Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get lost

As I've said, there are a lot of little hidden areas in Machias. Small spaces that are probably missed by people who don't care to look for them.

Things such as a plaque signifying the location of the former town of Atusville, a town founded by a former slave just after the Revolutionary War for other former slaves that is now nothing by forest. Machias is something like 98% white Christian, and other then a farm across the street from the plaque and the plaque itself there isn't any evidence of Atusville's existence. It's too bad, for one this city could use a little color, but also it's sad that a community like that could completely disappear. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm sure that Atusville was abandoned naturally. There are surely hundreds of cities that never made it scattered all around Maine. Actually, the citizens of Machias are pretty proud that a black community, and there certainly weren't many then, let alone now, was right in their very midst. The plaque, and by extension the missing city, are way out on the very edge of Machias, the only reason I ever found it at all was by walking pretty much as far as I was comfortable along the Down East Sunrise Trail. It's easy to miss if you don't have an eye for things like two foot high pedestals in the middle of the forest like I do.

Also nearby Atusville- Sylvan Park, and old harness racing track that has been abandoned for... I dunno, at least 50 years, probably more. Apparently harness racing is a big thing in Maine. Right now there is a ballot proposition (or as they say here, question) that if passed will create a bunch of jobs in harness racing. Plus I found out all about Sylvan Park from a website that catalogs long lost Maine harness racing tracks. You know if there's a whole catalog there must have been a lot of them. There are a bunch of buildings sitting in Sylvan Park rotting, but the track is still pretty visible. I'd like to run my dog around in there but it's fenced off as private property. Now why do people do that? Why do they fence off land that they will never do anything with? Why do they deny people access so it can just sit there and rot? So they can horde it all to themselves for some reason? I guess if someone were to enter one of those buildings and get hurt you might be liable, but I'm sure that a fence all the way around the place won't do anything more to stop people entering those buildings then just a fence around the buildings.

Yesterday the dog wanted to go on her afternoon walk early so I said to her "Fine, we'll have enough time to get lost somewhere". In the afternoons I like to walk her around the college, and they just so happen to have a series of trails that run behind the school. I took her back there once and we just did a quick loop, but I made note of some other trails that branched off that I'd like to take sometime. So I figured it was the perfect time to do a little exploring. We got to the point where the trail looped back towards the school so I took the opportunity to go the opposite way. The trail this way was wide and open. It was a bright day and there was both human and dog prints in the snow so I was pretty confident that I was headed somewhere other then the deep woods. Soon though, thanks to all the melting snow, the trail became a deep bog so I had to turn around.

We got back to the point where I had turned away from the school but my desire for adventure had not been satisfied so I took the first side path I could find. This path was far thicker then the last one I had taken, and I also, unlike the last one that led directly in the opposite direction from the university, I couldn't tell which direction this path was taking. However, like the last path there were footprints so I figured it was bound to lead somewhere.

The going was so much more difficult on this path, and it didn't help that instead of my boots I was wearing my Adidas indoor soccer shoes. The going was so rough that I let the dog off leash so she wouldn't just be trying to drag me through the brush. She went along the path, nose down, so I let my attention drift off into the forest trusting her sense of direction.

Soon, however, I became less confident that I was following a legitimate path. It was obvious that it was some kind of path, but whether it was one maintained by the school for people to trek on their free afternoons wasn't as obvious. There was no more snow so there were no more footprints to follow, but the dog was still following some scent and I figured, what's the worst that could happen?

Very soon after those doubts came to me we came into a clearing with a bench along side the trail. Proof, to me, that we were going a right way. There was snow in the clearing, but no footprints, still the bench bolstered my confidence so we continued the way were were going. Past the bench was yet another bench, however, past that the trail became even less distinct. A couple of times I thought about turning back, but I checked my phone and had service, plus it was warm and there was a lot of day left so I continued. After hiking for awhile we came to an open area on the side of the hill we were on. It was all granite, snow, and ice, but there were two benches there as well so I continued to think we were on a path that led somewhere. The site posed a lot of problems. The granite was at a steep angle and every part of it was slippery. When there wasn't snow, there was ice, when there wasn't snow or ice, there was wet moss, or a deep puddle hidden under wet moss. The worst part was, on bare granite, you can't find the trail. I wandered back and forth on the bare granite trying to find a path out of there, but now I couldn't even find the path we came in on. My dog, with all her four wheel drive glory, was bounding up and down the hill mistaking my pacing for excitement and trying to get me to chase her. I kept telling her to find the damned path so we could get out of there.

I knew this was one of those situations where I was less then a mile from civilization, I could hear cars and thought I spied roofs, but I didn't want to try to forge my own path and possibly get even more lost, especially because I wasn't entirely sure which way the school was. Every time I took a step into the forest Hastur came running through like she had found a path only to try to lead me through a bog, or across a steep ravine, or just some random direction in the woods. Finally I decided that I would just head down the hill. As long as I was heading down, I figured, I wouldn't get lost, and I also believed the road was that way. Hastur actually managed to find a decent way down that only had a few branches head height that I had to deal with, and after trudging through the underbrush for a bit we came out in someone's backyard. I got the dog back on leash and we headed towards the road.

Turns out we were about two blocks away from the school, but in a different direction then I had believed. I'm still convinced there was no path out of there, which makes me wonder what idiot put two benches on a hillside that you can't escape from? Or maybe that was the point and had I tried to spend the night there I would have been killed and turned into a carpet. Well, it's moot now since the dog and I survived our forty minute (I kept the time) harrowing journey through the Maine woods.


  1. Oh Dear God! Don't go into the Maine woods without your cell phone, a GPS tracking device lodged beneath your skin, emailing friends/family first, a backpack w/ flares, etc. Once everything is covered with snow, it's especially important to wear bright orange neon-colored clothing before stepping outside. Also, you might want to have your dog wear one of those cute mini-barrels around his neck filled with brandy. Just a thought!

  2. Hmmmm. A game trail? A lookout? Make-out point? Watch yourself! Glad you made it back!

  3. We have game trails all over our land. At first they look like paths but then they suck you in.