Ninemile Lake Campground
Beyond the overlook, the trail descends to the intersection that begins the circuit portion of the hike. From there the trail continues to descend into the narrow valley seen from the overlook. As you walk down the slope of the ridge, notice the change in the forest makeup from predominately maple to mostly white birch and balsam. On the valley floor, a small stream flows into a beaver pond on the right side of the trail. On the other side of the bridge, the trail once again climbs a ridge covered with large white birches and maples.
The white birches on this second ridge provide evidence that a catastrophic disturbance occurred long ago. The presence of large, multiple trunks growing from a single stump is an indication that fire or logging almost destroyed the tree. However, from the stump and root system, slender saplings sprouted and the tree began to grow again. In a way, the white birch is the forest’s equivalent of the Hydra, a creature of mythology that was nearly impossible to kill; when one of its heads was cut off, two more would grow back in its place.
In the case of this forest, it is most likely that logging was the big event. Additional evidence that the cause might have been fire, would be the presence of a heavy fire scar on the uphill side of the remaining stump. As twigs and branches fall and wind and water slowly move them downhill, they tend to accumulate against the uphill sides of trees. When fire sweeps across the forest floor, the small piles of tinder burn hotter and longer than the litter on the other sides of the trees, leaving heavier, blacker scars on the uphill sides.
The stroll along this second ridge is much like a walk through a park. The understory is open and it is possible to see long distances through the trees. Contrast this with the forest you pass through later after the trail has descended from the ridge and the undergrowth is dense. The difference is in the canopy. On the ridge, the canopy is well developed and it blocks much of the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. In the later case, however, there are few large trees, and the canopy is almost nonexistent. More light reaches the ground and a dense understory is the result.
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