A Jurist’s Prudence

Born an only child, staking a fresh claim,
New life far from his father’s native land.
Freedom’s song echoed deep in him, a flame
Lighting the road appointed beforehand.

Justice called his name, from schoolyard to bench.
He turned his mind to law, memorizing
Line upon line, with thirst he could not quench;
In due time, kings and nations advising.

Anguished by cruel and raw philosophy,
Words that stand written wadded up, thrown down;
He spoke hard truth, quite nearly prophecy—
“Ad fontes!”—and was called out as a clown.

“Words truly live when documents are dead;
Meaning’s fixed mark is study’s only aim,
The woven past an ever-present thread.”
Classroom to courtroom, his refrain the same.

Truth and order drove his faith in the law,
Great leveler of heroes, villains, all
Ordinances grounded on rock not straw,
Flow from One Judge. He answered to that call.

Dissent became his firebrand, though not
For its own sake. Foolishness earned his wrath
Wherever righteousness was left unsought.
Few dared draw his ire on the warpath.

Even so, those he fought admired him,
Those flaming arrows a badge of honor,
His depth, wit, and gusto inspired them
To lose well when their case was a goner.

He has left today, old and full of years.
A republic mourns, a people fret, for
He was too often alone in his fears
That this great land had been struck to its core.


Into the Woods: Lula Lake

Winter is my favorite season.

The snow. The cold. The wind. I’ll take it all with a smile.

Now, before the haters descend (who are these poor epithets of opinion anyway?), the “winter” I get to enjoy here in Chattanooga often looks a lot like what people in Minnesota might call “July”. Winter for us has occasional elements recognizable to folks further north, but mostly it is the time of year when the humidity goes down, the bugs die or evacuate, and the grass (mercifully) stops growing for a bit. To put it another way, if you wonder why Tennesseans and other species of Southerner delight in winter, come spend August with us sometime. You’ll be yearning the relative comfort of a blizzard within a week.

Case in point: Saturday. It was 29°F at sunrise, without a cloud in the sky. By mid-afternoon, it was up to 65. I’m hard-pressed to think of a better all-around day to spend outside, and the climate of this part of the world presents an embarrassment of these riches from November to March. Faced with such finery, I naturally went hiking.

IMG_4878Being the last weekend of the month, it was an open-gate day at Lula Lake Land Trust. This privately owned plot of 8,000 or so acres is on the east side of Lookout Mountain (part of the Cumberland Plateau) in Walker County, Georgia, about 5 miles south of the Tennessee Line.

Like much of the plateau eco-region, the property features mature oak forests that thrive on the relatively poor, thin soil overlaying the mountain’s cap rock. These give way to a lush riparian zone along the course of Rock Creek through the middle of the trust’s land, with Hemlock, Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, Ferns, and other species that need more moisture to thrive. I’ve been visiting this spot for several years, and the diversity of plants and terrain in such a small area makes it a special place indeed. The trust seems to know well what a treasure they have in their hands, and their careful management of the tract promises to keep it just as pristine for years to come (in fact, its current state is largely due to the founder buying up land to redeem it from logging and abuse).

For this trip, I had neither kids in tow nor a time limit, so I set out to explore some trails I hadn’t been able to get to yet. There are over 7 miles of trails in the section of the property that is open to visitors, in addition to the gravel road bed that runs along the creek (part of which is the way vehicles get in and out). All are very well signed, and the varying degrees of difficulty should keep any level of hiker satisfied with a visit. Continue reading