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.
Crossposted from Wordpress.