long rectangular peels of heavy bark, shingled up the tree, curling away at the base, looking as if it is ready to fly off the trunk
- Background gentleman – a cloudy gray trunk, with ridges of bark that have run amok, separating and merging in a dizzying x-shaped pattern. One’s eyes tend to slide over this trunk, not really noticing it.
- Background melted gentleman – the same color and pattern as above, but someone has taken an iron and melted all the ridges, leaving shallow grooves between flat pathways around the trunk.
- Wart – tree so covered in warts and dimples, I can’t see any pattern at all on its bark!
Each day as I hike, I’m not alone. My Appalachian trail buddies are always there!