After spending the morning crossing beech forests in several different stages of succession and forest management histories, we eventually made our way to the core zone with impressive stands of primeval beech forest where we witnessed the rare sight of standing and lying deadwood of varying stages of decay. It was impressive to see an area devoid of human activity, not even a footpath was present in the forest. Our team learned that parts of the core zone showed no evidence of ever having been logged (i.e. no non-natural tree stumps). As it is spring time in the region, the leaves of the Beech forest were a shade of green that is difficult to describe, like green jewellery hanging from the limbs.
Not far from this natural jewel, the forest suddenly changed completely into a stand of spruce trees and opened up to a 15ha peat bog, that we later learned is 7-8 meters in depth. Vasil, Deputy Director of Scientific Research explained to us that the area was originally a militarized zone during the Soviet era of which time the bog still bares visible scars from the machinery that was brought in to drain it. Later, when the area became part of the protected area, the park managers decided to bring back the original water regime in order to restore the bog. Dams were built for retaining water and raising the water levels again. However, diggers sank in the deep peat and they had to abandon their idea, leaving behind incomplete and quickly eroding dams.
By surprise, nature took over with the arrival of the first beavers! That was 2 years ago and now, during our visit, we could see ponds created by perfectly constructed beaver dams. Nobody is exactly sure where the beaver came from and how they found their way into the heart of the National Park, but fact is, that they are here now and are thriving. There are currently four beaver families and evidence of them was everywhere.
It seems the park managers only need to the let the beavers do their work and the bog will return to adequate water levels and its natural ecosystem. Already, wild ducks have returned and are utilizing the ponds created by the beavers. And curiously, in wintertime, the open snowcovered bog reportedly draws the local wolf pack to hang out in the area.
With a stiff, cold wind seeping into our bones we left the bog to discover this amazing sight. A Ukrainian lunch prepared by the rangers/guides complete with open fire and coffee afterwards. It was EXCELLENT! Our team enjoyed it immensely.