It has rained and rained this winter in these mountains! And I have struggled to find time and weather to hike in. But in between the showers and downpours I have found time to go out and climb the mountain. In one of my early posts, I wrote about our well–an artesian well that runs non-stop. When we first had the well dug, my husband and I felt as if we had truly scarred the mountain and made irreparable damage to the place we love so dearly! But to live here, we had to have water and the well seemed a necessity that had to happen. And what a well we hit! 422 feet into the mountain we hit a river–for lack of a better word. An artesian well that runs with such pressure and force with clean, crisp beautiful water! Force to be sure because in our house with no pressure tank we have water on the second floor. It is a gift from the mountain and one we are truly grateful for.
But the mountain is literally alive with water and when the rains come that pure water flows seemingly from every pore! Not far from our house is an old house site–known only by old rock and sill foundation pieces and by the old spring house nearby. We first found this spring house when we bought the property and to be there is to truly catch a glimpse of old mountain living. The family who lived here by the spring built a small house or stone shelter around it to provide a place to keep things cool. It has flowed without stopping since we bought the place, even in the driest times of year. Nearby are other springs–one that flows a good bit of the time underground, only to emerge at the lower edge of the property. But during this time of heavy rains it has poured loudly as a rushing creek. We could see and hear it at the house and it has been such a beautiful sound!
Riley and I hiked between showers and found more signs of water within the mountain that was finding its way to the surface. Numerous and smaller rain fed springs were visible as I walked. This water from within is feeding the springs that lead on to a larger creek that not far from here empties into the New River. These mountains with their large granite boulders seemingly solid and yet beneath their rugged exterior lies the water underneath that gives life to the forests above.
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You truly can “live off the land” in these mountains if you desire and have the drive and stamina to make it happen. The mountain provides you with water, wood for heat, game to eat and if you clear it–a place to grow food. The family that built this spring house likely did just that. I wish I knew who they had been. Perhaps they are the ones who built the stone stacks higher up on the ridge? Their purpose remains a mystery to me. The brush has died down around them now making them more clearly visible. I’ve read they were possibly placed by native Americans for marking a sacred spot and I’ve found mention that they were used for direction. Whatever their purpose they are a magical site, and each time I pass them I wonder.
Appalachian author and native, Wilma Dykeman wrote prolifically on Appalachia. She reflected about her own roots in an edited book chapter entitled, “The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past“. In it she writes this about her mother and the touch of an Appalachian spring.
“Her footsteps often found the path to three special treasures. Because the place was on the north side of the mountains where snow fell deepest and lingered longest, three cold, pure springs bubbled from hidden sources in the earth. The largest, nestled in a narrow ravine behind our house, was a steadfast source of water for our home regardless of flood or drought. Another, beneath a rock ledge, provided for animals on our place. And the third fed a shallow, moss-fringed pond where tadpoles became frogs and clouds floated upside down in its reflection. Runoff from these springs spilled into the stream plunging toward a distant river. The voice of the water was an ever-present theme song for our days and nights.” (Dykeman, W., Dyer, J. Ed., Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers. 1998. pg. 138)
And I will leave you here to go once more with Riley to seek other treasures the mountain may hold for us on this crisp winter day. The sun is shining, the skies are Carolina blue and the mountain springs are calling…