UrbEx: The Elbow Part 2

Mountain Oceans

We were in really good spirits around 11:40 a.m. as we headed north on interstate 35 toward Guthrie. That would soon change. Steep slopes of clay infused silt, webs of thorny vines and an icy, impassable creek would soon take their toll on us. By 2 p.m., I was positive we would not get there…

We parked the car around 12:00 p.m. and headed along the railroad tracks towards the creek. An icy, cold, strong creek with no possible way across that we could see. We headed south along the bank to see if we could find a way to get past. Twenty minutes went by. Forty-five minutes and we were still walking. We were traveling horizontally along a slope, so our left legs were getting far more of a workout than our right legs. This became painfully apparent later on. But, back to the creek. I was going to find a way across. The creek was challenging me at that point. Then we hit the masses of thorny vines. Sharp, pointy, poky vines. There seemed no end to the botanic web that slowed us down even more. An hour went by and then an hour and a half.

Many four letter words were said at that point, and we stopped to think. Should we go back? Should we keep going forward? Forward. Always forward. Another few minutes brought us to the horses. Yes, horses. Horses where there should be none. Where there should be no trace of recent activity save for the occasional fire pit and beer can. Somewhere the river diverged and we missed it. Were were so preoccupied with our frustration that we walked past the south end of The Elbow and into civilization. There was nowhere to go but back.

We stopped to eat some food in a small clearing, and Carrie and Josie attempted to locate our position on their phones. After a few minutes of discussion about where we could possibly be, we decided it didn’t matter at that point. We would just go back to where we started. I felt like I had failed. I know failure has its own lessons, but I don’t have many opportunities to travel an hour away and spend all day exploring. I felt like it had to be then and there and things were not working out the way I had planned. I was ready to give up.

We walked across the field to less rugged terrain along the railroad tracks and made it back to our starting point. Carrie even managed to find a moment of cheer in our dreary return as she stuffed an opossum head into a plastic bag. (She collects skulls, it’s not weird. Really.) We looked down at the creek again. It really wouldn’t be that hard to cross, we told each other. That was desperation talking. By this time it was around 2:15. I gave in and started down the cliff face hanging on to roots as I descended. It was my last opportunity and damn it, I was going to take it! Carrie and Josie reluctantly followed. I went down fast. Probably too fast. When I reached the bank, I tried to find logs to bridge the gaps between the sand bars. It worked decently until the last few feet. The current was incredibly strong. I had already gotten that far. I was so close. I grabbed a sizable stick to brace myself and started to cross. Don’t ever do that. It was incredibly stupid. I took slow steps as the water rose almost to my hips. It was frighteningly apparent at that point that I could be swept downstream easily. A few more slow steps and I fell onto the other bank. I. Fucking. Made. It! That is honestly how I felt…along with incredibly foolish and a bit shook up.

I looked over and saw Carrie and Josie staring at me. They must have thought that what I did was as absurd as it felt. After Carrie and Josie crossed (at a much weaker spot in the creek, and much more safely) they mentioned that, they had felt obligated to do so upon seeing me reach the other side. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

We had stumbled upon modern ruins. It was amazing. The first things we saw were broken plates and glass bottles strewn among rusted appliances. A few feet away was a collapsed wooden shed. We walked south until we found the church. This was the building I wanted to see most. It was a small, crumbling structure made of stone which was painted, possibly to look like brick. There were steps, painted with graffiti, leading up to a long gone entrance on the north side of the building and about one-third of the total structure was intact. We stayed there for about 15 minutes looking around and taking photos. Sadly, due to our previous wanderings, we were running short on time.

Our next few stops were demolished houses. Only rusted metal and concrete blocks remained of them, though some had children’s toys strewn about their expired yards. I saw a standing wall and told the others I was walking a bit farther south to photograph it. As I got closer, I called out. “I found a house! It is nearly in tact!” I waited, and when they joined me, we all walked up to the house together. The inside was trashed but the walls were still standing, some of them still had tiles or bits of wall paper attached. I snapped a few pictures and checked my watch. Time to go.

We made a quick stop at a shed with a tricycle out front and headed back to the creek. We all crossed Josie and Carrie’s way this time. It was much safer. After we climbed out of the shallow gorge and began our walk back to the car, we realized how exhausted we were. We were starting to get sore too. We had spent so much time hiking, walking, climbing, being stressed out and frustrated, being amazed and excited that when we finally slowed down, it all caught up with us.

We had such a short amount of time to actually explore The Elbow. I’d say we saw one-eighth of what we intended to. We will definitely be returning. We want to remap this old neighborhood and get a good comparison with the other historic maps we have. It is difficult to know what is where as nature has reclaimed so much of The Elbow. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding areas I have explored. There is such an interesting, yet little talked about history here. In part three of this series, I will go over the history of the area that we have uncovered so far. As with many of the areas I wxplore, there is not much to go off of. We are hoping to visit the Guthrie Historical Scoiety at some point to see if they have more information. This has proved to be a much larger endeavor than it started out to be, but I can’t think of an area I would rather devote my time to.

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