The weather for early October has been extraordinary, and after checking the upcoming forecast I realized that that trend was thankfully slated to continue for the foreseeable future.
Armed with that knowledge we recently camped for a couple of days at Mud Lake, which is located about an hours' drive from Atomic City.
This was the third time that LC, Kory and I had been to Mud Lake since our first visit back on a partially cloudy, most grey and cold day back in April:
Even on that first cold trip to this place, LC and I immediately decided that we loved this place.
What was not to love?
Free camping. A huge lake. Endless wildlife. Trails to hike and bike. Beautiful farm land surrounded by beautiful mountains.
We loved it there on our first trip and that love affair has just continued to grow.
Our second trip took place in June:
And four months later here we were again.
The drive to Mud Lake from our house is fast and flat, and after a crazy-busy morning packing up the camper and then loading a mountain bike and kayak into the back of the truck, we finally picked up enough speed to break free from the Atomic City vortex that seemed to continually keep us from leaving the house and heading to the wonderful-ness that was Mud Lake.
If we were better organized, if we engaged in more pre-planning, and if we packed the day before a known trip, the day we were supposed to leave would not be so frustrating and exhausting.
But we can't seem to - get better organized, engage in pre-planning or pack the day before.
Regardless, by late morning we were packed and thankfully drove away from the house determined to live without whatever we had forgotten.
We got all of a mile before I realized that I had left my bike shoes and bike helmet on a bench in the mudroom back at the house.
After turning around, driving back to the house, picking up the shoes and helmet (and closing a window that we had forgotten to close before booking out), we FINALLY headed towards "our" outdoor place.
Just over an hour later we pulled into the campground, and were both pleased and gratified to see that we were the only people there.
As LC settled the camper and truck, I looked at Kory who had been sitting between both of her people, and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk.
My 60 pound dog eagerly jumped into my lap, and I blindly reached for the door handle of the truck as my barking dog squirmed in anticipation of being broken free from the bondage of the vehicle.
Immediately we walked down a short paved trail and headed for the pier.
In April the cove we were camping at was bone dry.
In June the cove was filled with deep, crystal clear and cold water.
In early Fall the water level had dropped and it was........nasty.
It was obvious that I was looking at low, algae filled, stagnant water. There had been no fresh water flowing into this cove in a while.
I was disappointed but not surprised. Both LC and I had wondered as we were making the drive, whether or not there would be water in the cove.................
A look back at the driveway leading into the campground..............
It was a very beautiful day.
I was wearing shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt and was too warm.
When August had been so cold and rainy I wondered whether winter would come early to this region of the country.
With the exception of brief cool spurts, September had been warm.
And so had October so far.
I continued wandering with Kory, enamored (as I always am) at the water, the trees, the sound of birds, the lack of people.
A few months ago there was no shore line to walk.
This trip I wandered along the shore line, ducking under tree limbs and sinking into soft, muddy ground as I let Kory pulled me wherever she wanted to pull me.
It was her camping trip too.............
In July - during our second trip to Mud Lake (but our first camping trip), we realized as soon as we pulled into the camp ground that the entire area was lined with pink, wild roses.
They were everywhere.
In October the roses were gone, and were now replaced with endless bushes filled with endless red berries.
As I looked at them I absently wondered whether or not we would get pink roses if we threw these into the ground back at the house...............
By the time I had wandered the camp ground with Kory, and LC had set up the camper, my Mountain Boy tiredly declared that it was time for a nap.
Armed with gun, cell phone and camera I untiredly declared that it was time for a walk.
As tired man and tired dog settled into the camper, I headed for the water.
Cutting off the paved trail close to the pier I headed down onto the newly discovered shore line, curious to see how far it extended.
Maybe just to the end of the cove.
Maybe all the way out to the lake proper..............
God this day was gorgeous!
Very warm, and the sky was unfailingly blue.
Feeling more relaxed than I had in a long time I continued along the shore, turned left at the point and the endless lake opened up in front of me.
Surprisingly I ran into a thick section of bull rushes, waded through it, and continued further into my quiet adventure................
Running into more bull rushes I stepped to the edge of the water and quickly realized that I was not going to be able to continue any further without getting very wet.
Impulsively I made the decision to climb back up the hill to my left, and walk the high ground for a while until the beach opened up, as I knew it would eventually.
A picture of some of the farm land that dominates the boundaries surrounding this wildlife management area...............
From my higher perch I weaved in and among clumps of tall grasses and tall sage bushes, and frequently looked out over the lake, that on this perfect day looked unendingly blue.
The kind of blue that speaks of warm days and cold nights.
The blue of early fall...............
We had noticed them as we were driving into the park.
How could we not notice them?
Thousands - tens of thousands - of ducks swimming in the lake................
The trees were not the ridiculously bright reds and oranges of the fall trees back east, but they were very beautiful.
If we had made it to Mud Lake only a couple of weeks later the cove would have been completely drained, and the trees would have been completely bare.
We had come to this place just in time, and as I walked along the high ground bordering the lake I was gratified that we had made it here just in time..............
Alternating looking out over the lake to my right, and looking out over now quiet farm land to my left................
There it was!
The open access beach front that I had been searching for.
As I continued to slowly wander I also began to search for a way back down to the beach..............
After a couple of promising options I finally found my way down.
My first thought, as I looked down at this sandy thorough-fare, was a disgusted "I'll get sand in my shoes".
As soon as the thought formed in my head I stopped moving.
Jesus Christ Karin - when did you become such a pussy?
I had made it through a dysfunctional and gypsy-like childhood.
I had made it through two divorces and a custody battle for the boys.
I had made it through serious illness, serious injury and unfathomable loss.
I had made it through things never disclosed on this blog.
For seven years I had been an adventure racer.
I had had heat exhaustion and hyper thermia more times than I could count.
Had injuries that took months to recuperate from.
Had sleep deprivation induced hallucinations that would make drug abusers envious.
And the first thought when I find a way down to the beach is that I would get sand in my shoes????
When did you become such a pussy.
It started in Juneau and finished in Tennessee, and I barged down the hill in both disgust and acknowledgement at what I was becoming.
And then I sat on a log on the beach, untied my laces, and cleaned the sand out of my shoes..............
As I stood up from the log this caught me by surprise, and I studied it for a few moments, immediately interested.
Homes for birds...............
When we first explored Mud Lake (on a partially cloudy and partially sunny, but completely cold day in April) LC, Kory and I had walked the beach for a long time.
It was cold, but the world was beautiful and completely silent.
As we walked I realized that the water level was very low, and in the sand rested shells.
Lots of shells.
By the time we left the beach we both had pockets full of shells, and they now sit in a ceramic bowl on my hopelessly ugly and orange kitchen counter.
A frequent reminder of one unexpectedly good day in late winter................
After wandering for a long time along the beach I found a mound of grey rocks.
Again acting impulsively, I picked one up, felt the weight of it in my hands, and then bent down and placed it deliberately in the sand.
And then I repeated the process over and over again.
When I was finished I stood back from my work to take a look, then bent down to reposition some of the rocks until I was happy with them.