Often times being in the middle of nowhere is preferable to being in the middle of somewhere. The way to get to nowhere is most usually down the dirt road where the town, and the pavement, ends. These dusty thoroughfares were a normal part of my childhood, so I’ve always felt at home bumping my way through the dust and the mud and the ruts. Dirt roads lead to discovery – of Nature’s secrets, of ancient dreams, of history, of self.
Sometimes if my husband and I don’t have time to pack up and go for a hike, or a camping trip or a canoeing escapade, then we’ll grab a mini picnic and the camera and head out on a quick journey down the dirt roads. I guess you’d call this activity dirt roadin’ or Jeep hiking – or even time traveling.
There are adventures down those overlooked roads, they lead to creeks and rivers and ghosts and legends. Many abandoned homesteads live on the sides of these old routes, where babes were raised and families shared love and laughter and tears. Wild animals now roost in the attics of these places that used to hold family heirlooms and treasures. I’ve seen flowers scattered wildly about these old places, born from the beds that used to be tended there. I’ve seen black vultures perched on collapsing roof tops of rusted tin, where the rain still plays soothing music for the wild things that have holed up underneath.
The forgotten stories float through the breeze and some even rustle the leaves overhead – just trying to stay alive amongst the dying light of days gone by. You can almost hear the laughter of children from the days before television and pavement, you can almost hear their feet splashing in the marshy creek bottoms that always run close to these old home sites. Some of the porches still hold the music that was played by calloused hands that are alive no more upon this Earth.
The old barns, built with sweat and determination, still hold proof of a man’s hard work in the days when that is the only thing that meant survival. Most of the time tools still hang on the walls, tools that only old timers can identify today. The kind of tools that did work that no man of this age has to do for himself anymore.
Rust and rot and relics – beautiful evidence of a simpler time that only exists in faded memories of grandfathers and in the sweet hearts of grandmothers. The middle of nowhere is definitely somewhere worthy of remembrance and the forgotten dirt roads can get you there. These roads were built from deer trails, Native American passages, pioneer routes and even mule plows. They were built to take produce, livestock and wares to towns, they were built to bring weary souls home. Today they offer a route into the past, they provide a peaceful trip to a pretty time where life literally was what you made of it.
For those of us who enjoy frolicking with secrets and histories and ghosts, getting lost on the dirt roads is a way to get found in your spirit – a way to see the past clearly enough that it can rearrange your future. Dirt roads take you back, and drive you forward. A sweet treat for a Sunday afternoon and a way to touch memories that aren’t your own.
Click here for photo slideshow of some southern dirt road discoveries.