By Walter Mow
The very terminology Tree Line engenders visions of stunted trees, gnarled and twisted with shrub like vegetation in a world of shattered rock, poor and scant soils and on cloudless days, dazzling blue skies, brilliant sunshine and long vistas.
This near treeless land is scattered in hop scotch fashion across states from Maine to California.
The Appalachian Mountain chain hosts tree line areas on Mt. Katahdin located in Baxter State Park in Maine; Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the higher elevations of the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
The Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin have large expanses of this treeless terrain (too numerous to identify individually) stretching north to south from Glacier National Park in Montana to the mountains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and east to west from Wyoming to Idaho and Nevada.
Continuing west, from the Rockies to the Cascade Range in the northern tier states of Montana, Idaho and Washington, numerous highlands are at and above the tree line. The spine of the Cascade Range and its eventual connection to the Sierra Nevada Range complete the scope of these cold windswept areas of our nation.
Many of these areas were heavily glaciated in the Earth’s recent geologic past. They hold flora and fauna that developed during the last ice age. Many of the plants that survive in this near arctic environment achieve great age while some plants may take three years to be able to produce a flower. That life exists in these extreme conditions is miraculous and fortifies its right to exist.
Tree line elevations vary but generally are lower the further north you venture. Due to the global weather track, some of the treeless areas of the northeastern US are considerably lower in elevation than the mountains of the west. Latitude, weather and altitude are the main factors that determine tree line.
I am constantly amazed at the diversity that our planet affords us. Its combination of flora, fauna and terrain make for a dynamic and living planet that life, that miracle that only God can explain something to marvel at, study and enjoy. After all, nature is God’s creation…