Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Hunt for Royal Purple

It was one of those moments. Crawling under leaning trees, over downed ones, poked and prodded and scraped by brush, when you think: Darn! I really should have worn pants!

There are few things so intriguing to me as those that are hidden. A far-off cirque that might hold a lake; a waterfall reportedly off the trail; walking passage in a cave. In this case, it was a ghost trail, the kind that once appeared on a map, but no longer does. Along with that there was a reported mine and cabin, seen by someone years ago.

There was a map, sometime, somewhere; we can't remember. We don't have it anymore. It showed a trail along Royal Purple Creek, but we can't recall how far it went or where. My neighbor emerged to say he had once been to the cabin. It had all the elements I needed: mystery, intrigue, route-finding. I headed out on a fresh fall day to explore.

I forgot my camera battery. But see behind that cabin in the distance? That's where you start.

It was one of those days that are charged with possibility. It hardly took any time to cover the distance between what was known and what wasn't. I stepped off the trail and into the woods.

To find an old trail, you have to spend some time. You have to ponder the landscape. You are looking for old cut logs, a depression, rocks piled up in a certain way. It took some time before I saw it.

It was obvious nobody had been on this trail in years. Decades. Trees lay like matchsticks across it. Brush had grown into an nearly impenetrable wall. But I could see traces of what used to be as I pushed my way through. Each time I thought about turning back, I looked ahead and was drawn in.

Finally the way ahead was too choked up to continue without the appropriate clothing. I turned to go back and there was the cabin. Trees had fallen on the roof, but it still stood. Once a small log structure, it had been added on with plywood to make a bigger building. Artifacts lay about:: five gallon red Kraft shortening cans, ladles and pottery hanging from hooks, a wood stove, tools. It almost, except for the leaves and debris inside, looked like the occupants weren't far away.

Some people think that wilderness should be just that. In the bad old days when the Park Service acquired property, they burned down every existing house on it. I can see the point, but I love finding traces of pioneer or Native American history. I like thinking about people who lived here before me and what their lives were like out here. They surely saw the wilderness in a different way. It wasn't a place to go for fun. It was their home.

I fought my way back to the trail. Two people were having lunch on a bench. The apparition of someone appearing from the brush, leaves in her hair, scratches on her legs and arms, was too much for them to let go.  I told them about the cabin and the man perked up. "Maybe I'll go look for it," he said.

Can you imagine using this much shortening?
The mystery isn't completely solved. There's a mine around there somewhere. And where does the trail go? I'll be back. With pants.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the artifacts thing. Parks want to preserve nature, that should include dwellings of native and settlers, right?

    The last part made me giggle. "with pants." :)


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