Saturday, June 10, 2017

Beyond the Devil's Tramping Ground

Gracious, did that cross painted on the road just cause Bridget to burst into flame?
Several years ago—in July of 2010, to be precise—my friend Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres) and I went down to Chatham County, NC, to The Devil's Tramping Ground to hunt a night cache called "Hell on Earth" (GC1GZNP). Night caches tend to be smashing fun, as you get to go out in the woods with flashlights and follow glowing markers to get where you're going, and this cache in particular made for a memorable adventure (see "Hell on Earth" for the blow-by-blow). It's rare that I revisit a cache I've already found, but Bridget wanted her significant other, Gerry (BigG7777), to experience the joy of night caching, and since there was a newer cache at the Tramping Ground I hadn't yet found, she wondered whether I might wish to accompany them. Well, shoot yeah!
BigG7777 and Suntigres at the Smokehouse Bistro in Liberty
So off we went. First, a nice dinner at the Smokehouse Bistro in downtown Liberty—an excellent burger with jalapenos and homemade chipotle-habanero sauce for me—then a handful of park & grab caches on the trip to ye accursed circle of land, located just off Devil's Tramping Ground Road near Harper's Crossroads. We arrived at the site just before sunset. The place appears innocuous enough—just a clearing in the woods set back some distance from the road—but there are distinct signs of something a little different here. There's a large cross painted on the road near the opening to the forest. Numerous trees have been etched with crosses and other religious symbols. Graffiti denigrating Satan in the rudest of terms has been sprayed on the pavement and on trees. And clear signs of wild partying litter the entrance, though once you get farther into the woods, there are few signs of human incursion.

Our first order of business was to make our way out to the cache called "Beyond the Devil's Tramping Ground" (GC5Y9KA), which proved easy enough to find. But then I discovered, deep in these dark, deserted woods, a large electrical cable running along the ground and extending out of sight. Then somewhere in the distance, I heard a faint, high-pitched "Woo-woo-woo-woo" sound, which led me to suspect I might have come upon a conduit to The Black Lodge. I didn't encounter any of its inhabitants, at least that I'm aware of (sometimes I'm not too sure about Bridget), but I reckon this was as apt a location as any to find an entry point.
Hunting "Beyond the Devil's Tramping Ground" just before sunset. Wonder if that length of electrical
cable out in the woods is a conduit of sorts to the Black Lodge....
One more cache under our belts, and the sun just about down, we turned our attention to "Hell on Earth." The first thing we realized was that, unlike when Bridget and I had gone after it back in 2010, we could see no glowing reflectors in the beams of our flashlights. Well, that was seven years ago, and trees have grown, reflectors have fallen out of trees, and our memories are anything but photographic. We ended up stumbling around in the dark for a while without success, but then, happily, BigG came upon a reflector, a considerable distance from our starting point. From there, we were able to pick up the trail, though we did lose track of the reflectors any numbers of times as we journeyed farther. At one point, I did wonder whether we might have come upon an anomaly of time and space, à la The Blair Witch, wherein the woods seal themselves up tight and refuse to permit escape. Eerie bird calls filled the night, and distant frogs and other critters had commenced a lulling chorus. But after some searching, circling, and hollering back and forth, we reconnected with the trail, and at last—voilà—BigG was able to lay his hands on the cache.

Then the fun began. Since we hadn't marked GPS waypoints on our outbound trek, and there was no clear trail at this point, we had to figure out our own ways back to the starting point. And just because Bridget and I had already done this thing once, it didn't mean we could navigate the woods with any sort of assurance. We had the parking coordinates marked, of course, but taking the most direct route out oftentimes does not constitute the best route.

Briers! Ticks! Poison ivy! Unknown things whispering and gibbering in the darkness! Oww, motherfucker, oww, motherfucker, OWW!

At last, there it was—the Devil's Tramping Ground once again, and what a welcome sight. From there, it was back to the vehicle and back to our respective home ports—and rather late, it turned out. Much satisfaction for all, of course: BigG had claimed his first night cache, and Suntigres and I added a few pelts for ourselves.

Today, at 2:00 PM, I have a presentation on geocaching and horror writing to give at the Greensboro Public Library, Glenwood Branch. That's less than a couple of hours from now, but I expect to see some of you dear readers in attendance. There will be at least one new cache nearby, just waiting for someone to grab the coveted First-to-Find honor. Might that be you?
Lost highway

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