Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 224 - June 12th

Moody’s Landing, Mississippi
I actually managed to rise close to 5:30 a.m. this morning! Waking when it’s cool and only just beginning to see light is a welcome change. Dew clings to my tent and sleeping bag as I brew coffee to clear my eyes. Birds twitter sonorously from the pines on the either side of the bridge I am camped beneath. A small brown creek runs nearby. I’m on the border of the De Soto National Forest and magnificent pine trees span densely into the sky, surrounding the homes and trailers and sprinkled alongside the backroads I spend all day walking.

I’m not gonna lie, I made some serious mileage today. But I had to if I was to get back on track. Yesterday I took several wrong turns and it took several times asking locals for directions before I felt confident I could make it to the other side of the forest. Many of the houses out here are quite nice and well-to-do, expansive country manors or pastoral brick homes, although you do see trailers and the occasional abandoned house. One trailer was hardly bigger than the bed of a truck. I doubt a fully grown adult could stand up inside. There are also a lot of Tea Party signs planted on front lawns. I’m aware of the heated primary battle between the incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and the rising Tea Party star Chris McDaniel. Nary a whiff of a Democrat in this reddest of red states.

Around 3:00 p.m., roughly 8 hours into the walk, I met a gentleman named Neil who was curious about what I was doing and we had a very pleasant roadside dialogue for a few minutes. Shortly afterwards, I came across a campground named Moody’s Landing. I decided to halt for the evening when I spied the water faucet. Unlimited water is a huge draw. I tested it and cold water gushed freely into my palms. I wet my hair and face and drank my fill. The stone tables were also attractive (I miss tables for writing) but it was preposterously difficult writing outside due to the teeming multitude of carnivorous insects: mosquitoes, deer flies, bright-orange biting flies and –worst of all—a near invisible cloud of no-see-‘ums. I can’t fathom a more annoying insect. They are smaller and more numerous than fleas. The pain their bite inflicts is completely disproportional to their size. They leave red welts the size of a hole-punch. I don’t understand how these black specks hovering around my exposed arms can even support wings, much less biological programming to exist. How do they know where I am—scent, heat, vision, air currents? I hate them.

When I wasn’t writing, I played with ants. I like to pit the invasive fire ants against the carpenter ants. Generally, the fire ants are smaller but more numerous whereas the carpenter ants usually only have solitary scouts foraging for food during the day. The carpenter ants are super ants, way bigger, stronger and faster, but the fire ants seem to have the upper hand because of their virulent venom. I was dropping dead biting flies I’d swatted by ants and watching the two species vie for control of the meal. Every time the bulky carpenter ant darted in to grab the fly, one of the three fire ants would defend and inject its venom. After receiving a few bites, the harvester ant would begin running in circles and stumbling wildly in reaction to the toxins. Once the venom’s effect peaked, the ant would have to spend the next minute or two frantically grooming itself. Then the struggle would resume again. Ultimately, the carpenter ant won the prize. The fire ants got confused at one point about what they were supposed to be doing with the fly and let go. The carpenter ant happened to lunge for it then, snatched up the fly and sped off, presumably to its home base.

An amazing silk capsule of caterpillars I found in a tree alongside the road!

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