Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grouse-Huxley AKA "Mud Camp" - June 2011

Perhaps you remember an earlier story about the infamous "Mud Camp" expedition of a couple years ago.  Perhaps I am lying in a ditch, twitching as I imagine this fanciful tale.  Who can tell?  I guess it's not that important.
To me, "Grouse-Huxley" sounds imperial, important, like a high society gent from the 1930s.  Nothing could really be further from the truth.  In fact, this bruised land is a muddied mess available only to those who duck old ghosts and have the nerve to drive miles of "road", really just temporary railroad grades that have almost completely reverted to nature, seeming more like a deer trail now.  Branches scrape your vehicle, mystery mud puddles without bottom dare you to continue.  "Does this go anywhere?"  Sort of...

After many miles of this adventure, you begin to wonder what gem lies at the end.  After each insane dip and washout you know the journey will not prove wasted.  Sort of.  But once you get there you realize that you are in a deep wilderness combined with the sensibilities of an abandoned factory town.  The south side of Chicago invokes a similar emotion.  Once booming and filling the air with coal smoke, entire industrial neighborhoods have again reverted to nature, former factories sprawl immensely and forlorn, structural supports now as gentle as balsa, where forest again tries to maintain a foothold in failing concrete and generations of rust.  
It is indeed strange to have such feelings invoked deep within our temperate jungle, hiding bears and other unseen energies deep within the tent of forest and suspended reason.  But around the unsure perimeter of this human induced change, ancient spirits still do their dance.  Of course some day they too shall pass, like everything else.

Grouse-Huxley really does sound imperial, doesn't it?  In truth I must confess that the name came to me in a state of near delirium after many days of thinking far too much and hanging out with the most sordid sort of scoundrels.  In truth, it is just the midpoint between Grouse Point, a high ridgetop viewpoint now choked with growth, and Huxley Lake, an ancient glacial water body now choked with the disregard all too common in our age.  ATVs, the four-wheeled snorting beasts, have done a fine job of destroying almost all sense of history, creating a muddied mess of miniature roads in what has been recently designated the Roaring River Wilderness in no small display of irony.  This must be how the Native Peoples felt when the brass bedecked iron horse first snorted its way across the Dakotas.  Huxley survives, in flux as do we all.  Mud is as malleable as clay in a potters hands, a refuge for seeds and spores that lie locked just waiting for time and opportunity to release their contained magic.  You just can't keep a good seed down.

 I'm not sure why I go back to the place.  Really, it's quite a mess and not quite worth the insane trip in.  It's wilderness to be sure, but lacking the big trees and scarred like a Pharaoh.  Deep cuts and grades for railroads deemed "temporary" 100 years ago still survive as clearly as any Roman aqueduct.  Clear the trees and lie rails and little change would be evident.  But something beyond the tangible lurks there, heavy like fog.
 The locomotives are gone, the men are gone, as are the old trees.  Are they all still assembled together in some unseen place and way?  We have such a narrow framework which we view the world.  Einstein and his 2 ways to view the world: "all miracle or nothing".

This trip, I chose not to document the weird goings-on of 3 odd fellows deep in forgotten new trees.  Sometimes as memory fades, we turn to photographs to kindle a sense of the lost.  In time, the photographs themselves become the memories.  My mind tells of expeditions to the Roaring River flowing like mercury, or dancing along the back of an emerald snake that exists only in the imagination.  We try to imagine what these woods were like when crosscuts sang or solitary mosses do their timeless dance, only aware of the wind and cotton sky hanging leaden.  For a time these dreams take hold, replaced by passing jets or our own new laughter.  We too will be forgotten.  

Don, Randy, and Murphy

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