The Way the Day Unfolds, part 4 of 4: Crash, Cut & Tape, or, Being Lost is Half the Fun

by Amy Martin (c)

Our grass evaluations concluded, the kind of warped logic we are prone to takes over. Now back at the south end of the property, we’re curious about some woods work we continued yesterday on our latest trail. That was on the West Flank. It’s much like the East Flank, but since it didn’t have the mid-century cow invasion is far more overrun with cedars, forming a dense woods, some of them 50 feet tall.

Yet our crashing through the brush over the past year had uncovered an intriguing series of widely spaced large pecan trees, nearly swallowed by cedars, but surviving, along with the occasional possumhaw and roughleaf dogwood thicket, struggling remainders of a vibrant understory life. We marked our careening path by tying long strands of yellow tape with black dots, but didn’t cut the branches away to create a real trail.

That area of the West Flank is just a few hundred yards by foot across Cross Creek via the Funky Trunk Crossing and Hanna’s Trail. Or over a mile by jeep roads, since we have to drive down to the shallow end of the creek and back up again. So we strike out by foot, reasoning that we’ll go over there, cut and re-mark the trail, and come back. Piece of cake, nice hike.

The first tip-off that things would not go quite as planned was losing the trailhead. The trail we knew was still there; we worked on it a few hours yesterday and have the scratches to prove it. The trailhead was another matter. We knew it was off Hanna’s Trail somewhere. But sometimes the tape disappears, sometimes we run out of tape and don’t finish marking the trail.

We follow Hanna’s Trail to its hilltop clearing terminus, and walk back and forth over 50 yards or so, looking for the trailhead. A parting in the trees looks promising and we enter. One slight opening in the cedar forest leads to another and then another and then nothing, just solid thicket. We crash into it, knowing that out there, somewhere, were strands of yellow tape making vague partings in the woods.

Scooter begins fanning back and forth through the cedar brush looking for the trail, while I make a line to where I think the trail should be, cutting and marking a new trail as I go. We find yellow tape, but aren’t sure where on the original trail we are. He heads out again to figure the trail out. I’m too lost to do much of anything besides cut the trail we found, linking one yellow strand to another, to wherever the heck it’s going to go.

Eventually we connect, my new trail becoming more ragged and less well cut as it goes on until I crash into the original trail. We follow it to its trailhead, in a far different spot on Hanna’s Trail than we remembered. By this time it’s nearly dark; we spent almost five hours bushwhacking trails. Exhausted and out of water, we sit on some bare ground and remember, oh yeah, the jeep is quite a distance on the other side of Cross Creek.

We brush off the accumulated cedar needles and head back, another day spent where the feet wanted to go. Yet incredibly productive. Someday we’ll bring in machines to cut cedars on the West Flank as we did on the east. But before we do, we have to know where the good trees are to save them, and where the animals find shelter, so we avoid there, too. We return to the jeep and drive home in the gathering dusk. As we leave the high forest and enter the lowland meadows, a Full Moon surprises us, rising above the eastern treeline.

October 25, 2007