If you hike counter-clockwise around the trail at Valley View Glades, you'll eventually end up on a old wagon road running along a ridgetop. After a bit, the trail leaves the road and descends to a wet weather creek, near a spot where the water plunges over rock ledges and down into a bathtub-sized pool.

On my last visit, I recalled this spot from a previous hike, but imperfectly, thinking it was near the end of the trail. And so I was surprised when the trail climbed out of the watershed and headed up over a ridge. As the trail descends the other side of the ridge, it passes along the edge of a glade, bordered by stretch of old barbed wide. If you look carefully, you might see two small boards, fastened one above the other to the barbed wire. The top board is bare, but readable on the bottom board is the word "out", the "o" faded to a backwards "c", the remains of the neighbor's homemade effort to keep the Nature Conservancy people off his land.

There's a whole history and philosophy suggested by the barbed wire, the crude sign, and my mistaken understanding of my location on the trail. The barbed wire suggests that the neighbor must have been keeping animals on his side of the fence, in his glades; otherwise, purple paint spread liberally over the trunks of borderline trees (the usual method of declaring a woodland boundary) and the occasion sign nailed to a tree would have been sufficient. Barbed wire may be cheap, but it's not free, and it takes work to put it up. If all the neighbor was protecting were trees and glades, then barbed wire would have been extravagant. It's a small piece of evidence that grazing may have something to do with the glades.

And the almost illegible sign speaks to the other almost erased signs on the landscape, like the piles of cut cedar and the traces of old ditches and roads. The sign meant something at one time, "meant" in terms of being an expression of an intention. Someone intended to protect his property, or to keep his cows on his land, or to keep the city people off.

Even though those intentions are gone, the signs remain, fading back into the land, back into illegibility. The Ozarks bear the traces of their own history, but they're the result of a series of successively abandoned intentions, each as transient as my earlier memory of the trail.