The Witness Tree and An Old Friend

Oct 21, 2020 | 0 comments

Grays River – Columbia Land Trust Photo

Three years ago when I arranged to transfer 53 acres of my grandfather’s long ago dairy farm to the Columbia Land Trust, little did I realize that I would be the recipient of their monthly e-newsletter, “The Moss.”  Nor did I ever expect that I would be seeing our friend Bob Pyle, virtually up-close-and-personal,  in the current, October 2020, edition of that newsletter.  A video in a newsletter!  Doncha just love (some parts of) this wonderful new world we live in?

Grays River Covered Bridge

The 5 minute/44 second video takes the viewer along the Grays River to the site of an ancient Hemlock that still stands, even though the forest surrounding it has been logged as many a four times since the mid-nineteenth century.  As I watched the aerial progress up Grays River, the Covered Bridge came into view — the last covered bridge in the state that is still in use.  And there, for only an instant, was a glimpse of Bob Pyle’s familiar house tucked away in the midst of his own heritage landscape.

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle

I hadn’t formed the entire thought yet when here came Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, himself, answering the off-camera narrator’s question about why the Hemlock is the lone old-growth survivor in the immediate area.  “I suspect that Hemlock may be a Witness Tree.  Witness trees were large trees that were situated very close to the survey lines on the land.  When the hills were logged, the  logging crews had to be very careful to leave the witness trees standing because they had to be able to know where the corners of the sections were.”

Repair Work on Oysterville Road, 1880s

Years ago I came across some notes — perhaps in early Pacific County Commissioners minutes — about the first survey of Oysterville Road.  I don’t remember if any trees were mentioned but I do remember that someone’s fence was an important marker — a fence long gone and the owner long forgotten.  I remember thinking at the time that I wish there had been better information.

And now I wonder which and how many documents might have referred to the Witness Tree in the Grays River watershed.  It’s a lovely five-minute film.  I commend it to anyone who loves our forests and is interested in the conservation and restoration efforts by the Columbia Land Trust and other such groups.

 

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