From The Mountain
Mark J. Tidwell
I returned to some old stomping grounds recently. I spent a few days and nights out in the 80,000 acre wilderness known as the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. Dozens of adventure filled trips filled my youth in that country. As a teenager, I was privileged to deer hunt, and sit around the campfire with, a whole passel of memorable characters. Most of these were old timers as we often refer to them. Oh what a wealth of memories I can call upon in my mind’s eye.
This time we weren’t after deer however. Gobblers danced through our imagination as we planned out our trip. A small group of us that were teenagers back in the days I spoke of, plus some others, camped out at the old Hebbertsburg campground. It had been thirteen years since I’d been down in that country. A lot of things had changed.
The weather turned out pretty good actually, much better than the bone-chattering-cold, deer-chasing trips of my youth. It was cool up there on the plateau though. The blackberries were in full bloom indicating we were in the midst of Blackberry Winter. It dipped down to 39 degrees one night, chilly, but nothing a good sleeping bad couldn’t handle.
I really enjoyed being away from civilization for a few days. We heard some turkeys gobbling. We laid eyes on several more. We also saw lots of deer and some of the group even encountered a big wild boar. The whip-poor-wills sang us to sleep at night just outside the tents while the lightning bugs blinked away. I enjoyed all of the wildlife except for the ticks, chiggers, and absolute hoards of biting insects that buzzed around one’s head. Insect repellent did little to thwart the hungry insects and arthropods. I’m still itching as I type this out.
One remarkable thing I was unaware of is the return of hundreds of acres of the Catoosa area to what is termed as Oak Savanna. From the first recorded writings of white man passing over this part of the plateau we know that elk, bison, and Indian were there in abundance. Native Americans burned their hunting lands regularly which resulted in a sparse stand of oaks with native warm season grasses underneath.
I sure did have a great time running the woods. We also enjoyed some fine eating, cooked primitively of course on open coals, or even on more modern propane stoves. We relived a lot of fine memories and spoke of long gone hunters as we sat around the nightly campfire beneath the stars. Though a lot of things had changed, one thing that didn’t is that we still made some fine memories to be recalled and enjoyed in the future.