I still remember the first time I saw those towering pines standing guard just outside Massey Hall. It was a cold day in January and it was my first time ever on the RMU campus. A thin layer of snow blanket the ground and built small drifts on the sidewalk as the winter wind whipped through the trees. And that sound—you know, the whooshing sound the wind makes as it pushes through a pine tree—it made me feel like I was a thousand miles away out in the wilderness, rather than just 15 minutes from Pittsburgh.
There was a lamppost there, too, within the trees, and it got me to thinking. At that moment, if a half-human, half-goat would have emerged from behind the trees, I could’ve been in Narnia rather than Moon Township. Then again, if a half-human, half-goat had emerged from behind the trees, I would’ve screamed and ran away and never come back to RMU again. Luckily that didn’t happen.
If you’ve ever been to Robert Morris University, you probably know what trees I’m talking about. Covering an area that stretches from Massey Hall almost all the way over to Nicholson Center, these majestic giants create a miniature forest, if you will, and make up one of the more unique and peaceful spots on campus. And there’s even a cement pathway running right through the middle of them, providing a delightful trek in an enchanted setting. I’ve even heard people refer to these trees as the “Magical Forest,” and it’s easy to see why.
Being a writer, I’m not really a numbers guy. Heck, I need my wife’s help just to figure out how much to tip when we go out for dinner. But ever since I first saw these huge pine trees, I was curious to know just how many there were. So, one day I went out and counted them, not once but three times. And of course, I came up with three different numbers. But let’s just say there’s around 200 of these trees out there (at least, there were before three of them blew down in a windstorm last fall).
I was also curious to find out just what type of trees these were and approximately how old they might be. So I consulted RMU’s Department of Science and its resident tree expert William J. Dress, Ph.D. Dress, the department head and assistant professor of science, told me there’s a few different types of pines in this grouping. “There are several white pine and hemlock,” he says, “but there are probably at least one or two more types as well.” As for the age of the trees, he couldn’t be sure without cutting one down and counting the rings, which would be somewhat contrary to the point of my inquiry. But he estimates that most of them are at least 50 years old.
If you’ve never gotten a chance to walk through RMU’s “Magical Forest,” I urge you to do so. Just be on the lookout for any half-human, half-goat creatures. I’m still not convinced.
– Valentine J. Brkich