We’ve got lots to do before our big overlanding trip, but with this weekend’s amazing weather we just couldn’t focus on it and had to get out of the house for some exploring. We weren’t really sure what we wanted to do so we geared ourselves up for a potential hike, but also packed Klondike for some dirt work should we find ourselves way off the beaten path. After typing some GPS coordinates into the navigation to get us close, we were off!
The destination was the Zaleski State Forest and surrounding area, but we decided to start south of there a bit by the Vinton Furnace State Forest and explore our way north(ish).
It didn’t take us very long before we were winding our way along tree covered roads without another soul to be seen or heard. Almost as soon as we found our zen, we stumbled upon an abandoned tunnel.
Initially we thought we would explore it by foot, but visibility inside the tunnel quickly diminished to a point where we were unsure of our steps. So, after checking the depth of the mud hole at the entrance of the tunnel, we decided to nose Klondike in to shed some light on things!
After walking around a bit in the light and getting our feet good and covered in mud, we decided the path looked clear for Klondike to make the distance and, since we were dying to know what was on the other side, we did just that!
The picture above doesn’t really do justice to the length. I’m not certain, but I’d put it close to 900 feet long in all.
Once out the other side and with GPS signal regained, we realized we had essentially cut through the hill and were right back on the same road we’d left that took the long way around. This is our kind of shortcut!
After a short jaunt on pavement, we took a turn on some gravel. It was on gravel or dirt that we would spend most of our time for the remainder of the day. Alana and I love these rural roads and, while we love the scenery that often accompanies them and captivates us, Kegan often grabs a nap as he is put to sleep by the sounds of gravel under the tires. We are never sure if we should wake him or not… We see where it’s kind of boring for a teen so we typically don’t press the issue and are just happy he is hanging with us.
Since we had already stumbled upon one abandoned tunnel, we decided to make our way over toward the Moonville Tunnel which was nearby. It has been nearly 20 years since we were last there and we were curious how it was holding up.
Thankfully, the tunnel itself seems to be holding up pretty well. It’s biggest nemesis being vandals over father time. It is for this reason we are intentionally being a bit vague on the location of our first tunnel. So many of these amazing spots are damaged by people which results in either closure or gating to prevent exploration. When we find something that has been relatively untouched we tend to protect it more and leave it for others to discover as we did.
Shortly after leaving the Moonville Tunnel we took a small track off the main road. It turned out that it lead to the old Moonville Cemetery. I know some think it’s a bit morbid, but we like visiting old cemeteries. Alana and I like to look for the old dates and wonder what life was like for them… What did they do? What was their life like?
I know this picture isn’t clear enough to read, but in person the dates are 14?? – 150? That’s right, this person was laid to rest here over 500 years ago! This is by far the oldest date we have ever read. In fact, we wonder if this headstone was replaced at some time as it’s usually on headstones of the early to mid 1700s where they become too weathered to read. Being that this date is precolonial and this person would’ve lived during Columbus’ voyage that landed him here, we studied it very carefully and are quite certain of the numbers. We can only wonder if this person was an early explorer from Europe or perhaps someone with Viking heritage (who explored North America from 1000-1200)? With the name portion of the headstone now missing, that’s all we are left to do…wonder…
After a quick snack, we were back in Klondike and stirring up dust.
We found some pretty amazing and remote roads, but nothing quite as neat as what had already been discovered. While there were some nice tracks that shot off to destinations unknown, they were often accompanied by a locked gate or “No Trespassing” sign which we always respect.
This is a major difference when exploring east of the Mississippi as compared to west of it (generally speaking). When we make our way out west it is generally accepted that you can explore and be just about anywhere unless it is posted otherwise. There are lots of public land and it’s uses are not nearly as restricted in the east. While the “law” still works the same way, actual land use is fairly challenging as many feel it should be considered trespassing unless signed you CAN be there. Even roads that are on county or township maps are regularly blocked by local land owners for their personal use and not much is done about it.
This has long been the way things work though and this picture shows that better than words ever could.
These roads are so infrequently traveled that you never know what you may stumble across. Case in point, being this downed tree we came across. While we worked to pull the tree clear so we could get by (which took about an hour and is an entirely different story), we didn’t see another car or person.
Between Klondike’s light weight and the way this tree fell, we ended up having to reposition and use a snatch-block for a better pull angle. This one is Alana scoping out the dog that showed up to watch the show.
Having gotten all sweaty clearing the road, we decided to make a lazy way for home. The road we took back toward pavement was pretty nice and ran along some marsh land for over a mile. I won’t lie, the road and land had a very southern feel to it.
…and just like that, we were home and prepping for our return to work and those responsibilities the day had distracted us from.
We hope you enjoyed!