Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Lovely Aspen Tree

We've been back from Colorado for over a week now, but I still have a vivid image of those gorgeous Aspen trees shimmering in the breeze and blowing in the wind, creating a faint rustling sound.   As an East Coaster I had never really heard of that particular tree, but I had heard of the chi-chi ski town of Aspen.  After taking my first good look at some Aspen trees, I realized this is why Aspen is called "Aspen!"  (I'm quick there!)  No wonder why movie stars buy second (or third) homes there.  If I had that kind of pocket change, I probably would, too!

Here is a row of Aspens in the Betty Ford Alpine Park in Vail with Vail Mountain in the background.

Here is a whole forest of Aspens on the outskirts of Aspen.  This was perhaps my favorite sight from the entire trip, and there was steep competition.

Here are some smaller Aspens, also at the Betty Ford Alpine Park.

We saw these Aspens on an incredible jeep tour we took in the Vail area.  (Yes, it's is a typical touristy activity to do in Colorado, but we were tourists in Colorado after all!)  So do you see where the bark has been scratched right off?  That is where a bear sharpened his claws.  Yes!   That is one big paw, huh?

Apparently Aspens have some of the softest wood to be found, so they make for great scratching posts.  Plus its bark is more of a loose skin, so it's easy to scratch since it is not so firmly attached to the tree itself.  Here's a little trivia for you!  Since the wood is so soft and doesn't splinter much, it is the type used in manufacturing toothpicks and tongue depressors!

Aspens resemble birch trees quite a bit, but apparently aren't at all related.  Here is a crazy fact for you via our jeep driver.  Aspens appear to be white, but in reality are a light green color.  The tree creates its own white powder that is covers the tree, creating the white effect.  It acts a sun protectant with an SPF for 40!  You can rub your hands on the tree and see the white powdery film on your hands.  It's wild!  Sam was also impressed, shouting, "Free sunscreen!"  It is also supposed to be an effective mosquito repellent!  God sure knew what He was doing when He created the Aspen!

We definitely noticed that Aspens appears in groups.  It was quite rare to see one standing alone amongst other trees.  According to our guide, all Aspens that grow in a particular area are actually ONE organism, connected by roots.  Amazing!  I'd never heard of such a concept in trees, but it makes sense when you think about it and probably helps them survive through the long harsh Colorado winter.

Speaking of the snowy Colorado winter, Aspens have another ingenious defensive feature -- the base of the tree does not have the same "skin" as everywhere else on the tree.  Instead it is covered in traditional rough, tough, dark bark -- to protect the tree from the freezing cold snowdrifts.  (Sorry, no picture of that!)

Hail to the Aspen, one amazing tree!


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