Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Marion County, May 2006 (Part VIII)

Carl and I come to the edge of a thicket of raspberry brambles. It’s been rough going for the last couple hundred meters and we are covered in small cuts from the thorns of the bushes. The sweat makes the wounds sting. Our pants have been torn. It’s seems like a mistake in navigation was made at some point but we can’t figure out exactly where. As the brambles finally give way we find ourselves standing on the edge of a large hunting camp. Ahead of us is a green school bus up on blocks, the windows spray-painted black. A huge stars ‘n’ bars hangs across the front of the bus. Sometimes you come upon places that just feel unsettling and unsafe and you want to get away as quickly as possible by the closest means at hand. “I don’t really want to go through this,” says Carl, looking from one end of the camp to the other. This coming from an avid hunter who has struck up jovial conversations with every sportsman we’ve come across. He calls it the “brotherhood of hunters” but apparently doesn’t feel too fraternal with whoever has set up this imposing camp. I look out at the array of shacks and decrepit cars. I see a well with a memorial to a dead man chiseled into the front of it. A barbeque pit. Ropes hanging from trees. Burnt logs. I don’t want to go through it either. I look behind us at three hundred meters of dry raspberry thicket and dead pine trees. “We can’t go back the way we came,” I say. We wait. A tattered plastic tarp flaps in the slight breeze. What looks to be an old flag pole stands in the middle of the clearing. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.

We gingerly step out of the bushes and start across the camp. The shacks stand in lines along a dirt road that we quickly cross. Beer cans crushed on the ground. I want to stop and take a picture but something feels wrong and instead I start walking faster. As we reach the far side a jeep turns onto the dirt road and I trot the last twenty feet to the woods. Carl is behind me and a few seconds later we’re both well into the trees. As far as we know, the man in the jeep did not see us. Months will pass before in casual conversation I mention this odd camp to a colleague of mine familiar with the area. “Oh,” he replies. “You want to stay away from there. They don’t like anyone near them and aren’t afraid to prove it. They aren’t even supposed to be up there but no one can get them down.” Yet another disaster amongst a seemingly endless string has been narrowly averted this day.

Not photos of the camp, the top being a cave in the Sequatchie Valley and the second a strange marker in the Hinds Valley Baptist Church and Cemetery, 1800-1946. Apparently Tennessee died sometime over that 150-year period and was buried with a cheap headstone.


Anonymous said...

Wow. You guys were lucky the Jeep driver didn't see you.

The "Tenn" headstone is rather creepy. Good find.

Jefra said...

stumbled across your blog - love it. used to live in GA and one of my favorite things was exploring untouched, uncared for history abundant for some reason down there. Now i have to do it vicariously through you guys since I'm in UT and not quite so able to find those rich, heady, haunting sacred places that used to be a whole existence for someone. Thanks for doing this.

jmhouse said...

Thanks very much for your kind words. I can't really describe the attraction I feel for some abandoned places; they can be so evocative that it seems you can almost touch the people that have been there and sense the things they've done and felt, both good and bad.

The South does seem especially good for exploration, but the desert Southwest would also be high on my list. If you live in southern UT I recommend getting a guide to ghost towns and hitingt the road every now and then.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I live in Cummings Cove/Black Creek Golf Club at the south end of Aetna Mtn. in Hamilton County and just ran across your blog while scouting around for 4 wheeler info on Aetna. The activity is very busy today. See the clips of aetna 4 wheeling. I really enjoyed your blog. I have been on Aetna a few times and heard of the dangers up there. There are some beautiful areas but sounds like development is coming before too long.

jmhouse said...

Yeah, development is definitely on the way. Lots are already up for sale on the mountain. I guess soon it won't be quite so dangerous, which is maybe too bad.

Incidentally, I know there's good four-wheeling in Hamilton County on top of the bluffs on the south side of Montlake Rd. You'll have to weave your way through neighborhoods and dirt roads, but it'd be worth it, I think. Although, this land has now been sold, as well, so access may have changed.

Thanks for stopping by!