(Being a continuation of yesterday’s wallow in self pity)
Since we were on the shore of the lake, we decided to take ourselves for a counterclockwise walk around it. We’ve begun the job of clearing a path along the shore of the lake (now that we know where the shore is going to be), but like so many of our hikes, this one was impromptu, and we had no tools with us. Nor were we walking on the actual shoreline. The receding waters had left about a three-foot margin of open gravel where there had once been lake, and it was along here that we pointed our feet.
The forest has grown rampant. There is a period during the summers at Roundrock when I realize that all of my efforts in the woods — clearing trails, keeping the road open, planting trees I want — are going to be swallowed whole by the forest, and it will be as though I had never been there. I seem to remember that this period had come later in the season in past years, but nonetheless, all of my ambitions seem temporary and fruitless for a while as I watch the forest go crazy with growth and spread. Then the heat of August comes and the wild, frenzied greening doesn’t seem like such a good idea. The forest is checked and I begin again to think that maybe I can leave a mark. But this is supposed to be an account of gloom and despair, not one of hope, so forget that idea.
We detoured to Libby’s Island, which is now high and dry again, as expected. For several years we have been casting native wildflower seeds here, but so far we haven’t seen any effect. There was one coreopsis blooming amidst all of the tall grass. And on the south side of this island, a dozen mullein were growing as though to laugh at my idea of controlling it and growing what we would rather. If I’d only had my shovel . . .
The south shore of the lake near the two islands is far too steep to walk along, so we diverted uphill and hiked above the lakebed. We have some familiar routes through the woods here and we stayed uphill almost the entire way to the dam. This was fine since it was a bit of a different hike for us, but I wish now that I had gone down to check on how that maple transplant of mine was doing. I expect it is fine since the other two maples I have planted are flourishing.
The air remained cool since the sky remained overcast, but it was very humid and the breeze didn’t blow with much enthusiasm. We pushed through the grass across the top of the dam and decided it was time to head over to our proposed campsite to have lunch and begin set up for our night in the woods. It was about then that the day’s real problems began to beset us.
The last time we had camped at Roundrock, our neighbor over the ridge and down the valley hosted a bachelor party that involved some trespassing and a lot of explosions. Libby feared that since this was a holiday weekend, the same thing might be repeated. (You may remember reading about it here.) We had just set up the table and began fixing our lunch when the first cracks of gunfire reached us. Now, of course, gunfire is a fact of life in the country, and a man might build himself a country retreat so that he has a place to safely blast away to his heart’s content. But once the shooting began it picked up its pace and was soon a rapid-fire staccato of cracks, punctuated by an occasional boom. The sound was nearly constant, and I wonder if he’s poisoning his hillside by filling it with so much lead. But that’s his business. We had other things to think about.
The “road” in to our campsite is a twisty way through the trees that requires a bit of maneuvering to get the big truck through it. This is across bare ground, rather than gravel, and we like it that way since it seems to keep this road camouflaged from random interlopers. We’ve never seen evidence that anyone but us has penetrated this part of our forest. Driving in and out is a challenge, but the real work is turning the truck around once we’ve reached the campsite. There is just enuf space between the trees to accomplish this — with a lot of backing and turning — but not when your truck decides to break while you’re doing it.
In some amazing coincidence or moment of bad karma come back to torment me, the power steering abruptly quit working as I was trying to turn the truck around between the trees. I thought that perhaps I was moving too slowly or backing over a hump of dirt, but I could barely turn the wheel enuf to swing the front end around. I kept at it, but it was not improving. When I finally managed to get the big green thing pointed in the right direction, we decided I should drive it back to the gravelled road and leave it there. If the power steering had really given out, I wouldn’t want to be driving the truck on the twisty dirt road the next day if it rained in the night. As it was, every turn back to the gravel was a fight — and recall that yesterday I had noted that the truck was fully packed with our gear — and I started thinking about the 100+ mile trip home I faced with a broken truck.
When I had hiked the short distance back to the campsite, we had our lunch and a brief period of post-lunch stupor. The truck was broken, the sky threatened rain, our neighbor was filling the air with the sound of unremitting gunfire, the ticks were as thick as ever, and it was too cool to swim. When I proposed that we abandon the idea of spending the night, Libby readily agreed.
It was still early afternoon, however, and even if I did have to fight the truck the whole way home, I thought we had plenty of time left to squeeze at least some enjoyment out of our day at Roundrock. So we set off for a hike about the western woods. This part of our forest is unlike the rest, though I can’t say exactly why. The undergrowth is less dense. I suspect the types of trees here are different, though I’ve never made any kind of survey of them. The soil is better and there is a bit more rise and fall to the land (rather than mostly slope at the other end of our land). And since we put the lake in, we don’t visit this part of our forest as much, so it’s something like unexplored land to us.
We spent about an hour hiking in a large circle, coming back finally to our campsite. We packed the gear we had left behind and managed to get it all into the truck with only two trips back and forth. Then we embarked on our drive home. The drive wasn’t as bad as I feared, mostly because we were driving down straight highway that didn’t require a lot of turning. But once we were back in suburbia, my upper body muscles were called into service, and I wrenched and pulled at the steering wheel just to get the beast into my driveway. The truck is in the shop now, and I’m hoping it won’t take too many mortgage payments to get it driveable again. I still want to take it to over 200,000 miles, and I’m too close to give up on that ambition.
- A blue moon (the second full moon this month).