Road Scholar Program: Day 2

Today began with more of Dana’s presentation “How Nature Works.” He emphasized the way that fire serves to maintain nature’s balance. This is a salient issue because the recent wildfires in Washington burned close by but were stopped before reaching downtown Winthrop.

According to Dana, Ponderosa pines have developed thick bark that protects them from fire. Brush fires burn quickly, and when they sweep through a forested area, they are gone before they can burn through the bark of a Ponderosa pine and harm the interior, living part of the tree. These fires burn low-lying vegetation that competes with trees for nutrients from the soil. When allowed to burn freely, these fires keep down the growth of vegetation on the forest floor. But when the fires are routinely extinguished, low vegetation builds up so that, when a fire does arise, there is plenty of fuel for it to burn through. This is why the recent fires were able to spread across the area so quickly.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Later, on a walk along the trails near the lodge, we saw the tall Ponderosa pines, with their distinctive orange bark:

Ponderosa pines
Ponderosa pines

Dana also took us to the nearby beaver pond. Despite the name, beavers no longer live there because the owners of the land now trap and relocate them when they show up. The reason, Dana told us, is that beavers would cut down all the aspens that surround the pond within about 10 years.

beaver pond

Although we didn’t get to see beavers, we did see both ducks and geese swimming on the pond.

The second part of today’s program was the introduction of “Northwest History in Story and Song” presented by Hank, a singer, historian, and storyteller. Hank discussed the European exploration of the Pacific Northwest. He punctuated his slide presentation with songs that capture the spirit of the people who manned the ships that came looking for the Northwest Passage. Such songs represent the oral history tradition that prevailed before most people could read and write. On the ships, the shantyman sang songs that provided the rhythm necessary for whatever job the men were performing: The more rapid the action, the more lively the song.

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