I slip into my snow gear in the back of the car while Rufus layers up on the side of the road to hike around the Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area. I place my palm against the trunk of an old pine among the sandstone cliffs. In ecology, a “relict” is a species or community living in an environment that has changed from that which is typical for it. In common language a “relict” is a remnant, survivor, or widow. These widows have endured since the last glacier receded some 12,000 years ago. “As the climate warmed prairie and oak woodlands replaced the pine and today, remnant pine forests remain only on steep slopes and rocky cliffs in the Driftless Area. These rocky outcrops protected the pine remnants from fire and allowed the pines to reach old-growth status” (From DNR website). To behold a survivor, a tree that has stood the test of time, glacier, fire, and multitudes of change inspires reverence for such a life.


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