Trees and Wax

center in light snowThe parking lot lights at Crossroads at Big Creek are set to come on at 4:15 and on cloudy days, that isn’t even early enough. The hours of daylight have certainly decreased. Depressing! but not frightening. We know that after the winter solstice, the days will start getting longer. Knowledge of astronomy is useful.
Primitive people did not  know about axial tilt and the progression of seasons. Things would be going relatively well for them……food was plentiful and it was warm. But then, plants began to die, and temperatures dropped, and scariest of all, the days started to get shorter. It must have seemed to them that the world was coming to an end.
Because a few plants—evergreens, holly, and mistletoe—did not die in the fall, early Northern Europeans believed that these plants were magic with the power over darkness. Perhaps if they brought these magical plants into their caves and hovels, the Sun would come back.
So, at this time of year, the people cut trees and brought them inside and when they did—sure enough, slowly but surely, the days started to get longer and each year, the world eventually became green once more.
We still bring  evergreens  inside this time of year. Old habits are hard to break.

 Evergreens trees thrive throughout the world,  but the tree species we use for Christmas trees usually grow in places that have long, cold winter or that have poor soil…. like, for example,  Door County. 
But don’t you wonder why spruce, fir and pine trees don’t break under the weight of snow? They are tapered –Christmas tree shaped.    Perhaps  you have  noticed that the branches a Christmas tree tilt at about the same angle as a playground slide. When snow slips off the needles, it slides down like a kid at a playground.  Very heavy snow makes the branches dip, causing tiny avalanches.
 I’m  dating myself, I remember that in my youth, when we purchased a loaf of bread, the wrapper was made of waxed paper. After the bread was gone, my sisters and I would take the wrapper the park and sit on it as we slid down a slide. The wax from the bread wrapper would make the slide really slick.    
It turns out evegreen needles have a waxy coatings which  keeps the needles from drying out. Dry needles are brown, but moist needles stay green. So in a way, pines, spruce and fir are green because their wax.  Besides that, waxy coating make evergreen needles really slick. Snow which lands on the needles often slips right off. Very  wet heavy snow makes the branches dip, causing tiny avalanches.

Using the proceeds from the Crossroads Trail Run, a grant from the Raibrook Foundation, and gifts from the estate of Ray Stonecipher and the Silent Sports Coalition, Crossroads is buying new waxless  for the SKI FOR FREE program, But skiers and snowboarders still use wax. The practice can be traced to the California Gold Rush when apparently, ski racing was a popular pastime. The miners learned that if they smeared vegetable or whale oil on their skis, they could ski faster.  But under some snow conditions, melting candle wax onto the the bottoms of skis worked even better than oil.  Over the years, special waxes — some to improve grip on the snow and others to improve glide–have been developed  so skis will slip through the snow much like snows slips off the needles of evergreens.  
On Saturday, December 5, from 9:00-11:00 the Silent Sports Coalition will hold a Wax Clinic at the Maintenance Building at Crossroads. All who want to learn more about waxing skis are invited to this educational program between 9:00 and 11:00 in the Maintenance Building at Crossroads.
The first Sunday of December, Crossroads will sponsor our traditional “Hike to the Evergreen Forest” , which is just a nature hike during which participants will learn to identify the native (and some introduced species) of evergreen trees at in our preserve. Then, at 2:00, in the Collins Learning Center, the free lecture: Know the Evergreens” will be offered in the lecture hall of the Collins Learning Center.
Once we have enough  snow to groom our trails, Crossroads will sponsor SKI FOR FREE. On Tuesday, December 8, a training session for SKI FOR FREE volunteers will be offered in the Collins Learning Center. Anyone who would like to volunteer for this activity should try to attend this training session.  
Saturday, December 5
9:00-11:00 Wax Clinic
Members of the Silent Sports Coalition will present a workshop on waxing skies. The program is free and open the public. Meet in the Maintenance Building at Crossroads.
Sunday, December 6
1:00 Hike to the Evergreen Forest
Join the naturalist for a nature hike during which participants will learn to identify the native (and some introduced species) of evergreen trees at in our preserve.Free and open to the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center.
2:00 Lecture: Know the Evergreens
This free lecture will help participants learn to recognize the native (and a few introduced) species of the evergreens that grow in Door County. Lecture Hall of the Collins Learning Center.

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