The Thinking Tree
By Debbie Olsen
The tangled boughs of the Thinking Tree lay sprawled along the banks of the Battle River in Ponoka for decades before local residents realized the tree existed. Vance Walker, a former church minister, discovered the massive Manitoba Maple when he purchased some property near the river about twelve years ago. “It’s a place of solitude,” he says of the tree whose limbs spread on the ground in an area as large as a small house. “I spent many hours sitting inside this tree pondering and praying when I served my small congregation. It’s like a giant terrarium where you can watch the river flow while you connect with God and nature”.
The tree became a spiritual retreat for Walker and it didn’t take long for him to realize that many others could benefit from such a refuge. Fortunately, the town was thinking along the same lines and in 2000 they built a walking trail along the river’s edge adjacent to the tree. The Thinking Tree has since become one of the most popular picnic and photo stops in the area.
No one knows why the Thinking Tree grew in the unusual way it did, but its sprawling knotted limbs have made it a landmark that continues to inspire residents and visitors alike. A recent proposal to build a bridge across the river to connect the Ponoka trail with other central Alberta trails in the Trans Canada Trail system will ensure that more people can enjoy the pleasure of getting to know the Thinking Tree.
Excerpt from Heritage Trees of Alberta with permission from Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada.
The Thinking Tree
Species: Manitoba Maple
Location: Along the Diamond Willow Trail approx. 1 km
Height: 12.8m; 42'
Circum: multiple stems
Canopy Spread: 30.5m; 100'
Planted By: Naturalized