These big trees stand just down the hill from the cabin, and at full pool, the lake laps at their trunks. There are actually only two trees here, though it does look like there are three trunks. I think they are hackberries. (I really ought to confirm that some day.)
These trees are slowly dying. It seems like every spring, another large branch doesn’t bring out any leaves. Shelf fungus emerges from several places. Sometimes, we find a fallen branch on the ground or, if we’re unlucky, in the lake (and have to tug it out, often on the end of a fishing line).
I’m not in love with these trees. When the dozer man built the lake (more than a decade ago), he had cleared all of the trees along this shoreline (south facing) except this pair. At the time they stood out and looked dramatic. In the time since, the trees behind them have reached out for the sunlight and have closed the distance to the hackberries. In the leafy season these trees no longer stand out and look dramatic.
I worry that some visit I’ll find one or both of these fallen into the lake, making them a navigation hazard for swimming as well as essentially impossible to get out. I’ve thought a few times that when the lake hits its August low level, and the area directly below them is dry, I should cut them down under such a controlled situation, so I can cut them up and haul the firewood out of the dryish lakebed and up to the fire ring. I could even cut the stumps high enuf so that they would be handy for sitting on when casting a line.
That would require me to get the chainsaw repaired, of course. And I have a lot of time before August.
So I flew to Oregon last week (to make the acquaintance of my new granddaughter) and experienced a little excitement on the way. Our plane was still airborne, about a half hour outside of Portland, when a man came walking down the aisle. He passed me, and soon after I heard people shouting “Get him!” and “Don’t let his head hit the floor!” Then I felt this man fall against my shoulder on his sudden trip to the floor. (Would it be the “deck” on an airplane the same way a wall is a “bulkhead”?)
So there the man lay, in the aisle right by my seat, his eyes rolling back in his head as he groaned and moaned. He was a big, powerfully built man along the lines of a football player. Suddenly people were up and crowding around the man. (As much as you can crowd up in an airplane aisle.) One young fellow actually leapt over him and then knelt beside the man’s head to hold it. Turns out the aircraft was filled with nurses. At least a half dozen were there on the spot, acting and speaking authoritatively, but since the space was so limited, it was only the young man kneeling there and the young woman at the man’s feet who could actually administer any care. Even the flight attendants — for whom this kind of thing must be as close to a professional nightmare as it gets — couldn’t get near the man. The man drifted in and out of awareness, sometimes answering the nurse’s questions, sometimes not. A bag of ice was called for. A cup of water. An announcement went over the address system calling for any medical professionals to come forward, which they pretty much couldn’t since they already had.
Eventually a man who identified himself as a doctor was able to push his way through the many, many nurses jammed in the aisle, and he took the place of the male nurse who had gotten their first. This was all right beside my seat, so I was able to listen as the care was given.
The fallen man was questioned about his medical history, and his answers came sporadically. No, he was not diabetic. No, he had no heart condition or any other problems. No, he was taking no medications. He gave his name when asked, but I think everyone missheard him because he tried correcting people several times as they repeated it. (They called him “Dan” but from what I could tell, his name was “Dain.”) The doctor had the man grip his own fingers and then try as hard as he could to pull his arms away from each other. The doctor had sized up the situation quickly (and correctly it turned out) that the fallen man had had a sudden, precipitous loss in blood pressure. Apparently, this effort to pull his arms apart while gripping his fingers would elevate his blood pressure. The man couldn’t do it though, in part because he was still somewhat delirious and in part because he had no room in that narrow aisle to maneuver his arms very well. Soon a blood pressure cuff was presented (because I suppose that kind of thing can come in handy on long flights in planes full of all kinds of people), but the man’s beefy arm was too big for it. The nurse had to ask the doctor to hold the cuff shut around the man’s arm as she took the reading. After several tries they were able to confirm that the man’s blood pressure was dangerously low.
The fallen man, by this time, was no longer interested in being the center of attention, and said he just wanted to get up and go to the bathroom, which was his original goal when he came down the aisle. The doctor would have none of that though and commanded the man to stay on the floor (deck?) and perhaps raise his knees if he could. Several passengers in nearby seats helped him do this, and the man reported that he almost instantly felt better. Then the doctor asked the nurse at the man’s feet to lift his legs. This nurse was a tiny person, and I imagine lifting and holding up the legs of this large man was a challenge. But in my observation, nurses are up for the challenge. When she did this, the man again reported that he felt a lot better. The doctor took this as a sign that his original assessment had been correct, and when they took the man’s blood pressure again, it had elevated to a better level. The doctor cautiously asked the man if he thought he could get himself into a seat, which the man felt he could, and the passenger across the aisle from me quickly volunteered his seat for the man. Getting this large, unsteady man easily into the small seat was a challenge the flight attendants were up for. One told the doctor to raise the armrest on the aisle seat just surrendered by the passenger. This is the aisle arm rest, not the one between the seats. I didn’t know you could raise this, and neither did the doctor who fumbled with the attempt. Finally, the flight attendant authoritatively barked to the doctor “Look at me. Watch me.” She then demonstrated on a nearby seat where to find the secret latch that allowed the arm rest to be raised. (Now I know how to do this too.)
By the time they got the man into this seat, the crisis was over. Even I could see how recovered he was. The doctor spoke at length with the flight attendants, who were filling out some forms and asking questions. And then the captain’s voice came over the address system, asking us all to be patient after we landed since the stricken man would be visited by EMTs and then escorted off the plane before any of us would be allowed to leave. By this time the man was mostly over the attack and was joking about how this was his secret way of getting off planes before everyone else and how it worked with every airline. (I noted that he never did get to visit the bathroom.)
After I got off the plane and into the terminal, I saw the man sitting on a gurney, surrounded by EMTs and security people. He looked dazed, but otherwise I think he was okay. I later saw him on his own at baggage claim, I suspect more stricken with embarrassment than anything else any longer.
Later, when I left the terminal, in search of a cab, I saw the two nurses who had first attended the man. (Apparently they were a couple.) I asked the man if he had any hesitation, literally leaping into a situation like that. He said he had none at all, that while he had no moral or legal obligation, he would have felt horrible if he hadn’t acted as he did, without hesitation.
My son and daughter-in-law — my new granddaughter’s parents — are both doctors, and they confirmed that they would have done the same.
The forecast had called for unseasonably warm temperatures last Saturday when we visited my Ozark forest. But the sun never made a strong showing for the day, and while it was certainly comfortable weather for working and hiking, the day never grew warm enuf to shed my jacket or knit cap and bask in the late January heat.
Above is what sky we saw the entire day in the woods. I’m standing atop the dam; the lake is behind me.
Go to Skywatch Friday to see more links or to add one of your own.
The other day I wrote about throwing big rocks in a big hole. Rocks as big as I could lift. What you see above is one of the rocks that didn’t go in the hole. (Actually, the only one that didn’t, now that I consider it.)
Look closely and you can see that those divots are actually the fossil remains of ancient shellfish. Here is a closer view of one of them:
(I like that little collection of gravel in there too.)
I’ve not seen this rock before. (Yes, there are particular, individual rocks I’ve gotten to know pretty well in my woods.) I suppose it was unearthed by the flow of the water down the spillway. Yet it was so clean, so free of mud, that I thought it had to have been exposed to the weather for a long time to be that way. Then I realized that it could have been both. It could have been buried for a long time, unearthed by the big water event, and then washed clean by the flow. Had it been exposed to the weather for a long time, I don’t think the finer details of the shells would still be there. Have a look at this:
I think that is beautiful.
This part of the world was covered in a shallow, salty sea for a long time (at the time the meteor struck the area and created the chemical soup that caused the round rocks to grow). Evidence like these shellfish fossils tell the story of the salty sea. Of course they only tell a small part of the whole story; they hint at the bigger story, one we can infer but can never really know. (Much like the lives of other people.)
(Pablo doesn’t seem to have any seasonal allergies. He doesn’t sniff and sneeze at certain times of the year. Dogs can be his friends (though cats are just weird). But there is one thing he cannot eat: shellfish. I won’t give you the details about his body’s reaction to ingesting a shellfish. It ain’t pleasant.)
I took this rock up to the cabin and set it in the sun so it could show off its fine details. Someday maybe I’ll show it to my grandchildren and try to tell them the stories it tries to tell me.
So Roundrock continues to reveal its stories to me.
Those four words are the last words of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They came to mind several times on my trip to Roundrock last weekend.
After I had exhausted myself hauling heavy rocks uphill, and after I had eaten my sensible lunch and rested, we went for a ramble in our woods on the unseasonably warm day. We had no particular direction or destination, save eventually returning to the cabin. So we let our feet lead the way.
And what should we come upon early in our ramble but this:
Notice how that round rock is sitting on top of the leaves. I had obviously found it on some earlier ramble and set it at the base of that tree, perhaps to collect at a later time or maybe just because. So I had been this way before.
A little further on our ramble, we saw this:
And then this:
And finally, this:
These are just a small sampling of the vignettes I’ve made with round rocks throughout my forest. (Well, not in the northeast corner since there don’t seem to be any round rocks up there. But I have stacked some flattish pieces of sandstone in the area.)
I’ve tramped all over my 80+ acres of Ozark forest, but I’ve often wondered if there might be perhaps an acre that my feet have never touched. Libby doubted that instantly when I suggested it, and these round rock placements certainly suggest that I’ve been around the place a few times.
A mild late-January Saturday meant a long-overdue trip to Roundrock. Libby and I (and the dogs) hauled our fine selves down there with the full intent of enjoying the respite from winter.
Unfortunately, that “enjoyment” first involved a long-overdue chore — beginning to fix the hole gouged out of the northern spillway by the big water event a little more than a month ago. When this happened before, the dozer man said it didn’t look too bad. He repaired it. I paid him. Sowed some grass seed. Crossed my fingers. And sat back. Then it happened again. (As I documented here.)
The gouge that the water took out of the spillway (both times) had crept all the way up and onto the flat bit at the top. Had it continued another 20 feet, it would have been a breach, and I might have lost the lake altogether. While there is not likely to be any big water events at least until the spring, I didn’t like the idea of that trench in the spillway sitting so close to the water. (The southern spillway was just as destroyed, but the top part is bedrock, so it’s not going to present a threat if there is more water. There is no dangerous trench at the top.) Thus the chore.
One technique I had read about for this kind of thing was to place cut cedar trees in the trench, with their stumps pointing downhill. The idea is that as mud and bits of gravel wash into and down the trench, they will get trapped in the leaves and branches of the cedars (those being aligned uphill to do the catching), and in this way at least partly fill the hole.
Since I have a lifetime supply of small cedar trees (several lifetimes), I decided to put that resource to use. I first got busy cutting down likely cedars in the area and then throwing them in the trench, properly aligned. It didn’t take long to get this part of the work done.
Here is what I managed to do:
Sorry about the goofy angle of the shot. That’s the lake at about 2:00; the spillway runs downhill at 9:00. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but there are dozens of cedars in there, and that’s just the uppermost part of the trench that I “filled.”
Then came the real work of the morning: throwing rocks onto the cedars, both to hold them in place and to begin filling the trench with some substance that won’t wash away in a light rain.
Fortunately, I have lots of rocks in my Ozark forest as well. Many of them were in the trench, albeit washed downhill a bit (from more than a light rain). All I had to do was bring them up from below.
Here is my supply:
You can get a pretty good sense of the damage done and the work to do. Those cedars in the lower right are the ones you see in the photo immediately above; that’s the top of the trench. The trench itself meanders down the hill, bounding around some exposed bedrock. There is/was a berm running down the right side of this spillway, and though it wasn’t completely cut through, it’s as good as gone in a couple of places. The orange soil you see at the bottom of the photo is the kind of clayish dirt that I’ve been told is not desirable for dams. I don’t know how much of my dam is comprised of this, but the fact that it leaks after a decade of silting in suggests I have too much.
My original plan was to take the wheelbarrow down the hill, fill it with rocks, then push it back up the spillway to the top where the cedars are, dumping it and slowly filling the trench. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enuf open, flat surface left of the spillway to get the wheelbarrow down to where the bigger rocks were. Well, I could get it down there because it would be empty and nimble. But filled with rocks, it would have been a challenge just to get it up a hill, never mind the rubble-strewn tightrope walk I’d have to do in some places. So the wheelbarrow stayed at the top of the spillway, serving as a handy receptacle for the tools I wasn’t using and the the clothes I was shedding as the work progressed.
Instead I carried the rocks up, mostly one at a time, in my arms. Rocks the size of basketballs in most cases. I had started throwing smaller rocks at the problem, but they passed right through the branches of the cedars and clinked smartly against the rocks in the bottom of the trench. That was filling the space, but it wouldn’t have held the cedars in place when any flow did come along. So I switched to the bigger rocks. The bigger, heavier rocks. Most of which were nearer the bottom of the spillway than the top.
Trudging up and down that spillway twenty or thirty times was not difficult; I am a runner and have legs and lungs at least partially conditioned for that. But upper body strength hasn’t been a big part of my training. Long before I made a recognizable difference in the yawing emptiness of the trench at the top, my arms and shoulders were telling me they’d had enuf. But I persevered. Because cross training, right?
After a couple of hours, I finally decided I’d done enuf. Libby and the dogs had long-since stopped supervising and had gone back up to the cabin. Here is the state of things when I left:
I’d say I have about a third of the hole at the top of the spillway filled. Maybe less since the sides slope outward, so more rocks would be needed at the top than at the bottom.
I gleaned all of the good rocks from within reasonable reach. The remainder were either smallish or they were too large for me to lift/move up the hill. There is no shortage of rocks in the Ozarks. And I could probably put in another layer of cedars atop the rocks that are in there.
I’m sure to get this job finished I’m going to need to hire someone with a big machine to fill the remaining space. And I suppose I will, but unless I can get an insanely dense crop of grass growing on that rocky spillway (which is to say, I can’t), I will likely see another washout sometime in the future.
My goal, now, is to fill the trench near the top and as far down as I can (through muscle power or machine power), and then have a slab of concrete laid over it. In this way, even a big water event will pass over the top of the spillway without eroding anything close to the dam and the lake full of water behind it. Beyond that, I think the spillway is far enuf away from the dam that any erosion, while ugly, won’t be a structural threat.
On our way out that afternoon, I stopped at Good Neighbor Dave’s place. He has a lake much the size of mine, and years ago he had poured some concrete at the top of the spillway to check the erosion. Dave happened to be at his property that afternoon, and we walked across his dam to the spillway, chatting about what he did, what it fixed, how it worked, and what it cost. His solution is different from what I want to do, but my set up is better. He had to persuade the concrete truck driver to back all the way across his narrow dam to where the spillway is. In my case, a truck would still be on my wide road, actually above the dam a few feet, when it poured. And Good Neighbor Dave got the job done. For a reasonable price. I think I can too. I just need to save my pennies and hope the work I’ve already done isn’t lost in the meantime.
I haven’t written about my running in a while, and perhaps you consider that a good thing. In any case, I’m going to babble about it now.
I’ve run two marathons: Portland and Kansas City. Be aware that I use the word “run” generously here. I think I walked about a third of the Portland Marathon and about a quarter of the Kansas City Marathon. It was somewhere around mile 18 of the Kansas City Marathon, when my legs and hips were hurting, and I had run out of Advil, and I was all alone on the course, and I still had eight (point two) impossibly long miles to go, that I decided I would never run another marathon. Why was I doing this to myself? I would stick to half marathons and master those. (I’ve done eight so far.) A half marathon is a challenging, honorable distance. A sane person could make that his target distance, his specialty, and get respect.
When I crossed the finish line at Kansas City (shaving 25 minutes off my previous time, by the way), my legs and hips and knees hurting so badly that I didn’t think I could ever walk upright again, my vision so tightly focused that I felt I was in a tunnel, my brain in OMG-let’s-shut-this-jerk-down-immediately mode, my senses slowly doing the same, I realized that I would keep running full marathons. I’d just beaten Kansas City. I could do it again.
But I decided if I was going to keep doing this to my body, I should approach it more intelligently. I shouldn’t let myself get so beat up by them. I should make each one an improvement over the last. And so, at the turn of the year, I downloaded a marathon training plan and decided to give it a try. The app quickly invaded my calendar and laid out my daily run quotas for the next three months. (I’m signed up for the St. Louis Marathon in April. They tell me there is free beer at the end!) Now I get daily popups reminding me that I need to get running and telling me exactly how much.
This plan is based on time spent running rather than a goal distance to run. So on this last Sunday, for example, I was to run 65 minutes at an easy pace to warm up, followed by 20 minutes at race pace, and then 5 minutes at an easy pace to cool down. (That’s a really long warm up.) It didn’t matter how much distance I covered as long as I ran for the specified time. I’ve asked around and done a little online research, and this kind of time-based training plan is actually well regarded.
Unfortunately, because I am a slower runner, I really am not getting a lot of distance logged in a week. My “race pace” is probably an easy, cool-down pace for more experienced (talented) runners. Compounding this is the treadmill I use that is down in my basement. I am the third owner (at least). It’s an old machine, an off brand, a cut-rate, entry-level product, and it’s pretty beaten up. I am certain that it hasn’t been (or even can be) calibrated since it left the factory to record distance properly. For example, I know how far I can go if I run continuously outside for 65 minutes. I (and the satellites) have documented it a number of times. It’s a fairly consistent distance. When I finished that same time on my treadmill Sunday, the evil machine reported about half that distance covered. (The longest run I’ve ever made on my treadmill was reported as 9 miles. If this calibration issue is real, then that may have been an 18 mile run!) There appears to be no way to calibrate this low-end machine, but that’s not really important since I am training for time rather than distance. The treadmill still allows me to keep throwing one foot in front of the other. Endlessly. And when I face that full marathon in April, I’ll already know the distance it covers. My challenge will be to withstand the time it takes me to do so. (I know it sounds touchy-feely, but I have found that running a marathon truly is a journey into myself. I get to see just how much is in me, how much I can call on myself, rely on myself, trust myself. It sounds hokey, I know, but I really do learn a lot about myself in those lonely upper miles.)
I’ve been on this training plan for three weeks now. And the biggest surprise to me is that I’ve actually stuck to it! (I’ve only skipped one session, a twenty-minute easy-paced run, but Kenneth was visiting that evening, so I feel I had a good excuse.) I fully expected skeptical Pablo to step in by now and assert that these things are a bunch of hooey. Yet there is something about having a written plan that makes me feel obligated to carry through with it. I discuss it with Libby, explaining what each day’s run will entail, as much to boost my own confidence as to give me one more person to hold me accountable. (Important to note: the plan does not call for running every day. Right now Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays are rest days. And runners are constantly chided to honor rest days. So I don’t have any complaint there.) Tuesdays and Thursdays call for easier runs. Wednesdays are more challenging with a mix of easy and race pace times during the run. And Sunday are the long-run days. Over these last three weeks, the duration of each of these sessions has gotten longer. When I first downloaded the app and scanned the requirements down the road, I knew I would be dropping out by about now. There was no way I was going to subject myself to what the app would be calling for over time. I was certain those distant three weeks ago that I couldn’t do what I was going to be called on to do. Yet without exception, I have done it. I’ve met the duration goals every time. Maybe there is something to these training plans.
Right now I’m stuck with running inside on the treadmill. The weather has been cold, the evenings dark, the roads and sidewalks just as often icy as not. Running for time is easy on a treadmill. The evil machine even has a timer on it (that I’ve confirmed is more or less accurate when compared to the timer on my phone). I can just keep going for the time required. Running outside will be different. If I were to run outside for today’s quota of time (45 minutes at an easy pace) I would feel frustrated because I know I would want to go farther (rather than merely longer). Running for distance is easier outside. And that may be how I finally abandon this training plan. Once the weather breaks, let’s say March will bring consistent outdoor running conditions, I will probably disdain the dreadmill in the dark basement and grab my miles outside. I will probably easily meet the time requirements of the training plan, but I’ll probably go longer. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, especially since it will be closer to the actual marathon. I’ll want to build more miles in my base. And it may be that all of this indoor training will have helped me to do that.
Assuming I survive the St. Louis Marathon, I intend to find one to run in the fall. I’m in the lottery for the New York Marathon, but I have no realistic expectation of getting in. I have found one in December though that looks especially appealing. It’s on a “pancake-flat course” on the island of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They start the run before dawn so runners don’t suffer too much from the heat (in December!). No doubt I’ll follow a training plan for whatever fall marathon I run. But I may go for a distance training plan then since I will have the opportunity to run outside. Stay tuned.
We had intended to go to Roundrock on Sunday. The predicted high there was to be close to 60 degrees, which ain’t bad for late January in Missouri. But Saturday was forecasted to be nearly as nice, and that never really happened, so we guessed Sunday would be about as miserable.
We guessed wrong.
The reported temps in the Roundrock area did get into the fifties, and there was lots of sun, at least from what I could glean from the weather maps. Alas, we stayed home. I managed to get my long run in (on the treadmill — had I waited for the afternoon sun, I could have gone outside), we took the cooped up dogs to the park for a frolic, did some shopping, did some overdue chores around the house, and otherwise made sensible use of our missed opportunity. This coming weekend looks even better out there, so maybe it was just as well.
The photo above is one I took on January 2, my most recent visit. It is from a small pool of water that has formed from the freshets that pour down the Central Valley and into the lake bed. They gouge out the pool basin, and it tends to stay filled with water except in the driest months.
Flike and I had hiked up the Central Valley (behind what is shown in the photo immediately above), crunching through the dry gravel bed. This is generally a good place to look for round rocks since they tumble along with the stronger water and are left atop the gravel. We found a few, but I only brought one back with me to the cabin. It was not quite the size of a basketball, but carrying it in my backpack made it manageable. Getting my backpack on was not so easy.
As we moved farther up the Central Valley we soon came to running water. The stream bed had been dry below this, yet here was running water, up stream. At some point (or points) this water disappears into the ground, never making it as far as the lake. It is only the big water events that come tearing down the Central Valley to reach the lake, leave plenty of fresh round rocks in their wake for collecting.
Once you leave the paved road, you still have a two-mile drive on gravel (and sometimes through high water and often across mud) to my little cabin overlooking the sparkling lake at Roundrock. Part of that two miles passes through a valley on the other side of the ridge from my woods. Someone keeps this area mowed, which is nice. (Good Neighbor Brian more than once told me that I didn’t need to thank him for mowing my road and the top of my dam; it was fun for him.)
For as long as we’ve been coming to Roundrock, there has been a stack of building materials leaning against a tree at the center of this valley. (There used to be an old truck parked there too. It would sit unmoved for years. And then we would come along to see the truck parked differently. And it would sit that new way for years. The truck has been gone for a long time.)
On my last trip to Roundrock I saw what you see above: a lot more material accumulated there. (The white shapes leaning against the tree and the gray shapes at 9:00 had been there for years. The rest of it is new.)
I knew that there was some kind of structure deeper up the draw (to the right in this photo) but I’d never trespassed thataway to see what it was. The Google Maps image is not very detailed, but I’d say it was some kind of trailer. Whether it was ever used or not, I couldn’t say. But on this visit, the “road” leading to it, through the tall grass and encroaching cedars, was well beaten down. Someone had been going back and forth on that road to whatever is back there.
My guess is that the owner of that bit of property has finally accumulated the wherewithal to begin building something more substantial than a trailer. Resourceful, as well, since it is obvious this person has been gathering cast-offs and scraps to do the job.
Farther along on the road (I took the photo on my way out), on the top of the ridge, a piece of property had a for sale sign on it for a few months. It’s possible that the area where the trailer is, is part of whatever was for sale. (I don’t know if it ever sold. The sign is gone anyway.) So this may be the work of a new owner, or it may merely be coincidental that the existing owner (of perhaps a different parcel of land) has begun work.
Those of us who have acquired our acreage in the Ozark wilderness have done so, so that we can live/work/enjoy them as we wish. For example, I can’t have my own lake, much less skinny-dip, in faraway suburbia. Nor could I hunt deer if that were my sport. Nor could I stack up my accumulation of building materials in plain sight of everyone who uses a common road.
Thus I won’t complain that this is an eyesore. When that parcel of land at the top of the ridge was first up for sale, a neighbor suggested Pablo buy it to keep it out of the hands of any “locals” who would likely use it for dumping old cars and such. Aside from the fact that I didn’t have the money for such a purchase or any interest in the parcel, I respect the fact that people out there are free to use their property as they wish. That’s why the acquire it. My property is isolated enuf that I don’t have to see/live with whatever use a new neighbor might put to the land. (It’s not even in my watershed, so my lake is safe too.)
I don’t suspect that whatever is going on with the accumulation of building materials is anything objectionable or intrusive to my bucolic bliss. I’ll continue to pass whatever is going on as I cover those two miles to my cabin, and I’ll stay interested, eager to see what develops.