Monday, December 11, 2006

St. Stephens Park- Day One

Camping in a ghost town

It only took three months, but I finally got consecutive days off. I've been waiting for the opportunity to take a camping trip. Loaded up with my kayak, pack, and two days' food, I set out for the recently-opened St. Stephens Historical Park, which includes the archaeological dig of an 1820's-vintage ghost town on the banks of the Tombigbee River.

The park lies on the site of a long-disused limestone quarry; Old, rusted-out mining equipment lies strewn about the lake, left where it lay when Lone Star Cement Company pulled up stakes (Cemex Southeast still quarries limestone a few hundred yards from the park). The site was quarried from around the 1920s until the site was shut down sometime in the last 30 years.

Disused gravel conveyor, used to load gravel from the quarry onto river barges:

I paddled about a mile upstream and settled down for lunch. My camp stove is a rickety, home-made rig ( two soda cans put together, burning denatured alcohol), but it will bring two cups of water to a boil in 90 seconds:

The pot stand is made from coat-hanger wire. Rickety as hell. Have to be careful stirring food. It's burning, but in daylight denatured alcohol burns clear, so mind your hands!!!

Completely isolated. Except for passing river barges and the attendant at the park store, I spent almost 24 hours without seeing a single human being. I needed the time alone. After taking the kayak back to the launch, I slung my pack and set off on a 2.5-mile hike back to the spot where I put ashore for lunch, making camp in the treeline high up the bank:

Once I made camp, gathered a few hours' firewood, and cooked my dinner, I watched the sun go down, turning in with a book and dropping off to sleep about 7 or 8 pm. A wonderful, restful night of sleep, thought a little chilly late (40s). Owls, deer, and coyotes made for the occasional hoot, rustle, and howl. I feel a little ill-at-ease in my house now, as a matter of fact.

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