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Lob Trees in the Wilderness: The Human and Natural History of the Boundary Waters

Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Lob Trees in the Wilderness
    Book Description:

    Along the Minnesota-Ontario border, in the days of voyageurs, tall trees were used as guideposts in the uncharted wilderness to help fur traders and explorers find their way through the maze of lakes and portages. Branches were cut, leaving the middle of the trees bare with branches above and below. Clifford and Isabel Ahlgren, two of the most knowledgeable ecologists of the area, use nine native trees to serve as lob trees for this book, an ecological history of human activity in the Quetico-Superior wilderness area.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9290-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
    (pp. 3-19)

    “Nowthisis really wilderness!” exclaimed the journalist as he stood beneath our lob tree red pine (fig. 1.1). One does sense an atmosphere of solitude and peace when standing beside it. Could this atmosphere be the essence of wilderness? It apparently was for the two California-based conservationists who stood with us that summer evening. One was a president’s son, the other a well-known journalist; they had come to the area to gather information for an article on the canoe country for an outdoor magazine. They knew from experience in western wilderness what they wanted to see, and they saw...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Sacred Juniper Lob Tree FLORA
    (pp. 21-37)

    To visit our sacred juniper ring, we would have to go back in time at least twenty years and beach our canoe at the northeast end of Washington Island in Basswood Lake. A high, pine-covered point guards the entrance to a wind-sheltered waterway between the island and the mainland. The shaded, soft forest floor beneath the pines is bare except for a carpet of needles. Ground juniper (Juniperus communisvar.depressa) grows in a distinct circle about ten feet in diameter, the low, bristle-needled branches radiating outward from the circle's arc (fig. 2.1). Nearby, some small, cedar-shingled shelters mark Ojibway...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Jack Pine Lob Tree FOREST FIRE
    (pp. 39-63)

    To reach our jack pine lob tree, one must clamber up a rocky ridge overlooking a small lake. The climb is worth the effort; a vista of the surrounding lakes and forest is spread before the rugged outcrop. The hot sun bakes this exposed site on a summer day, and our lob tree offers only sparse shade (fig. 3.1). It is a small tree, no more than thirty feet tall, somewhat bent by winter winds. Its needles are coarse and short, scattered in pairs along the branches. Almost every branch bears several pairs of hard, gnarled cones; the oldest ones...

    (pp. 65-75)

    The oldest known tree in the border lakes country is not often seen by visitors, although hundreds pass nearby every summer as they paddle from Prairie Portage to Basswood River. This northern white cedar lob tree was already at least six hundred years old when European explorers first passed the sandy bay near which it grows. The tree’s exact age cannot be determined. Thin cores bored into the trunk reveal that rot has obscured the early annual growth rings, leaving the center pulpy. However, annual rings of wood laid down during the past four hundred years are sound. By counting...

    (pp. 77-91)

    Our paper birch lob tree stands among other birches on a gentle slope just above the shoreline (fig. 5.1). Throughout the open, sunny grove, most birches stand in clusters of two to six trees that are joined at the ground line or standing close together. The trees in each clump originated as sprouts from the base of an older tree, now long gone. Punky remains of parent stumps can still be detected at the bases of younger birch clusters. The many birch clumps covering the slope indicate that an earlier birch generation grew here about one hundred years ago, the...

  10. CHAPTER 6 White Pine Lob Tree PINE LOGGING
    (pp. 93-125)

    When they first look up into our towering white pine lob tree, most border lakes visitors describe it as “Majestic!” No other word so aptly suits this 325-year-old monarch with its straight, proud trunk towering 125 feet skyward, well above most of the forest around it (fig. 6.1). Its graceful branches catch the breeze, translating it into a soft whisper—the murmuring pines, according to Longfellow. Among the branches, one or two stand out, dead and bare or with browning needles. These dead and dying “flags” indicate that our lob tree is infected with white pine blister rust.

    The rust...

  11. CHAPTER 7 White Spruce Lob Tree PULPWOOD LOGGING
    (pp. 127-143)

    Our white spruce lob tree stands out as a landmark on the lakeshore (fig. 7.1). Its graceful branches curve gently upward at their tips and are covered with short, sharp needles. The crown tapers skyward, but the tip is fuller than the spiked tips of the smaller balsam fir nearby. A few dry, amber balls of pitch have formed on its trunk. Only hardy souls with strong teeth still chew this spruce gum, usually just to prove they can, but it is nature’s multipurpose glue, valued by Ojibway in the construction of birch bark canoes and containers. Black spruce and...

    (pp. 145-169)

    In the early morning stillness, the sharp spike of our balsam fir lob tree is reflected in the mirror-smooth surface of the lake (fig. 8.1). Its spiked crown is part of the jagged forest profile so characteristic of the border lakes country, and it contributes to the northern or boreal atmosphere that brings visitors back again and again. Balsam fir, standing thus as a reminder of the lure of the north, is an appropriate lob tree for our consideration of the ecological significance of human recreation in the BWCA.

    For practical purposes, our balsam fir would not make a good...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Aspen Lob Tree CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 171-192)

    It is just a little thing, our aspen lob tree—inconspicuous, thin, spindly, and only between six and seven feet tall. It is indistinguishable from the thousands of others around it on this recently disturbed site (fig. 9.1). Although it is small, our lob tree and the surrounding members of its clone have achieved their present height in less than four years, making them the most rapidly growing trees in the forest. The number of these aspen suckers in the BWCA, their rapid growth rate, and the ecological forces that stimulated their production are the reasons for selecting an aspen...

  14. APPENDIX Common and Scientific Names of Plants
    (pp. 195-198)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 201-208)
  16. Index
    (pp. 211-219)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 220-220)