Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Questing at Cochran Mill, Part Two: Against the Grain

Here is the second of our two Cochran Mill Quests, created by middle school students at Hill Country Montessori. To my knowledge, these are the first Quests to have been created in Georgia! You can read more about Questing at http://www.vitalcommunities.org/ValleyQuest/ValleyQuest.htm. Check out the list of Online Quests for other ones in the United States. Both of these quests will be submitted for inclusion in their list.

Against the Grain
Cochran Mill Park Quest #2

To complete this quest, a field guide to trees might be helpful. Park along the south side of Cochran Mill Road, about a thousand feet southwest of the entrance to Cochran Mill Nature Center, directly opposite the ruins of a brick chimney in a fenced yard. Follow the trail over a rope barrier (now lying on the ground). After walking a few feet, turn right to parallel Cochran Mill Road. You are now on the trace of the original roadway.

Follow the old road, continuing to be alongside the present-day one, until you see a dip in the trail. On your left, on the wooded hillside, are terraces that farmers used for growing cotton here. They are probably from the early 1900’s.

Come to where the road cuts through some rock. Lichens and algae cover the rock in many different colors. The brightest color is __ __ __ __ c __.

Continue down the path to a big fat tree on your right, just beside the path. It is probably over 100 years old. It is a __ __ c __ __ __ __ __.

The bridge that you come to crosses Bear Creek. Cross the bridge and take the path to the right. You are still on the original Cochran Mill Rd. route.

The road soon turns completely to gravel. On the right is a star-shaped stump, and behind the stump is a big rock. The rock has long s __ c __ __ __ h marks on it. What do you think these are from?

Continue down the former Cochran Mill Rd. On your right is the forested floodplain of Little Bear Creek. Continue straight down the path until you come to a bridge. The bridge is unusable because of its age. It is also part of the original trace of Cochran Mill Rd. Just beyond the bridge are the ruins of an old mill, from the late 1800’s. It is the oldest mill in the park. The only things left of the mill are a few stone walls. Standing where the mill used to be, if you face the falls, you will see a path to your left, going up the hill along the stream edge. It goes over a rock to start, and may be hard to see. Not far up the path is a rusted metal __ c __ __.

Continue up the hill if you want to see the mill dam, mostly destroyed by vandals in the 1970’s. When you come back down the path and back to the mill site, look to your right. Hidden by vines are a couple more mill walls.

When you are done looking at the mill, start to go back along the trace of former Cochran Mill Rd., the way you came. You will see a path going uphill to the right. At that fork, look right. There is a __ __ c __ __ __ __ c.

On the left after a hundred feet or so, you will see a cleared area. You are on the driveway of an old house. Can you find the concrete pad, hidden under the leaves, where the garage probably was? Can you trace any of the outlines of the now-demolished house? All that is left are some bricks and some sheets of metal. The house is from the early 1900’s. The mill owner probably lived there.

Follow the steps up the steep hill. At the top is a bench, where you can stop and rest. Follow the main path down the hill. Don’t slip. When you reach the Bear Creek again, go left. A __ __ c __ __ __-down tree makes a great bridge for squirrels to cross Little Bear Creek. When you come to a sign (in concrete, but not stuck in the ground) go left onto Loop Trail A.

When you come to another fork, go left again. Look around while you walk. After a while, on either side of the path you will see piles of rocks in a rough line crossing the trail. This is likely the remains of a stone __ __ __ c.

Down the path a little further is a clump of Christmas __ __ __ __ c. Their name is easy to remember, because they have leaflets that look like Santa’s boots. On the right are some more old farm terraces.

When you come to a sign that says “Trail,” turn right and hike up the hill, along a path lined with rocks. Continue on this path until it goes downhill. Once you pass a bench and a plank bridge, take a side trail to the left. As the trail approaches Bear Creek and starts heading back up the hill, you will see a stone wall on the left, near the stream edge. Turn left on a small path to go to the ruins of small building, constructed in 1906. Water flowed over a turbine here, making electricity for the city of Palmetto in the early 1900’s. Look for a gap in the wall that holds the box with the final clue in it. Watch out for the hairy vines and three-part leaves of poison ivy, which covers some of the walls.

Take the letters in the boxes from the answers above and rearrange them to find the answer to this question:
What was the oldest building in Cochran Mill Park used for?
It was a __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

When you have found the red box, answered the final clue, and stamped your Quest book, go back down the trail the way you came, all the way to the “Trail” sign. Don’t turn left! Instead, continue straight ahead along Bear Creek, until you see the footbridge across the creek. Turn right, cross the bridge, and follow the trace of former Cochran Mill Road back to your car.

Questing at Cochran Mill, Part One: A Shocking Conclusion

Hill Country Montessori Middle School students recently collaborated to create two Quests at a nearby nature center and park. (For the location of the nature center and information about its programs, visit it online at http://www.cochranmillnaturecenter.org/.) Taken together, the two Quests reveal the rich history of the Bear and Little Bear Creeks in Cochran Mill Park. The park property was the site of a couple of 19th Century grist mills, as well as an electricity generating station in the early 1900's. We based our Quest on a survey of historical structures in the Park (one that appears to exist only as a single copy in the office of the state archaeologist), along with an essay in "Early Georgia" (a periodical published by the Society for Georgia Archaeology at http://www.thesga.org/) about the technology behind Cochran Park's mills and dams.

Sadly, most of the structures in the park were severely vandalized in the 1970s and 1980s. Two mills were burned by arsonist's flames, while a more recent picnic area was utterly demolished (with one picnic table currently underwater at the base of the largest waterfall in the park). I am disappointed that such a lovely place, with such rich historical significance, can have been mistreated to such an extent. Even the trail signs have been damaged. Several are missing altogether, while others have graffiti on them or have been pulled up out of the ground. Graffiti used to cover the underside of the supports to a pedestrian bridge across Bear Creek; our school scrubbed away some of it, but ghost images of the older paint still remain. I am baffled that such a rural and rather remote location has been visited by such damage. Visiting the park, I begin to wonder about the value of place-based education. If greater awareness of local "treasures" (historical or ecological) means greater visitation, doesn't that increase the likelihood, in turn, that vandalism would occur? Are fragile landscapes best left unknown and relatively hidden, or protected by park signs that are easy to ignore?

With those thoughts in mind, here is the text of the first of our two Quests:

A Shocking Conclusion
Cochran Mill Park Quest #1

To complete this Quest, a field guide to trees might be helpful. Park in the Cochran Mill Nature Center parking lot. To get to the trailhead for this quest, walk back down the gravel entry road along the edge of the pond. Turn left and walk downhill to a trail sign. Take the wide, flat trail straight ahead of you, now known as The Waterfall Trail. This path used to be the access road to the mills along Bear Creek, whose ruins you will visit during this quest.

As you walk down the straight trail, you will notice a pile of rocks a short distance off to the right. __ __ __ __ c __ covers many of the rocks.

Continue on the path until it curves to the left. At the bend, you will see a large fallen pine tree that has been partially cut into logs. It is the same kind of pine that commonly grows in this part of Georgia, including along this trail. What kind of pine is it? __ __ __ c __ __ __ y.

Continue for about ten minutes along the trail, passing a small rock outcrop on the left. You will come to a place where the trail leads out onto bare rock. What kind of rock is it? You can take it for __ __ __ __ __ __ c.

Follow the sound of flowing water to the remains of a large dam. You will walk past an area on the right where we did some privet removal a year ago. The privet is already on its way back, though. You will see several small evergreen trees growing among the privet. What kind of tree are they? c __ d __ c s.

Stand at the stream edge, facing the broken part of the dam where the water flows over the edge of the wall. (The dam was originally constructed sometime in the 1930s; vandals broke the dam in the early 1970s.) Notice that, when viewed from downstream, the dam face has a series of steps. In side view through the gap in the dam where the water flows, you can see that the widest part of the dam is toward the bottom, and the narrowest part is toward the top. Why do you think the dam was built that way? After pondering this, turn away from the dam and face the woods. You will see a brown trash barrel. Take the narrow trail toward it. Near the barrel, along a wide path, you will see a large tree. Look around on the ground for its leaves, which have rounded lobes to them. What kind of tree is it? __ h __ c __ __ __ __.

Take the wide trail upstream until you come to a fork in the road. Look to your left, and you will see some ruins of an old house. It was built in the first decade of the 20th century, for the mill operator and later, the resident caretaker of the property.

Continue straight up the path for several hundred feet. Be watching on your left for the ruins of a small concrete structure that once had a flat wooden top to it. What do you think that it was? A __ __ c __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. A group of bikers, the story goes, vandalized this part of the park in the 1980s.

Continue on the trail upstream until you arrive at a second large rock outcrop that the trail crosses. Look right, and you will see the ruins of a former mill, originally constructed by Barry Cochran in the late 1800s for the grinding of grain. A wood-framed building, it was destroyed by a fire set by vandals in 1972. Amid the ruins is a large wheel made of rock that was a very important part of the mill operation. What is it? A __ c __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

Between the ruins and the stream is a very weedy area; however, if you feel adventurous, walk toward the stream edge, and you will find the water wheel support foundations. Look out across the stream. Until the dam upstream was broken in the 1970s, that area was a pond. Hiram Evans, who owned the park property in the 1940’s, had the lower dam constructed to create this pond, but it was never used to power a mill. Instead, Evans had a building on stilts constructed in the middle of the pond, with a causeway accessing it that ran from the mill building out into the pond. Locally known as “the fortress”, this building had a checkered history. Hiram Evans was the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; supposedly, he used the building for secret Klan gatherings. Later on, in the 1960s, parties were held there. The house burned down in 1972, in the same fire that destroyed the mill.

Continue on the trail upstream to another dam. Along the way, you will notice several concrete structures sticking out of the rock. The larger, low ones were foundations for utility poles; the tall, narrow ones closer to the dam were pylons for a penstock that carried water from the upper millpond down to a structure you will see later on this Quest. The dam itself dates to the mid-to-late 1800s, and is built of local stones without mortar. Sections of it were replaced by volunteers in the late 1970s. There is a pipe sticking out of the dam. How many layers of stone can you count above the pipe? __ __ __ __ c.

Turn around and start back down the wide trail downstream. You will arrive at a fork in the path, with a large pine tree straight ahead. Take the left fork. Once you reach the rock face, go slightly left, and follow a path leading down to Bear Creek, past several clumps of star moss. The trail continues along the stream edge. Look across the stream, and you will see a small rock-and-cement structure. This building was a generator house, constructed in 1906. Stand at the edge of the stream in a location directly opposite from the near corner of that structure. There should be two slender trees near the stream bank that make a “doorway” through which you can view the generator house. Turn around and walk away from the stream edge. Walk until you cross a gully/path, counting the number of steps it takes you to get there. Round that number of steps to the nearest ten, and write it here: __ __ __ __ c.

Continue to walk in the direction you were going when you reached the path/gully, taking about the same number of steps that you wrote above. Look for a box with the stamp pad and book for this Quest.

Finally, arrange the letters inside the boxes in each answer above, to find the answer to this question: "The generator house is the newest structure along one of the streams in Cochran Mill Park. From 1906 until 1918, it was used to produce something for the City of Palmetto. What did the generator house make?"
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.