At 88-years-old, Hilda Weaver moves more spryly than many couch-bound 20-somethings, her makeshift walking stick keeping pace with her as she crosses a field of grass, weeds and wild strawberry plants and heads into the forest.
“It’s back this way,” she says with assuredness. The land, which includes Nile Lake behind her, is part of the Colville National Forest (CNF). At one time, over 600 acres belonged to Weaver’s parents, Fred and Joann Wendling, until the property was sold to CNF. Weaver grew up there and continues to venture out to the area to hike or fish on Nile Lake once, sometimes twice a week.
This visit is a somber one though.
Back in the trees, Weaver stops in front of a large, old growth Tamarack. At over 70- feet tall, it would take three adults holding hands to wrap around its girth.
What’s currently around its circumference though is what has Weaver concerned. A thick strip has been cut around the tree, with a large chunk missing from its side. Weaver noticed the damage last month on one of her outings, and she and a small group of friends removed a plastic wedge that had been driven into the tree’s trunk. Though not officially confirmed by CNF Law Enforcement, Weaver thinks it’s the result of tree poachers, or girdling.
“It’s a dirty shame,” says Weaver, looking at the tree. “It makes me want to stand here and cry. This tree was here before I was born; it was here when I was a little girl and it was here when I was a young woman---to think that someone came up here to kill it saddens me.”
*Read the full story on the front page of the 8-8-2012 edition of the S-E!