After hours of inventorying plots of northern hardwood forests our caravan of minivans pulls to the side of the dirt road. Our professor takes off into the forest leaving many of us 20-somethings struggling to keep up with the 75 year old man. He disappears between two trees and we trustingly follow. After 15-minutes of bushwhacking, we find ourselves surrounded by a grove of red pines. The pink-brown bark extends at least 100 feet into the sky. The crowns of the pinus resinosa tower so far above us we cannot make out any needles, except those that litter the forest floor.
It is unusual to find a natural growth pine stand in Michigan. Following the destructive harvesting of all pine forests throughout the state in the late 1800s, fires burned uncontrolled for 40 years killing any remaining trees and permanently changing the composition of the soil. Other northern hardwood trees such as maple, beech, and oak overtook the land leaving the white and red pine unable to reclaim much of their territory.
A few pine stands survived the inferno. Despite the cutting and burning during the catastrophic logging in Michigan, the understory of this red pine stand was protected by a wetland to the north that acting as a firebreak, and a lake to the south that cooled the site. The surviving small seedlings became the trees that now tower over us. Unlike human-planted second-growth forests, which are increasingly common, these trees are not in rows and are instead spaced as the natural world intended them to grow. Pine trees in Michigan are struggling to return to their home place and small pines can be found on the floor of forests struggling to survive, but it will be hundreds of years before a natural pine-dominated forest will be able to establish itself.
by J. Thomas
What a treat to know the Biological Station is still alive and well. My father, David S. Shetter, B.S. Biology 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Zoology, 1937, enjoyed many summers there and until recently we had a scrapbook showing the activities and the friends he met there. Unfortunately, the storage space in Florida retirement homes dictates that some things have to be cleaned out. Wish I had known where to send it. This was definitely a seminal experience for a city guy from Cleveland. He loved everthing and had a hard time deciding what to do for his advanced degrees – ichthyology, entymology or herpetology.
Dad subsequently went on to become the director of the Hunt Creek Fisheries Experiment Station in Lewiston from 1943 until his death in 1969. This is now under DNR management. My brother and I grew up at the “Lab”. A wonderful place to learn about the out of doors – many students and scholars coming and going. All summer there were folks camped out on the property observing or collecting. We learned VERY early not to disturb anyone or anything in jars, nets or collecting trays.
There were no data bases established for many things we take for granted today. Hunt Creek has one of the longest data bases in existence for a freshwater trout stream. I certainly hope the current budget crises does not put that in jeopardy.
Call Andy Nuhfer, the current director and have him show you the scrapbook I did on the history of Hunt Creek last year. I think you could do a good article on that and what the Lovells Historical Society is doing for the fishing lodges on the North Branch and the Main Stream. All of this was tied together in the beginning.
Keep up the good work!
Alice Shetter Hoelzer-Hawthorne
3808 Doune Way
Clermont, FL 34711