Headwaters and Homewaters: Can you love a tree? Maybe you can, if it’s named Boo.
November 24, 2016
Can you love a tree?
A tree named Boo.
Boo is a slightly past-prime grandfather cottonwood hugging the north bank of the Cache la Poudre River in Weld County.
Boo's trunk has a huge cavity, originally reminding me of the tree where Boo Radley hid trinkets in "To Kill a Mockingbird." It's a kind of silly but now oddly endearing name, which I use because I do talk to this tree. And I listen.
This tree, in its lifetime, has overseen incredible changes as a relatively untouched riparian zone rapidly evolved with farming, irrigation, the development of the entire Kodak operation, and in recent decades the creation of the Poudre Trail and Water Valley to the west.
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Boo has 150 years of experience staring at Mount Meeker and Longs Peak and the Mummies. Over a century of sponsoring all manner of avian, mammal and insect life. Has seen dang near anything imaginable float by on the river's current. Knows every season and weather condition intimately.
Boo is tough. The trunk and lower branches are encased in thick gray bark, deeply fissured with fabulously patterned swirls of woodgrain. Boo looks great from a hundred yards away or from close-up, just inches away.
I started prowling around this stretch of river about 35 years ago, and in those days Boo stood about 12 or 15 feet back from a ten-foot bank dropping down to the Poudre. That bank has receded during Boo's elderly years, and the floods of September 2013 eroded the bank right up to the trunk.
And so now, like a cutaway diagram in a plant biology textbook, you can really see Boo's roots. Probably almost 50 percent are now visible. The roots kind of look like the legs of a daddy longlegs spider, hoisting the entire tree above, still partially embedded in the bank.
Several roots run great distances — 45 feet or more — and they can be easily seen through the clear waters of the Poudre because of the way the bank and riverbed was scoured back in 2013 and continuously eroded since then.
You can see why, when standing-dead cottonwoods finally fall, they most-often snap off, leaving the trunk and roots intact.
What's gonna happen to Boo? All you have to do is look around at the neighboring trees, in various stages of decline and decay, to see some of the likely options.
Is it possible to love a tree?
Tom Adams is a retired educator living in Greeley and working as a fly-fishing guide in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. He can be reached at email@example.com.