Saturday, July 31, 2010
Hell on Earth
Night caches are among my favorites. You go out into the woods, armed with flashlights, and follow reflectors set up at intervals until you reach the cache's hiding place. These are especially satisfying when the setting is fairly creepy—such as The Devil's Tramping Ground in Chatham County, NC, which was our destination last night. My friend Bridget (Suntigres) and I grabbed a number of hides around Siler City and then drove down to Ye Olde Tramping Ground, which I had visited once before, almost a year ago, to hunt a cache in daylight.
It's a bit more intriguing at night.
The site actually is just off Devil's Tramping Ground Road, a few miles west of U.S. 421. Ground zero is quite unremarkable; just an ordinary-looking clearing in the woods, but which shows the unmistakable signs of much partying—the remnants of a campfire, bits of trash here and there, a number of scorched trees where wisenheimers have left their marks. But the Tramping Ground has a long history, with lots of associated legends. For hundreds of years, nothing has grown in the approximately 40-foot-diameter circle, for reasons that have baffled scientists. If you leave something in the circle, come daylight, it will likely be gone because the devil rises up nightly and clears the ground as he tramps around, making his plans to subvert humankind.
To find the night cache, called Hell on Earth (brainchild of caching maestro Vortexecho), you stand in the middle of the circle and shine your light into the woods, looking for a glowing cyclopean eye staring back at you. Once you find it, you venture into the darkness, searching for more eyes...sometimes pairs of them. At one point, I spotted a large cluster of brilliant green eyes and went to investigate...only to find it was a wolf spider staring back at me. Choruses of Whippoorwills, which I haven't heard in years—and which actually frightened me as a kid—wailed mournfully in the darkness, accentuating the eerie atmosphere, and more than once, Bridget and I heard distant voices in the woods. But no one came after us with torches and pitchforks, and in fairly short order, we had found the cache and scrawled our John Hancocks on the log sheet.
Fortunately, I marked our progress on my GPS so we could backtrack easily because, once we left the rut that passed for a trail, it was difficult to keep our bearings. When we finally arrived back at our starting point, there was no one else around...and no sign of the devil dancing. The excursion was a hoot nonetheless, so our thanks to Vortexecho for a most...enchanting...evening.