Estivant Pines, the U.P.’s giant, ancient witnesses to history

The Estivant Pines are a group of white pine trees that stand in a protected area near Copper Harbor. Some are several hundred years old and reportedly reach heights over 130 feet high. (Tom Buchkoe photo)

By Deborah Frontiera
The tiny seedling near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula didn’t know it, but it began to grow between Columbus’ third and fourth voyages to the Caribbean. This seedling struggled for light and life on the forest floor, but it beat the odds and claimed its place on the hillside. By the time Shakespeare was born in 1564, the tree had grown quite tall and thick; many cones had already fallen from him.
Pines had stood in this area for thousands of years already, living, dying, falling, rotting back into the soil. Those generations of trees had seen Native peoples come and go during the summer, digging pits to extract the red metal, copper, perhaps as early as 1980 BCE. But those people stopped coming to the area, leaving the trees, plants, and numerous animals undisturbed for centuries.
The tree, and those around him, watched generations of deer, bear, wolves, chipmunks, squirrels and countless birds and other animals raise their families, gather nuts, eat the vegetation and prey upon each other in their efforts to survive. These dramatic acts repeated themselves season after season, century after century…

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