Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 38

just as we are told, to begin the true off-trail bushwhack part of our
day. The book tells us to follow the path northwest for a mile.
The trace is so faint that we lose it after awhile, and it’s just us
three in the middle of the woods with no human or natural, literal
or figurative signposts. I stop for a few minutes, surveying the scene.
Jeremy does the same, while Neil continues wandering.
Jeremy and I stand there for a minute, two minutes, eyeing the
slope of the hill, the direction we are headed, the contour line from
whence we came, to try to envision or sense where we should be
going. We think we see it in one place, make our way there, decide
we’re wrong, and stand in silence again, scanning the scene slowly
and methodically, waiting for our eyes to adjust, like getting your
night vision after turning off the lights.
It is in this osmotic, ESP-like state that we find it, Jeremy and I
both, at practically the same moment: a more barely-there trace than
any of the other barely-there traces I’ve seen in this park, finally
popping out from the surrounding landscape like those opticalillusion “stereograms” or “magic eye” puzzles. We hop on the path

No one could have imagined that
their family burial grounds, their
homes and farms and gardens, would
be sold into the hands of strangers.
again, shuffling our feet through the leaves while winding our way
around the curve of a mountain, passing rock walls and stone piles,
some of which Neil thinks look “foundation-y,” like they might once
have been stacked to support a long-gone log home.
We’re so smug at having found this old road that we’re stung with
disappointment when we end up in a gulley full of dozens of large
downed trees, obliterating the way forward. Neil climbs up the hill
looking for a way out, Jeremy works his way down, and I am stuck
somewhere in the middle in a labyrinth of impassible branches.
Neil makes the most convincing argument about which way the
road goes, and so we follow him, out of the gulley and into apple
orchard flats, through tunnels of laurels, past more rock structures
from when these mountain lands were farms. We feel far away from
places we know in this park, from the trails we’ve hiked and the areas
we’ve explored before; removed from the communities we’ve envisioned here, the neighborhoods of homes.
We find ourselves standing where the cemetery ought to be, lost.
“There’s graveyard myrtle all around us,” I notice.
“The land is extremely level,” Neil observes.
“There are other rock walls in the vicinity,” Jeremy mentions.
After about five minutes of announcing the workings of our
intuitive data-collection machines, we realize we are standing in the
cemetery itself, amidst several old, gray chestnut fence posts and
their corollary wire fence, which have blended in with the trees in
the distance.
And then there it is – what the history book promised: the
ornately scripted headstone of Catherine Menefee, “Wife of B.F.
38 | BlueRidgeCountry.com

Menefee, Died September 12, 1900, Blessed be the dead who die
in the Lord.”
The book says there are 25 to 30 burials here, but we only see a
few sunken spots and a handful of native fieldstone markers rising
out of the forest duff.
Neil declares this the nicest house site of the dozens we’ve seen
because it’s flat and open and so far from the rest of the world. We
all take a seat on a log for a snack and survey the Menefees’ land,
imagining their quiet lives way back here, far from the main road.
While we sit, pondering the days when the simple things you
had – family, the land – were enough, we suddenly become aware
of a noise, which Neil thinks at first is the sound of children crying,
Jeremy believes is a pack of dogs, and I most definitely know is a
wild animal.
Across this flat and over to our left toward a peak, we hear them:
coyotes. All the time that we stood here surveying the land, debating
where the treasure was hidden, they were silent. Then suddenly, in
wild cacophony, they awake. A warning? We sit awhile and take it
in, that here in the East, in a national park that’s only a few miles
wide at its widest point, and only 100 miles long, a size that nowhere
even closely rivals its western counterparts, just a two-hour drive
from the nation’s capital, we hikers can sit with a complete absence
of modern-life noise and enjoy the whiney cries of coyotes. It is one
of the moments park creators must have envisioned during their
many years of fighting to conserve these mountains.
Next oN the ageNda is the Bruce cemetery. We retrace our steps
back through the yellow birch, red oak, red maple, black cherry, and
an unusually large black gum tree, to the abandoned Butterwood
Trail, a decommissioned old road. Then we set out to follow the
directions to somewhere on Oventop Mountain; from Butterwood,
we are to “Take an old fork northeastward. Three native stones in
middle of path.”
Butterwood Trail is a major thoroughfare, though it has vanished
from all modern-day maps. The rut that this old road has created is
as high as my chest, and it is wide and easy to follow. But the information about this cemetery doesn’t indicate how far we should go;
is the old fork just a few feet away, a few hundred feet, a few miles?
It’s 3 in the afternoon. We’ve been at this since our arrival around
10. Given that it’s winter, we have limited sunlight. Even though
this has not been a death-march type of bushwhack – though there
have been a few limbos under trees, a few branches snapping back
into faces, a few interactions where skin met thorn – I am starting
to feel I am reaching the end of my patience and stamina.
We walk about half a mile before we see what we could construe
as an “old fork” off the side of the road. It’s a still-passable old side
road, faint but noticeable to us. Again, we don’t know the distance
to the treasure. A few minutes on this fork turns into maybe 30
minutes, and it seems we are walking endlessly as the road undulates
up and down. Ever the doubter, I keep remarking that there’s no
way we’re going to find it, that the author of this guide wouldn’t
have led us down some middle-of-nowhere road for this length of
time, with no other landmark notes and no other clues.
After another mile, or an hour, the “road” – really nothing more
than a nearly-make-believe indent in the ground through woods
that we imbue with historical meaning – ends. We do not see a way
forward, and nothing welcomes us to the destination.


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Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013

Cover
Table of Contents
Letters/Worth a Click
From the Editor
Digital Help Guide
From the Farm
The Hike
Mountain Report
Creature Feature
Festivals & Events
Explore West Virginia Covered Bridges
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Cave in to Adventure
Fall Travel to Restaurants, Diners and Dives
Photoessay: Late Fall Comes to the Mountains
What's New in these Hills?
Life and Death in Butterfield Branch
Mountain-Classic Recipes
Cabin in the Woods: A North Georgia Getaway
Mountain Garden
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Cover
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Table of Contents
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Letters/Worth a Click
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Digital Help Guide
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - From the Farm
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Explore West Virginia Covered Bridges
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Cave in to Adventure
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DE2
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DE3
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DE4
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DE5
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - DE6
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Fall Travel to Restaurants, Diners and Dives
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Photoessay: Late Fall Comes to the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - What's New in these Hills?
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Life and Death in Butterfield Branch
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Mountain-Classic Recipes
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 42
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Mountain Garden
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Cabin in the Woods: A North Georgia Getaway
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 48
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2013 - Cover4
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