Friday morning I climbed out of the camper, looked up at the sky and shivered involuntarily.
After checking NOAA compulsively for days before our camping trip and believing that the weather was actually going to be nothing but sunny and warm from "this day forward", I was stupidly surprised that our first morning at Mud Lake held only thick clouds and very cool temperatures.
This was NOAA for goodness sakes. One of many overblown, alphabet abbreviated, government-bureaucratic-entities, so why on earth had I simply just believed the little diagrams for the area that had been on their website happily displaying blue sky and sun?
Silly ole' bear.
Silly ole' Karin.
Reaching for a sweatshirt, I quickly decided that the weather didn't matter.
It was cool but not cold, and regardless of how the skies played out, we were camping - surrounded by water and trees and endless rows of pink wild roses - and that all was fine in our quiet camping world.
While LC made coffee I walked the area with Kory, picking up dried limbs to burn for firewood, and by mid-morning LC and I had eaten breakfast, drank a few cups of coffee, and finally started a fire just to keep the chill away.
Looking at the sky again it was still cool and the grey, but now fed and watered LC was ready for fishing and I was ready for biking.
Kissing my Mountain Boy on the cheek and kissing my sweet dog on top of her furry head, I headed down the gravel road with no particular destination in mind.
I was wearing my helmet, gloves, glasses and clip-in shoes, but hadn't even bothered to bring bike shorts with me. A few years ago I would never have even considered biking without bike shorts, but it was now and it wasn't a few years ago, and now it just seemed like one more thing to pack and hardly even worth the effort.
I could manage with regular shorts for all the time I'd be out on bike.
A picture of the gravel road close to the campground, with the mountains in the distance..............
After riding down the very long gravel road leading from the campground to the main road on the north side of the lake, I turned right.
Very quickly I had farm land to my left and lake to my right.
I slowed down as I approached the large piece of irrigation equipment that was spewing water over the span of the field. It was also spewing water over the road I was riding.
Stopping for a few moments I watched the gush of water hitting the newly green and sprouting crop, enthralled with it. These kinds of things are still new to me, even after having lived in the west off and on for almost three years now.
There is very little reason to irrigate in Tennessee, and I still find them interesting to watch.
After snapping a few pictures I watched to the stream flowing over the road, clipped into my pedals and began riding again, hoping that my timing wasn't off.
It wouldn't have been the end of the world if it WAS off, but on a cool day I didn't see the reason to get wet if I didn't have to.
I timed my pass well, and continued on with my ride..............
Through the clouds I could see them, but it took me a few moments to realize just what I was looking at.
At first I thought I must have been mistaken because they were.........God, how many miles from here were they?
100 miles? Maybe. Certainly over a mountain pass. Yes.......they had to be over a 100 miles from here.
I hadn't been riding for long before I pulled off the road and dropped my bike on a sandy overlook.
It was the first real unobscured and quiet view of the lake I had seen since we arrived, and I stood in the sand looking out over a lake that was just as grey on this day as it had been on the cold April day when we first found this place.
I didn't remember seeing them in April but I could see the three tallest buttes in Atomic City - the Twin Buttes and Big Butte - from where I stood.
The lake was huge. Perhaps as huge as my Woods Reservoir in Tennessee.
The Woods that I had kayaked on hundreds of times over the years............
Eventually I wandered back to my bike, that I had stood up against a tall group of sage bushes close to the road.
My beloved..........now neglected bike.
The bike that had seen me safely through so many races in so many states over so many years.
I'm sorry that I neglect you now, loyal friend Tassa Marlin.
I don't mean to. But I can't seem to help it.............
Biking slowly and easily for another twenty minutes, I again impulsively pulled off the gravel road and pulled onto what turned out to be a very sandy double track trail.
The sand was surprisingly deep and frustratingly hard to pedal, and within five minutes I dropped my bike, and again headed out on foot eager to see whatever it was that I would see.
I had no other agenda other than to ride, explore a bit, take some pictures, be alone with the terrain and my bike.
I liked the quiet of my own thoughts, and for the first time in a long time realized that I don't spend enough time alone.
I love LC and love Kory, but have always needed a lot of time alone, and I haven't gotten that recently and didn't even realize it until the moment I was walking in sand on a side trail on the back side of a lake...............
I heard them before I saw them.
I had disturbed hundreds of ducks, and by the time I fumbled to retrieve my camera from the side pocket of my shorts, they had all picked up speed across the surface of the water, taken to the air and then were gone...............
The wild roses were everywhere at Mud Lake.
All beautiful and pink, in clumps and endless bushes that acted as natural fences between fields.
They were everywhere I looked and they smelled wonderful.............
I traveled on foot for about half a mile, wandering a little awkwardly on the sandy trail (as I always do when wearing bike shoes with metal clips on the bottom) and then stopping frequently to look out over the lake and take pictures of all the things we have so little of in our desert home - trees, birds, water, green.
Looking up ahead, it was obvious that this trail continued on much further, but it was time to head back the way I had come, retrieve my bike and see what else I would find.............
You can't see it in this picture, but if you click on the picture it will enlarge and start a slide show of bigger pictures................
Close to where I had dropped my bike was another trail.
The sand looked to be harder packed, and the trail looked as though it may be used by trucks - perhaps to access parts of the farm land adjacent to the lake.
I picked up the trail hoping that biking would be easier going on the way back to the road.
Within moments I found myself back in soft, crumbling sand that made it next to impossible to pedal. I stalled out a number of times, took a couple of slow speed falls, managed to get a little scratched up in the process (an experience that feels so strange now, when it was all second nature to me only a few years ago), but finally made it back to the road.............
It was only on my way back to the campground as I found myself pushing up the long sleeves of my shirt, that I looked up and finally realized that the sky was slowly but irrevocably beginning to clear.
It was getting warmer.
I was getting warm from the exertion of pedaling.
The sky was valiantly trying to turn blue.
It was almost noon and the day was finally turning into what NOAA (damned alphabet-soup agencies....) had promised...............
Focusing more on the farm land than the lake, on my way back to the camp ground..............
Blue sky. Blue lake.
Kayaking was in my future after all..............
Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war...............Loren Eiseley