I've lived in this town for nearly five years now but have by no means explored all the surrounding area. Chief among the unexplored areas was a place a few miles outside of town named for a rock where the settlers and Indians used to meet along the river that contains a shallow cave in the rocks up a nearby stream. One cool late summer afternoon, as opposed to the oppressively hot and humid ones we have been getting all summer long, we drove out to do some exploring.
Unfortunately, we arrived seconds after a family of five along with two large bulldogs. As we were getting out of our vehicle, they were just setting off along the trail. With all three children under five, they were pretty slow and we followed along. The air reeked of their cigarette smoke and echoed with the curses as they yelled at their kids and dogs. Although they are supposed to have their dogs on a leash, neither were and being large bulldogs, my kids were a bit scared of them. When we finally arrived at the cave, they stopped in the middle of the path to explore the cave and made no effort to control their dogs or move aside. Finally, my wife ended up taking our two girls back down the girls while I made my way down the trail, pushing their dogs out of the way with my feet and continuing on the trail up above the cave where I took the above picture. All the while listening to the parents yell F-bombs at their kids and dogs.
Had it been a really neat place, I would have been more disappointed than I was. But as it turned out, there was trash everywhere and spray paint graffiti in even more places. It seemed fitting that such a family was there filling the place with their smell from the cigarettes and filth from their mouths along with I'm sure plenty of physical trash including dog turds and cigarette butts. Perhaps someday we'll go back to explore the trail on above the cave but I'm not sure walking through the trash and graffiti to get there is even worth that. Such a shame.
I shouldered my way back past the dogs and family still blocking the path and made my way back down the trail to my own family now out of ear range. We explored some of the rock overlooks on the way back down the trail and then went up a side trail that went up a ridge to the top of the river valley. Up there, we came across a really old cemetery in the woods that hadn't had a burial in almost a hundred years but was still maintained a bit. All but a handful of tombstones were knocked over, broke, or just missing. I bet the inhabitants have a really great view of the river valley during the fall and winter months but at the time we visited, we could only just make out the river far below through the leaves. I will definitely have to come back here after the leaves are off the tree.
I later found a rudimentary map online showing a trail that the local boyscouts created that extended another mile and a half past the cemetery along the ridge top and we found remnants of the trail leading up to the cemetery but couldn't find one any further. Again, I would like to come back and explore it further. Judging by the lack of trash, graffiti, foul odors or language, much of the traffic doesn't want to expend the energy to climb the ridge to get up here. That's fine by me.