One of my favorite types of photo trips is to take the nearest interstate a couple exits past my familiarity zone and then drive off randomly into the countryside. There’s a certain sense of excitement and anticipation that’s generated by traveling into the unknown this way. The same sort of scenery that bores you to tears as you drive back and forth to work becomes fresh and full of possibilities again, because YOU haven’t seen it before. And, sometimes, you stumble upon things that are truly remarkable.
Yesterday, while traveling the winding and narrow back roads of Roane County, I spied what appeared to be a large opening beneath a cliff face just up the hill from the road. Upon investigation it turned out to be a rock shelter cave of epic proportions, the sort of chamber that you could park multiple Greyhound buses in.
My mind raced with the possibilities, there was an almost palpable sense of Native American presence in this cavernous shelter. As I walked inside and let my eyes adjust I almost let myself believe that there would be petroglyphs on the walls, or partially finished projectile points lying right where they were left a few centuries earlier.
But, alas, it turns out that this rock shelter is well known to local residents. It is always so in West Virginia, everything has been seen before by someone.
The walls of the shelter were adorned with a dizzying array of graffiti proclaiming allegiance to marijuana and love for Jessica, among several other related subjects. A party spot indeed.
But even though this rock shelter sees its share of activity on Saturday nights, I can’t help but believe that traces of those who came before us remain. Somewhere underneath the earth and stone, the implements and weapons that made life possible must still be lying there.
Back wall of the shelter, exposed 60 seconds: