Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Famous and Infamous Larch Tree

Famous Alpine Larch
From a distance, in the Fall season, the Alpine Larch present a beautiful golden colour. The closer we get the more dynamic the wooly hair on its contorted branches become. The needles grow on all four sides of the branch and even though it's categorized as an evergreen, it doesn’t remain that way. I’ve learnt to love this tree. And, I’ve also discovered that it was used in a very notorious way.

We drive our Ural motorbike north on Granby Road this cool October morning. We leave the hub of the small town of Grand Forks behind us. The first thing we encountered is a herd of California Big Horn sheep. Their large eyes follow the slow pace of our vehicle and their demeanor seems nonchalant about our coming upon them. The large ram places himself between us and his harem. We motor past them.  

California Big Horn Sheep

The cloud-filled sky is our canopy for the next twenty-four kilometers. We come across a grove of Alpine Larch and park the bike on a dirt road. From there we walk a few hundred meters to get a close look at the pines. Here, Frank tells me a story of the Larch Tree having been grown in Germany in the shape of a swastika.

“Back before the Second World War, around 1938 or '39, some Larch trees were planted in a forest in Germany to celebrate Hitler’s birthday either by the Hitler Youth or by the forest warden. It covered at least thirty-six meters so it’s likely it was more than one person doing it. Anyway, you could only see it from the air and when some forestry people were working in the area they spotted the trees shaped like a swastika,” Frank says.

“What about now?” I say.

courtesy of  atlasobscura.com
“Since about 1992, the forest Larch trees have been removed and solid evergreen trees have been planted,” Frank says. “And, in 1972, American soldiers found another grove of golden larches planted in the shape of swastika near a town called Hesse.”

I imagine a bloom of golden Alpine Larches planted against the stark green of their evergreen family members. It likely looked spectacular.

We motor on and stop at the fork in the road where Highway 3 heads north to the next small town of Greenwood. In a large flat field stands a herd of horses. They are a curious bunch and stroll casually to the fence line when they see us.

Curious herd of horses

Directly across from them is a linear patch of my new favourite tree.

Alpine Larch

Granby Road changes to North Fork Road and traces the Kettle River all the way back to Grand Forks. We make our way to our house and pet-sit location, step inside and welcome the warmth.

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