Wednesday, May 24, 2006

May 17th


The next day rain was still threatening, so I resolved to explore the northern part of the Kinnikinnic woods behind the Moose Lodge again, where I would be closer to home should the skies open up. This time, however, instead of entering behind the Lodge, I entered by way of the old access road from which I had exited the previous time I was there. It took me a while to find the entrace path, because the path leaves the woods at an angle and unless you're looking at iy staright on, you just see a neverending wall of vegetation.

I walked the path to the spot where I had previously seen the heron. He was not there today, I observed not without disappointment. But since he wasn't there, I walked down that path he had ben occupying to see where it lead. The path, however, devolved from a worn path to an animal path and eventually brached off into several nondescript paths, overgrown and only accomodating to things walking on all fours, and so I turned back, making my way towards the stumps in the water, about half a mile away.

Making my way down the path, I heard peopledoing some home improvement work on the other side of the rive, at the top of the cliff, some twenty feet up. I could see them through the trees, working on taking down an old deck that overlooked the river. Upon seeing them, I froze. This seems to be an instinct in me that comes out when I enter the woods, and is very difficult to override when I come upon someone in the wilderness, though my social instincts can usually overpower it when I meet someone who obviously sees me.

I sttod still, watching them work for a short time, wishing I hadn't worn a bright yellow shirt that day. When their back were turned, I walked on.

Right before the stumps, there is a big bend in the river. I stopped at a secluded little stand of trees by the bend and saw a little beach, probably only one foot by two feet, which had presumably formed there due to the slow curreny there at the bend in the river, plus a large tree had fallen into the river on the downstream side of the beach, further slowing the current there. The little beach had a base of fine white sand, and on top of this base was a courser gravel, black, white and tan, along with a few small sticks and leaves, not to mention a candy wrapper and beer can. Everything on top of the base layer was no doubt washed up there during the period of heavy rains last month when the water level raised about a foot. Looking at the garbage, I resolved to start carrying a bag with me on my outings to pick up littler.

I went back out on the main path and walked to the stumps. The sight of them, I perceved with a little disappointment, did not strike me with the same intensity and awe as the last time I had seen them. But once this initial disappointment passed, I was able to enjoy to sight of them again, and I stepped reverently towards the stumps, intending to walk as far out into the river on them as I could.

Suddenly, as I got to within ten or fifteen feet of the shoreline, two ducks, in an explosion of activity, noisily splashed and flapped their way into the air from where they had been swimming on the edge of the river. They had been tucked away behind an outcrop of tall grass so I had been unable to see them as I approached. I took a half step back as their commotion ensued, crouching a little, my heart racing. Within moments they were gone down the river, and the flowing current erasd any trace of their disturbance in the water.

Before my pulse had slowed, I stepped out onto one of the stumps, silently listening to the water flow around all the obstructions jutting out of the river. Looking across the river, I saw that the stumps were father apart than I had remembered. To make my way further across the river would take a leap of such distance that it would be a little bit challenging on dry land, and given the small landing area and the threat of falling in the river, failure seemed a more certain outcome than success. Istood there a good long while contemplating if I should attempt the jump, and if so, what would be the best way, before I returned to the shore, figuring I would first practice the leap on dry land where a mistake wouldn't be as drastic.

I made my way to the bottom of the hill behind the Moose Lodge. This was where I had entered these woods when I first explored them two days previously. I continued west, upstream, to explore further. The hill on my left remained steep, and got closer and closer to the river, until eventually the path left flat land and found its way along the hillside, making the walk more difficult. This part of the path was obviously mainly used by animals, as it was narrow and less trodden. I continued on, however, making use of the trees and rocks embedded along the way for balance and leverage.

I maintained my arduous course for about another fifty or sixty feet until I came to a storm sewer drain that emptied into the river. The hill side had been excavated to install this drain, resulting in a sheer cliff rather than a steep hillside, and a little bay had formed in the few feet between where the drain emptied and the river bank started. Paper cups, chip bags and even a shirt were among the many pieces of garbage that had gotten hung up on the rocks between the drain and the river in theat bay. The drain itself was fairly well hidden by large sandstone boulders and rocks, which I appreciated from an esthetic point of view, but it still made me sad to think of all the litter and things that get washed into this great resource.

The bay looked difficult, even treacherous to cross, an obstacle to my travels not entirely unlike the stumps I had visited earlier. It would be hard to even reach the little bay, as I would have to scale down a five foot sheer drop off onto pointy, unevenly spaced rocks. I decided against crossing it today, for much the same reasons as before, and I retraced my path and left the woods, trying to figure out in my head how I would train for the crossings.


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