Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fey Territory

I finally took the opportunity on Saturday, to go walk in the woods at the property I'm thinking about purchasing.

I need to go back and take some photos but I'm not sure a camera can really capture the essence of this place.

To get into this wood, you must first navigate through a short stretch of briars and begin the descent. The walk is relatively easy, but still steep. Each step is accompanied by the crunch of deep leaf litter underfoot. Your shoes disappear beneath the first layer and I felt as if I was walking on a mattress someone had laid on the floor. It was springy. You could feel the energy of millions of tiny things feasting on the deep layer of leaves creating leaf loam. Making top soil.

I walked past some old trash dumped down the hill by some harried farm wife (or her husband) from the past. Sticking up out of the leaves I saw an old broken crock, a few broken bottles, rusted buckets and I'm sure under this surface layer, there is more. Near the top of the hill, were two large metal rings which I recognized as feeding containers for pigs. I'm fairly certain that the farmers before me kept a hog or two in the woods there. It would have been an easy walk to this site from either of the older houses to toss both trash and scraps. I was walking through a pig pen and midden.

Proceeding further down into the bottom and following along the ridge that ran upward to my left (southern edge of the property), I followed the blue and orange plastic flags tied up by the survey team the day before. Sometimes the brush was thick at eye level, but if I bent down or squatted, and scanned, I could find the next flag 10 or 15 feet off in the distance. The property line appears to angle in a gentle curve down towards the south west. The flags were all perched in a precarious manner over the edge of a water drainage area, a dry creek that probably runs full when the rains are heavy.

When I finally reached the second to the last flag I noticed that just 10 feet beyond the line drawn by the flags was running water. It emerged from under the edge of the leaf litter and ran downward towards the larger river below. This is either ground water runoff or a spring.

When I reached the last flag, I turned and looked northward towards the area where the large open field is supposed to be. I did my best to walk due North, but having no compass with me at the time and having to go around large trees and thick stands of laurel and some trees that had fallen, I got a bit off track. The trek at this point was uphill again.

I made note that the trees, here, deep in the woods were a nice mix of oak, hickory and tulip poplar with some small maples. There were few pines. And these hardwood trees were large. Most were at least 18 inches in diameter. Many were far greater. They reached high and created a dense canopy overhead that let in little light so the undergrowth was relatively sparse with a few huckleberry bushes and ferns here and there in the low parts of the woods and dense hedges of laurel running along the central ridge line.

I was having difficulty making forward progress up the hill because the laurel with its gnarled twigs and tough springy branches would not allow me passage, so I cut across again toward the East and went down into the swale again. Here the walk was easier and I went up hill at a more leisurely angle.

I was once again looking around and admiring the pristine nature of this woodland when I heard a large animal come crashing, thumping down the hill from the East. It was a huge buck. He was horse sized. He still had his antlers and he stopped in the middle of the swale up the hill from me and standing broad side to me, but staring at me, gave out a grunt. It was sort of a grunt and snort actually. I felt strongly that I was about to be attacked. As I'm standing there in these isolated woods, alone without a cellphone or any way to protect myself or call for help, he grunted at me three times, then galloped to a brushy area at the top of the inner ridge I had just come down from. From there, behind the brush pile of downed tree limbs and tangle of mountain laurel, he grunted at me again. Then all grew quiet.

At that point, feeling the danger was past, I looked again at my surroundings. I was standing in the center of what was, no doubt, a perfect fairy ring of ferns. I was an intruder here. I think the buck had come to caution me about my intentions on this land.

As I continued to walk up the swale, again headed north, I came to a small bed of crushed grasses. I had come across the night spot of some deer. It seemed too small to be the nest of the buck who had confronted me.

And there was wildlife in those woods. Birds sang constantly from high up in the trees then would come down and toss about through the leaf litter. Turkey feathers were scattered haphazardly throughout the undergrowth. And there had to be a thousand squirrels. They ran in pairs and triplets up and down the trees and across the woodland floor. The tree trunks being too far apart from each other for the squirrels to make an easy jump of it from tree to tree. There were multiple burrows carved into the steep slopes on either side of the swale. Fox, perhaps? Or maybe ground hogs or some other burrowing animal. The burrows were large with opening under tree roots about 8 to 10 inches across.

I became disoriented more than once coming through the wood. In retrospect, I am sure the Fey contributed to the illusions of confusion and depth perception. I, at one point I thought I saw a row of pine trees at the top of the swale running away perpendicular to the woods to the east but the only row of pines on the property, line the driveway which runs parallel to the swale where I was walking. Fearing I was getting lost, I went back up to the long, narrow strip of flat land at the top, thinking I had to be near the end of it. I was very surprised to see I had only walked about half the length of this strip.

Thinking it might be easier to walk along the edge of the wheat field to reach the end of the woods, I again turned northward. The farmer had plowed and planted so close to the wood-line, however, unless I trampled through his crop, I would not be able to follow the wood line. So I went back into the woods, this time angling towards the north west. After a few minutes I came to the area where the Realtor had brought me in before. The overhead canopy was thinner here and most of the trees were tulip poplar and the undergrowth was denser with more briers and scruffy things. The downward angles here were harsher and seems, almost lumpy.

I imagine at one time in an effort to clear the field just to north, the farmer dumped debris at the top of the swale both preventing erosion of his farm field down the steeper slope and "lumping" up what would otherwise have been a smooth slope to the river.

You could camp here, if you cleared away some of the more unpleasant undergrowth like poison ivy and Virginia Snake Root vines, and it might allow for more of a breeze than the bottom which was surrounded on all sides by steep ridges, like an amphitheater. From this central point of the northern boundary of the wood, I walked west until I reached the corner of the field. Here I discovered the remains of what might have been an access road. It may have been a timber road or perhaps just marked the boundary of the property. But my path was again soon blocked on this ridge line with downed trees and the snarl of laurels.

It was hard to tell without the flags if the property line runs along the top of this ridge, angling out to the west, or if it cuts down through a second ravine or runs the length of the bottom of the ravine. I will have to wait for the survey to be completed to find out. If the property juts out along the ridge line, encompassing the second ravine, it would serve well as a pond should I ever find the funding and get the permitting to install a freshwater pond. If the second ridge is not included in the property line, the pond would have to be much smaller and got at the top of the first swale, with camping below it. Another option might be to approach the adjoining land owner and see if they would also like a freshwater pond which we could share.

This pond would be used for water for my animals (they would not be permitted to drink directly from the pond, but the water would be pumped out for them), stocked with freshwater fish for future fishing, and for emergency fire water for the neighborhood. This endeavor would require assistance from the Army Corp of Engineers and I would hope there would be grant money available to help install it.

But that is perhaps a dream.

In any case, my walk in the woods continued. I finally made my way back to the southwestern last flag by going down the second ravine and then up the backside of the central ridge from which I hoped the buck had fled. From that flag, I walked along back toward where I had left my car at the top. As I climbed the hill a yellow butterfly came and settled on my left shoulder leaving only as I broke out into the bright sunlight.

I was hot and sweating and itchy but very excited about what I had seen and experienced. I know now that it may not matter how many actual acres are in the property or in the woods. If it is smaller, I may be able to secure the land for less money. If more, I will get it for that which was offered and be delighted.

No comments: