Thursday, July 4, 2013

Panola Mountain State Park: Return to the Wild

When we are all decimated, and the human population dwindles to far off islands where whatever supervirus has not effected people, nature will be quick to take back over.  The ivy will crawl up the walls, breaking through the doors and siding. The squirrels will make homes in our attics, and sooner or later, the termites will take care of the rest.  I don't see the house I live in now lasting much past 20 years, but it would make little difference, as there would be no one here to live in it (except maybe Will Smith, but he'll have enough to do fighting off the undead.)  Because the Apocalyptic Disaster movie is so popular, it wouldn't be above people's imagination to see mass death come out of some Robin Cook or Stephen King book and kill us all.

The planned and perfect squares of nature that we play on, the parks and golf courses, would grow wild, turning back from the patterned gardens that Wordsworth penned  to the scary wilderness even Thoreau would not venture into.  So it is that the Southerness Golf Course was given to Panola Mountain State Park and used as a trailhead for the Path Foundation's trails running through the area. Most of the course itself was allowed to revert back to natural space, with the concrete paths twisting around the greens becoming trails amongst the wild raspberry bushes, the thorny thistles, and the many maple trees dropping seed pods everywhere.

The west side of the course has been turned into an archery range, with makeshift artificial animals (it looks like a bear, but it's not moving). They really should move, automaton style, like those games at carnivals. You're allowed to walk on the trails that go from one "target" to the next, but the others are fenced off.  And while I'm used to ignoring signs and hopping over fences, I don't want an arrow in my thigh, so I stay on the trails.

photo by Rob Meeks
The east side, around the lake, where those retired from daily chores come to chat and fish, but mostly chat, are trails that wind around a huge tree used for climbing programs.  Teaching kids how to   climb a tree, which would be instinct in yesteryear, now is done with safety equipment and an instructor. I would rather have large oak trees in the park with winding limbs, just calling for kids to climb higher and higher, and if they happen to fall and break an arm... that's just the pains of childhood. But of course, that won't happen in today's litigious society.  The injuring tree would be cut  down and artificial plastic playsets would be put up, as if man could engineer anything as intricate as a tree.  You know, going to Factory Shoals Park in Covington, the thought processes needed to cross the rapids, with slippery rocks and unknown depths, knowing that a wrong move would cause injury, is the same thing as climbing a tree. Would the limb hold? Can you reach it? The strategy is worth every second.

Parks like this also have wooden things constructed around every bend.... bridges crossing creeks, picnic tables and cooking areas in former greens... built as Eagle Scout projects.  The Gazebo at the South Rockdale Community Park is another one.  Hopefully, the ideas the scouts learned in the program will last as long as the projects.  And past the bridges and the picnic tables, a path leads out to field of grass, and off to the side, a house that has long been abandoned. Perhaps it was a property that was donated to the state to make the park.  The house stands with the ivy encroaching and the animals making shelters in the attic rafters.  An example of how nature would take over our environment, as soon as we leave it.  It leaves a strong impression, not an eyesore in some neighborhood, but a symbol of the power of nature, when wood rots and the storms break through and the walls crumble.

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