April 2, 2011

Random babblings: Abandoned but found

So I learned over the course of this past winter that my old place along the river up in West Va is now off-limits.  The land was apparently acquired by a local rafting outfitter-- On the plus side, they cleaned up the burned-out trailer and  garbage along the riverbank.  On the negative, though, they also put up a passel of 'no trespassing' signs all over the place, including at the beginning of the dirt road that heads upstream. But never fear, I've found a new spot.  Same river, different state.  And closer to home, to boot.  And just as solitary,  despite it being adjacent to one of the most popular parks in the area. 

Ma Nature was in a mercurial mood this spring day.  A gloomy, chilly overcast in the morning suddenly began alternating with teasing patches of blue sky as the wind blew banks of clouds from west to east.  One such patch was overhead as I drove down the road and through the tunnel under the railroad tracks, splashing through puddles left by a just-passed rain shower.  There's enough graffiti in the tunnel that it's a surprise the old farm farther down the road hasn't been taken over by the marauding vandals.  Apparently the locked gate and all of the CSX and NPS property signs are enough to keep them out.  Either that, or it's just too far a walk for them beyond that gate.  Their loss, my gain.

The old farm gate, not the newer Park Service one at the beginning of the road
My guess is that the old homestead is used for Boy Scout campouts-- There are a couple of porta-johns up near the empty, locked house, and the first time I wandered back and found the place there was actually a portable sink nearby.  One of the old barns, a shed-style structure open on both ends, has been maintained by the NPS for storage of picnic tables and such.  On a day like today, the shed makes a perfect spot to sit and smoke and ruminate.  It looks out on the old house on one side, and an almost-collapsed livestock barn and empty cornfields on the other.

What is it that draws me to spots like this? It's more than just the solitude, certainly. That's something that can be found fairly easily-- along a trail in the woods, in a kayak in the middle of the river, in my car flying down a country road, hell, at home in my apartment if I'm desperate enough. But there's something to these abandoned places that were once lived in, an inexplicable something that I find comforting despite the eeriness of their emptiness. It has to do with the history of them, I think, and the time period in which they were inhabited. It's an easily romanticized time, that era that ended six or more decades ago, a time that was in many ways more full of hardship than now, but is always cast with a nostalgic glow of authenticity and simplicity that so often seems lacking these days.  It was a time when one of the most important things people strove for was survival-- not just day-to-day, but of the spirit.  Something that I have a hard time finding in the crowded hustle of today's society. 

One of the first times I visited this place, I was stopped on the way in by a young park ranger who first informed me that "this is Park Service property", which didn't fool me for a minute, and then warned that the nearby woods were full of hunters. Which also didn't faze me, seeing as how hunting is illegal on Park Service property, but random wandering isn't. I played dumb and stayed at the car, though, pretending that I had just been looking for a quiet  place to sit and read and didn't realize that there was anything worthwhile back there. Today, though, I was caught all the way back at the farm when a pair of rangers drove back to check the place out. Dark clouds had rolled in again and I was just heading back to the road when they pulled up next to me and the older of them very courteously explained that they were looking for "sheds" and had noticed the turkey feather on the dashboard of my car back out by the gate. He asked if I was looking for feathers and I realized that "sheds" was a reference to feathers and probably, in their lingo, a sign of poachers. I grinned at him and said that, no, I was just looking for a place with no other people around. He smiled back and apologized for interrupting me in that pursuit, then they drove on down to the barns. He must've taken me at my word, because when they passed again on their way out, as the rain began falling, they waved and kept going. Which was fine. A lonesome walk in the rain ain't ever a bad thing.


Monya said...

Thanks for taking us with you, Tam. Why did I see that same Youtube this week? Same wavelength or some feed prompting me? I guess it's not too surprising either way...

KaliDurga said...

Did you really? How funny. I'm gonna go with same wavelength. That song was in my head the entire time I was wandering around the old farm today.

the gardeners cottage said...

hi tam,

first i'd like to say - wow, what gorgeous photography! secondly, don't you get a little scared wandering alone out there? i admire you for not being scared.

and third, i love deserted places too. i'm a sucker for old cemetaries. i find them v soothing. and yet i don't want to be buried. hmmm.


KaliDurga said...

Hi Janet,
Ah, yes, nothing like an old cemetery, they are definitely great for much the same reason as abandoned homesteads.

But, no, being out in places like that doesn't scare me. Their decay can be creepy, but that's part of the fun. And the way the suburbs are encroaching, it's certainly not Deliverance-ville out there.


Story teller said...

I loved the photo of the eaten up wooden fence. I am very glad you can find such places where you live.

KaliDurga said...

Thank you, Story teller. I think finding such a place in your country would be even more fascinating-- Old temples taken over by the jungle and such would be an even stronger trigger for the imagination. Though I could be romanticizing again, I've no idea what still exists where you are.