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Trailside Wood Carvings Bring Downed Trees to Life

November 9, 2020
Wood carving of a Sharp-shinned Hawk by Jack McWhorter

A Sharp-shinned Hawk, carved by Jack McWhorter.

Hancock resident Jack McWhorter has a penchant for wood carving. Last winter, using one of the Harris Center’s taxidermied specimens as a model, he carved a detailed Sharp-shinned Hawk (right). Then, the pandemic hit and he took up an ambitious project that has been delighting hikers all summer and fall: carving creatures out of downed trees along the Harris Center’s Harriskat Trail. Jack says:

“I find wood carving very relaxing, which was particularly helpful during these troubled times. Maybe this is my form of forest bathing.”

Jack’s first work of trail art was a whimsical dragon, coaxed out of a newly-fallen maple. This was his first experience with in situ carving but, to our great fortune, not his last. After the dragon — which has since been named “Jackie Pendragon” — came a sinewy snake, sunning itself on a downed spruce. For this piece, Jack carved around numerous branches, giving the impression that the snake was slithering its way along the trunk. Next up: a spotted salamander, still a work in progress.

Each carving is painstakingly researched and carved by hand with chisels and other tools, and each one can take months to complete — which gives Jack plenty of time for sharing his craft with passing hikers. The next time you’re making your way up to the summit of Skatutakee or Thumb, be sure to keep your eye out for Jack and his wonderful creations!

Jackie Pendragon greets hikers along the Harriskat Trail. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Jackie Pendragon greets hikers along the Harriskat Trail. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

David Faber (left) helps Jack McWhorter turn a downed red maple into a trailside dragon. (photo © Susie Spikol)

David Faber (left) helps Jack McWhorter turn a downed red maple into a trailside dragon. (photo © Susie Spikol)

Jack McWhorter puts the finishing touches on his trailside carved snake. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Jack McWhorter puts the finishing touches on his trailside carved snake. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Jack's wooden snake slinks its way out of a downed spruce. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Jack's wooden snake slinks its way out of a downed spruce. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)