Monday, October 6, 2014

When is it Wild?

Every part of the country I hunt has been trampled at some point. Heck, the Native Americans arrived there right after the ice receded about eleven or twelve thousand years ago. The Europeans traipsed through there trapping and hunting three hundred or more years ago, then came back to take the timber. And except for the rarest of patches, all of that country has been cut more than once.
A stonewall left by farmers long ago.
Farmers stopped heading north at about the latitude of where our Camp Grouse is. The winters were just too harsh and the land too bony to go further. Those that made a go of it there mostly abandoned the country years later to head west, where the stories sure made it sound better. Anything must have sounded better than all those stones. Only the toughest stayed.
The Native Americans in southern New England had established an agricultural society, clearing land and planting crops. Up where we hunt they existed only by hunting and gathering. They already knew.
But when I get miles back in the woods it still feels wild to me, even if others must have been there before. Occasionally, I’ll find an old stone wall or foundation and wonder about who had been there and what happened to them. Life must have been tough, with long miles walked to anything resembling civilization, and brutally cold winters. Talk about feeling alone.
Much of that remote county is now accessible by logging roads. Walk up into the woods though and you’ll find traces of grown in logging roads, mostly shaped by strong backs using shovels and grub hoes, back in the days when logs were twitched with horses. Some hillsides have long shallow depressions every hundred yards or so, more or less following the contours yet gently descending. They didn’t like to twitch the wood too far with horses, and on those roads the logs would be loaded onto sleighs to slide down to the frozen lakes. In the spring, when the ice melted, the wood floated down the streams to the mills.
Georgia clearing an old stone wall.
On the topographic maps you still see places marked a B Camp, Camp Felton, Camp 9 and such, all long gone logging camps. To someone who grew up enthralled with the woods of northern New England the names ring like magic. Sometimes we’ll find what’s left of one, either parts of an old cast iron stove or a rusting bedspring, all miles from nowhere.
Who were the last ones to visit? Maybe nobody had for years. Where did the wood go? What’s the nearest river? Was it logs or pulp? The records are long gone.
The history makes it interesting. The gaps in the history keep us wondering. And it’s all remote enough to be wild in my book.

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