Daniel Boone National Forest and within its northern boundary, 8,000-acre Cave Run Lake, its surrounding hillsides several shades of gray, as it begins each day in stillness below a morning mist.
With the sunrise, we are suddenly surrounded by the glowing red banks that rise steeply above us to a darkened tree line and drop sharply through the water below. Slowly, we follow the lake shore, separated by just inches at times, as it jogs and dips for miles and miles into quiet coves, crooked fingers of a giant hand.
This space between land and water, rocky and rough, yet rich with life.
The roots tangle here, in the last effort of each tree’s survival, as those at the edge slowly tip and tumble—the walls beneath them each year, crumbling further back, releasing them into the depths of the lake.
Warmed in sunshine, a plump, spiny lizard sprints within this red and gray patchwork, then stops for a moment, dissolved in a puddle of color, her long and slender clawed toes, curled carefully around a small rock. Invisible in her frozen stare, our eyes are locked until she disappears into a crevice and we paddle on.
The young trees, sycamores, river birch, and sweetgum, begin here, rooted from seeds set out across the surface, floating until they are settled in the stillness of this edge to start again.
A clubtail dragonfly with emerald eyes finds their small stature and broad leaves a welcome resting spot as he cruises this immense watery landscape, acres across.
All so different, all so new, so wild—
and our day on the water has just begun.