Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bent Trees of Glen Cove . . .

We shall not cease from exploration,

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

- T.S. Eliot

What began as a simple question posted on Facebook has somehow morphed into a passionate search for answers, plenty of *OMG* moments, and the beginning of a new quest.

"Does anyone know the true history of the "bent trees" on the way to Glen Cove?"

It was Coni Craig's simple question that ultimately lead me to several research projects involved with the identification of "Trail Trees" throughout the United States.

While most participating in these projects presume that the Trail Trees were made and used by the Native Americans, that doesn't seem to be the question that the skeptics raise. Their question is more like "What makes you think they're man-made? We think they're just a variant of nature."

So what does make the researchers think these trees were shaped by human beings rather than Mother Nature?

Intuition: Almost everyone involved in these projects are people who came upon the trees in their wanderings in the woods and thought they were very "different." They intuitively concluded that they were man-made. A few of the researchers are serious "tree watchers." They concluded the trees just don't "look natural."

Uniformity: All were surprised at how similar the examples are, despite being found in different locations.

Morphology: The trees have a number of characteristic features that suggest man-made "wounds." The bumps, particularly the ones that seem to be aligned, the characteristic "mouths" or "noses," and some have those striking horizontal indentations that look like "tie-downs" were used to shape the trees.
Shape: The trees typically have a right angle bend in the trunk [with no evidence of a break to explain it] - something just not seen in other trees.
Density: The trees are often found in relatively close proximity with one another, in clumps in a few places, or in lines in others.
Proximity: The trees are all found in areas known to be inhabited by earlier cultures of people. In the places where they've been mapped like North Georgia, they seem to connect known settlements or in Arkansas where they cluster in the Cherokee Lands.

Age: While the scientific dating of these trees has been spotty, they are usually quite old, much older than they look.

So how do the *bent trees* of Drummond Island figure into all of this?

One of my passions is preserving the rich historical tapestry of the Upper Peninsula. Wouldn't it be great if we could engage as many people as possible to locate, map and submit the trees to the geographic database to see if they do mark routes that are clear, and correlate their distribution with earlier settlements?

If, like me, you are interested in learning more about *Trail Trees* and/or documenting the *Bent Trees* of Drummond Island - here are a few resources to check out:

Indian Trail Tree

Witness Trees

Mountain Stewards 

Great Lakes Trail Tree Society

Go where there is no path and leave a trail.
 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


mellow kitty said...

The trees are purposely made that way. The "elbow" points toward water. That is how Native Americans marked water. Anytime you see one, follow it and you will run into water everytime.

Candis Collick said...

Mellow Kitty -

Thanks so much for writing! I have just recently become fasinated by this subject. A friend of mine is working with me on *mapping* the Bent Trees on Drummond Island. So far they are not leading to water but do seem to be marking an area of known burial mounds.

What I have discovered in other reading is that trail trees are trees that were modified by the American Aboriginal peoples in order to signify trails, campsites, or special locations (water supply, food, safety, etc.). As you already have discovered yourself - they were saplings that were given a unique bend, and act as markers or guides to some point. Not necessarily water in all cases.

The trail trees in GA seem to mark a trail connecting long gone known villages.

I am excited about getting the Drummond *trail trees* in the national database. Also thinking about publishing our find and setting up the trail they mark as a hiking path. Possibliy getting it recognized as a National Historic Site . . .

Where are you located? Do you have info on trail trees you have discovered or witnessed? Would love to hear more about them from you.

Enjoy your day! Candis