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A Hike through My Old Playground

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Today, Laura, Cayden, Ellie Shay, and I went to visit family for Christmas in Spring Garden. Another meal we had planned with the Rogers was postponed because my Nunu’s pipes from her well were frozen. So, while Cayden and Ellie Shay hung out with a handful of my ten brothers and sisters, I went for a hike through some old trails I would travel when I was growing up.

The Eliminator

After walking down the bank that you can kind of see in the background, I was delighted that my hike began by seeing an old friend—a Kawasaki Eliminator I drove to basketball practice when I turned fourteen. I was allowed to stay within the triangle made by Highways 278, 9, and 411.

To the Miner’s Chimney

Having a route pre-planned in my mind, I walked past the trampoline and old tire swing tree and down the hill behind my home.

After sliding underneath the electric fence, I visited an old truck and enjoyed a view down the road which leads to the hayfields.

My plan was simple: I wanted to make it to the Red Banks, the site of an old strip mine. To get there, I would follow the ghost of a few roads cut out by the miners as well as the occasional deer trail.

My first stop on the first of these roads was to see if the old chimney to a lodging long gone was still there. Underneath a broken branch and some brush lay the pile of stones you see in the pictures. 

I like to think that whoever lived here, whenever they did, must have been in some way in charge of the strip mines on the property.

This house marks the beginning of several ridges you’ll see throughout the catalog of photos in this post. These hills and valleys are anywhere from six to twenty or more feet tall, and they are covered with pine straw. These steep slopes were so much fun to climb and slide down as a young boy and an almost 30-year-old man.

The Red Banks

As I approached the Red Banks, the slopes got steeper. At the top of one of these hills, which was a blast to climb, there were the obvious markings of some critter making it’s home in the bank under the exposed roots of a tree during these brutally cold nights.

Then, after passing over a fence, I emerged into the playground of my youth. Hours were spent sliding down these red hills. Up and down we would go, and when we got home, we had to strip at the door.

It seems as if a few deer had beat me to the Red Banks.

As I traveled over the banks, the ice mixed with dirt under my feet crunched loudly through the cold air. I was a little nervous that the ground would come loose when I made a “necessary” jump from one side to the other, but my limbs remembered how to land and scurry up the other side unscathed.

The evergreens which cover the tops of the banks where a sharp green compared to the red soil. It’s a sight I’ve always been impressed with, and it was one of the things I looked to the most.

In places, the ice wasn’t hidden under the soil. Instead, it exposed a scene which reminded me of Superman’s “Fortress of Solitude.”

Eventually, it was time to leave the Red Banks since I couldn’t slide and play as much as I used to (I had no spare clothes). I had a couple of more places I wanted to visit, but my main goal had been accomplished. A dark green tree showed me out of my old hangout, and I was off to the Resting Rock… and a chance encounter.

The Resting Rock and Two New Friends

After crossing the fence once more, I came across fresh deer droppings along with fresh hoof prints in the straw.

Being in the fallen straw like they were after a windy night, I guessed that these must be fresh. I slowed my pace and kept my eyes and ears open for any sign of life.

After maybe 75 yards, I heard a truck coming down the road to my right. Once the silence came back, I heard quick movement over to my left, and that’s when I saw it: the white tail of a deer disappearing into the trees.

I knew that I stood no chance pursuing it, so I continued on towards the Resting Rock with the intentions of circling around to the other side.

The Resting Rock was a key destination during my younger years, and it was the second location of my fort—which was a lean-to on the tree in the picture. It’s called the Resting Rock because it’s a good place to sit or lie down and rest due to its bed-like size.

Close to the resting rock is the reason that I found it when I was younger. Just 25 yards towards the driveway, there is a rogue fence post in the ground that I was convinced was the North Pole. It was upon investigating the North Pole that I found the Resting Rock. I found the North Pole by checking out the old trough for salt blocks.

The Original Hangout

I decided to check out the old trough all those years ago because I saw it from my very first hangout: a lengthy mound of dirt covered with trees in the middle of the pasture. This was very close to my first fort, but I got a bit distracted, so I couldn’t investigate it on this trip.

You see, as I crossed over towards my PaPa’s old piles of sorted trees from his tree cutting business (from which I made my very first fort), my two deer friends sprung up again. This time, instead of ignoring them, I cut across the undergrowth to a path I used to ride my bicycle down.

I jumped them a few more times before capturing some evidence of my hunt on my camera.

If you compare the three pictures below, you’ll see that the first one is just a picture of the woods, but the second and third contain a small glimpse of white. It’s right in the middle of the picture if you zoom in.

About this time, Laura called me to tell me it was time to wash up and go to lunch. I captured a few more pictures of old places I used to run and play on my way in, and I went on to have a great meal with my Nunu and that side of the family.

Thanks for joining me on this hike.

1 thought on “A Hike through My Old Playground”

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