Posts Tagged ‘Big Tree’

The “Big Tree” on Texas’s Goose Island is one of the world’s largest live oak trees. It was considered to be Texas’ largest until a bigger one was found in Brazoria County, where I lived for 15 years. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.” – Aldo Leopold

About Trees…and Life

I’m rereading Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, a thoughtful philosopher and naturalist who wrote about the environment. It’s well worth rereading, and I do so every few years.

A first edition cover of Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Aldo wrote that he loved all trees, but that he was in love with pines. I also love all trees so naturally his words got me asking myself what was my favorite tree. It only took me a second to conclude that it was a live oak.

While it can’t compare to the giant redwoods, it does get mighty big. If it lives long enough, its winding, crooked branches can be wider than the trees height. It stays green in winter, and I often see it with graceful lengths of moss hanging from its limbs.

I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1961, when Hurricane Carla came roaring through. It was two weeks after it struck before we evacuees were allowed back to our homes. Fortunately, ours, inland a bit in the town of Lake Jackson, only had a few roof shingles missing.

What was missing, however, was all of the moss from the live oak trees. The hurricane blew the moss off all the trees, taking with it the landscapes southern charm.          Now, here are a few more of Aldo Leopold’s quotes that make me think:

           “Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays.”
The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: ‘What good is it?”

  “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” — said Aldo Leopold, about his book.

Sand County Almanac, which has had many printings, was first published in 1949, a year after Leopold’s death at the age of 61.

          Bean Pat: Books of the 1970s https://lithub.com/a-century-of-reading-the-10-books-that-defined-the-1970s/

Now available on Amazon

Of the top 10, I had read seven, and many of the others as well. What about you?

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park on Texas' Gulf Coast. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines. — Henry David Thoreau

Travels With Maggie

One of my favorite places to escape for a few days when I’m visiting my son on the Texas Gulf Coast is Goose Island State Park, where I always take time to visit “The Big Tree.”

She a fat old broad, more than a 1,000 years old. Her special status is a result of her massive girth – 35-foot trunk circumference with a 90-foot crown – than her 45 foot height. Many live oaks are taller. It’s the combination, note the tree experts, that won her the title, State Champion Coastal Live Oak, in 1969.

Trees fascinate me. This is evident when I take a trip down memory lane with my photos, I find I’ve captured many of their images with my camera

You now have proof. Pat Bean is a tree hugger. This tree grows in Custer State Park in South Dakota. -- Photo taken by a fellow traveler, right after I took her picture hugging the same tree.

I see trees as living art. In summer, their green coolness is a Monet painting; in autumn their bright purple, red, orange and yellow leaves belong on a Gauguin canvas, and in winter, their stark dark and light pattern of limbs remind me of an Escher.

I even have several photos of me with my arms around a tree that I asked the occasional travel companion to snap. While I might be a bit ashamed to be a “Survivor” fan (yesterday’s blog), I take great pride in saying I’m a tree hugger.

Just one problem, Goose Island’s Big Tree is too big for me to hug properly.

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Golden-cheeked warbler ... Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


Day Two

“I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.” — Emily Dickinson

I was picked up at my camp site in Garner State Park by Lee Haile before the sun had cleared the horizon. Lee, a local nature guide, musician and storyteller, was going to help me look for two endangered birds, the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.

For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a passionate birder – and these two rare species were not yet on my life list. I had chosen this activity as my birthday present to myself this year. While a bit more sedate than jumping out of an airplane, which I did last year to celebrate turning a year older, it was just as adrenaline pumping to this birder’s heart.

Black-capped vireo

The bird search took us 30 miles away to Lost Maples State Nature Area, a Texas park renown for its fall foilage and as one of the few places the golden-cheeked and black-capped can be found.

The day started out slow, with the golden-cheeked staying out of sight in its usual haunt, a small canyon about a mile hike from the day use parking area. It didn’t help that the maples, black cherry and mesquite trees in the park were all springtime lush and green. It only takes one leaf, I well knew, to hide a bird from view.

“Let’s go up the hill and look for the vireo,” Lee said.

The hill was one of the limestone ridges in the Edwards Plateau, and the climb, although only a half mile, was rough and the going – well my going – was slow. That was OK. Lee kept up a constant chatter about nature’s wonders as we climbed. He pointed out evidence that the area had once been a sea bed and talked constantly about the plants along the way.

I learned, among many other things, that the blossom of the mountain laurel smelled like grape Cool-Aid and that yellow wood sorrel had a tangy lemon taste. Yes, I tasted it.

Evidence of the Edwards Plateau's past life as an ocean bed.

On the top, where a cooling breeze evaporated the sweat accumulated on my neck during the climb, we heard the black-capped vireo singing almost immediately. It took another hour before I finally got a glimpse of it very low to the ground in thick foilage beneath some juniper trees. Although my viewing was short, it was adequate for me to catch the necessary field marks that would allow me to definitely make an identification.

I was elated. So was Lee. While there are no guarantees in birding, no guide wants to disappoint their client.

On the way back down, we met two couples, one from Washington and one from New York, who were also after the black-capped vireo. Lee told them where to find it, and we later learned that both had seen a pair of the males singing out in the open.

I, admittedly, was a bit envious, but singing in the open was how I viewed my first golden-cheeked warbler. It took us off only about 10 minutes to spot it once we were down from the ridge. It stayed in place after spotted and I got to watch its not-a-plain-Jane magnificence for as long as I wanted.

Lee said it was only his second time to catch both birds on the same day.

By the time we got back to our vehicle, both our stomachs were rumbling. Lee suggested the Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia, a small town of just over 200. It was home town cooking, plain but good. The exception was the Lemon Meringue Pie, which was my idea of ambrosia, not too sweet and not too tart. Unfortunately I ordered the Chocolate Meringue, which was on the runny side. Lee took pity on me and shared his lemon delight.

Me and the Big Tree ... photo by Lee Haile

If the day had ended right here, I would have been a happy camper. Instead, we explored the area for another two hours. Lee showed me the Big Tree, a live oak that once actually held the title, and we turned up two more lifers for me, the hooded oriole and the Bell’s vireos. Both are fairly common birds but ones that had up until this day eluded me.

I walked Maggie around the park on getting to my camp site – and gave her extra treats. She was happy and so was I. It had been a most perfect birthday.

Birds for the day: Eastern bluebird, indigo bunting, crested caracara, northern cardinal, Carolina chickadee, brown-headed cowbird, mourning dove, white-winged dove, ash-throated flycatcher, scissor-tailed flycatcher, vermilion flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, great-tailed grackle, greater white-fronted goose, northern Harrier, Cooper’s hawk, red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, ruby-throated hummingbird, blue jay (picking on a barred owl), eastern kingbird, western kingbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, purple martin, northern mockingbird, hooded oriole, osprey, barred owl, black phoebe, eastern phoebe, common raven, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, lark sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, vesper sparrow, European starling, barn swallow, cliff swallow, summer tanager, black-crested titmouse, tufted titmouse, wild turkey, Bell’s vireo, black-capped vireo, white-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, black vulture, turkey vulture, golden-cheeked warbler, Nashville warbler, golden-fronted woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, Bewick’s wren.

Photos and prose copyrighted by Pat Bean. Do not use without permission.

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