Episode 4 - You'll find out soon enough

When the explorer and trader John Hartman first descended the Abrams River in 1840, he entered one of the oldest uninhabited regions in the New World. He built his first cabin in the valley between the Mulberry Mountain and Mount McMillan. For almost a decade, Camp Kowal was one of the largest and most important settlements in this part of the country. But with the Gold Rush, Obispo City rose to prominence. In 1905, the winter trail from Little Hope to Obispo was constructed which bypassed Camp Kowal. Above in the valley, are the remains of a much smaller camp, where many settlers returned seasonally to fish the Mulberry Pond, called Camp Muskogee. Now, more than 150 years later, one can say Camp Muskogee looks exactly the same as when John Hartman first arrived. Under the first rays of sun, the small valley stretched away to the blurred side of McMillan's Cliff. Empty. Silent. The wind blew quietly from the north and the morning air was brutally cold. Professor Evgeny hiked the last 5 miles wrapped in a blanket. Dan wasn't having the time of his life either. But in spite of shivering he managed to keep taking pictures. We sat by the only building standing in the valley, one of the many watch towers built in the 70's by the M.R. National Laboratory. This place gives me the creeps! - said Roy. I'm glad we're not sleeping here- added Ben. Sgt. Palmer finished lighting a cigarette and cleared his throat. He seemed irritated, but didn't disagree. He got up, looked at his watch and said: Corporal Harris, follow me! He made his way to the tower's ladder and started to climb it. I followed right behind him. Touching cold metal made my hands even colder and the sound of dissonant planks echoed through the valley. What do you think Corporal? - said Sgt. Palmer taking a drag from his cigarette. I was somewhat in shock, since this was the first time the Sgt. asked for my opinion. I opened my topo map. Well Sir, the only way to the Pond from here is through Camp Muskogee anyway, sir!. - I responded nervously. He looked at me in disbelief and then said: No Corporal, I'm asking you, what do you think about this place? I looked around. The diversity of plant species was astonishing, but the silence was even more incredible. Mount McMillan blocked most of the morning sun from entering the valley which made the view a lot sinister. Sir, permission to speak freely? - I asked. Go ahead Corporal - he replied annoyed. I can tell the men aren't too excited about being here. And I'm gonna have to agree with them. I have this feeling of uneasiness. Why are we patrolling this pond anyway? - I risked asking. The Sgt. smiled. He finished his cigarette, took his sunglasses in his hands and said: You'll find out soon enough, son. I was about to reply to his lame response, when he shouted our next orders for the day. I was to survey Camp Muskogee while Ben escorted Dan and his camera around. Roy was to set the radio at the top of the watch tower and contact Major Munsch about dropping supplies off. Professor and the Sgt. sat under the watch tower and talked quietly but frantically. Apparently we are staying here till the middle of the week.

by Corporal John Harris, September 25, 2005