On Sunday we made a grand tour of our rural properties, visiting and lingering at both Fallen Timbers and Roundrock. It’s something we rarely do since so much driving is involved, which eats time that could be better devoted to wandering the trails and listening to the forest.
Many months have passed since we were last at Fallen Timbers (that other little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks that we have). In a way, that’s shameful since it was our original escape before we found Roundrock, and we’d spent many happy and contented hours there. But in another sense it was fine that we hadn’t visited in so long. The forest is heedless of us. It really needs no help or supervision by a pair of talking mammals. We have no improvements to maintain, no treasures to guard (not since a neighbor accidentally cut down many of our oldest trees because he didn’t know where the property line ran), and no encroachments to hold back (we hoped). The land could go about its cycles without us, and even from the mercenary perspective of seeing the forty acres as an investment, our absence made no difference.
But deer hunting season is coming up in Missouri, and last year I had found what appeared to be preparations for a hunting station on our property. Now, I have stated before that I have no objection to hunting as a sport or a wildlife management tool. I don’t consider any deer that happen to wander across my woods or spend a night in the leaf litter to be my deer. What I object to is the presumption that because I am an absentee landlord, anyone who cares to can make any use of my land that he wants. One presumptuous interloper will lead to another and another, and pretty soon the place could be overrun because everyone would assume the owner didn’t notice or didn’t care.
So last year I left a note sealed in a plastic bag at the hunting station. It alerted the potential reader that he or she was on private property without permission. It noted that my name and contact information could be found at the county courthouse, and it welcomed anyone to call and ask permission to hunt the land. I put the note on a log which appeared to be a sort of stool for the hunter to sit upon as he or she waited for the game to pass. (The location seemed very good for hunting. From that hillside spot the hunter could see nearly twenty acres of forest across a small valley, giving a long chance to wait for the perfect shot to line up.)
I hadn’t been back to that spot since I left the note, so I was eager to visit it again in advance of this year’s season to see what there was to see. The road in to Fallen Timbers is a mess, and you really do have to give consideration to recent weather before you decide to drive on it. There is one patch of deep mud, and the rest of the road is steep or deep, covered with loose gravel and deep ruts. The ditches beside it have long since filled in, so rain water runs down the road itself, further damaging it. In the days before we had our truck, we didn’t even try to drive in but hiked the last two miles to our part of the forest. Nonetheless, landowners deeper in than we are have built cozy looking cabins or hauled in trailers, using the same daunting road.
The days have been drier recently, so I thought it was time to give the road a try and finally visit again at Fallen Timbers. The route to this part of Missouri is nostalgic, taking us through small towns and past lovely vistas that we first began seeing more than a decade ago, and our recent absence made them even more potent for us. It was not long before we were stopped at the top of the hill where the bad road began, ready to take the plunge and see if we could make it all the way to our woods.
Actually, the first half mile of this road is very good. It happened that years ago a man brought his family to a nicely situated plot a half mile in and set up housekeeping. This man worked one of the many heavy machines for a road construction business. Thus he knew what he was doing when it came to grading and maintaining a road. (The family has since moved on. I suppose he goes where the work is.) It is beyond this first half mile that the road becomes treacherous.
We drove in easily over that first half mile. Beyond that is a short hill to a stretch of road along a ridgetop, so that part was clear and fair, but after that, the adventure began.
From there the road turns and goes down hill to a culvert. There were two large puddles of muddy water waiting for us there, so after we picked our way down the rutted hill, I splashed into the puddles, which were deeper than I expected. They were no trouble for the truck, but we had been driving non-stop for two hours, and the splash of water against the bottom of the engine raised a great cloud of steam that swirled behind us as I raised my speed to get up the long hill before us.
Do you know that sinking feeling you get when you’re accelerating and still losing speed? That’s how we went up the hill. We we spinning on gravel and slinging it to the rear (even in 4WD) and going slower and slower. Fortunately, we ran out of hill before we ran out of momentum, but then we faced the muddy section with several cleverly disguised holes that tossed us about as we crossed them too fast. Did I mention that this road is a mess?
There was another mud hole to cross where the road dipped again. We managed to get through it (though one time I did get stuck there — in a little suburban car — and had to hike out and get a tow truck to suck the car out of the mud) and then there was another slippery, gravelly hill to mount. After that, the road was comparative ease. We hardly slipped at all before we stopped at the entrance to our woods, marked by two old tires set out as flower beds many years ago (but lost in the scrub soon after).
As you can tell, the technical team here at Roundrock HQ has solved the reason mysterious, and I can once again post pix for your pleasure. Enjoy