The express purpose of our adventure was to see the water gushing through Hole-in-the-Wall. That may seem a little drab, as far as an evening excursion goes, but if you could see Hole-in-the-Wall with water gushing through it, you would make a spontaneous trip there to see it, too. Guarantee it. In spite of mosquitoes, ticks, and a trail partly underwater. You’d go. So with this goal in mind, Sarah and I and a family from church set out to explore Hole-in-the-Wall.
Because of all the rain we’ve gotten, Battle Creek is, for the time being, no longer a dry creek bed on our place or the neighbor’s place. In fact, it is a rushing, roaring river, with intimidating rapids, an unfordable current (we discovered this yesterday), and the loveliest scent of damp earth and rocks.
The road to Hole-in-the-Wall is nothing more than a jeep trail, two well-worn ruts wending their way between hills and through gullies, following a dry creek bed for most of the way to the Battle Creek crossing. Right now, the grass is pretty short, but this summer the grass will be shoulder-height and singing with insects. In dry weather, the trail goes over two dry forks of Battle Creek and continues on up the other side of the canyon or gully, along the top and down the other side into a lovely, open, tree-bound meadow. Looking across the meadow, the miner’s cabin is barely visible in the treeline on the far side, tucked under the protective shadow of Hole-in-the-Wall. Hole-in-the-Wall is a man-made tunnel cut straight through this ridge, when miners for mining purposes took it upon themselves to redirect Battle Creek, about 100 years ago.
But I get ahead of myself. In dry weather, we cross Battle Creek at the crossing. However, yesterday, at Battle Creek crossing we followed Battle Creek downstream, finally climbing a ridge and following the ridge until it crossed over Hole-in-the-Wall. The ridge above Hole-in-the-Wall afforded a lovely view of Battle Creek, the meadow, and a distant glimpse of what is left of the mining camp. We followed the ridge over, took a scramble down the other side, and reveled in the mist and coolness of downstream Hole-in-the-Wall. When we came to the back of the ridge, we left the sunlight behind–I wonder if there would have been rainbows in the mist during the day. We kicked off our shoes and waded in the rushing water, watching the foam churn and froth in the pool under the ridge.
When we had had enough of that delight, we continued on, following the ridge further and assuming it would eventually slope into a gentle enough hill that we could scramble down it into the meadow and have a look at the miner’s cabin. We had never been to the meadow by the back way before, and found another mining pit with the remnants of mining equipment and some things that looked like rockers or sluice boxes. Remnants of a bygone era.
Sure enough, the ridge met the ground and we came out into the meadow, not far from the miner’s cabin. This old shack enchants me. The glassless windows, the doorless doorframes, the leaking roof, and old whitewashed walls, the weathered wood and the rusted nails–I wonder what the miners thought each day as they looked out on the beauty around them. Perhaps the beauty was marred by the hardship, or perhaps their young, supple bodies took to their tasks gladly. Perhaps some of both.
Phlox was flowering deep and purple in the shadows by the cabin. Mounds and mounds of it, spread in a rich carpet around the dilapidated cabin. I had never seen phlox there before, since this is my first spring here. The sun was almost gone behind the hills, but the light lasts a long time, a diffuse, ethereal sort of light. I couldn’t resist a few more pictures of the same interior of the same cabin. So enchanting. People lived here, worked here, slept here–Back when the roof was whole and the doors were on their hinges. And it is interesting to me that there is beauty, even in fragmented, decayed relics of yesterday.
Our hike took us through the meadow and down to the Battle Creek crossing from the other side. We were so close, we though we might as well see if it was possible to cross the creek on the underwater jeep trail. We attempted to cross it–or rather, the two men did– but when they were up to their waists in rushing water and not even halfway across the first of the two forks, we decided to backtrack. We looked for another place to cross, but no luck. Back we went through the meadow, up one side of the ridge, over Hole-in-the-Wall, and down the other side, back down the jeep trail to home, tired and sweaty, bug-bitten and thirsty. And we would have done it again in a heartbeat.