Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tunnel Hill Trail: Deja Vu All Over Again.

OK, it's Thursday (May 23) and all is still quiet here in Oak Point Campground. I figured this would be a good day to run the 15 miles over to Vienna, drag the Quad-B down off the bike-rack, and ride a bit of the Tunnel Hill Trail. After all, who knows what the trail will look like over the Memorial Day weekend when the DHH, Desperate Holiday Hoards, get loose.

Today's plan is to ride north from Vienna the 9 miles up to the tunnel at Tunnel Hill. Since I've been here, and written about it, before I really didn't plan on making a post about today's trip, but a couple of things came up, one interesting, the other - well - highly questionable. . .

To be honest, I am, at best, a casual bike rider. OK, let's really be honest here, truth is I go for months at a time without touching the Quad-B. On top of that, the range of adjustments on my cheap, big-box-beater-bike are limited and the bike doesn't fit me very well at all. Mostly in the form of putting far too much weight on my un-conditioned hands, to the point where it once took two days before I got any feeling back in my pinky fingers after a longish, by my standards, ride.

On top of that the trail is mostly up hill from Vienna to Tunnel Hill,

so I probably don't have to tell you how relieved I was to spot the Tunnel ahead after slogging along for 9 miles with too much of my body-weight bearing down on my hands.

But you may have noticed something there on the left side of the trail ahead of me.

I didn't know snappers were tire-biters, but this big-shouldered hulk was laying there in wait, perhaps mistaking himself for one of those dogs that hides behind the curbed garbage cans, waiting to lunge out and take a bite out of any car that goes by. (With all the plastic parts on cars nowadays I imagine it's a lot more satisfying now than back when cars were all steel and rubber.)

I used to live in the swamps of the Pascagoula River Delta in Mississippi, so as far as snappers go, this guy was on the small side.

But you see that grin on his face and a little bit of drool trickling out the corner of his mouth when he thought I was going to get close enough for him to taste?

Been there, done that, not getting any closer!

Just a couple tenths beyond the tunnel is the site of the former Tunnel Hill depot. The depot is long gone now, but with water, pit toilets, and a shaded picnic table, all sitting on the highest point of the trail, this is a good spot for a lunch-break before heading downhill back to The Van.

Except that during lunch I got to studying the map. From here the former town-site of Parker City was only about 4 miles away.

There used to be two railroads that crossed each other at Parker City and a bustling town servicing the many travelers passing through with hotels, restaurants, and barbershops grew up here. Once passenger traffic shifted over to cars and the road system Parker City died a quick death. I understand that a logging operation came through a few years ago and removed most of the visible remains of the town-site, but, oh what the hell!

I'd already been on the stretch of trail I just rode, but I haven't been to Parker City, or as they call it now the Parker site, before.

Though it would probably make a whole lot more sense to park The Van at the trailhead in New Burnside and ride just 2 or 3 miles from there to Parker City, that kinda seems like cheating, and I'm already out here on the trail. Besides, what's the harm in adding 8 more miles to the 18 or 19 mile round trip?? (The Wife just walked by, looked over my shoulder at what I'm writing, and I swear I heard her mutter "silly old fool", though she denies it.)

Refreshed by my break, falsely as it turns out, I climbed back aboard the Quad-B and aimed her north instead of south.

It was mostly downhill from Tunnel Hill to Parker City, as the series of fresh beaver dams across the creek alongside the trail kept reminding me.

You'd think I'd enjoy the easy ride, but instead I could only think about the fact that every turn of the wheels was one more turn I'd have to struggle with on the uphill journey back. But, of course, I was too stubborn/pig-headed/stupid (take your pick) to turn back now.

I didn't take any photos once I got there. I tell myself it's because they didn't 'read' well (A photo 'reads' when it's clear what's in it. A shadowy photo of a tree growing out the top of someones head does not read well, nor does a few scraps of overgrown concrete poking through the undergrowth.) but it's probably because I was too preoccupied with thinking about that uphill ride ahead of me, but the former site of Parker City is marked by an old, weathered, and blank, signboard alongside the trail. Just a few feet off the trail are some bits of non-descript concrete foundations with very few clues as to what they might once have held up. Maybe one day, when the pain of the ride back to Vienna isn't quite so fresh, I'll check to see if there's any Sanborn insurance maps of Parker City available and see if I can put names to some of the building foundations.

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