Friday 28 January 2022

The Power of Suggestion

    The photo above shows a giant Douglas Fir tree.  I am going to mention a giant Douglas Fir in this blog, but it is not the same tree, but it was similar in size.

    For about eight years while working for the BC Forest Service, I worked at a Timber Cruiser.  I, along with a helper, would go out into a virgin forest to survey and measure the types of trees growing in an area to be logged and record the quality of the trees.   A lot of our cruising jobs were done in areas not readily accessible by roads, so it meant using a snowmobile, snowshoes, hiking, or a helicopter to get to the area we were going to cruise.

    Once there we had to “run” a baseline through the area.  I would pick an identifiable point (like a turn in a creek) that could be seen on an air photo, then using a coordinate and a compass, we would travel through the area, measuring the distance using a “chain” which was a narrow, flat, metal tape of 50 meters).  We would ‘flag”  (hanging a plastic ribbon” on a tree) every 50 meters. 

    Every 50 or 100 meters, we would stop and make a “plot”, measuring the diameters of the trees, recording the species, noting any indications of possible rot by seeing if the tree had a forked top, a scare, conks (fungus growing on the trunk), etc.   I would use a clinometer to determine the height of some of the trees in the plot, then we would move on through the forest with the compass and chain. 

    One day Barb, the co-worker who was helping me, and I where doing a timber cruise through a forest on the shore of Kinbasket Lake (south of the Village of Valemount).  It was a nice day, no rain, mosquitoes, or Devil’s Club (tall spiny plant), so the cruising was easy.  Being out alone in a wilderness forest never really caused any fear, we were used to doing it, and never really ran into any trouble.

    On this particular day, we spotted a giant Douglas Fir among the other trees.  We walked over to it to admire the ancient tree and while doing so, noticed some deep scratch marks on the thick bark above our heads.  They were obviously made by a bear.  I didn’t really think much about it, I had seen bear scratchings before, but then Barb said, “This much be a ‘Bear Tree’; a ‘Grizzly Marking Tree’.”

    She went on to explain, “Grizzly bears have certain trees they return to periodically to scratch.”  

    I had never hear of that before, but the visions of a huge grizzly bear scratching on the tree began to embed itself into my brain.  Barb too, seemed to be thinking the same thing.  

    We continued on with the timber cruise, and even though the conditions in the forest hadn’t changed, the cruise was no longer “easy”.  Our brains kept returning to thoughts of the “Bear Tree” and the huge Grizzly that visited it.  We remained paranoid for the rest of the afternoon during our cruise and were both quite relieved when were done for the day and returned safely to the truck.

    Like I said, I was out cruising in pristine wilderness day after day and was never fearful, but after seeing the Bear Tree and hearing Barb tell about Grizzly bears, the image seeped in and established itself in my brain, leaving me spooked the rest of the afternoon, even though we saw no fresh signs of a bear, and the scratchings on the tree might have been done a year before.

    Once given a suggestion like that, it is hard to let it go.

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