Walking began at 8:23 a.m.
I headed up Kane Gap yesterday in the company of Ron Short, husband of Joan Boyd Short. He is a music professor by trade but well versed in local history. He’s traveled up Kane Gap several times and said this time the trail was washed out worse than he has ever seen. Ron left me half way and took a separate route toward his home and I continued my climb.
The top is really is a spectacular sight. Gigantic boulders litter the saddle of the Gap and ancient trees have toppled from old age and cover the original trail. Finding your way through the tangle of fallen trees would have been impossible, especially with a 40 lb. pack. So I navigated my way around a giant root ball that was ripped up from the ground. Coming down the western side of Powell Mountain was much easier as they have a county road that is level and easier to walk, although many parts have now turned into streams because of the heavy rain.
When I reached the valley floor I was met by a couple who are residents of Powell Valley and had been watching me descend the mountain with binoculars from their back porch. Also with them was Randell Jones who had tracked me down. He is the author of In The Footsteps of Daniel Boone and several other books on pioneer history.
Handshakes and pats on the back were given and I was sent on my way.
Then last night I was tracked down by Mr. & Mrs. Hobbs. This nice couple from the area (friends of Ron and Joan Short) wanted to offer me a choice of accommodations for the night. One choice was a home with hot running water and electricity. The other, this log home build in 1835.
It was last used in the early part of last century by a family of share croppers. Glass is missing from most of the windows and one wall has lost it’s siding, revealing large gaps in the timbers. A piece of history.
My Global Issues in Geography professor was going to be absent so he lined up a series of speakers to fill his class time. These speakers were other professors in the college and each one had immigrated from another part of the world. Each speaker was given 15 to 20 minutes to allow time for the others. The lectures were interesting as they spoke of life in their home country and reasons for coming to America.
Then to the podium stepped the professor from Russia. His lecture took on a bitter tone as he spoke of wanting to go back to Russia after his time in America was over. He didn’t like the culture, the food or any other subject he brought up. Evidence to our arrogant American culture was that every world map he saw placed North America in the center and the rest of the world off to the side.
“The world is round,” he argued. “So why does one country get such a prominent position as center and not the others.”
For as annoying and long winded as this fella was, he had a good point.
Many of us grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and learned that this land is your land, and this land is my land. From California to the New York islands. From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land was made for you and me.
But before you and me, a great nation already existed.
Before Herando de Soto first explored the southern Appalachians in the 1500’s, the land was populated by many tribes and nations of people. Not “Indians” but Yuchi, Iroquois and Cherokee. Already well established roadways were also traveled by the Mingo, Wyandot, Huron, Deleware, Erie, Catawbas and others who have been long forgotten. These people groups used the network of paths for commerce, communication and warring. It was the centerpiece of their civilization. Many branches came from New York and Pennsylvania in the north and the Carolinas to the south to come together in southwest Virginia and pass through Cumberland Gap. On the west side of the gap the road branched off again and lead to many points toward the setting sun.
The native Americans had a name for this road, Athawominee or “the great warriors path”. Today we call it The Wilderness Road because when Europeans first came to this area, to them it was wilderness. To those who had lived here for centuries it was home and grocery; pharmacy and hardware store. We do have a fascinating history in our European ancestors but lets not forget those who came before us. lets give all of Gods creation their time in the center of the map.
To learn more about the history of the people who called the southern Appalachians home, read the book Athawominee, The Great Warriors Path by Lawrence J. Fleenor (bigstonegappublishing.com)