This evening we hiked up our hill in a direction we’d never been before to investigate a large and suspiciously square clearing that Orion found on Google Earth (we’ve lived here 11 years and we’re still finding new things!). We did eventually find it, though it’s so overgrown that it was very difficult to determine its age or, most of all, WHY someone cleared a bunch of trees in a large square block in the middle of nowhere, with no apparent roads going to it. Thwarted homesteader perhaps? Lost pioneers? We found some stumps that we were pretty sure were cut with an axe; if so, this area was cleared a century ago! Fairbanks’s dry climate and slow-growing trees are excellent at preserving old wood. There is, however, no sign of occupation: collapsing cabins, old vehicles, etc.
We decided, eventually, that this was probably a woodcutting area for the early-1900s gold-mining operation in the valley. In an area that’s mostly scraggly swamp spruce, this particular small ridge seems to support large birch trees, many of which are now growing in clusters as if growing up from old birch stumps. Our theory is that the turn-of-the-century miners would climb the hill to cut wood (with hand tools!) and then skid the logs down the hill to the valley where they used them for firewood or construction.
Most of the walk up to the clearing is through black spruce forest with a dense carpet of moss underneath. We came upon this fungus-encrusted fallen spruce log and I thought it was neat enough to take a picture of it.
As we wandered around the clearing, we found ourselves conducting tree-stump CSI. This looks like old axe marks to us.
More photos under the cut.
More stump CSI. It’s hard to imagine a natural phenomenon that could have produced a tree stump that looked like this, but it definitely wasn’t cut with a chain saw, either.
Birches growing in clumps, perhaps on the site of old stumps.
Along the way we found the World’s Biggest Squirrel Mound (TM).
Lucky, I think, wanted to live here. The mound was riddled with squirrel burrows and what I assume are freshly cut winter food (pieces of spruce branch with cones on them). A very angry squirrel scolded us while we looked around.
Now my legs are sore from all that walking in dense, springy moss. It’s weirdly hard on the calves and small muscles of the feet …
Crossposted from Wordpress.