Beginning of the End

Standing at the beginning of the dull gravel road this morning, I knew that this would be the last time that I visited the lake and surrounding woods for this assignment. It’s been a great few weeks, and I know that I’ll be visiting the lake far after this semester is over. This blog post is a continuation of my last post, and will be my final one for the semester; it’s been a blast!

Eastern Redbud?

As I stand, taking in the scenery around me as I have done many a time, I note a flair of color in my peripheral vision. A pair of small trees stand to my left, thin in nature and fragile looking, yet sporting the emergence of a few bold pink flowers. These small buds bring with them the promise of spring, which is now asserting its dominance over winter as temperatures continue to rise. Spurred on by heavy rainfall, they have grown, splashing color into my surroundings and brightening my day. These budding flowers provide me with a sense of hope, as well as a sense of nostalgia, as this project is coming to a close. I know that I can’t stand here forever, and I set my sights on the road ahead of me.

Old Town Road

I continue down the path, reveling in all that I can see. The sides of the path, normally clear (or at least as clear as a gravel path can be), are coated in mud, with bold tire marks indicating a recent drive down here. The beautiful sky, blue as a subtle sea, hides the secrets of the past few days of pouring rain. Messy footsteps and a small lake are all that remains of these past showers, and they’re swept away in my mind by the beautiful landscape that is the sky. As the lake is my focus for this entire project, and I haven’t touched on it specifically since two blog posts ago, I make my way over to the sandy area, which is quite possibly my favorite region of this landscape to just relax in. Crunching over the sand, my shoes sinking in, I plop down on the bench and look out into the water.

Turtles All The Way Down

As I sit on the beach area, I notice that I have two visitors. These two turtles, vastly different in size, greet me as they stand still on the stony barrier between the water and the sand. Yellow-bellied sliders, as I believe they are called, look away from me, determined to continue in their stony nature as we exist side by side.

It is here that I end my blog for the semester: sitting on a bench in a sandy drift, looking out at the lake while the sun shines down on me and my turtle companion. It’s been a pleasure to have an excuse to visit this land so many times this semester. This place is a thing of beauty: man and nature coming together to create an intriguing mix, and I am so glad that I’ve been able to be a part of it throughout this journey. Thanks for reading!

Peeking Through the Openings

Making my way to the lake took longer than usual today. I parked early this morning in the Frank parking lot, rushing to my 8:30 physics class, and I had not bothered to move it before making my way down to my place of observation. It was a nice enough day, albeit with wind chilly enough to make even the hottest of sunny glares cool down, and the walking was pleasant. Without a drop of rain in the sky, and with all my classes for the day already well behind me, I am in no rush, which is reflected in my light pace.

When I finally do arrive at the lake, I take the scenic route, cutting through the meadow in an attempt to both save a little time and to have a different perspective of the landscape laid out in front of me. A lone individual, silhouetted against the backdrop of the sun-kissed water, leisurely casts his fishing rod deep out into the lake, using his time to relax and stare off into the depths of the water as I draw closer to the shore. Finally within a stone’s throw of the lake, I cut a sharp left to the paved path that I’ve come to know so well. This particular venture, I linger near the edge of the gravel path, taking in my surroundings and finding new meaning in them.

Threading the Needle

From my current viewpoint, I can barely see the lake, with my eyes having to thread the needle between one large tree on my right and a cluster of trees on my left. In between the trees, resting cozy in the grass, lies a stark white sign, boldly declaring the lack of available and allowable parking in this area. The color of the sign, at a sharp contrast with all of its surroundings, throws me off. While the point of the signs color is to attract attention, it still feels out of place in this landscape of peaceful trees and ripples. At this distance, the lake appears as a blurry mass, devoid of all character save for some natural highlights, with shadows pouring over its surface from far-away trees.

Drainage!

Just to my right a small drain exists, erupting from the ground. It reminds me of the larger french drain just a few strides down the road, yet this drain is much less intrusive. Its small mouth barely pokes out from under it’s grassy covering, and it serves its purpose well, aiding in transforming the ground from it’s swampy state back into a state of spring bliss. This human addition feels almost representative of the balancing act occurring near the lake, with a natural place meeting a man-made force with an explosion of new features and inhabitants. The emergence and blending of the two distinct cultures has left a happy median in its wake, with both of the sides retaining autonomy as they support an odd sort of hybrid at their borders. The land that I see out before me is not quite fully natural, but it still has distinct streaks of human impact glazed throughout it, giving it a unique feel that can enchant even the dullest of days.

Runoff Ramblings

Leaning down and stretching, the soft skin of my fingertips brushing against the roughness of my shoes, I think back to my last visit to the lake. Making my way down to the same spot was a matter of following memory. Stepping out of my car, parked down in the rough gravel by the volleyball court, I venture down to the small cove at a brisk jog, making sure to not trip on any of the exposed roots or mud patches. It’s still relatively early in the morning, the sun only barely painting the tips of the trees above my head, and the air is brisk company for me. By the time I reach the shore of the lake where I had been a mere day ago, my mind has wandered, going through my other plans for the day. The brief glimmers of the water, glinting in gentle motion, snaps me back to my task, and I look out onto the lake.

Clear Water? No Thanks

I am greeted by the same, eye-catching sight that I was yesterday. Algae, in patches and clusters, ridden across the surface of the lake. The water in this particular portion is still, allowing the algae to float calmly and without fear of displacement.

Before me, I begin to see the connections occurring in this wild place. Everything snaps into place in my mind, and a theory begins to develop. Algae in lakes can only grow and thrive when relying on the nutrients present in the water. Too many nutrients can lead to phenomenon and events such as eutrophication and algae blooms. The algae in this particular alcove of the lake, I believe, is spurred on by the local runoff and erosion. This particular portion of the lake is location next to a gentle slope leading down from a field. When gravity takes water down this slope, it can displace and gather nutrients and particles from the soil along the way. Erosion, evident in the crumbling portion of the lakeside that I stand beside, can also contribute to adding nutrients to the water. It appears that this portion of the lake has succumbed to a state of overflowing nutrient levels, prompting the growth of the algae that catches my eyes in this early morning.

The biological surroundings of this portion of the lake might also have something to do with the murky state of the water. In this water peninsula, as I believe it is appropriate to call it (it is surrounded by land on three sides), there are many trees, of different sizes, shapes, and shades, hanging over the water, depositing a stray leaf into the lake from time to time. While it’s not pollution, the addition of organic matter into water can further serve to throw off mineral balance.

This post is vastly different from all of the others that I have written before it. While I normally tell a story of a trip to the lake and its surrounding landscape, with natural elements worked in, I decided to focus on a specific detail that I found to be fascinating in this blog post. While I will most likely revert back to storytelling in my next posts, this was, in my mind, a welcome change of pace. Until next time…

The Flip Side Part 2

If you didn’t read the last post, this is a continuation of my first journey around the side of the lake closest to the Guilford College gym, a place that I’d never witnessed in its entirety until today.

Triangular Figure

After witnessing the graffiti and markings present on the small hut by the water, it should have come as no shock to me that the other man-made object that I had spotted from afar was also covered. The triangular prism, well over 6 feet tall, stands out against the gentle grass in the meadow behind it. From behind the monument I can see the far edges of the lake, the trees and sun reflecting off of its surface. There is no defined path going to the lake’s edge, and so I plan my steps carefully, looking down with every footstep or two in order to avoid a wandering snake. As I get closer to the water, the plants by my feet begin to crawl slowly upwards, brushing against my calves in places as I traverse onward. The landscape on this edge of the lake is not unalike its opposite shore, with a grassy patch giving way to a sandy area and a clear entrance point to the water.

Geese 🙂

Finally at the edge of the water, I begin to notice that the similarities between here and the opposite shore are even more pronounced than I thought. Two geese wander around in the sandy/dirty area, searching the ground eagerly for tasty morsels. These geese are seemingly accustomed to human contact, and they don’t shy away from me as I make my way around them. The water on the shore to my right is murky, disguised by a layer or muck and algae. However, I don’t let this unsettling view distract me from the quiet beauty of this nook of the lake in front of me. Were it not for the frisbee players yelling in the background, this area would be the perfect place to settle down and relax, watching as ripples gently shake the surface of the lake. As I watch the geese, bumblebees dance around me, playful in their flight patterns as they buzz around the world. Seeing life from their perspective would be such an interesting thing; being able to travel quickly, zooming and dipping through the air at will. As I stand among these creatures in this natural place, I take note of the shoreline. Erosion is almost definitely an issue here, as shown by both the murky water and the state of the shore surrounding it.

This is the point where I ran out of time for the day. Having gone further away than normal from any available parking, I have to hassle back the way I came, flying past landmarks that I’ve just become acquainted with as I try desperately not to trip. Visiting this side of the lake has provided me with both a fuller view of the lake and its structure as well as a hint of inquiry. I want to know more about this lake, the shoreline, and what lies beyond. Maybe next time…

The Flip Side

In my first few visits to the lake, I’ve noticed a pattern: I almost always stick to the side of the lake that I’m most familiar with, venturing down the same set of beaten paths. In the next series of blogs detailing my adventures, I am going to seek to change this.

As I’m sure I have discussed on this blog before, one of my favorite pastimes is to head to the volleyball court outside of the Guilford College gym in order to relax with my friends. Having been to that location almost a hundred times over the course of the last year and a half, it’s a miracle that I’ve only ever used the connection to the lake from it twice. Now that I’ve been blogging my lake adventures, I figured that I should take a better look.

Lake View

From the volleyball courts, I took a gander down a gentle slope, gravel crunching under my shoes as I make my way to the grassy, natural area around the lake. Almost immediately I see the water, glistening in the late afternoon sun. While no official path greets me at this point, there are markings of trails well worn in by the foot falls of countless people before me. Continuing in their footsteps, I march onward, coming to the view seen above. Through the crook in the tree, its scaly bark pulling my eyes away every few seconds, I can make out bits and pieces of the lake that I’ve come to know: the sandy beach, the gravel path, and the Muscovy ducks. As I watch from afar, I see one of the Muscovy ducks dive into the water, flinging droplets in every which way as it careens through the water. I’ve never actually seen one of the ducks in the water, due to both biology and nature, and I regret that I have to witness it from afar. By the lake’s shore, a dogwood tree (I think) blooms early, its delicate white buds nipped by the gentle breeze of the afternoon. I’m more alert than usual, my senses perked by the new environment.

Interesting Design

Continuing forward, I pick up the sounds of the game of ultimate frisbee going on to my right in the elevated field. On my left, a small hut stands solitary, covered in markings and graffiti left by those that have visited in prior years. The distinct images marred onto the hut provide a harsh contrast to the natural beauty and peace of the lake behind it. While I’m not sure if I appreciate the nature of the art, it certainly provides a unique look to my viewpoint. In my opinion, this image might perfectly sum up the environment of the lake: natural, yet not. Wild, yet man-made. A few minutes of though reveal the contrasts and peculiarities that make the lake and its surrounding woods such a wonderful place.

It is here that I must end this post, although my discoveries for the day did not end at the hut. Being my longest time at my location so far, I decided that the events deserved two posts. Catch you in the next one!

Calming Waters

(Foreword: sorry for not posting in a while. I’ve had several posts drafted up and planned on my computer, and I’ll be posting them throughout the next few days as my time in American Nature Writing comes to a close.)

Making my way down to the lake at a brisker pace than usual, I barely stop to wave to the Muscovy Ducks before continuing down the path. My visit this morning is a brief one, and I’m hoping that it takes up only half of my break in between classes. It’s a nice day outside, the sun staying high above me, taunting me for forgetting sunscreen. Hanging a quick left, I make my way down the first wooded path available to me, determined to explore more of this man-altered wilderness before I have to return to the realm of classrooms and lectures. After my first few visits to the lake, I’ve stopped visiting with an idea of what to focus on in mind. Instead, I make my way around to areas that I haven’t been before and I let the sights and sounds that I experience guide me.

Uprooted Tree
Photo Taken By Me

Continuing to walk, my pace slowing now as I reach a section of the woods that I have not yet viewed in detail, I find myself drawn to the scene on my right. A stream, water nimbly yet slowly bubbling around, captivates me, and I pause just to watch its movement. Split down the middle of the stream lies a tree trunk, severed from its hold on the hold and now devoid of any life that it might have once had. Surrounding by life and motion, the stillness of the tree trunk provides a cruel juxtaposition. Why it, and not any of the other trees? Despite the tree’s best efforts, water still flows underneath it, traversing on its way without a care in the world.

Still Water
Photo Taken By Me

Tearing my eyes off of the sight, I check my watch, noting that I’m behind schedule. Venturing just a few steps further, I come to the point where the creek widens, giving way to a larger body of water, it’s lack of motion an abrupt change from the stream that feeds off of it. Contrast appears to be the name of the game with the water in this neck of the woods. The subtle undertones of wind blowing in from around me further serve to accentuate just how still the water is, as the minute motions of swaying plants are lively on the still backdrop.

Regretfully, this brings an end to my visit, as I need to head back and prepare for class. Coming to the woods and lake whenever I can fit it into my schedule has become a sort of hobby for me, as I truly do find this place relaxing. At the beginning of this project I was relatively apprehensive about having to come to this area so much, but I have come to appreciate its intricate details and placating scenery. Soles crunching the leaves below me, my feet carry me back to the buildings that occupy my vision every week, bringing me back to the land of human creation. I already cannot wait to go back.

Hot Take at the Lake

To put it simply, it sucked to be outside at times today. For a day in mid-March, before it’s even officially spring, it was sweltering. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from weather in North Carolina, but I was still left in shock of just how warm it was. My only consolation was the sweet relief of the wind, keeping the air just cool enough that I could feel like I wasn’t getting sunburned even though I was. With the wind making the day feel relatively nice, I figured that I was due for a trip to the lake.

Upon making my way down to the lake, I was given my customary greeting stares from the resident Muscovy ducks. Although I have talked about them multiple times before, I still feel the need to include them, as I believe that they are essential to the character of the lake. On this particular day, the ducks allowed me to get very close to them. It even seems like they’re posing for the pictures! In my research on Muscovy ducks, I learned that they have underdeveloped oil glands when compared to other duck species, causing them to not swim as much. This keeps accessible for me, and I make it a point to stop by and watch them every time I make it to the lake. I find their behavior fascinating, as they’re always together yet rarely doing anything other than sitting. The birds are also omnivorous, a fact that I never really considered; it makes sense considering that these two particular birds spend all of their time near fields containing plants and insects galore.

Beyond the Yellow Gate

Photo by Me

After making my stop with the Muscovy Ducks, I had a decision to make. Do I continue straight along the path to the edge of the woods and onward, or do I veer left onto the continued gravel path marked by a yellow gate. While the edge of the woods and the bridge that comes with it was tempting, I was drawn in to the mystery of the yellow gate and what lay beyond it. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to venture past the gate and onto this path. Not willing to take the risk, I was content with staying at the gate’s edge and peering out into the mysteries contained behind it. The scene contained beyond the gate reminds me of fall, with crisp, crunchy leaves littering the ground among barren trees. However, the one thing that stuck out to me was the presence of green ivy to the right of the defined path, marking an outlier in the otherwise peaceful mixture of autumn hue. Although I’ll need to research further, I believe that the swathes of green are actually climbing vines, a feat of nature that can both kill and support a tree depending on the circumstances. The vines provided a splash of color in what was otherwise a relatively uniform scene. Akin to the ducks, the ivy is just one of the many unique splashes of character in the area by the lake, providing me with new thought-provoking experiences every time I visit.

Dirty Water and the Road Most Taken

The idea of getting out of bed and making my way over to the lake wasn’t appealing as I woke up this morning, but as I rolled out of bed I knew that it had to be done. Throwing on a coat so that I could handle the nip of the fresh morning wind, I hopped in my car and made my way down to the lake. As I pulled up, I noticed something that I haden’t seen in my previous two journeys to the lake: a dirty, mucky surface covering the brown depths of the water below.

Murky Waters of the Guilford College Lake

Photo Taken By Me

I’m still not quite sure what caused this, as the new color was very distinct from anything I had seen at the lake before. It’s been raining these past few days on and off again, and my best guess is the combination of runoff and water movement swirling up minerals in the water. Regardless, it was an interesting new viewpoint of the lake, and it accompanied me as I continued my journey around the outer edge. If I’m being honest, I much prefer the calm, deep blue surface that is characteristic of the lake, and hopefully it will have returned to normal by my next visit. Having already examined the beach part of the lake’s outer rim in one of my previous blog posts, I chose to begin walking down the prominant gravel path just to the left of the lake from my perspective, following it to the edge of the woods.

French Drain?

Photo Taken By Me

While walking leisurely, I noticed the two pipes running from the lake to a rock system on the other side of the path. At first glance, I figured two things: these were drainage pipes, and they were man-made. Upon returning to my house after my visit to the lake, I did some further research into the pipes, and I’m pretty sure that this is a french drain system, where the drainage is spilled out into the rock field, filtering it and stopping oversaturation of the soil below the rocks. Although the drain does provide a blemish in the otherwise-clean, in my opinion, landscape near the lake, it undoubtably serves an important purpose for the health of the lake

Into the Woods

Photo Taken By Me

As I finished examining the drain, I wandered to the place where I ended my journey for today: the mark where the gravel path ended and the forest began. Although I had planned to go further into the woods today, the murkiness and mystery of the waters of the lake had drawn me in, and I was short on time. The entrance to the woods provides a place of remarkable contrast for me to write about; the scenery changes from that of man-made beauty to that of nature, with man’s creations filling in the gaps. With leaves crunching on the otherwise-quiet morning ground around me, I was able to stand at the border and take in the contrast, and it’s something that I look forward to exploring from the other side in my next blog post. However, I had to head home, and with one last look I jogged back to my car, bringing a conclusion to my most recent venture to the lake.

Rainy Day; New Plans

Honestly, I had planned on today being sunny. Although I knew that the weather forecast told a drastically different story, I yearned for sun in the hopes of being able to play a few games of volleyball with my friends under its’ warming glare. February’s weather so far has been inconsistent, to say the least, with sunny, beautiful days leading into powerful sheets of rain a mere 24 hours later. To my disappointment, I woke up this morning to the consistent pitter-patter of droplets of rain hitting my blurred window, falling from a frosty, clouded sky. My hopes of playing volleyball immediately went out the window, along with my ideas of what to do for the day outside of my classes.

Rough Map Of The Lake
Photo From Guilford College

Conveniently enough, the lake is right by the gym (where I had planned my volleyball excursion), and a short, one minute trek through the dew-infested grass got me to the muddy, man-made shore of the lake. As opposed to my last visit, where I approached the lake by car via Nathan hunt Road, my path this time came in from the south, causing me to witness a different section of the lake’s shore than had in my previous adventure. Focusing on this one particular section of the lake’s shore has given me a narrow-minded approach to this blog and the lake itself, something that I hope to break in future blog posts when I have more time to fully explore the edges of the water. Although I didn’t stop and experience the full glory of the new views at the moment of my journey from the volleyball court to the lake’s edge, I have them mentally stored away for another day when I’m in the mood for exploration. As I made my way down to the sandy beach and bench that I’ve come to know so well, all I carried was my phone (for the camera) and a small journal for my thoughts, its pages already beginning to fill from the work of previous days.

Mirrored Structure

Photo Taken by Me

One of the things that caught my eye as I sat down on my customary bench was the object covered in mirrors to my immediate left. In my opinion, this object, whatever it is, fits right in with the lake, it’s reflective surface catching the dull light of the sky in a way very similar to that of the pale waters before it. Although I didn’t, and still don’t, know what this thing is, I’m not sure I’m supposed to. It stands quietly by the lake, presenting a reflected view of the reality present around it. I ended up walking around the structure for a solid five minutes, mesmerized by it’s intricacies and the angles at which it captured light. The landscape around the lake is peppered with objects and quirks such as this one, and I’m hopeful that my future blog posts will be able to show them off as I find them.

Guilford Lake – Quiet Beauty

As I turned the rumbling engine of my car off and got out, I could hear….almost nothing. Sure, there were the usual subtle sounds of nature: the wind, the shifting of the grass, the quiet babble of the water. Man-made noise, however, was at a minimum. As I walked down to the lake, shoes sinking in to the light mud from last night’s rain, this feeling of relative silence remained with me. I was able to hear every footstep, breath, and noise that I made, all to the tune of the quiet grass and slow-moving water.

Calmness Of The Lake
Photo Taken By Me

Rest and Relaxation

It’s been a while since I last went to the lake, and the feelings of nostalgia came to me almost immediately: Memories of bonfires, nature hikes, and laughter all resurfacing in my mind. The sand is new, added to the man-made area in messy, beautiful fashion. As I sit down on the bench, my feet grinding against the hard sand, I take a look out into the vast expanses of the lake. The water is quiet, and I remember why I had come to love this place. Looking out into the water provides me with a sense of calm, as I watch the surface slowly and steadily shift. Sitting on the bench and watching consumes my focus, and I stay there for a time, watching and relaxing. Although we all know of the stigma around watching a calm canvas, with jokes about “watching paint dry” being cracked with ease, there’s something oddly calming about watching the minuscule motions of the lake and it’s surroundings. I’m the only person around when I go, and it feels like it’s just the lake and me, acquainting with each other as we sit still together.

A Surprisingly Friendly Muscovy Duck
Photo Taken By Me (With The Duck’s Permission, Of Course)

A New Friend

As I sit on the bench, contemplating what direction I want to take this journal entry, I hear the familiar sound of scurrying in the grass. Looking to my left, I quickly spot the two Muscovy ducks that I’ve come to associate with the lake. Friendly creatures, they wonder aimlessly among the newly seeded grass, picking and choosing the tastiest morsels for their pleasing. These birds might be the most iconic part about the lake, in my eyes. Whenever I visit I spot them, be it as they lounge, swim, or eat. They’re remarkably friendly, as seen by the closeness of my picture, and human interaction doesn’t seem to aggravate or scare them at all. In past visits I’ve watched them eat, even once giving them a portion of bread from my sandwich. Although the internet tells me that they often rest in trees, I’ve never seen the two particular birds that reside at the Guilford Lake anywhere other than the ground and the water. Not particularly majestic, they waddle around, living their life dependent on the lake and it’s surroundings. In future blog posts I’ll try to get more pictures of the pair, or even a video, as they are one of the most interesting parts of the lake for me.

That’s all for now. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read about my experiences with the lake. It’s truly a majestic, calming space, and if you’ve never spent time there, it’s a great experience, be it alone or with friends.