Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finally, A Day Out

Slowly resolving health issues and a favorable, cooling turn in the weather finally aligned to force me out of the house.  I waited to leave in mid-afternoon, since we are only 20 miles from a Corps of Engineers lake.  Being a Tuesday also gave me the campground practically to myself.  There was only one RV in the circle where I decided to set my tent, and there was no one home there, so I was looking forward to a quiet, restful evening and night.

I pulled the camp bag out of the truck, which contains my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, pillow, and an old pair of sneakers (to change into from my booties when coming in off the water).  I dropped it on the spot for my tent, picked for its absence of water-collecting depressions, overhanging dead branches or proximity to old trees, and a good easterly exposure to greet the morning sun.  The wannigan was pulled and set on the picnic table.  It is nothing more than a 5-gallon bucket with a screw-on lid to make it watertight and trap food smells.  It holds my stove, cooking pans and utensils, fuel, coffee and tea bags, dish detergent, hand sanitizer, scrubber pad and brush, large mug, matches and lighters, very small  bottle of cooking oil, a tight roll of trash bags to pack out any trash, and a medicine and vitamin bottle.  As I put a couple cups of water on to boil for dinner, a Mississippi kite flew into the tree next to me and sat above my head screeching at me all the time the water heated.  He finally flew off in search of something more bite-sized.

I poured the water into my cozy with the noodles for my mac and cheese while I set up the tent.  While dinner prepared itself, I pulled out my folding chair, put on two more cups of water for coffee, and returned to reading Down The Wild River North.   There was a nice breeze filtering through the trees, so I sat and quietly watched the lake as I enjoyed my bachelor’s banquet.

After dinner, the width of three fingers between the horizon and the lower limb of the sun meant I had three-quarters of an hour before sunset, so I decided on a walk down through the just-rebuilt Canadian campground.  An EF-3 tornado that swept through the area on 24 May 2011 completely destroyed all the trees for several hundred yards through the campground.  The twisted stubbles that remained had to be removed.  What remained of the campground buildings and facilities were so ravished that the earth in the area had to be swept bare.  The new facilities the Corps of Engineers have just finished are beautiful, strong, and state of the art.  The new restroom/shower buildings, which double as tornado shelters for campers, are designed to withstand a strong tornado.  In addition, the construction project put in 77 new camping sites, playground, boat dock, and several additional amenities. 

For those readers living in the Canton Lake area, the Corps and volunteers that work at the campground are asking for your help.  While funds helped rebuild infrastructure, they didn’t allow for buying and planting trees.  The volunteers are asking for help collecting aluminum cans to recycle for tree-planting money.  The cans may be dropped at collection barrels near the camp ranger booth.

The rains we’ve had this year were instrumental in them getting a bumper crop of new grass growing, and I was amazed at the number of rabbits that have re-established themselves in the campground.  Then I came the closest ever to a roadrunner before it turned and ran into the brush at the lake’s edge.  It has been four years, but still, it is encouraging to see how wildlife is able to return after an area has been completely destroyed.  Finally, I settled onto one of the new park benches and just enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake.

As I walked back to my campsite, I heard a pack of coyotes barking, howling, and yipping on the other side of the dam spillway.  My first thought was that the construction around the spillway had kept the coyotes away from the rabbit population, enabling them to thrive.  That idea was quickly dispelled in the middle of the night, however, when a pack of coyotes woke me as they came hunting right through our campsites.  They don’t miss much, and are very hard on a rabbit population.  Perhaps the rabbits are able to hide in the riprap (large rocks and boulders) along the lake shore.

A nearby owl lulled me to sleep last night, and a cicada greeted me first thing this morning.  It had settled on the concrete bench of the picnic table next to my stove.  It had been our first cool night, so perhaps the cool concrete slowed it down, but it was very lethargic and only moved a couple inches the whole time I made breakfast.  Anyhow, it’s nice to have the chance to visit nature again.

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