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  1. #1

    Default Indian Trail Trees

    https://www.appalachianhistory.net/2...ail-trees.html

    I recall seeing a few trees on hiking trails that were bent, probably intentionally.

    Are there many of these on the AT?


  2. #2

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    Not any which were done by Indians 300 years ago!
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Not any which were done by Indians 300 years ago!
    There is one on my local nature center hiking trails. Although commonly associated with Native Americans, this one is situated right at a modern section corner survey marker, suggesting that early surveyors may have marked that one. However, checking with the county engineer's office, they know nothing about it.

  4. #4

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    They're just weather damaged trees. I've seen some in Scotland.
    The notion that people living in an environment for ten thousand years needed to bend trees to find their way around is just silly.
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," retired Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TJ aka Teej View Post
    They're just weather damaged trees. I've seen some in Scotland.
    The notion that people living in an environment for ten thousand years needed to bend trees to find their way around is just silly.
    In deed, they are a mystery, kinda like a series of large stones arranged in a circle. That could just be a random arrangement.
    All the pictures i see online and the one on my trail all have the same or similar architecture. . . no higher than a tall human, most with a ball of chunk sticking out the horizontal end and then more upward growth.

    Are they random? . . . or designed?

    Somebody do an experiment and try it keeping notes for 10-50 years. Let's see if it can be done.

    Any pictures of the Scotland trees?

    And to think we have gps on our phones when we got along fine without them.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by TJ aka Teej View Post
    They're just weather damaged trees. I've seen some in Scotland.
    The notion that people living in an environment for ten thousand years needed to bend trees to find their way around is just silly.
    Don’t you use road maps, and road signs, when going somewhere you haven’t been before. A marker tree is just a road sign. I doubt there are many, if any, Indian marker trees left.

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    Damn Russians!

  8. #8

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    Native Americans that did have special directional trees in the state of Maine were cut down by the loggers up there. Directors of Maine Parks are not aware of the Directional Trees established by Native Americans. Sad.

  9. #9

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    I doubt if any "marker trees" established by indigenous peoples over three hundred years ago would still be around given the multiple deforestations that have occurred in the eastern United States. In most any forest, new or old growth, there are a number of trees that are involved in traumatic events that cause them to grow and mature in odd shapes. Heavy snowfall on steep slopes or avalanche damaged, storms that break the tops off trees, neighboring trees that fall onto saplings, and human actions like "tying" a simple knot around a flask in a sapling the tree will eventually grow around. All or any of these can appear to be human made long after the tree which fell on the sapling has rotted into mulch, leaving little evidence of what happened.

    I tend to agree native peoples did not need markers to find their way around lands they occupied for many centuries. Though I do not rule out boundary markers of sorts between various groups of people, we would likely not see much evidence of these today in eastern woodlands that are 2nd or 3rd generations forests. Trees shaped by natural forces can be exceptionally interesting and topics of much conjecture however, as such they do make for creative campfire stories.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    I doubt if any "marker trees" established by indigenous peoples over three hundred years ago would still be around given the multiple deforestations that have occurred in the eastern United States. In most any forest, new or old growth, there are a number of trees that are involved in traumatic events that cause them to grow and mature in odd shapes. Heavy snowfall on steep slopes or avalanche damaged, storms that break the tops off trees, neighboring trees that fall onto saplings, and human actions like "tying" a simple knot around a flask in a sapling the tree will eventually grow around. All or any of these can appear to be human made long after the tree which fell on the sapling has rotted into mulch, leaving little evidence of what happened.

    I tend to agree native peoples did not need markers to find their way around lands they occupied for many centuries. Though I do not rule out boundary markers of sorts between various groups of people, we would likely not see much evidence of these today in eastern woodlands that are 2nd or 3rd generations forests. Trees shaped by natural forces can be exceptionally interesting and topics of much conjecture however, as such they do make for creative campfire stories.
    Europeans have been in the US for centuries, yet we put up road signs for people that haven’t traveled a particular route to find their way. The AT has white and blue blazes to help hikers find their way. Why wouldn’t Indians make some kind of markers?

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    I have seen several trees like this in southern Indiana but the trunks are not nearly large enough to indicate that they are 150 years old or older. Who is to say that early settlers may or may not have done the same thing?

  12. #12

  13. #13

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    That tree is younger than the house. If they were lost, why not just knock and ask directions?
    [QUOTE=zelph;2283088]
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," retired Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

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    Default

    IMG_7852.JPG

    This "Single Tree" sits at a section corner in northeast Ohio. One of two (modern)
    "Section Corner" posts can be seen at the lower right.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by PGH1NC View Post
    IMG_7852.JPG
    This "Single Tree" sits at a section corner in northeast Ohio. One of two (modern)
    "Section Corner" posts can be seen at the lower right.
    Actually, if expanded, both posts can be seen.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    Europeans have been in the US for centuries, yet we put up road signs for people that haven’t traveled a particular route to find their way. The AT has white and blue blazes to help hikers find their way. Why wouldn’t Indians make some kind of markers?
    Probably because tourism by foreign nationals was not real big within the indigenous peoples of North America 300+ years ago. Similar to towns that do not post many (if any) street signs, locals living there know how to get to the gas station, market, and which way to get out of town. Rewind the clock to 1500 ACE the network of trade routes between native populations was robust and existed for many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years would not have necessarily needed signage. Much as traveling local roads today, after a short time one would know North on highway X gets you to point A, south on road Y gets you to point B, etc. Long prior to europeans showing up, native populations had extensive networks of trails and waterways connecting people with trade and information from neighboring and distant peoples.

    If markers were used I suspect they would have been simple and easy to refresh as needed like blazes on trees, stacked stones, colored cloth or objects, or natural features. Why with many simple and easy different ways to mark trails would anyone resort to getting a small sapling to grow into odd shapes many years from the day its done doesn't make a lot of sense if directional guidance is necessary at the time. The analogy of white blazes on the AT is a good one as most anyone who has hiked the AT will affirm blazes are not all that necessary in most places given the established trail is easily followed, this would have also been true for native peoples. That said, I am sure people tied knots in saplings to create an interesting tree some 30-years in the future, much as people will tie things like whiskey flasks into saplings today for the same result.

    As an aside, exploration of the North American interior is rife with examples European explorers utilizing guides to travel the network of paths and waterways used by native peoples. These trails and waterway routes would help ensure explorers did not just stumble through forests and traipse through sacred sites like graveyards, reducing accidental trespass conflict potential and making travel into unexplored regions much easier.
    Last edited by Traveler; 03-17-2021 at 08:33.

  17. #17

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    Here in Texas they study them with a researched approach. Note in the article that only trees that can be determined to be 150 years old or older are considered. Because by the 1870's here in Texas the native Americans were forced into decline by European expansion. And look at the sizes of the trees that have been determined that they could have been marker trees.

    https://www.arborilogical.com/articl...-marker-trees/
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  18. #18

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    This subject got my curiosity going about how native peoples would have navigated. It seems that Native Americans made maps but not in a form that you might recognize as such today. There are examples of line diagrams showing river drainages, petroglyphs of vertical profiles of mountains ranges, as well as accounts of temporary maps drawn in the dirt and using sticks etc. Lewis and Clark recognized that Native Americans had no standardized distance measures (like the mile) and distances were measured in days or "sleeps" which could vary greatly depending on who was doing the traveling - men on a raiding party or a village on the move. They also used celestial navigation - the sun's direction, stars, etc.
    Navigation would be different for the Comanche who roamed on horseback from the flat and tree less plains of the Texas Panhandle all the way hundreds of miles south to Mexico versus woodland tribes on foot in the east.
    I also think that the precision of navigation needed to find a small water source or a flint outcropping in the vastness of the dry Texas Panhandle and high plains would be different from that needed in moving from one mountain valley to another or one river drainage to another. Think of the it as the difference between navigating form one city to another versus to a particular address a different city. If I get on IH45 in Houston and head north I will end up in Dallas, easy as pie no map needed. Going from Houston to a particular address in Dallas is going to require more precise navigation. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that in some situations markers, whether they be bent trees, cairns, blazes or whatever, would have been used.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  19. #19

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    I keep seeing "300 years" being thrown around, which would indeed make for a very old tree. However, the Trail of Tears didn't really begin in earnest in Georgia until about 180-185 years ago. A 200 year old tree still standing in the middle of the Nantahala National Forest isn't that hard to believe. FWIW, the stretch between Winding Stair Gap and Wayah Gap has a few remarkable examples of these trees. I don't know if they're "Indian trees" or if some white guy in the 1920's made them to mark where the AT was going to go, but I am convinced the ones I saw were manmade. Plenty of people smarter than me believe are able to distinguish between manmade and an "act of nature." https://www.mountainstewards.org/pro...ect_trees.html

  20. #20
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    American Indians, including the Cherokee and Creek, did mark routes, but not by bending trees. They used blazes and cuts (notches) on trees, and animal skins pegged to trees. You can still find routes in the U.S. called "Five Notch Road" and the like, from Georgia to New England.

    There is nothing in the historical record suggesting that southeastern American Indians bent trees. Since Bartram, Hawkins, Featherstonehaugh, and many other explorers, surveyors, soldiers, government emissaries and others left detailed accounts of what they saw, the omission is telling. Bartram, who left a careful and meticulous record of his extensive travels in the 1770s, makes no mention of trail trees.

    We do know that bent trees occur naturally and abundantly. I've seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, in my years of hiking and working in the woods. They are everywhere in Georgia. They usually come about when ice or a deadfall bends a tree. The old top, bent to the ground, loses its dominance and eventually rots away. A new leader, somewhere along the newly horizontal trunk, assumes dominances and begins growing skyward. Most (but not all) of the bent trees I've seen are less than 150 years old, so they don't date to the era of the Cherokee in Georgia. Not even close.

    American Indians wouldn't duplicate bent trees, as signage, since they occur so abundantly. To do so would have been confusing, so they instead relied upon means (cuts, notches, etc.) that aren't naturally duplicated by nature.

    Many tree species only have life spans of 100 to 150 years. But some, like white oak, live for 500 years or more. So a 400-year-old bent white oak certainly dates to the Cherokee era. I see many bent white oaks, most less than 150 years old but some older. All of them occurred naturally (barring the occasional practice of hunters or Boy Scouts bending and sitting on a sapling to keep their fannies off the wet ground).

    People love the idea that bent trees are of American Indian origin. This misconception has been around for 170 years and probably much longer. People look at them an think, "Wow, that's not natural." So they draw conclusions. But they are natural. Yet, because people love the idea, they are quick to pick it up and loathe to surrender it. There is a website devoted to trail trees, maintained by well-meaning folks who believe passionately that the American Indians did bend them. They are well-meaning but utterly, conclusively wrong.

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