It was eerily quiet when the dogs and I stepped out of the bus this morning. The campground is playing host to only a dozen or so guests this weekend, and none of my neighbors was stirring at that hour. There was no traffic on the adjacent highway.

Silence is rare here, the park situated on the outskirts of town. It’s still our favorite campground, but it’s by no means idyllic.

I couldn’t help but contrast that moment of peace with yesterday’s experience on The Mountain. I thought back to when I stood in the cleared area and listened to the whispering cedars, rushes of winter wind rustling the treetops.

On our way to The Mountain yesterday morning, we stopped by the local Tractor Supply store to boost our cold-weather wardrobe with something better suited to working outdoors — lined canvas jackets and warm(er) hats.

I left with a dandy Carhartt barn coat, something I’d wanted for years. Everything was 15% off, too, thanks to an end-of-season sale.

The weather for the rest of the drive was drizzly, but temps stayed well above freezing. We wheeled the Jeep into Deb’s cousin’s driveway and ducked into his garage to chat with him awhile. Eventually I went back outside, pulled the cover off the Ranger and installed a couple of accessories we’d picked up — “Lock & Ride” tie-down anchors for the bed rails and a set of storage trays that nest under the seat.

We ran the Ranger up to the cleared area, using a measuring tape to translate ideas into plans. Then, for the third time, we returned to our cut to the summit — we want to preserve the landscape and remove as little as possible, but after two passes it was obvious that the track still needed more work.

This time we employed only loppers and pruners, trimming up and back to give the buggy a little more room. Up-top I got started creating an off-trail parking spot and turnaround area, though I had to leave a couple of trees too large for my loppers to tackle. We’ll bring the chainsaw next time and finish the job.

Spring and summer foliage will affect the path, of course. We’re prepared to do some fine-tuning then, and there are a couple of other trails we want to blaze, but right now we have this one exactly the way we want it.

We dodged rain throughout the day, most of it light. The air was cold, the wind persistent and the skies gloomy. But we got good work done and enjoyed simply being present in the place.

The Mountain is a tonic. After a two-week absence it was great to be back.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB