" Change is the handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with." – Mark Twain
In all the time I’d been on the mountain, other lakes would do strange things but as one of the highest and smallest “my” lake hadn’t fluctuated more than a few feet on either side of what I considered normal. But that morning, that unbelievable morning, I went down to the shore line to find there was no shore line … because there was no lake. It had drained down to the next lower lake which while still there was also a good twenty feet lower than it had been. The natural dam between the two had given way.
But I wondered if my lake had flowed into the other one and it was still twenty feet lower, where had all the water in that lake gone? I hurried back to the cave to check on the animals. They were tired but acting closer to normal so I secured things, grabbed a better pack, and then took a hike to New Victoria Falls which overlooked a wider area.
Only there were no falls. The lakes that had fed the falls had also dropped considerably. Those lakes were still there – well sorta – but none were high enough to cause an overflow and drier weather wasn’t going to refill them any time soon. Below the high water lines there was nothing but debris, dead tress, and drying mud for about fifty to a hundred feet or more until you got to the new water line.
All around I could tell the mountain animals were confused, just as confused and out of sorts as they had been when the floods first created the lakes. I spied a bear pacing back and forth. I saw an old ornery razor back wallowing in the mud for just a moment before rushing out and back into higher ground for undergrowth. I heard birds and squirrels but they seemed to have an anxious tone to their twittering and barking.
I remembered the words I had heard so long ago, that since the lakes weren’t natural they’d eventually dry up one way or the other. But, I hadn’t considered how dramatic a process it might be. I felt as discombobulated as the animals. It seemed I couldn’t count on anything remaining the same long enough for me to count on it being there tomorrow.
It was with considerable relief that I went back to the cave by way of what I called New Spring to find its output unchanged. At least I still had a source of water relatively close but as I got to the cave and petted the animals I worried that might change too. And if the snow was coming so early there was no time to lose. I needed to prepare for winter and the inevitable changes that seemed to finally arrive.
That night, for the first time in a long time, I pulled out the inventory that Lee and I had made and kept so meticulously. It hurt to see our handwriting intertwined and as I read it over I kept getting lost in memories and distacted from what I meant to do.
Finally I forced the memories to stop tormenting me with their blasted what if’s. I needed to take a realistic look to see if I could survive another winter on the mountain.