After our trip to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, my brother Norris and I decided to make a return trip last Friday. Our goal was to get up into the mountain, find an old cemetery, and maybe find a new route into our property. One option was to arrange for an ATV rental and guide. The other was just take Norris's old 4 wheel drive pickup. Norris said that his truck would make it and be simpler and cheaper than the rental.We went for the simple solution. It was a day made for cowboy hats, snake boots, and GPS breadcrumbs.
Now, when you talk about a tour of the backroads of Scott and Campbell counties in Tennessee, things get a little complicated. First, once you leave the State highway, there are absolutely no road signs.Second, there are absolutely no accurate consistent maps, third there is absolutely no pavement. There are some washboard gravel roads that turn into steep rutted dirt roads about 6 feet wide. There are many creek crossings but no bridges. After an hour or so of driving through the woods, we did get as far as Bairds Creek Cemetery where our grandfather is buried. This sits at the bottom of the mountain about a mile from our place. The trail ended and we could drive no farther. We turned around and made it back to the road. So far, so good.
Next, we tried a couple of routes that looked promising but did not go far enough west to get to our property. We decided to go up by the route that we knew, but that we also knew had been washed out in May. Well, it is still washed out. Last year, it was a rough gravel road. With this spring's rains, it is now a deeply rutted dirt road that resembles a creek bed climbing very steeply up the mountain. As we made the first creek crossing,we heard a loud scraping sound. Was it a muffler? Was something stuck under the truck? We looked and did not see anything. As we went farther, the scraping got worse on every bump and the trail was all bumps. We stopped again and saw that the rear spring hanger on the driver's side had torn itself in half. For those of you who may not be mechanics, this meant that the end of the rear spring was not attached to anything and the end of the spring was rubbing against the underside of the truck bed.This put that corner of the truck10 inches lower than it should have been and gave us some risk of leaving the rear axle assembly on the side of the mountain. We crept down the mountain intact and slowly drove off in search of a garage. A garage that had a specialized part on had and a mechanic with nothing else to do at 3 PM on Friday afternoon. It was a fool's errand but we were just the men for the job.
Jacksboro was 15 miles and held some hope of a repair. We found a shop and waited a half hour in line behind a guy who was paying his bill but also talking about who was related to whom and where they used to live. We finally got our turn only to find out there was no way to get a repair in Jacksboro that day. We were sent to Clinton to see the Ford dealer. This is another 20 miles in the wrong direction but we got there. We also noticed that the bed of the truck was humped up about an inch and a half right over the end of the spring. If that perforated we were, umm ,I guess screwed is the proper term. The guys at Ford were very nice but said they could not get a part until Tuesday. It was looking like a long weekend in Clinton Tennessee. Upon close examination, the mechanic said it was as bad as it gets but that meant it probably would not get any worse. With that assurance, we slowly headed north. with a close eye on that hump in the bed. Since I am writing this, you probably guessed that we made it home. All in all, we had a great time. At least I did, it wasn't my truck.We did explore the land of our roots and got our bearings around the area. I also picked up several GPS readings to plot on my topo map of the area that may help us toward at least a rough plat of the property. Somehow though, I can't help thinking that maybe next time we should go for the All Terrain Vehicles.