Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Where the sun rarely shines

The weather kept me away from venturing very far into the woods for longer than I like. Actually, any time the weather keeps me from venturing into the woods is longer than I like, but even I have come to understand that heavy downpours don’t make for good hiking. That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, and I have many pairs of ruined shoes to attest to it.

So it had been a while since I’d been down in the valley between Nell’s Hill and Roundtop. The last time I was down before this past Sunday, spring was springing but not yet in full regalia. This long introduction is just my way of warning you to expect another day with a photo and a story about my walk.

The valley between these hills is narrow, and sun only fully penetrates for a brief spell in the afternoon, especially at the upper end of the valley, where I took this photo. A bit further to the west the valley opens up a bit where Nell’s Hill ends. There, the forest is sunnier throughout much of the afternoon. Mostly, though I only come down here in the afternoons simply because mornings and the dense forest don’t offer enough light for good photos. Even in this photo, taken nearly in mid-afternoon on a bright and sunny day, you can see that deep forest darkness.

No shadows dapple the woods down here, even when the sun is but a few weeks from reaching its highest point in the sky. The forest canopy is too thick and the valley too narrow for sunshine during most of the year. Some time, I’d like to keep track of just how few days of actual sunlight do penetrate into this upper valley. I’ve seen sun down here in March before the leaves come out, and I also think I’ve seen it briefly in late afternoon just after all the leaves have fallen. But I also know I’ve been down here in early winter, near the winter solstice on a sunny day, only to find this end of the woods as shadowless as a gray day.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Write about your walks to your heart's content, so far as I'm concerned. I love going along.

It would be interesting to correlate the vegetation in this valley against that in a another valley nearby—one still running on the same axis—but wider and thus receiving more sun, and see what difference less sunlight makes in the makeup of plants, particularly trees, wildflowers, ferns. If any. (I'm betting it does.)

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I have often thought the same thing myself--that the lack of sunlight in the narrow valley must change the forest vegetation in some subtle way. My own skill at botany survey is not good enough to quantify that, I'm afraid.

Carolyn H.