Below: an image of a vacant, but decently maintained, log house I drove by while last in the field. It is not owned by the state, but is surrounded by 14,000 acres of state park and is in a pretty remote area near the Pennsylvania border. The log style, the scalloped fascia and barge boards, and especially the two front doors makes this house, in my humble eyes, a traditional "flur-kuche" (or "hall" and "kitchen") farm house... not to be confused with the distinct Anglo "hall and parlor" style. Given the highly traditional woodwork, windows, and door placement... I would not be surprised if this house dates from the 18th century, but it's hard to say without getting a closer look. It's most definitely no later than around 1860.
When I last went out, I went with Charlie. I have a feeling we're going to be close, Charlie and I. Out of the entire Department of Natural Resources, which owns and manages more than 400,000 acres of land, it's just the two of us who have training in cultural resources and historic preservation. Just the two of us.
Charlie had asked me to accompany him on a special trip, probably the firsrt of many we'll do together. He had been made aware of about 40 rock shelters all in one state park that date from the Late Woodland Period. Some are just large overhangs where Paleo Folk gathered, but others are full out caves. They've been documented by various archaeological groups, but not for a long time, and no one in living memory the DNR had ever bothered to check in on them and see how they were faring.... even though they are our responsibility. So that was our mission, to rectify this by trying to find as many of these archaeological sites as we could, to see how much traffic they were getting and to document their condition.
It was a beautiful morning when we started our first hike into the park. We had a few miles to go before we needed to leave the main trail and bushwhack to the first site, so we were chatting freely and cruised along. Charie was telling me about how he'd just returned from a separate field visit last week where he'd found morel mushrooms. "I've got morel vision," he said. "They just seem to pop out, they were everywhere I looked."
"I've never seen morels before," I told him as we hiked along,"And certainly not for lack of trying. I hope you have your morel vision today!"
Of course as I said this my eyes were drawn to the trail edge .... and to my astonishment a dozen morels were right their with their phallic heads poking up out of the leaves! Absolutely amazing. We gathered a bunch and kept going.
***Several miles later we turned off trail and began scrambling up steep valley walls until the earth gaveway to rock, at which point we knew to begin looking for our first rock shelter. Sorry for the crappy photo.... but here's the first one:
You can see the opening in the lower right portion of the wall there, which is really a 20 ft overhang. That cave extends back 30 feet. I had my head lamp on and started into the mouth of the cave. We weren't going to go in very deep, but just enough to get a look around, when I saw something on the cave floor that made me pause. It was round and white. And it had eye sockets.
"Charlie," I said, "I know looking into dark caves excites the imagination, and it's quite possible that this is just a lump of wood.... but I swear that looks like a skull."
I did my best to focus my headlamp on the thing ahead. Charlie, who is 6'3 and was having a bit more trouble fitting into the cave than I was, peered over my shoulder. The light from his headlamp glanced off the thing with the eye sockets, hit a large set of ribs behind it and then landed on a random mandible. It was definitely all deer-- a large deer, too--- but a strong deterent to explore the darkness any further. We extracted ourselves from the cave, took a few pictures and notes about the general site, and were ready to move on.
As we were hiking along to our next site I started to see stacked stone throughout the woods.Keep in mind that we're not on a trail- we're using our topo map to go where we need to in this 14,000 acre park. At first I blew it off as being stacked stone from previous logging (loggers moved stones insto stacks to help the logging equipment get through) but then I saw more intentional stone structures like this remnant of a stone wall shown below. After I nixed the notion that they were from logging, I thought they were perhaps old spring houses..after all, they were near the creek.... but the feel of the terrain wasn't right for any type of homestead.
I kept my eyes open for any other signs and I put my thinking cap on. What were these stones? These walls?
And then all of a sudden I realized that the earth in certain areas around us had been manipulated in unnatural ways. It was hard to tell at first because everything was covered in trees and greenery... but there was a definite artificiality to the landscape. Most obvious, of course, were these rock lined "spring house" structures we'd noticed before, but then there were also these dips (for lack of better terminology) carved into the valley wall, three of them sitting like pockets in the hill side, each about 8 ft deep and 20 feet wide.
Just above and perpendicular to these pockets was a single trench with spill ways dumping into the pocket areas. Once again, it was hard to get good photos because it's all covered in leaves and trees--- to the casual observer it was all very subtle, but this is a good one of the trench/canal system running above the "pockets."
Given our proximity to the creek, I guessed that this was some type of mill race or canal, with the "pockets" below as spillways or cooling pools. But that wasn't all. Above the canal way I found several other sites where the earth seemed unnaturally flat in squares, softened and elongated by age, of roughly 20 ft by 20 ft. Charlie and I paced around them... there was lots of stone that definitely could have been foundations... and then we started to find it.
At first it was covered in moss and greenness and we were not sure ....
We managed to find a few more rock shelters that day before the sun began to tip too far in the sky, and then we made our way back to our vehicle and the long drive home. All in all.... a pretty cool, very excellent, marvelous day!