First off, I hadn’t hiked properly in a coon’s age. Actually, I’m not sure I ever hiked ‘properly’ as in official, hiking-trail, backpacking type activities. Hiking was usually a spontaneous activity that occurred when we went somewhere that had hiking trails. We never set out and said “Let’s go hiking!” But hike we did, in North Georgia, Southwestern Virginia, and Northeastern Tennessee. So I’m not sure really if what we did this day could actually be called hiking in the official sense. It felt like hiking though 🙂 I wore my day pack, but neglected to bring anything other than the cell phone camera, which was low on battery at the time, a recurring plague I suffered the first half of the trip. As such, I have no photos of the adjoining property, since I did not hike there by myself later in my excursions. I will on next visit, and I am saddened that my experiences live only in my memory banks at this point.
Secondly, there is nothing like watching someone who loves the woods, water, trees and such share their pride and joy with you. It is a privilege and a delight and one I am thankful for. We had two properties to cover and then a rapid return to camp in order to meet my friend coming down from Kentucky and for the property owner to attend a conference call – at least, that was the original plan.
Our morning began before dawn, as out there, my natural circadian rhythm comes rushing back into the forefront – early to bed and early to rise. I fixed myself a large breakfast – eggs, fresh asparagus, red onions and cheese. I need protein when I’m physically active as it stays with me longer. This day I did not build a fire, but availed myself of the Coleman stove lent to me by a co-worker in case I lacked wood.
We started down the muddy road where I had abandoned my little stuck car. The morning was brisk, as the temps had dropped to right below freezing overnight. It felt delightful to me, stuck in a place where oppressive heat is the norm. It is a short walk from the campsite to the open field. The woods are made up of varying species: red cedar, multiple varieties of oak, pine, sycamore, maples. Sizes range from sapling to moderate. We discovered deer grazing in the field that breaks off to the left, and watched them quietly for a few minutes. Then on to a quick perusal of the old homestead across from the prime hunting grounds. Drifts of daffodils spread across the open field, bunched up in the leafy piles in what would have been the front yard, and dotted different spots around the front and sides of the dilapidated home. Here is the road break to the field, and the homestead is hidden behind the pines to the right.
The same stillness is present that was there upon my arrival, except the spring peepers are quite loud in this area, since the field holds a lot of water – in fact, the entire property has a lot of water. Some of it was standing from rains, but much of it appears to be seeps and undeveloped springs, all flowing to the creeks and creeklets that are abundant around the property. It makes for dirty boots and clothing at the end of the day, this much I can tell you!
The house faces the field, and at one time had a shed or something behind it, in addition to the outhouse and the well, which is still there and possibly useful. It is a bucket and winch type, although the bucket is long gone and I saw no evidence of the winch either. There are electrical lines, and the carcasses of old timey televisions still populate the front room, along with half dressers, old chairs, scads of papers, shoes, and who knows what else. It is not in a shape that I would go meandering around in, as the roof is very sketchy. An ancient oak, now also looking forlorn and lacking luster, stands in front of the house, as shown here from out in the field.
You can barely make out the roofline behind the oak, but the daffodils are plentiful and easy to see. We made a cursory look about at the house and then proceeded on behind the house, following an ATV trail. There was so much to see, I could hardly take it all in, and made a return trip later in the week, when these photos were taken. The tree species changed as we drew nearer to the water, with more birch and some other species I’ve not ID’d yet making appearances, in addition to the regulars already listed. And have I mentioned the blackberries and hackberries? Egads. Even the parts of my legs covered with thick Levi’s received a beating, and the part of my leg that was bare due to wearing my knee brace? It looks still like I was whipped with a barbed wire fence, as I sit and type this over a week later. More of the ‘be dumb, be tough’ experiences that I had while out on this little excursion. But oh, it was worth it. We came to small ponds, and then the large creek. Natural beaches formed along the bank, where animal visitors left their own imprimaturs – deer and coyote alike share this water source. Fallen logs, broken limbs, meandering appearing, disappearing and reappearing barbed wire fence, holes deep and wide enough to break a leg in – and it was amazingly, gloriously beautiful! We followed the creek bank for some distance, skirting where the water was, climbing over obstacles, and then were rewarded with beaver evidence along the banks! We continued until we found the dam, in the deepest part of the creek. No sign of the beavers themselves, but the scarring on the saplings were fresh, the shavings still moist. They were awake and apparently hungry! We continued on into a marsh area and skirted that after just staring at it for a bit, wondering if ducks ever sought refuge there. The owner has a vision of a pond there, but I personally love the natural habitat as it is – huge marsh grasses and clumps, cattails, and probably a moccasin or several at other, less chilly times of the year. We headed back towards the field and back towards the camp since we were time-bound. I returned to this area later in the week by myself, and will do a write up of that day and provide more photos at that time.
Because the properties are bounded by creeks, we had to drive over to the other property since we were short on time. This property is completely unlike the other one, even the soil is different. This creek, much wider and deeper, has rock formations just below the water line. We pondered whether it was sand or rock, and I located a small broken branch to hurl into the water to see if the result was sand eddies or if it bounced off. It bounced. This ground was mostly sand, no real clay in evidence anywhere we hiked. The trees were much larger in diameter too, but further apart in spacing. Much more of what I think is mountain paper birch, a form of beech, a huge amount of sweet gum, some type of hickory, a slow growing stand of river cane – totally unlike the other land, and equally as beautiful. I would like to visit during the time that leaves are still on the trees, in order to properly classify what I *think* is there. We found amazing fungi, old tree innards reduced to nothing but a sweet smelling garden mulch, and an abundance of water, running overland everywhere. On this side of the land, there were huge trees, with no branches until nearly forty feet high or so – great building wood. There is far less evidence of animal tracks here. But we didn’t get to go far into this property, as our time was running out. I wouldn’t want to be around there during hunting season though, as we found the neighbor’s quite fancy and very serious deer blind across the creek bank. We also found and picked up trash and returned with it to camp to clean up a little during our time out there. Nearly five hours later we were back in camp, just in time to meet my friend as she came onto the property.
We managed as a team to get Francesca unstuck, two pushing, one driving. Just a few scratches, some whacked out wiper blades, a clip knocked off the fender and a very tough stick that traveled all the way to South Carolina firmly lodged under my car. Oh, and a valuable lesson in “Do not drive off the gravel” which I will (hopefully) heed in the future 🙂
The diversity of plant and wildlife simply blew me away while out and about. The beauty was subtle but stunning, even in the bare stage at winter’s end. I imagine that it would be impassible during spring and summer, considering the strength of the brambles and the lush capacity to support undergrowth in a big way with so much water around. Maybe a jet pack would sport me around the property, avoiding the ticks and brambles and providing an awesome aerial view (hah!)
We wound up all going to dinner and having the best pizza I’ve ever put in my mouth. I haven’t quite figured out if the pizza is really that good, or if I was simply that ravenous, but the end effect was delicious. I slept well, with a full stomach and a very tired body. It was a good day.
And now, a steady gentle rain is falling, and I’m going to trundle off to bed, as it is far past my bedtime!