Monday, December 4, 2017

Bull Mountain Ridge

I guess that's a decent way to describe where I went last weekend.

It wasn't my original objective though. I had one promising-looking dotted line left on my map, leading away from Nimblewill Gap Road, so I went to check it out first. It clearly used to get vehicular traffic, and the FS apparently closed it with berms and downed trees. It was still passable on foot, but after the initial climb up to the ridge, it became densely overgrown and I didn't pursue it further.

My secondary objective for the day was further exploration of the network that I'd discovered between the Bull Mountain Trail and the trail leading over to the Black Mountain shelter.

So, once again I found myself on Muffler Ridge, heading north. This time, it was all very familiar.

I managed to get a marginally acceptable photo of Bull Mountain proper, from the ridge.

Bull Mountain from Muffler Ridge

And I realized looking at it that the other photo I'd taken from that privet field a few weeks earlier must have been another knob on the ridge, and not Bull Mountain proper.

About halfway up, I saw something whitish lying in the ground ahead of me...


It was the map I'd lost several weeks earlier!

My Lost Map

I'd forgotten entirely about it, but I was glad to be able to pick it back up.

I followed the old road up the ridge, hung a left toward Black Mountain, and followed the modernish cut below that ridge until it eventually dove down towards the Bull Mountain Trail proper.

The old roads up there are much, much easier to follow in winter. It's like night and day. The brush and deadfall still shredded my ankles a bit, but it was a million times easier to discern the old roads themselves, and I didn't miss getting little bits of everything stuck to me, constantly. It's funny, every year I forget about what it's like in whatever season I'm not in, and then I'm surprised by how it is when that season actually comes along. You'd think I'd learn...

There is one very distinct spur off of the old road that leads up from Bull. In fact, if you were coming up the old road, from Bull, you would find that it is relatively clear until it hits that spur, then above that spur, it's fairly overgrown. It would seem that it was used, for some time, to access that spur, in particular.

The spur itself is unremarkable - some random bench cut that runs out to some little creek and ends abruptly at it.

But right below the end of the road, someone had clearly hollowed out the backslope, just enough to level the ground in maybe an 8-foot diameter circle. Inside of the circle there were the remains of some odd, also-circular, stacked stone construction.

Odd Stone Construction

It doesn't look like much in the photo, but in real life, it really looks constructed.

I've seen plenty of old collapsed chimneys in the woods, but this didn't look like one of those. It was super-close to the creek too. Way too close to build a house, and the backslope was really steep anyway, and not otherwise leveled.

It's not impossible that there was a house built on the road itself, that extended out into the space below it, and this was a footing for it. But its proximity to the creek made that seem unlikely. If it was a mill of some kind, then they sure picked a tiny little creek to feed it, and a terribly obscure location.

Between the obscure location, comparatively clear access, proximity to the small creek, and size of the construction, it seemed most likely to have been related to moonshining, but I don't know enough about how old stills to be confident in that. I'll have to do some research.

Whatever it was, it was slightly intriguing, and I hoped it wasn't just some natural formation that I let my imagination misread.

Eventually I made it down to the Bull Mountain Trail itself and it seemed weird to be hiking it, that far up, rather than riding.

I checked out a few side trails that I'd noticed before, but all were very overgrown, and none went very far.

I also noticed that Stan had recently cut out several downed trees. Thanks Stan!

Of course, I found a mylar balloon.

Balloon off of Bull Mountain Trail

But, I also found this distance-measuring thingie, just above the old truck.

Distance Thingie

The ticker read 01000.

I'll have to ask Debbie about it at the next work party. Maybe she knows why it's there.

From there, I pushed back over to Muffler Ridge and descended back to the car.

It wasn't officially dark yet, but it was getting there. The sky was beautiful to the west, and the moon was high and bright in the east. Except for constantly catching my ankles on invisible sticks, I really enjoyed the hike back. It had been a while since I'd been out in the dark.

One of the coolest things wasn't what I saw though, but what I heard.

I first noticed a howl, about the pitch of a tornado siren, behind me in the general direction of Springer Mountain. It sounded like a man though, not like any coyote or owl, or anything else I'm accustomed to hearing. I heard it again later though, and it was distinctly canine, with little yips and barks before and after it. I also heard several different owls, though I don't know them well enough to distinguish them by their calls. I heard the howl many more times, and it always came from the same direction. At first I wondered if some guy just had a dog up on Springer Mountain, but it really seemed much closer than that. Could just be some dog running around in the woods, or maybe I just don't know what a coyote really sounds like and it was one of them. Anyway, it was intriguing, and it's definitely something else that I need to research.

I eventually made it back to my truck, which I'd parked below the privet field, off of 28D. On the way out, I managed to bottom it out once in a rut. Man, the ruts on that road...

I tried eating at Brooklyn Joe's in Canton, which I eat at regularly during the work week, when I'm in Canton, but they were busy, and Georgia had just won the SEC Championship, and everyone was all excited, and after 10 minutes of waiting with no server even glancing in my direction, I reasoned that even if I managed to order in the next minute, it would still be less time between then and eating if I left, and went to Chipotle. So, that's what I did. I'll be back to Brooklyn Joe's, but at the time, I was just so unbelievably hungry. Chipotle was the better choice.

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