Saturday, June 14, 2014

Past, Present, and Future

A long country road through the Piedmont - check out those hills!
Whoohoo!! Folks, I am officially more than halfway there! The trail measures nearly 1200 miles in length, and I am somewhere around 670 miles in...honestly it's all gone a lot faster than I expected it to...but the days have been full! Since I've last written, I've done several more book events, again with a full house at Great Outdoor Provisions (where two of my dear friends whom I hadn't seen since their wedding that I attended while on the trail the first time through dropped in and surprised me), Weaver St. Market, and an impromptu book talk at Lynn Pownell's home (owner of the Barbershop B&B in Glencoe Village). I have also completed the new trail along the Eno River as well the new portions of trail following the Haw River.

Along the Haw River Trail in Glencoe Village
On the Falls Lake Trail I glimpsed signs of old homesteads along the railroad tracks...however I had no idea the remnants of the past that were to be seen along the Eno and Haw Rivers.

A mill stone along the Eno River Trail - these were literally strewn about, laying along side trail near old rock foundations, and half buried in leaves on forested embankments far off the trail.
One of the many chimneys still standing - notice the skinny Maple tree (Acer spp.) growing in the dirt and forest debris collected inside the fireplace. Atop the mantle of another fireplace I found, someone had lovingly placed collected items atop it, including a mason jar, cracked tea cup, and a piece of rusted tin.
At the tail end of the Eno River portion, I had the pleasure of meeting up with local historian Jay Schwantes, who walked with me for a bit telling me the stories of the land. We toured the Cabe Cemetery, which laid off trail - thus I never would have seen it otherwise. Here he told me of the patriarch Cabe who had been an incredibly wealthy mill owner in the area and then about his daughter who married 3 wealthy mill men herself. Sounds like that lass married strategically.
A note on the plants, he also told me that one can always spot an old homesite or forgotten burial plot by the Jonquils that were planted there and continue to grow today.

Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla) shoots rising from leaves around the old Cabe homesite - photo courtesy of Jay Schwantes (check out his research at
He also pointed out the old Fish Dam Rd, which was discovered in the 1600's as a frequently used trading route by native people. However, the most interesting history that most folks don't know is that this was the route traveled by General Johnston to meet General Sherman to conduct the surrender at Bennett Place, a nearby family farm. This was weeks after the supposed "end of the war" at the battle of Appomattox, and days after Lincoln's assassination, when President Johnson had ordered General Grant to go to North Carolina to "resume the hostilities." Fortunately the two generals took it upon themselves to coordinate a surrender of the remaining troops in the field.

This same road also led to the mill. Jay informed me that the mill was not only the place you brought your grains, but the hang-out place, the local pub (serving moonshine of course) and social scene...I probably would have been seen walking this road a lot had I lived during this time!

The last few days have also been filled with the generosity of kind folks who have taken me in, and in more than one instance offered some more history along the trail, and transported me to and from the trail, to and from book events.

Aaron, Charlotte, and Shawn
In the Chapel Hill area, I was hosted by the lovely family of Shawn and Charlotte Williams and two sons, Aaron and Tommy. Oh the dinners were amazing...Indian fare the first night and Mediterranean on the second night, cooked not just by Charlotte but with the assistance of Aaron. Quite impressive. They also helped me get around Chapel Hill to my events and made me feel right at home with lots of good laughter and conversation. Thank you, Shawn, Charlotte, Aaron, and Tommy!

Thank you Barbara for picking me up and getting me back to the trail from Chapel Hill!

Holly, Bill, and Gwen Reid
The next family to host me was that of Holly Reid and her parents Bill and Gwen. This family offered not just hospitality but history as well. Holly has done and continues to do extensive research on the local communities that used to live beside the Haw River, including that of the Native Americans and African Americans. Bill and Gwen also lived in a restored horse barn on the former property of an incredibly wealthy land and mill owner in the area. This man owned 20 horses which he kept in an enormous barn made of brick and multiple paddocks. Wow. The original doors, beams, and bricks still made up the house. Absolutely beautiful.

On their property also stood a restored slave's cabin. They called this one-room house the "Coachman's Quarters," as research suggests that the slave who lived here probably took care of the many horses in the nearby barn. Bill and Gwen, still incredibly able-bodied in their 80's, did extensive work along with a builder/restoration expert to rebuild the rubble to which they had found this cabin reduced. The most remarkable find in this structure was on particular brick. On this brick a date had been inscribed, presumably by a slave: Dec. 6, '65. This is the date that slavery had been abolished by the addition of the Thirteenth Amendment.

December 6, 1865 - the date that slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. This is a painting of the inscription found upon a brick in the Coachman's Quarters. The Reid's have a frame hanging on the wall around the actual brick, however with the low light in the cabin it was impossible to capture the actual inscription.

They offered me a room in the house, air conditioned, and on a big bed with fresh linens, but I just had to sleep out in the Coachman's Quarters...

The restored Coachman's Quarters on the property of Bill and Gwen Reid.
Thank you Reid family for the wonderful company, history, and for attending the book signing!

From here, I traveled 23 miles to the historic village of Glencoe. This village consists of literally two streets lined by a handful of houses that had been built to house the workers for the nearby mill. These houses all looked exactly the same, except personalized by different colored exteriors, tin roofs, and trim. I had the pleasure of being welcomed into one by Lynn, the owner of the Barbershop B&B in town (a restored one-room literal barbershop) and the art studio in town. Here I enjoyed a cozy book talk with her local friends over wine and cheese and crackers. I hope these ladies enjoyed learning about the book nearly as much as I enjoyed learning about each of them. Thank you Lynn!

An old factory building on the edge of Glencoe Village -do you notice that man in the lower left-hand corner walking towards me? This is Harold Davis.
The picture above brings me to an already most treasured day and half spent with my dear friend, Harold Love Davis. If you have been a reader since I began this blog 3 years ago, perhaps you remember him. I met Harold while walking his dog along the roadside on the MST not far from the Union Ridge Church. Harold was one of the few I had met along the way that had actually heard of the trail as he had met another hiker before me on the road sometime back. Anyhow, Harold had greeted me the next morning at my camp at the church and taken me out to breakfast at McCray's Grill. For the last 3 years, we have kept in touch by telephone. So although the trail no longer passes by Harold's house, I let him know I'd be coming his way again.

Harold on the trail by the Haw River
This time around, Harold surprised me by meeting on trail, just a mile and a half before reaching the village of Glencoe. "Harold!" I exclaimed, as the man in the hat finally got near to me by the ol' factory. Harold hiked with me to my destination for the evening and we made plans to have breakfast, once again at McCray's Grill the next morning.

Harold, Tyler, and Me at McCray's Grill - photo taken by Janice
So promptly at 7am the next morning, we drove the short miles to McCray's. Upon arrival I was greeted by the same friendly faces I remembered sharing breakfast with the last time. Janice, Margaret, and this now-not-so-lil girl, Tyler. So amazing to see you all again and breakfast was deelish!!

That day Harold hiked...are you ready for this...20 miles with me to Hicone Rd on the edge of Greensboro. Now, Harold, I don't mean to bring up your age, but I'm sorry people must simply know! Harold is 83 years old and far more spry than many my own age and younger. Harold and I kept the same pace and walked side by side the whole way, beginning by trail in the morning and then soon transitioning to long hilly roads, that is except for where we had to walk single file due to the busy traffic. Thank you for walking with me, Harold! I hated to say goodbye when I left. You'll just have to join me if I find myself doing this trail a 3rd time!

Harold and Me at McCray's Grill
And now I make my way towards Greensboro to walk some more real-deal trail! Come see me in Greensboro on Monday at my book talk and signing at Great Outdoor Provisions, beginning at 7pm!

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