Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 37
by Sue Eisenfeld • photography by Laurie McClellan
near Butterwood Branch
why wOulD a tRiO Of hikERs BushwhaCk iNtO a
wiNtER fOREst, alONg tRails that NO lONgER Exist,
sEEkiNg tRaCEs Of lifE lONg fORgOttEN?
It’s November, and the air is white and icy. Here, in
Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, there are no
fiery leaves, blooming mountain laurels, or delicate
pink wild azaleas. For most people, this is the offseason. The forest is brown and brittle. And yet for
my husband Neil, our friend Jeremy, and me, out here
in the dead, empty places on the map, the mountains
are very much alive.
Our first target is the Clark cemetery on the former
property of Andrew J. Clark, who once owned 288
acres, a house, a barn, and 75 fruit trees before this
park became a park. We take the old Turn Bridge Trail
to where it intersects with an abandoned trail. A book
on the history of this park is our “guide” for the day.
It says we’ll find the cemetery in the northwest quadrant of this junction, near the ruins of a house with
three chimneys. Fifteen or 20 people were buried here.
At the four-way intersection, our quadrant is full of
greenbrier, like a tangle of barbed wire.
The three of us skirt around the edges, walking
amidst the telltale graveyard myrtle, its four-leaf green
bundles standing out in contrast against the fallen
orange leaves. Jeremy spots the first of the three or so
unmarked fieldstones inside the nest of thorns – nothing engraved, nothing carved. An errant brick has
found its way among them. This small collection of
rock is all that remains of the homestead.
From there, we set our sights on the Menefee cemetery on a piece of Ben Menefee’s 175-acre estate, circa
1929. We are directed to continue 0.3 miles on the
Pass Mountain Trail to find an old road trace – which
appears on no map – and veer west: cryptic, as bushwhacking notes always are.
It’s easy to say we simply walked onward and found
the old road trace with no problem, at the site of a
large tulip poplar, after passing a stone spring box
along the way, but this feat is only accomplished due
to our three sets of well-trained eyes and the intuition
we’ve built up over a combined 60 years of bushwhacking the wilderness. We take off into the forest,
Top: a fieldstone headstone with graveyard myrtle is in an unmarked cemetery. Far left: sue Eisenfeld and husband
Neil walk near Butterwood Branch. Left: a piece of a wood stove remains from when the land was not a park.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 | 37