You never know what's going to turn up trailside, but the tiara suspended from a branch along Lake Ellis yesterday afternoon was something never encountered before. Was a hiker wearing her tiara while exercising, then tired of it? Did the tooth fairy, skimming over ice, miscalculate and get up tangled in a tree? Who can tell?
Whatever the case, it was another unnaturally spring-like day and I'd been wanting to see the recently renewed third-of-a-mile walking path now known as "Twin Reservoir" and formerly known as "Twin Lake" although it actually follows the west shoreline of Lake Ellis, one of two reservoirs at the head of the Little White Breast Creek valley built many years ago to provide Chariton with water.
The other reservoir, to the east and south, is called Lake Morris. They were named in the 1940s by the Chariton City Council to honor Roy Ellis of Williamson and Lyle Morris, of Derby, young Lucas Countyans then throught to have been the first among us to die in World War II. None of the signage along the lakes now, however, tells you that.
I think the trail was developed originally by Boy Scouts and has been renewed during the past year as an Eagle Scout project. It's now in fine shape --- the trail has been resurfaced, all the bridges repaired, picnic tables put back in good order and new sitting benches built.
It's a good walk, especially if you're not feeling up to the Cinder Path or the woodsy twists and turns of Red Haw --- and I enjoyed it.
But I never walk here without thinking of a friend, who some years ago while walking a dog, rounded one of these bends and happened upon a couple who had decided it was an appropriate afternoon for adultery with a view. That so traumatized the poor guy he's never been back.
Like I say, you just never know what's going to turn up along a trail, and I've had similar experiences twice in recent memory.
The first time, on a woodland trail at Pilot Knob State Park east of Forest City, I was actually paying attention to what was going on down the trail in front of me instead of looking up, down or sideways and was able to reverse course with minimal embarrassment.
The other time, along the Cinder Path, I was not so attentive and didn't realize the gravity of the situation until making eye contact with a couple in flagrante delicto on a blanket in the grass about a mile in. It's not clear who was the most surprised. Why they were there, just a few feet from the trail, I don't know.
Miss Manners never covered situations like this, so far as I know. I did the only obvious thing --- averted my eyes, began to whistle "Amazing Grace" and kept walking. By the time I came back from Barber Wood, a couple of miles south, the couple had departed.
In both cases, unlike my friend at Lake Ellis, I did not recognize the parties involved --- and that has been a blessing.