Aspen Markings – #3

As the most widely distributed tree in North America, groves of aspen trees form the backdrop of many Western landscapes.  The natural black patterns decorating pure white trunks add to their appeal and make for great photographs, like the one below.


Except; you might notice something slightly out of place in that picture. People often cannot resist the temptation to leave their own mark on such a conveniently blank canvas, and if you look closer you may see a message from long ago.



The proximity of this particular grove of aspen (actually a single clone) at the edge of a large mountain meadow and near a mountain pass probably made it a prime location for a sheep camp, and etching names and pictures was often a way to alleviate a little evening boredom in an age before smart phones.

A highly stylized example of tree art from another nearby trunk may remind you of certain masked crusader, famous for carving his own mark into nearby objects.


Anthropologists who study arborglyphs can often identify what groups of people left these carvings by their unique style or subject matter.  We can learn a little more ourselves by looking for names and dates, as revealed on two more trees nearby.



While it’s difficult to think about what life was like for these tree-carvers over 80 years ago, we can still identify with their desire to leave their mark in the world.  We might stick to taking photos, though.

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