I’m sensing a pattern here

Posted on January 12th, 2018

Out See Go
By Chris Engle, contributor

The beauty of days like today, when ice and wind has battered my ambitions and frozen my garage doors shut, is knowing that I took advantage of the better days when they were here.

My sanity relies on fishing once a week and walking in the woods at least every other day, usually for the forestry work I’ve been doing with a friend the last four months.

Fishing takes me to mostly familiar places in and around Otsego County where I can count on catching a meal or two of panfish for the family  — my way of earning “fishing points” redeemable for the next time I need to buy some shanty time.

Stalagmite-like structures form on the bank of a creek near Waters. Photo by Chris Engle

Work days, on the other hand, take me to far corners of the county to explore landscapes usually enjoyed only by those who own them. Our job is to set up future logging operations by selectively marking with paint the trees that will be cut.

This means we’ll look at just about every tree on the property we’re working — on a good fall day we’d cover 40 acres but last week, in two feet of snow, we barely eked out 20 hilly acres.

All this walking presents us with plenty of opportunities to see new and interesting things, but staring at trees in the dead of winter means we sometimes have to look a little harder to spot the things worth seeing.

Black trunks and tops of red pines blot out a winter sky. Photo courtesy of Ivan Witt, Gaylord

What we usually find most striking, especially against the stark-white backdrop of winter, are the patterns. A skim of snow over a plantation of red pines makes every tree stand out like the page of a pop-up book, their limbless trunks towering in perfect rows like marble pillars of Roman ruins.

Looking up, we see more patterns projected on the sometimes blue, but mostly gray, sky. The wind pushes the treetops around, creating a swirling visual effect that would be right at home on the walls and ceiling of a psychedelics-fueled 1960s dance party. We’re sober and we still find the scenes captivating.

Ivan, my forester friend, just earned his mycology certificate this fall, meaning he can collect and sell wild edible mushrooms. There’s not much to pick this time of year but the most tenacious fungi can still be found in interesting places and patterns. Being a mushroom guy, Ivan’s always on the hunt.

An Otsego County farm locked in heavy snow. Photo courtesy of Ivan Witt, Gaylord

Occasionally we’ll break out of the woods and onto a hillside where we get to see the land stretch out for miles. It’s here we take a break, refill our paint guns, and snap a photo of a postcard-perfect corner of Otsego County.

Chris Engle is an outdoorsman and freelance columnist who lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

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