Thong Tree? Marker Tree? Trail tree? These oddly-shaped curiosities of history past can be found all over the United States; however few people have seriously studied them. Trail trees were made by bending young saplings, white oak where possible, and tying them down with a leather thong, or grape vine. Eventually the tree would grow in the bent form, pointing in the direction of something important. Many times they pointed to water sources, but other points of importance included shelter, medicinal herbs, grave sites, other encampments, etc.
Laura Hubler of Missouri studied these peculiar-looking trees back in the 1950’s. In 1997 Elaine Jorgen of Ellijay, Georgia wrote a short book on the subject that led many across the nation to consider this part of tribal culture that had been hidden for years. Then in March of 2007 the Mountain Stewards from Jasper, Georgia , brought researchers from three other states to Hobbs State Park where the group began an official Indian Trail Tree Project to locate, document, and preserve “Living artifacts” that are a legacy of the Native American presence on the North American Continent. These “Living artifacts” are normally referred to as Indian Trail Trees, but in some parts of the U.S. they are also called Marker Trees, Thong Trees, Signal Trees, Prayer Trees, Culturally Modified Trees, as well as other names.
Since these aging testaments are living things, death must ultimately follow. One way to preserve the legacy of these trees is to photograph them before they are no longer with us. The Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas has teamed up with Hobbs State Park, and has slated a unique Marker Tree Introduction/ Photo Walk.
Al Knox, Trail Maintenance Supervisor at Hobbs State Park, will present a synopsis of the Marker trees he has found at the Park, and Cleeo Wright, Events Coordinator for the PSNWA will discuss the different ways one might photograph these or any other trees. Techniques might include the tree as the primary visual, the details of the tree, how the tree looks in different seasons, different perspectives utilizing foreground elements, trees under infrared wavelength, or how black and white can help isolate shapes and form.
Following the classroom introduction, the group will drive to the sites of three trail trees for photographic sessions. Photographers of all abilities are invited to participate.
Recently published books on Trail Trees:
What: Classroom introduction and then Photo Walk of Trail Trees
Where: Hobbs State Park visitor center located on Highway 12 just east of the Highway 12/War Eagle Road intersection
When: Saturday March 18, 2017, 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free The public is invited
This presentation is a partnership program between Hobbs State Park, and the Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas. To learn more about the Photographic Society of NW Arkansas, go to the web site: http://www.psnwa.org.
To learn more about upcoming Friends of Hobbs speakers and other park programs, go to the web site: http://www.friendsofhobbs.com or call: 479-789-5000