Worse than it looks


This is an odd little image from the woods at Roundrock. What you see here is the path leading from our shelter (the one with the comfy chairs and the post-lunch stupors) to the road where we drive in. (No doubt you’ve spotted my truck there beyond the trees.)

What looks like a reasonable and passable path in this photo is actually an ankle-turning stumble across Ozark hardpan. The way here is not even or smooth. The rocks jut up and the space between them looms down. You have to watch where you put your feet as you traverse this hundred or so feet, and this can be nearly impossible when you are carrying a large, heavy cooler full of lunch and plenty of cold water.

Unlike most of the “paths” we have made at Roundrock, we didn’t have to clear this one so much as simply keep using the same opening through the trees that was already there. The location for this path was governed, in part, by a large pile of trees that the dozer man had placed out beside the road. If that pile were still there, you would not be able to see the truck from this vantage. But the pile has slowly rotted and contributed itself generously to many campfires (the fire ring being just in front of where the truck is parked). Now we could make a more direct path from the fire ring to the shelter (which we couldn’t before because of the pile of trees), but we haven’t. It isn’t that much of a detour, so we let inertia rule.

By mid summer, I begin to despair of ever doing anything lasting at Roundrock. The plants are all growing so robustly and overtaking my meager efforts at “stewardship” that I figure I should just stop trying. Things like paths through the trees seem pointless when they are overrun with new growth. But then the heat of August arrives and the plants begin to show their own weariness. The idea that I can clear some paths or plant some trees or have a lake comes back to me as a possibility. That’s about where this path is now. It just may be sustainable.

Oddly, in a few months, after the leaf fall, this path will be obscured with a blanket of crunchy brown oak leaves that can be a foot deep. Once again this path becomes perilous because the devious rocks lay hidden. And I begin to despair that all of my work is just a silly waste of effort. Yet by January, the winter winds have blown this path clear and all seems right with the Roundrock world.

Missouri calendar:

  • “Turkey feet” seed heads of big bluestem grass mature.

5 Responses to “Worse than it looks”

  1. Ed Abbey Says:

    …and all this time I thought you were the type to take the path less traveled.

  2. kim Says:

    i’d be tempted to grab a rock or two or three, each trip out, and deposit them, maybe where the treepile used to be.

    not sayin’ that should be done, just describing one of my little mental pathologies.

  3. karl Says:

    been having a bit of trouble of late getting to your site. the rss feed follows to a site down link. going to the rr main page works fine but i just found that out.

    i pick up every rock that i come across and add it to yet another rock ring.

  4. FloridaCracker Says:

    In the long run, all of our work IS a silly waste of effort.

    I like that rough path.

  5. Hal at Ranch Ramblins Says:

    I empathize with your “mid-summer despair.” I also sense the futility of my work as the ever-encroaching wilderness closes in on all the places I have worked so hard to clear. But by the time fall arrives, the despair again turns to feelings of hope and accomplishment.

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