11.17.2006,12:58 PM
Kingdom of the Possums - Part 6
Deer in the Kingdom of Possums

My internal body alarm went off about 6 am and I crawled stiffly out of the tent with sweats and sandals on. Walking around a bit to warm up I found the restrooms and discovered to my joy the small stone building was heated and contained showers. Immediately I regretted not shoving a big towel in with my kit, thinking how nice it would be to shower right then. Washing my face forced the remaining sleepiness away and I wandered slowly back to camp to retrieve Bernard. “Coffee and breakfast, buddy!”

I emptied two pouches of instant oatmeal into the small aluminum bowl and heated water for both coffee and cereal. Allowing the coffee to steep I poured milk from the cooler on the oatmeal and slowly ate while surveying around me. I saw daybreak and a promise of sunrays peeking out in the clouds above the lake and finished my breakfast with haste; I wanted to get down to the ledges overlooking the lake for a few morning photos.

I caught a few shots of sunlight and blue sky peeking between the clouds and noticed a stream of ducks floating on the water. Except for a few hawks, these were the only other birds I had seen since arriving here.

I had no concrete plans for the rest of the day, but had entertained the thought of hiking around the other side of the lake. That was quickly replaced by itchy feet wanting to ride, so I packed the kit and gear and rode off down the road in search of a ride.

Riding Park Rd. 33, I turned north on 3253 for several miles. The scenery and feel was a hybrid of high plains and high desert: outcroppings of limestone, stubby juniper and mesquite trees, rolling hills of brown short prairie grass and prickly pear cactus with patches of agave spikes. Roughly erected barbed wire fences bordered much of the narrow road and I encountered a few stray cows, Black Angus crosses, on the side of the road and on the tarmac. I rode slowly and honked the Stebels once to move them out of the way. They moved, but not quickly. No reason to.

I passed a few ranch gates, several county roads of packed dirt and hardly any houses. And no other automobiles. It was an nice ride during which I could relax and look around without distraction, and even enjoyed a few sweeps with a flick here and flick there of the bike.

The road deadended at 1148 and I turned east towards the lake. Here were signs of typical lake living: small cabins, trailers, RV parks, small gas stations with convenience stores and boat trailers everywhere. The houses on the lake edge varied from sprawling ranch houses to tiny one or two-room cabins. Spotting a sign on the right for Fox Hollow Resort and Restaurant, I turned with a hopeful expectation of an early lunch.

I slowly rode through cottages and trailers packed closely together, reminding me of the lake communities I spent summers at growing up in New York. As a family, we often escaped suburbia to the many lakes of mid-state NY to spend a week or two in cabins or cottages. I remember these times fondly because I’m a water nymph at heart, despite nearly drowning when I was very young. No matter where I go, human life around the lakes tends to have similar trends in housing and recreation. Only around the lakes in the wilderness, such as the Maine woods and Cascade Mountains, is that pattern different. There, humans are the guests and the wildlife around the lakes are the natural habitants.

I never did see anything that resembled a ‘resort’ but I did pass a rustic store and what I suspect is the restaurant. And it was closed. I’m not sure if it was closed because of the season or that is was still early Sunday. Executing a careful U-turn in the gravel, I retraced my route to the main road with a disappointed stomach and headed back west.

At 1287 I turned right to ride north to Graham. I passed more houses on this route, but it was still mostly rough pasture land with some hills in the distance dotted with fall foliage. Eventually the road met TX 16 which commenced into Graham. Rather than turn south to begin my route alongside the east of PK lake, I rode into Graham to search for coffee and food.

I suspect Graham is typical of that part of Texas; not a small town, but a bustling agricultural community with a Walmart and many choices of fast food. I wasn’t interested in fast food; I wanted a comfy Mom ‘n Pop café to eat a burger and be smothered in the aroma and hot elixir of good coffee. Not finding what I wanted, I turned around in a parking lot and headed south again before exiting town. Perhaps I would find such a place further on down the road on my way south.

I left the hustle and bustle of a late Sunday morning riding down 16 in search of the lake. After missing my turn on 16 and continuing on 337, I realized I was off my route when a sign posted Witchita Falls miles ahead.

‘Wait a minute…..I’m not supposed to be going this far east’.

I rode until I found a spot with wide shoulders to do a safe U-turn without going off the tarmac and avoiding blind areas where drivers could not see me. I found Hwy 16 again and turned south, where I was supposed to be heading. I need a compass on my handlebar.

The road was rough and appeared to be torn up in places with no shoulder on either side. Coming upon cliffs of striated limestone bordering either side of the road, I leaned into a corner and gasped audibly with drawn breath at what lay before me and beyond.

Ahead of me the road descended between the cliffs into a valley and on the other side was a mesa ablaze in colors of fall: oranges, reds, rusty browns, green, and grey and beige cliffs. The edges of the valley echoed this palette of colors but the limestone cliffs separated the mesas from the lower rolling scene below them.

Immediately checking for a place to pull off on the side of the road, I was disappointed to see that there was no shoulder whatsoever; in fact, there wasn’t much of a road at all. Road construction was in process on both sides and it was literally chewed up and spit out and splattered on the terrain.

No pictures to capture this scene, I thought, but I knew darn well that it would be a long time before it faded from my memory. It was the most beautiful sight I had seen in many weeks. With some excitement and expectation, I entertained returning here the next weekend, perhaps with other riders. I felt that I wanted to share this gold mine of color and depth with others.

Regretfully I continued my ride down Hwy 16 and took the fork on Hwy 2353 along the lake. I watched for Park Rd 36 which would take me the length of a stretch of land that jutted out into the lake. Riding along, the lake was on both sides of me in places. Still, there were few if any vehicles and it was as if I was alone in this area of the world. It was rather nice, and I smiled in my helmet as I rode thinking of that. It reminded me of the apocalypse movies where a character wakes up and finds he is the only person alive and all the other people are dead or have disappeared. I chuckled at that thought. Childhood movies come back to haunt me.

The road ended at a the tip of the finger of land and I was greeted by a nice park with green grass, weeping willow trees, and covered picnic tables. Light stone columns supported the black wrought iron fence and gate, making a stark but colorful contrast against the green grass and blue-green lake. I circled the turnaround and parked the bike on the side of the road in the grass, got off and retrieved a bag of beef nuggets from a side case. I wandered inside the park and was greeted by two deer that stood and watched me as I walked in. I stopped, staring at them while they started at me. Slowly pulling my camera up to my face, I snapped a few shots of the deer. They never moved as I walked toward the water; they were obviously accustomed to human presence.

Sitting on a park bench, I took some shots of the lakeside and listened to the water gently roll in on the beach. It was quiet and pleasant while I ate a handful of beef jerky.

Washing it down with a few draws of water from my Camelbac, I walked back to the bike and mounted. As I slowly rode off, I glanced at a lovely stone house on the left and noticed a decently sized buck, with a rack of horns, lounging on the lawn in front of the house.

Are these someone’s pets? I sarcastically thought. What buck in his right mind would lay down and nonchalantly look like it belonged there?

Shaking my head, I geared up and rode off into the east, heading back towards 2353 and south again.

To be continued.......


posted by Macrobe
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