Tuesday, March 3
Today is both a work day and a jogging day.
In the morning, Julie and I head out to clean the Clevis Multrums – the back country composting toilets. The park has just acquired a brand new gator, only one and a half hours of run time on it. It’s green and yellow, a John Deere, and I feel almost bad about taking it onto the Loop trail for the first time. It’s all shiny and clean now, it won’t be for long.
Heavy fog blankets the landscape and a chill hangs in the still air, everything is damp. Enchanted Rock and it’s smaller cousins could have gotten up in the middle of the night and left and nobody would be the wiser, they are completely hidden from view.
You might think that cleaning toilets would be one of the worst parts of camp hosting, but the setting here makes it kind of fun. It takes just over a half-hour to get to the furthest commode, out by Buzzard’s Roost, and the 4×4 cart handles the rock slabs and eroded parts of the trail very well. The drive is pleasant, we have the back country all to ourselves. The scenery looks foreign to us, the fog makes it impossible to pick out the usual landmarks. It’s like discovering the park anew.
The actual cleaning goes pretty quickly. The weather was bad here this past weekend too so there weren’t many visitors. The floor gets swept, the trash taken out, the toilet paper restocked, the toilet seat wiped down, and there is a bacterial liquid that gets dumped down into the toilet along with sawdust – to help with the composting. Then it’s back into the gator and drive to the next one. We start with the furthest, and make our way back at a slower pace, hitting all five outhouses.
On the way back, a breeze picks up from the south and starts scattering the fog. Enchanted Rock hasn’t gotten up and left after all, and lies wreathed in the low clouds.
After work gets out at noon, Julie and I change and go jogging. I’d like to say I’m one of those people who jogs regularly no matter where I am, but I’m not. It happens in spurts of all or nothing, months of maintaining a regular schedule, followed by months of nothing, depending on where I am. Many campgrounds I stay in don’t have a good paths for jogging nearby, and when you’re working 40 or more hours a week it’s still hard to find the time – stationary or mobile. E-rock is probably the best place I’ve stayed at for jogging since I hit the road, it’s always easier at volunteer places with less work hours.
We retrace our path from this morning on the Loop trail, powered by our legs instead of a diesel engine. The sun has burned through the clouds after days of being absent, and it’s warmed up considerably just as the forecasters promised. I’d had my doubts after this morning. It’s about 62 with a steady wind, good weather for jogging and I feel like I could run forever… until the last 5 minutes or so of our timed 30 minutes, when my energy gives out and it feels like a slog. It was effortless, it wouldn’t be very good exercise.
The hill country is trying desperately to summon spring. Despite the unpredictable weather of the past couple weeks, the grass is noticeably getting greener. Small purple, white, and yellow flowers have tentatively poked up out of last year’s dried vegetation. A few daring trees have opened their buds early. Good luck plants, I think we’re all ready for the season to change.
* * *
The day after I wrote this, we got buried in ice again. I’ve never seen anything quite like it: a thunderstorm came through around 9 pm Wednesday night when the air temp was 30 degrees, so it was lighting and heavy rain mixed with sleet and ice pellets. By noon the next day it was mostly melted off. From a quick walk through the park, it looks like the new vegetation has come through alright, but the low tonight is suppose to get down to 23, the coldest it’s been since I arrived in Texas. C’mon, spring, you can do this thing!
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