All the coniferous trees of the Park, with one notable exception - the Alpine Fir - bore a heavy crop of cones this season. Last season there were practically none.
Last year the local weather profits predicted a mild winter. There were few cones for the squirrels. It was a certain sign that the "Great Spirit" had planned a mild winter with little snow so that the squirrels would not need to store away huge caches of fir cones against the time of the "White Famine".
Sure enough the winter was unprecedented in is mildness. There was practically no snow in the lower valleys and the road was free of snow to Paradise Valley until nearly Christmas. The total snowfall was less than half the usual amount. "What did I tell you".
This season the bounteous crop - and the squirrels have not been laggards at the harvest. By Thanksgiving Dan breaking trail, with his string of thirteen Huskies wild with joy at the feel of the harness after six months of inaction, and snow four feet deep in Paradise Valley! "What did I tell you".
The local Naturalist explains that most of the firs bear cones only every second year and those that bear every year have their good and bad seasons just as fruit trees do. Last year was an "off year", thats all. Also our seasons fluctuate naturally, they always have, they always will. There has been less snow than usual for several seasons now; we are about due for another "good old fashioned winter" again.
But don't the Great Spirit, who since the beginning of time has showered Manna upon the earth or withheld His blessings as He saw fit, know what the seasons are in advance? We've no doubt that He does....but we're not so sure what the squirrels do.
Two weeks of wonderful Indian Summer weather late in October and early in November caused the cones to open and release their winged seeds to "replenish the earth" with trees. Should one seed to every one hundred square feet of surface germinate and grow into a tree our forests would be so dense that no sunlight would filter thru to the ground. Should one out of every ten of these survive to the age of one hundred years the cruisers of future generations would no doubt tally more than a hundred thousand board feet to the acre. It would be a wonderful forest of tall straight-boled giants.
But how does nature plant her trees? On the smooth surface of a well packed trail thru the forest the Naturalist counted an average of more than one hundred seeds to the square foot beneath the parent trees, and more than fifty to the square foot a hundred or more from the trees. Nature plants ten thousand seeds where only one or two can hope to grow.
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