THE SYLVAN PATH by Gary Ferguson


A Journey Through America's Forests
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 Woodland interludes--quick and bright, dazzling amid the bosky gloom--from a former forest-service ranger (Spirits of the Wild: The World's Great Nature Tales, 1996). Ferguson grew up around trees: papaws and osage orange, tamarack, lodgepole, and maple. He climbed their trunks, perched for hours on their limbs, rapt in their leafy glory. But by his mid-30s, the woods had retreated from his life. Wanting to recapture their myth-giving power, he goes in search of ancient forests. His first stop is Maine, where he helps build a Penobscot wigwam out of paper birch, tramps through forests carpeted with club moss and twinflower, rubs shoulders with the inmates of a fancy back-of-beyond fishing camp, and communes with the ghosts of Robert Frost and Thomas Cole. Pointing south, he slips into the wooded precincts of Tennessee, all magnolia, tulip, and sweet gum, and makes the acquaintance of moonshiners and marijuana growers. Over in southern Indiana, his native turf, he immerses himself once again in the familiar oaks and maples, rues the plowing of hedgerows to make way for condominiums, then heads north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where he listens to loggers recollecting the felling of the great northern coniferous forest. He explores the dark, sweet stands of evergreen in Minnesota, and watches wolves running through a spruce forest. He stops in tree-poor North Dakota, then goes home to Montana, its sparse beauty a far cry from the sight of autumn in New England or spring coming to the forests along the Blue Ridge mountains. Nonetheless, Ferguson is happy there. People as well as trees fill this record of his journey: guides and trappers, urban refugees, and some plain old locals, folks who carry with them a ``precious, enviable sense of place.'' Ferguson emerges a new man, pleased to know that sap still runs in his veins. Throughout, the writing is so powerful that it's hard not to share the author's delight to be back in the woods.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15129-1
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997


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