Monday, March 12, 2012

A Forest Restored (sort of)

Angelica Creek in Nolde Forest
Kali and I are actively house hunting in preparation for retirement in about six years.  Because we live in a residence that is a perquisite of my position, when I retire we will have to move, and now may be a perfect time to buy a house.  We're strongly considering New Mexico and Colorado, but also thought we ought to investigate Charlottesville, Virginia (watch for an upcoming blog post) as well as some areas near our current abode in southeastern Pennsylvania.  So, yesterday, we ventured about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia into the exurbs to look over small municipalities that would have some character, be walkable, and provide a sense of community.

Long and short: we didn't find any, and Charlottesville, Virginia is looking better and better.

After we gave up on the town hunt, we drove a bit further west to the city of Reading.  Just south of town, we hiked at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center.  Nolde Forest is the former estate of German immigrant Jacob Nolde, a hosiery baron who bought 665 acres in the early 1900s.  When he purchased the land, it had been completely deforested (with the exception of a single huge white pine tree) by timbering and charcoal-making operations in Reading.

Nolde hired an Austrian forester by the name of Kohout to help him design and plant a "luxury forest" of spruces, firs, and pines.  Many native hardwoods also volunteered on the property.  Jacob's son Hans subsequently built a beautiful Tudor-style stone mansion for his family on a topographic high point in the re-growing forest.

The state bought the property in the late 1960s to create an environmental education center, and to provide a passive recreational facility for the residents of Reading.
Hans Nolde's mansion, now administrative offices

Last season's tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) seeds clinging to a branch fallen from the canopy

The 11 miles of trails threading through Nolde Forest are the remnants of logger's trails or trails that Jacob Nolde created to facilitate reforestation.  In general, the trails are wide, well maintained, dry, and ascend slopes gradually.
Kali and I were both struck by the incredible volume of woody debris in the woods and along the trails throughout the entire park.  It looked like a windstorm had shorn the tops from most of the trees and dumped the branches alongside the trails.  I could understand this happening if such a storm had passed through in one location, or in less sheltered parts of the woods, but all of the trails throughout were bordered by large windrows of downed woody debris.  What gives...?

The city of Reading, about 5 miles distant
We walked five miles at Nolde.  The day was perfect for a hike (cloudless skies, sunny, and temperatures in the mid-60s F).  Apparently a lot of other people thought so, too, because the parking lot was full to overflowing.


Carolyn H said...

Scott: the debris you found at Nolde Forest, which is a really nice spot, looks like what I see all around my forest right now. The leftovers from "Snowtober" really left a path of destruction. My driveway looks as though it's bordered by a "hedge" of dead limbs.

Scott said...

Carolyn: You definitely could be "right on the money there." It's just that there's so much material!