There are places in God's creation that I have visited that speak clearly of Him. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--His eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) Some of these places seem to speak more clearly and loudly of Him than others. Mount Washington in Sargent's Purchase, New Hampshire, is such a place. As part of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, it stands taller than all the peaks around it (6,288') and is the highest mountain in the Northeastern United States. The Native American tribes called Mount Washington Agiocochook which means "the place of the Great Spirit" or "the place of the Concealed One." How appropriate!
Recently it was my privilege to travel to the summit of Mount Washington with my daughter, Holly, and her family. One has an option of ascending either by hiking or riding by car or the cog railway. The trip takes about 30 minutes by car and was our method of getting to the top. I was struck by the change in the plant life as the elevation got higher. Scientists call the different elevations zones. Plant life is impacted by the changes in climate, wind and the amount of hard rock in the ground. The environment effects the way everything green grows.
Below 2,000' there is a forest of deciduous trees, including maple, birch and beech, combined with shrubs, ferns and wildflowers. From about 2,500 to 4,000', the growing season is shorter because of the colder temperatures, and other species of plants like balsam fire and red spruce dominate. At about 4,000' the trees are almost entirely balsam fir. As the elevation increases in this zone, the firs are stunted in their growth by the cold and high winds. There is a zone between 4,500 and 5,400' that is called the Krummholz (Crooked Wood) zone. Balsam fir and black spruce are dwarfed due to the harsh growing conditions. The evergreen trees are "sculpted" by the extreme winds and ice that give them a gnarled look. In places, the wind and cold is so severe that the firs form mats of evergreen needles close to the ground.
The alpine zone is filled with sedges, grasses and rush sprinkled with ferns and mosses, liverworts and lichens. Alpine perennial flowers put on a beautiful display in the spring. Very little grows at the summit of Mount Washington. The landscape is filled with rock. Occasionally one might see an alpine ground cover tucked at the base of a rock. Plants must be hardy to survive and what little green there is grows only a few inches tall in the shelter of the rocks.
From the bottom to the top, plant life is integrated with the rocks of Mount Washington. At the bottom, roots of full grown birch, beech and maple trees surround the rocks and anchor to them. What a picture for us of our Savior! He is the Rock upon which we are planted. "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:2) "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." (Hebrews 6:19) At the higher elevations on the Mountain, struggling plants take refuge in the shelter of the rocks. "My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold my refuge and my Savior…” (2 Samuel 22:3) God certainly spoke to me through nature on Mount Washington. He uses nature to show us heavenly principles that apply to our lives. He truly is our Rock, our shelter and our fortress. "The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, my Savior." (2 Samuel 22:47)
Joan E. Mathias