30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Worth the 10.35 ounces in my pack,
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This review is from: Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape (Paperback)
I liked the two other books I have by Tom Wessels (Reading the Forested Landscape; The Granite Landscape) and thought I would try this one. It's a small book but the coated paper adds weight for the 160 pages. The weight is not a major issue for me but probably would be for long-distance hikers. There are 64 single page photos and 19 photos across 2 facing pages. Photo quality is just fine to very good in nearly all cases. Only two photos didn't work well for me - 4A2 Plow trough adjacent to stone wall, where the break in slope you're supposed to notice unfortunately falls directly in the gutter between the two facing pages, and 5A1 Subtly pillowed and cradled ground - it just looked like pretty flat and featureless ground in this photo, covered with pine needles and oak leaves. It is not easy to photograph subtle landscape features in forest light and shade, so to have issues with only 2 photos in over 80 is not strong criticism. An earlier reviewer was offended by the observation that a flat-topped stump suggests the area was logged. That's a real example certainly, and while there are also more subtle points raised, focusing on them misses the main value of the book to me. It is rare that someone with Tom Wessel's experience in landscape interpretation (or anything else) provides people without that background with the opportunity to participate in his thought process, by sharing publicly what observations he thinks are important, and what his decision-tree logic looks like as he thinks his way through the evidence to answer such questions as what happened, in what order, and when, in an area that is now forest. The heart of the book is in a 7-page section at the beginning, outlining observations/evidence related to Agriculture; Old Growth and Wind; and Logging and Fire evidence. The photographs and brief text are designed to clarify points made in the decision tree statements. You don't need a PhD in forest ecology to use this book, and if you had one you might find it overly simple but as a geologist, it works for me. I found myself saying "aha" as I looked through the photos - thinking of one example after another that I've seen in New England woods over the past 50+ years. His observations about sheep's wool being thick enough to keep them from feeling the barbs in barbed wire fences even helped explain why our bus driver in southern Iceland had to pull over one afternoon a few summers ago and go running back up the road, to untangle a sheep that was caught halfway through the fence along the highway.
I think it's a deceptively simple book, and one that I'm glad to have. I recently met someone who teaches at an environmental school in Jackson Hole, who had studied with Tom Wessels. She confirmed my sense that he would be a great person to spend time in the field with. Until that ever happens, the Forest Forensics book will have to stand in.