Friday, March 16, 2012
Part II of Our Nature Walk on Fort Campbell's Clarksville Base Trail
Part II of our walk along the Clarksville Base Walking Trail see us at a roadside stream. We just saw some Canadian geese and a snapping turtle. I now turn my attention the green mat forming plant that grows on the surface of some of the waterways on our trail. I believe this invasive weed to be mosquito fern (Azolla). I am not sure but in my limited research it looks like some of the pictures I've seen on the web. There are whole mats of this plant. The mats are so dense it looks as though you could walk across the water without sinking. The weed is a pretty color green but I am not so sure it is a good thing for the waterways.
Further down the road we see where the previous waterway empties. This area is often frequented by a flock of Canadian geese. I was surprised there weren't a few present on this day's walk. As you can see the area is really large making the area a wonderful habitat for migrating birds.
There is a slight division between the wetlands pictured above and this small picture just prior to this sentence. This area was at one time, many years ago, a nice little pond. Over the years this pond has slowly begun drying up and has become infested with the mosquito weed. One day while riding my bicycle around this trail I stopped to look at this pond and to my delight there were two otters swimming about in it! Can you see the little cave along the water surface across the pond? I think the otters made their den in that vicinity. I have not seen them since that day two years ago but hope they are still around. The yellowing of the water weed to the green bordering the blue of the water made for a beautiful sight.
Note the green frilly grass like plant behind and to the right of the pond in the above picture. Can anyone guess what it is? I will give you some hints, it is evergreen, grows from canes, likes water, and spreads rampantly. Psssst, it starts with a B!
Leaving the pond behind we finally reach our halfway point. It is at this point the road takes a 90 degree turn and we enter a very sunny area leading us to a fast moving stream. Do you remember in my part one post I told you that you'd see another fallen tree? One that took half the hillside with it when it fell? This is it! The tree has been chopped off but the roots and half of the trunk remain. All of the red soil in the picture is due to the hillside opening up and releasing tree roots when this large tree fell. I suspect nature will take her course and eventually new trees and shrubs will grow along the gash and in another twenty years walkers along this path will never know a tree fell here and took half of the hillside.
The bunkers that are built into the hillside at one time housed various nuclear things. I don't know exactly what but Clarksville Base was at one time a nuclear storage area that was known as the Birdcage. It was a secretive site in the 50s and 60s. Due to the Freedom of Information Act much of that secrecy has dissipated. Sometimes the bunkers are closed and locked, sometimes they are open as in the case of this one. Inside we can just make out some pallets and Constantine (razor) wire. Having dealt with rolls of that razor wire while in the Army I just moseyed on quickly.
Rounding the bend we reach a very sunny area. This area is unlike most of the trail in that it is wide open. The sun shines strongly in this area and the plants are different than what we see in other areas of the trail. We are now approaching a fast moving stream directly ahead. This stream is one of my favorite stopping points. Once the Jimster and I came here for a walk when we stopped here and he rolled up his pants and took off his shoes and went wading. While we were there a little helicopter swooped down nearly touching the water. It was a magical sight!
I won't take you under the bridge today. If you'd like to see photos from previous visits under the bridge please type in Clarksville Base Trail on the search feature of this blog or click on the label. A few weeks ago while walking here I heard a huge machine nearby. I looked toward the other bridges in this very same direction and saw two huge machines that had a giant clamping mouth on the end of a long arm. The machines were removing all of the debris that had built up on the pillars of the bridges. The debris was so bad you could barely see past this first bridge to the arches. The debris consisted of tree logs and the jam of them was so much that the water course was actually changed when coming through this area.
Can you notice the tire marks on the surface of the stream? Apparently this is a good spot to spin your cars and trucks. Once while walking I saw several Army soldiers training on all terrain vehicles (ATVs). They were quickly navigating the steep sides of the embankment and clambering up the opposite side. It looked like fun.
Leaving all of the waterways behind we are now entering the home stretch. Only two more miles to go! One common sight along the walk are the beech trees in the forest. The beech trees keep their leaves and those gold leaves shine in the forest.
Walking along on this road I nearly have the whole trail to myself. Occasionally a jogger will run by though. Do you see him in the distance? This trail is a popular trail for runners, bikers, and families just enjoying the day. The left turn off in the above picture will take you to the area where I used to work. It actually comes out right behind our buildings. Air traffic controllers are no longer housed in this area but I still have fond memories of the buildings. Our main building was at one time the fire station that serviced Clarksville Base. It is designated as historical by Fort Campbell and cannot be modified. While this is not a bad thing modifications also include upgrades. These buildings were built in the 40s or 50s and needless to say, energy efficiency was not high on the priority list at that time. Getting any kind of weatherization for the buildings was impossible.
We are nearly finished with our walk. The marks we soldiers used to gauge our progress on the two mile run are still visible. I use them to pace myself on this last and longest mile.
When Clarksville Base was secret there were Marines guarding it. Some of the guardposts are pictured in the above and below pictures. Can you imaging sitting for several hours in one of these small underground cement boxes with only a slit to keep watch? Being a military person can be difficult and guard duty, while a fundamental tenet of being a serviceman or woman, is oftentimes long, cold, tiring, and trying. I think of all the Marines who served here each time I pass by. By foxhole standards these guardboxes are Taj Mahal though.
Ah, here we are! The end is in sight and I tell you it was a mighty long walk for me on this day. I am always heartened to see my black Buick waiting for me at the end of the walk. By this time my back and legs are crying out in agony but I have a satisfied, happy, and content feeling that I completed my walk at Clarksville Base at least one more time....
in the garden....
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden