Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nearing the end of summer road trip - Part 4

Sunday arrives and I'm hankering for a sit-down country breakfast.
We picked a family diner lookin' place in the nearest town to our cabin.

As any parent will tell you, the moment we arrived, one of the girls had to tinkle...even though we warned each of them several times before leaving the cabin that they should go now, rather than later.

Off go my wife and youngest to the facilities, while I have sit back and listen to my digestive tract have an argument with my upper brain functions and circulatory system about the dangers they could all face if I get the pancake/waffle/biscuits and gravy trucker's special.

My gastronomical pleasure at the menu's hearty breakfast offerings and the ease at which my hunger was soon to be appeased was ruined by a single expression on my wife's face as she returned from the lady's room.

I'll not go into details here, but suffice it to say, Wifey had lost her appetite and opted for a hot tea.

Leaving what we thought would be our last brush with E Coli for the duration of the trip, we sauntered over to the cold, wild, and utterly playful mineral spring fed streams of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

We intrepidly made our way to the visitor center, watched an informative 15-minute video on the history and development of the national park, gave our share of oohs and aahs at both the living (in tanks and cages) and deceased (stuffed, mounted and posed) fauna on display.

Having brought along our swimming gear, we all changed in the extremely sanitary restrooms at the visitor center, made ourselves familiar with what exactly poison ivy looked like, and piled back into the car to get our mineral water stream swim on.

Upon arrival to the "Peaceful Valley of Rippling Waters," we found that most of the prime swimming areas along the easily accessible sections of the mountain stream were already populated by a bevy of vacationers. Folks had peeled themselves out of their tents from the nearby campgrounds and were lounging around in the naturally created pools along the rippling waters.

We finally found an area that was more sparsely populated than the rest, to which I immediately thought, "It's probably surrounded by poison ivy, is why...

The spot we found was lovingly tucked away behind a thin veil of trees and bushes. A dirt foot trail led down to a stream side clearing perfect for our planned picnic staging area.

A pool of crystal clear water about 2 feet deep awaited us, with enough rocks along the shore to make for interesting collecting time for the girls.

To top it all off, the down ward side of the pool terminated into a small set of rapids, fast enough to provide some soothing waterfall ambience, but slow enough that we wouldn't have to worry about one of the girl's purple noodle floaty things being swept away.

It seemed exactly what we were looking for, and the only other family who were currently partaking of this forested oasis were a young family with daughters about our girls age.

While the girls were unstrapping themselves in the back seat and my wife was just now getting past the gag reflex of our breakfast diner's lady's room, I was enjoying the view of our chosen destination and wistfully daydreaming about the wonderful day we were about to have -- if only someone hadn't put up a huge wooden sign in front of our parking spot, partially blocking my direct view of the stream ahead.

Wait, a huge wooden sign...with lettering and words and sentences and punctuation...

Here's what the sign said...

We zoomed back to the visitor center, found the nearest guy in a brown shirt and Smokey Bear hat and asked him what sort of bacterial were we talking about here.

You guessed it...E coli.

He went on to explain that they test the water quite regularly, and that recent heavy rains had caused so much flooding that a lagoon (aka open cesspool) nearby must have mingled with the stream. He told me that as a Federal park, they weren't allowed to "close" the public recreation areas. All they could do is post warnings to the public and hope they "read and heed."

After some quiet discussion on what HE would do if he had two young daughters that wanted to swim today - in the most official National Park Service voice he could muster, he stated that "Arbuckle Lake is nearby and very nice."

Next up, warm water lake swimming, turtles ahoy, and dinner with two poor girls.

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