Saturday, July 4, 2009

First Night

Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

We had gotten into camp the night before.
Arriving late in the day, but assured plenty of time before sunset for both finding the Zilpo campground down its winding course past dimly marked turns, and erecting a modest setup of our site—
a small nylon tent, two collapsible canvas chairs and a plastic cooler, which we stowed beneath the government-issue, half-ton picnic table.

Our site this time, our choice, #21—marked with a faded asterisk on an old map of years ago and saved from a previous visit, when we drove the camp loop one last time before check out, marking, as was our habit, “better” sites to remember in the future.
This time, we had grabbed the only site within 25 feet of its own beach—preferred by many with children for its easy wading or flat, sandy play space--chosen by us for its smooth canoe access. Unloaded from the roof of the car, within just several steps, the red canoe slid effortlessly down the well-worn path to the lake edge. Bumping its way over the network of exposed roots of a row of sweetgum, that with each day’s walk began less and less to resemble snakes, it found its way to water, and was locked in place for the night.

Our beach and Red Canoe

The tent site was less cooperative.
Constructed of very fine gravel, it had at one time been malleable. Years later, however, and compacted beneath camper’s vehicles and hundreds of feet, it had hardened into a close substitute for concrete. No rock, no hammer, no axe would convince the 8 feeble tent stakes to dig in nor hold tight. Thankfully, the beach provided the solution, in long, weathered logs, washed onto the shore and left scattered amongst the sweetgum stand. We dragged two uphill, and tethered the tent securely.

By the time darkness fell, we were resting around a small fire, sleeping bags in the tent, unrolled and ready—the light from the few struggling flames, all that was needed for the subject at hand—our plans for the next day’s paddle. And, although the forecast threatened to stall us with the afternoon summertime classic, “pop-up thunderstorms,” we decided we would make a go of it, throwing ponchos and extra plastic wraps into our bags, packed and set aside for the next day. We would watch the sky and play it smart.
Many days are lost in waiting for rains that will never come.


A fishing boat on the water before dawn woke us, racing against the rising fog across the smooth lake to reach a quiet cove before the heavy, gray blanket could be lifted by the first morning light. Lingering long enough to savor the first minutes of this day’s waking in the woods, we hovered around the heavy, dew-kissed table, holding our breakfast, while a Wood Thrush sang from every corner of the campsite, choruses resounding of the deep woods, heavy air and daybreak.
And wondered about the interesting collection left on one of the chairs by someone in the night.

Can you guess what happened here?

(click to enlarge)

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bobbie said...

An absolutely beautiful place.

Can't tell from the photo if it's shells or flowers on the chair seat.

Barry said...

Those early morning hours in the cool of the day, a hot mug of coffee steaming in our hands, breakfast sizzling on the Coleman stove, are among my favourite times camping.

But then, so are about a thousand more experiences.

I envy your being there.

KatDoc said...

Wonderful tale of your day. I'm guessing a bird ate some sort of moth and left the undigestable bits on your camp chair?


nina at Nature Remains. said...

You're right, Kathi, it's a moth's wings and legs--but there's more. Another clue left beside them on the seat.

Whatcha think?

KatDoc said...

Oh, wait - something I missed at first glance. Is that rodent turds? A killer chipmunk, maybe?

~Kat, Nature Detective

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Aw,...I'd like it to be bat!
The sky over the lake was FULL of them--and this "mystery" happened between the hours of 11:30 pm and 5:00am.
Could it be?

KatDoc said...

Hmmmm - bat. Well, I don't know what bat droppings look like, so I couldn't say there. Still, I think a bat would take a moth and eat it in flight, so that the bits wouldn't be all in a pile, but scattered. Rodents eat and defecate all in a spot, but don't bats do their doody in the bat cave, leaving a big pile of guano?

...Thinking out loud,


KatDoc said...

Picture of bat guano here:

Michelle Johnson said...

Some great photos. Glad you're having a nice time. Moth wings would have been my guess but, I missed the other prize left behind. Hope all is well. Have a great day.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I actually did come across that site--and wondered about how a large moth would be eaten. Mosquitoes, obviously, a small snack, on the fly, but what about something bigger? Would they stop somewhere to use their feet to dismember it and chew?
Trying to picture this unfolding on the seat of the chair at 2:30 in the morning.

Or, would they find a branch, and hang?

KatDoc said...

Been thinking about this some more. If there was a hanging down branch over the chair, then yeah, it might eat a bigger bug while hanging from a tree. But, somehow, I can't see a bat sitting in a camp chair, feet up and wings splayed out, munching a moth. (OK, silly thought, but you know what I mean.)

Do we need a Science Chimp, or can we figure this one out ourselves?

~Kathi, off to research bat feeding styles

KatDoc said...

OK, more info: Little Brown Bats (among others) catch flying insects with their wing or tail membranes and transfer them directly to their mouths. Some bats can catch small insects in their mouths. However, I did find two photos of bats hanging upside down, devouring larger prey. One was a frog-eating bat and the other was eating a really large katydid.

So. Bat or rodent, take your pick. I'm still leaning to rodent, based on the droppings, personally.

Any other ideas, anyone?


nina at Nature Remains. said...

Aw, c'mon, Kathi,
We left him a nice toasty fire and lake view.
I'm sure he'd gladly take a seat and dine!

Thanks for all your thinking on this!

Deborah Godin said...

I think I'd vote for a rodent, too. I was thinking of something nocturnal like a vole or shrew or...but would they leave the cover of the undergrowth and risk becoming part of the food chain up on the chair? Fascinating post and comments!!

MObugs said...

I personally like the image of a cute little bat all lounged back in his camp chair near the toasty fire munching on his midnight snack! Would make a cute cartoon.
Probably a chipmunk or mouse though.