Exploring the Mystery of the Aspen Grove

Early July 2020

It’s a first day of our retreat in The White Mountains of Arizona…”Let’s go for a walk, not too far. This thin air is 10000, feet above sea level. First day pushes can make a person quite ill.”
Curiosity beckons. Across the vast field bordering our chosen campsite, is a dark band across the bottom of the white bark trunks of a grove of white aspen. It is a dark line and we want to investigate its origin. What is causing such a consistent line?

We are in an alpine wilderness. We’re away from most anybody. We journeyed the rough little route that crosses another similar open space, then through a gate. Eventually, the Forest Service road turned into a 4×4 pile of chunky volcanic rock, where few will venture. Perhaps a fellow hiker, but more likely we’d be found by an errant quad or ATV and just a couple of times in a day. This is slightly further away from that shabby trail. We have camped in place with a vast sense of freedom.

Toe shoes on, we grab a couple of cameras and a bottle of water. We high step carefully, not to stub into the lichen covered volcanic rock that is littering the whole of it all. These and the grasses nurture the small plants, which are ready to flower when the now very tardy monsoon rains begin. I glance out at the phenomena, again. It occurs to me as I turn to DF, “Perhaps a snow line. Up here, snow drifts go high.” Perhaps that is the line where the snows buried the trees. It is such a consistent line, like a dirty bathtub ring.
As we arrive, we notice a collection of black spots and nicks in the aspen’ …

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