Report of the Monitor, Part 3

April 16, 2006
By Brian Richards

Sunshine Ridge cups Lower Twin as it arcs from Silver Mine Hollow on the east to De Mazie on the west. The creek flows south southeasterly, following Blackburn Ridge to California hill, whose bluff drops to a narrow shelf sufficiently above the river to allow the old cord-wood packet village of Buena Vista—yclept Beuny—to perch there. Lower Twin empties into the Ohio just east of that shelf. Upper Twin reaches the river just—stand on the dividing hump and pitch rocks, if there were any, into both—upstream after a mile meander down the Ohio Valley, flowing out from a complex set of ridges, the last of which parallels the valley until it dies as the river bends away south, releasing the creek into the flood plain. Millennial spate has pushed it parallel to the river until it hits the hump that divides it from its mate, where it curls back on itself until its own effluvia turn it finally to the Ohio. Upper Twin runs southeast until that final ridge turns it 120° to the southwest to flow past Tucker’s Run and out into the plain. A mile and a half north of that abrupt turn, the East—called locally “Right Hand”—Fork, flowing almost due south, doglegs into the main branch, which stymies along the outriders of Buckhorn Ridge in search of lower ground, the river still 160 ft closer to sea level at its normal pool of 485. Until that turn, the East Fork runs more than three miles and drops 300 ft without significant deviation in its course beyond a gentle trend to the west from Dead Man Hollow where its two branches join. The eastern branch begins at the ridge south of Mackletree and drops southwest through the flat at Dead Man. The western branch can be traced upstream to a bench at 1100 ft that looks straight down on Leroy’s house and straight up Walnut Hollow to the knob one south of his shack.

§

He rode his pickup’s brakes down to the bottom of the drive in the low gap 200 feet below his shack. He lost another 200, to just less than 900 asl, driving the mile and a half southwest down Brushy Fork to its confluence with Upper Twin. He crossed the creek and turned down it a hundred yards, then back to the east across the creek again, and started up old forest road 2 toward Dead Man Hollow. He gained back the 200 feet that put him at bottom-of-the-driveway level, crossed over into the East Fork watershed, and dropped down around to 900 again before he came to the hairpin leading down to the forks at the bottom of Dead Man. At the top of the hairpin, he pulled off the road, shut off the engine, and started walking up the west fork of the west fork of the East Fork. After a few minutes, picking his way among the fallen trees crisscrossing the run grew onerous, so he climbed toward the knob between the forks, angling his way between the uprooted remnants of the ice storm. He was back to 1100 or so before he hit the greenbriers, but it was not difficult to pick his way on uphill until he approached the crown.  Above 1200 storm damage was almost complete and the top a mare’s nest of dead branches, grapevines, raspberry canes, greenbrier bramble, and multiflora rose. He found his way—step, part the brush, snap the vines, step over the branches—until he could see, through the few trees tops intervening, the clear cuts on the north side of Brushy Fork, a significant industrial incursion from this peculiar viewpoint. At the top of Walnut, directly in front of him, the knob south of the shack, the two dead pines on its otherwise naked crown definitive, and from there his eyes traced the skid road north through the saddle and just above it, a tiny, dark square in the trees. He got the binoculars out and focused them until the shack came up, shimmering there in a world that was forest in every direction. He dropped over into the watershed of the east fork of the west fork of the East Fork—creeks and hollows so gone they were never named—which had been clear cut ten years or so before. There were deer nests everywhere south below the ridge line. The young trees growing in the cut had taken the ice storm badly, ridden down in regiments, all facing south down the East Fork. He followed the deer trails down through the maze and came out of the cut into a level glade, the branch running transparent over uniform sandstone pebbles, mustard cresses greening up in the margins. It was a stroll back down to the pickup. He didn’t want to leave, a familial connection that he could almost explain, but the subgenus of long-legged men who prefer the woods alone was too much to claim, so late.

[To be continued …]

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