Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Tall Tale From The Woods

We embark upon a brisk bike ride today because it's cold (about 47
degrees F) but sunny. And brisk means we pack nothing. Not even
my camera. (ARGH!) Because we won't be gone long.

We head down a paved bike trail at the rear of Topsail Hill Preserve
State Park
in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. I then remember a path suggested
to us by the campground attendant. "Go straight at the bend," he
jerked his head to the right. "You won't be sorry. There's a lake at
the end." Can we bring the dogs? "Just watch out for the 13-foot
gator!" Ha ha.

So today at "the bend" on the bike trail, we go straight (without the
dogs) and pedal slightly uphill and downhill on hard-packed sand
through a forest of pines.

It's solitary out here, with hundreds of palm plants and wild lavender
bordering our lane and mingling with the trees. And then, it turns
ominous, blackened by a long-ago controlled fire, the kind used to
clear wooded land for construction. Tall pines weathered the fire,
sustaining burns around their trunks, but living nonetheless. Bravo,
brave pines.

At the end of the lane, about a mile into the woods, we reach the
small freshwater Campbell Lake.

Immediately, I regret my decision to leave my camera behind. I see
what would have made a great picture instead of this tall tale: a
slithering s-shaped indent in the sand just at the water's edge. Just
the right footprint left behind by an exiting 13-foot alligator, who
heard us coming.

Really. That's what I saw. I really did.

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