I have nearly always been a pretty optimistic person with a pretty strong energy and a keen interest in the what's next in my day, or my life. Recently tho, I have found myself, for many reasons, in a more pondering and pessimistic mood about where I am in my life, what I have been doing, and what the heck to do next, what is the point of anything, what is the real meaning of life, etc., etc etc. I have, no doubt, been a really fun person to be around, right down there with Eyor. I am sure this perpetually sucking weather we have had since October hasn't helped my dreary mood either. Am I complaining? Oh yup.
My poor hubby Mark, having seen my deteriorating dour mental state developing over a while now, decided, out of self defense, that what I needed was a change of scenery. So the other morning we went on a day trip with the idea to take pictures and explore more of the Old Federal Road.
This road was the route that was used by settlers who needed to cross Alabama in the 1800's when much of the land we are on now belonged to the Creek Indians, extending from Columbus Ga thru the middle of the Alabama on down to the Mobile area . Our US government wanted the route to go thru these peoples lands and thus a treaty was written telling the Indians what was going to happen to their land. The US built this road, the flood gates of humanity opened, and so began the trouble with the settlers and the Indians which eventually led to all the wars and the final running out of the Indians from here to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Once the Indians had been removed the road no longer was a necessary way to cross the state and was largely abandoned for other routes.
Mark has long been fascinated with the history of this mostly forgotten road both in stories and in photography and he has spent perhaps equal time in the archives studying maps and surveys as he has spent taking photos. The surveys and maps he has studied have led him to many places where the road is still operational, whether newly paved or still dirt, and to the more remote stretches that appear as deep cuts and channels, now covered with trees,vines and mosses. What is left along the places he has found are crumbled sites of forts, and the many graveyards with ancient markers, wonderful white simple churches, stagecoach sites, tavern sites and homes, all of them, silent markers of a generation who so desperately wanted or needed a change in the life that they went into a hostile wilderness to try to find a new life.
We began our trek heading towards the eastern beginning of the road, on the Chattahoochee river south of Phoenix City. Our destination was Ft Mitchell, which we had heard had recently been reconstructed and supposedly a museum built, and carriage collection was to be seen. Our first two hours or so of 4 lane Hwy 80 was nauseating display of just how much junk can litter a beautiful geography. The lovely rolling hills were covered with dead car piles, appliances, squatty little houses that no one had lived in for ages, its ugliness defying imagination. We rode along taking it all in with a stunned and amazed sad silence, not helping my mood yet at all.
We found the fort and spent some time wondering around the cute little museum. The carriage house and collection of vehicles was a nice thing to see, with a very well kept variety of buggies, carts, wagons, and even a hearse. I briefly sat in the stage coach and realized very quickly that if that had been my transportation mode back in the day that I would have been the passenger throwing up on the others, part claustrophobia and part sea sickness. The reconstructed fort was well built and solid, and things were set up as tho the travelers were just out for a few minutes, sort of still inhabited by the ghosts.
All this history, this walking around in a ghost world, made me give thought to whether I would have had the guts to have lived in this place and traveled as these people did. What were their days like, and worse, their nights? It was an existence so drastically different from my own, and yet their basic wants and needs were no different from any of mine. Its good to ponder someone else's shoe fit when your own are seeming a bit uncomfortable.
We moved on onto the dirt remnants of the actual road and following the maps with overlain lines, made our way west. Long stretches of tall pines and quiet one lane roads with little sight of human intervention was such a nice peaceful change from the trashy chaos of the Hwy 80. We saw deer and hawks, stopped to photo the charming churches and the quiet, vacant houses. We chased a setting sun as it threw long dancing shadows and lit the tall grasses with a rich warm gold against an almost deep purple sky.
Once the sun had dropped from sight we got back on the modern roads and headed for home. My head was in a much better place from the change in perspective for the day. Mark was right, once again.