A nice stand of nearly mature trees rise in the back of the Young Conservation Area, between ares where the Department of Conservation has been thinning timber. The trees are large enough to shade out the underbrush, so the forest floor is clear and open.

It's a surprise, since so much of Young CA is an exhibit to the versatility of the chainsaw. And to the ATV, chariot of the Paul Bunyan, 21st century version. I know the D of C has good reasons for chopping down so many trees, and I sort of agree with them. Still, it's nice to see that they left at least one patch alone.

The camera doesn't really do justice to the spot. It was quite startling. I could see through the woods for a couple of hundred yards, which is unusual. To use the language I learned for my Boy Scout merit badge, the stand of trees is an example of "climax forest." Not old growth, because I didn't see the number of fallen trees that I would expect from old growth. But still, a stand of trees that had just about grown back. "Incipit climax forest" is as good a description as any.

Terminology is a problem. I've seen over the years all sorts of descriptions for stands of trees. Most of them are highly technical, and describe the landscape in terms of major units. From what I've seen on the area around Young CA, the descriptions seem to fall into two types, one that describes the forest in the major creek bottoms, and one that describes it on the hills.

But there are lots more finer variations, some of which may be of interest to the hiker. The big trees that prompted this post fall into the "on the hills" category. And they certainly are not in a major creek bottom. However, they clearly owe their size to their location in a hollow beneath the surrounding ridges, where water and soil can accumulate, and where they are sheltered from the wind. The same kinds of trees grow on the ridgetops, but there they are noticably smaller. So these trees would seem to fall into a category like, "nearly mature upload forest in a sheltered location."

The big trees expose a fundamental problem with terminology. Its power depends on its ability to straddle between generality and specificity. If it's too general ("forest"), then it has no differentiating force. But if it's too specific ("the stand of big trees at Young CA"), then it can't aggregate experience. The balance point is not so much a consequence of the things being generalized as the result of the needs of the people who develop the terminology.

Skiers have a set of words for snow that fits their needs. Kayakers have their own vocabulary for moving water. But hikers have no such set of words for the forest, even though they're as intimately related to it as skiers are to snow or kayakers to rapids. The hiker's lack of a useful vocabulary for forests deserves further attention, I think.