Saturday Night. Farm manager Kane calls to confirm the gate will be open for me by 6:30 a.m. tomorrow, three and a half hours earlier than normal.
Sunday, 4:07 a.m. – The alarm suggests I get moving. Enthused, I spring out of bed.
5:40 - I’m straddling the dashed white line on a deserted dual highway as I drive 65 mph through the dark. The straddling positions me to better spot deer that tend to dash at this time of day.
6:45 – A big glass of water, two cups of coffee, and half a cantaloupe for breakfast have my bladder pleading for relief. Mercifully, Wal-Mart has restrooms open 24/7.
7:30 – No sign of Kane, but as promised, the gate is open.
7:40 – The path starts along the edge of a soybean field before it disappears into the woods. I pluck a fuzzed bean just to see what it feels like.
7:45 – As I enter the woods, I pull out 40% deet, and hopefully, spray away Lyme disease.
8:00 – Life is teeming as I cross the bridge over Owl Hollow on this quiet, overcast morning. Despite my instincts, I linger only a short time, then extract my weapon and get to work.
8:15 – At cliff-top overlook number one, it’s another non-instinctual short linger to save time for my responsibilities. Overlook number two is my goal which is rumored to be overgrown.
8:45 – I’m about as far as I can be from civilization on this 1600 acre farm when I spot an illegal deer stand. I snap a picture to geo-code its location so the mother ship can do the dirty work.
9:00 – Overlook number two is not overgrown. I suspect the rumor started when someone expected a national park-like experience, complete with benches, placards, and a ranger to answer questions. But this place is not that. Its pristine beauty is understated and subtle, and apparently, unappreciated by the rumor starter.
9:45 – Near the Hollow Tree, I’m earning my pay. I swing my weapon with nearly every step along the trail. Ground cover is trying hard to overtake this already thin footpath.
10:00 – Back at overlook number one, the work is done. My weapon has been stowed. This time I follow instinct and linger longly, immersed in the view of the Rappahannock’s bend around Horse Head Point, content and peaceful.
10:15 – Returning across Owl Hollow Bridge, I stop to watch bubbles ooze to the surface. The earth is breathing.
10:35 – I’m walking beside soy beans again as grasshoppers spray in all directions split seconds before each boot step. It’s a Red Sea parting, of sorts.
10:55 – I pull over at a country graveyard to strip off my sweaty, deet-covered clothing. Fresh threads will be appreciated by my wife when we meet for lunch in Fredericksburg at noon.
The past six hours have been more of what is becoming a fortunate amassing of life’s best. The buzz is sure to linger with me a long, longly time.