So, hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on Monday night. Yesterday, the waves on Lake Michigan topped 20 feet and many stretches of lakefront were closed. Today, Steve & I took a walk on the beach at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.
Caught in the storm
Ironically, I have an Aunt Sandy who lives in NYC. I’ve been thinking about her a lot, but haven’t heard any reports yet from her perspective. Here’s a perspective that I find inspiring: “In wildness is the salvation of the world.” Henry David Thoreau
After a delicious Sunday breakfast buffet and a quick photo walk in downtown Parkersburg, Steve and I headed back into Ohio toward the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. Steve has always been drawn to Native American archaeology and has experience working for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument. The information we gathered at the Hopewell site was truly fascinating. The native Americans in the Scioto River valley constructed enormous earth works, mounds and borders of giant proportions, geometrical shapes duplicated exactly many miles apart. The burial mounds contained artifacts made with materials from distant regions. The scope of this culture, the complexity of the ideas they represent, is amazing. Of course, our conjectures about the meaning of the clues they left behind will never be verified. Mystery will always surround this place. The sense of a sacred reverence hangs in the very air, though. It felt, to me, very similar to what I felt when I visited Chichen Itza in Mexico. Time, space, geometry, astronomy, mathematics, religion, life and death coming together in physical art. These were a people who understood the interconnectedness of all things and represented that in a conscientious way. To say that it’s “primitive” misses the mark completely. It certainly seems more primitive to plow over the entire area time and time again to plant corn or bulldoze the hill to quarry gravel…which is just what the white settlers did and still are doing.
We spent the afternoon slowly embracing the place and then drove home in the dark on speedy Interstate highways. We were back by 11pm. On Wednesday, we continued our research on Native American mounds and early Wisconsin history by going to Madison and visiting the Historical Museum on Capitol Square and the UW Madison Arboretum (which has an impressive bookstore!). We are still in the process of discerning how we will contribute to the conservation of this sacred planet on a local level, to what work we will devote our energy, and how we will live in awareness of the impact we make here. It’s a time to stay open to possibilities and opportunities and to be ready to move with a purpose when a specific vehicle of conveyance appears pointing toward our goal.
Leaving the National Forest and re-entering the 21st century was a bit of an adjustment. How ironic that we fled from a generator only to find ourselves in a modern hotel room with no less than 14 electrical appliances to its 60 square feet of space! I immediately turned off the heater and fan and also a separate air purifier. I unplugged the refrigerator. Still, every 15 minutes, something made a punctuated whooshing sound. Eventually, I figured out it was an air freshener mechanism above the door releasing a neutralizing odor into our “smoking Queen” like clockwork. I learned how to sleep through it for a few hours.
Since we had traveled so far north in search of room in the inn, we decided to keep going on into Ohio. We crossed the Ohio River at Portsmouth and found our way toward Wayne National Forest. We stopped in at the public library in a light rain to do a bit of research, and there, Steve made a discovery that changed our course. We had promised ourselves a “splurge” portion on this trip. Paying more than $100 for a room at a franchised motel off the Interstate did not count. But now, we were within 2 hours of a bonafide historic hotel in a state that Steve had never visited. We decided to go east to Parkersburg, West Virginia, to spend the night at the Blennerhassett Hotel and then return to Ohio the next day to visit the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. From there, we decided we’d head back home directly. There comes a time when you know that your adventure has taught you something important and you need to pull back to your interior to focus on that. It’s like a mythical journey: leaving home, learning, and returning changed. But every hero needs some time and a place to figure out what he’s learned. We figured we were close enough to use home base as that place.
Nestled deep in our gear, we found dress shoes, a long skirt for me and a tie for Steve. We were off to enjoy a dash of historic elegance and some truly fine food, not cooked over a campfire. We were not disappointed.
Final phase: the Pre-historic. That’ll be my next post. Thanks for following so far!
After camping for 2 nights at Mammoth Cave, we headed east toward the Daniel Boone National Forest. We stopped at a public library to use the internet to get directions to a campsite, and were pleased to see that there were free campsites in the area. This is one of the great ideas from the Forest Service. Someone had the foresight to save public land through the federal government, meaning that everyone owns it and everyone can use it. Of course, working out how it’s used and by whom is an art in balance. There are rules of use intended to foster respect between different parties. There are hunting seasons, there are trails for ATVs and trails for hikers only. And there are shared trails, shared lands, shared campgrounds. Hopefully, we can negotiate and live side by side. Sometimes, that breaks down. We got to S-Tree campground and found that it is maintained in part by an ATV club and has many trails where motor-powered All Terrain Vehicles are permitted. There was no fee to camp there, and aside from two trailers in the campsite on the other hill across the forest road, we had the place to ourselves. We set up our tent across from the pit toilets, gathered firewood, and went into town for some groceries. The only thing on my list I couldn’t purchase was beer. I found out later that Kentucky has 40 “dry” counties and 49 “moist” counties in their total of 120 counties, meaning that the sale of alcohol is not permitted or is restricted in those counties. In other words, they still practice prohibition. That doesn’t mean that you don’t find Jack Daniels bottles and cans of Bud Light in the woods. Still, the weather was warm, only a little damp, and the place was quiet. The wind, the birds, the rustle of leaves on the ground and in the trees, the starlight and the slim sliver of moon were perfect companions.
We decided to do an extended hike on Friday, hedging our bets against an onslaught of weekend ATVers. We did encounter one group of 4 vehicles while we were resting beside a concrete creek crossing. We were following the Sheltowee Trace (a trail named after Daniel Boone’s native American nickname, meaning Big Turtle) for about 4 miles west along the Racoon Creek, and then planned to take an “unimproved” trail south through the woods, pick up a forest road there and loop back to the east. The “unimproved trail” was so covered in leaves that it was indistinguishable from an erosion gulley that went straight up to the top of the ridge. We ended up on top with no trail in sight. So we did some basic orienteering and blazed south, thinking we’d hit the forest road eventually, which we did, but not before I went through every survival scenario I could imagine. I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and a leader for 3, so I have practical skills. Steve has no sense of direction at all, but he also has no anxieties. Together we actually make a reasonable and happy pair of adventurers. By the time we got back to camp and started a fire for supper, we were pretty pleased with ourselves and pleased with Kentucky. We planned to stay one more night and then make camp in a different area of the Forest to hike up the Rockcastle Narrows. While we sat at the picnic table, we saw an SUV hauling a trailer and a pickup truck following it up the campsite road. The road was narrow and gutted, so the guy in the trailer had his wife get out of the pickup and help him navigate. They managed to pull past our site and set up about 100 feet away in another slot. Then they left in the pickup. So, we had company, but on a Friday night, that was not unusual. They looked like an older couple and hadn’t any ATVs with them, so we figured they would be good neighbors. They returned at about 8pm while we were snuggled up in the tent talking. A little while later, we heard the noise of a generator coming from their site. It was impossible to ignore it. It droned on and on. Quiet hours in the National Forest are posted for 10pm – 6am. We figured they were running their generator for a few hours before turning in. But maybe not. At 9pm, Steve decided he would go over and ask them how long they intended to keep the machine running, as we were trying to sleep. The old man was in his pajamas; he said he planned to run the thing all night “for heat”. Steve tried to suggest that went against the rules for quiet hours, but the man said that he’d never had an issue before and that we could simply move. Steve is calm and gentle and polite, so he came back to the tent to discuss the situation with me. We both felt bullied by the man’s refusal to negotiate, and we decided to pack up and head out. We pulled out at 10pm and waved to the man as we left. He was standing outside his trailer in his nightclothes. (How cold was it, then?)
So, we learned some more about Kentucky. Finding a hotel room along the Interstate on a Friday night is not easy. In London, they were booked up due to a Civil War Reenactment event. In Richmond, they were booked up for a University football game. Finally, in Lexington, we found a “smoking Queen” available. It was 1 a.m. The next installment will tell you how we made up for our disappointment. Here are some photos:
I’ve hiked around the state of Wisconsin in all seasons, but I only encountered this thing hanging from a tree branch once. I got home and looked it up on the ‘net and found out that it is a wild cucumber pod, dehydrated in the winter air, clinging like a parasite from the branch of a host tree. It is a “foreign body” to the tree, and it certainly looked foreign to me…like it might have been dropped to Earth from another planet.
After two days in Shawnee, we struck camp and headed out south and east. Steve suggested Mammoth Cave National Park as our next destination. He’d never been there, and I hadn’t been there in over 40 years. We took our time getting there, having decided that we would eschew interstate highways as much as possible. Kentucky countryside in October really took our breath away and just about won us over. We felt right at home…for a while. Reminders of Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver colored our interior landscape, but our exterior sightings began to speak urgently in other voices. Every quarter mile or so, there was a Baptist Church with a slogan on its marquee or a Romney/Ryan sign in someone’s disheveled yard. The National Park and National Forest boosted our faith. The rangers were intelligent, articulate, and friendly. Their awareness is broad-based; they can discuss archaeology, geology, history and the present with ease. We stopped at two different public libraries to get information as well. Scanning the “Kentucky Section”, we hit such landmarks as Bluegrass Music, Edgar Cayce, Muhlenberg County, Daniel Boone, and The Kentucky Derby. As we drove along the Green River valley, I was singing in my head, “Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County/Down by the Green River, where Paradise lay?/ Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in askin’;/ Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.” Gas stations and barns had signs posted: “We Support Coal”. Questions: Why are we here? What are we looking for? What are we doing? What do we want to learn on this trip? More about that later. For now, some photos of Kentucky…
Well, our journey to “Metaphorical Maine” has come to a close, I think. We had set aside 3 weeks and actually came back in 10 days. We added a day trip after two days of rest, but I think we’re home-based again. Steve has re-activated his online bookselling business, so that means we’ll be no more than 2 days away from home now. Did we actually go to Maine? No. The weather report for the northeast was predicting “rainy and cold” for the entire first week. We figured that might dampen our spirits, so we headed south. We ended up staying the first night in exactly the same spot where we stayed on our first trip together 4 years ago…in the car, pulled into a picnic area in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. We slept in the car from 3 a.m. until dawn, then found a proper campsite at the Pound Lake Hollow area. We enjoyed hiking on Beaver Trail 006 in the forest and the Rim Rock Trail. There was no moon; the stars were bright enough to guide us on a night hike (no flashlight) the second day down to the lake where we startled a beaver. At least I think it was a beaver. We never actually saw him, but either he was pounding the surface of the lake at intervals from different spots with his powerful tail, or someone was throwing bricks into the still, dark water from somewhere very well hidden! Here’s a little gallery of shots from the Shawnee National Forest.