Abandoned Bridges and Fog
Exploring strange places in the gloom of autumn
It was a foggy day in October and we were exploring. There were some abandoned places McCrae had noticed on some recent drives around the area that invited us out on a dreary weekend morning for an adventure. We first drove out to Chatham County to the Haw River, finding some small access point hidden off the highway - one of those gravel lots you might see and have some passing curiosity from the road as it flashes past your car window, but that you never actually stop and explore. It led down to a long wide dam next to the highway bridge over the river, all silt and rocks and rushing water and rusted cans and graffiti.
There was another stopping point along the Haw River for a canoe access. Slate boulders sat in the river and a slate-colored heron watched me with one sharp yellow eye as I scrambled along the banks, more sure-footed on the boulders than I had ever been before I'd started climbing. It was a playground with boulders, briars, and shed snakeskins. I imagined coming out here with some adventurous couple - some soft bodies skipping rocks between the boulders, kicking up water from the lazy hazy river.
We ventured down to Jordan Lake where another gravel pull-off brought us down a long hunting trail to sandy banks and a few fisherman. We walked along an old roadbed - probably the bridge across the lake before the modern elevated expanse replaced it following a few too many floods. Now it was just a long narrow band of concrete and crumbled asphalt stretching into the water. Clams bigger than my hands gasped skywards, showing their pearly mouths to gulls and dogs while their white meat rotted and stank. Delicate fishheads and spiky fish spines littered the causeway, and in a sandy clearing the skull and black feathers of some seabird or vulture lay strewn in a violent pile.
The causeway culminated in a small island before the lake overtook the old road bed, and on the island at the end of the long concrete line it was quiet. There was just the rattle of insects, the thwack of water against a nearby fishing boat, and the gusts of noise from cars on the modern bridge. It was quiet enough that a child shouting out from one car window sounded crystal clear over the water to the abandoned island: "A bridge! A bridge! Look, a bridge!" A fish jumped from the water and a fisherman knocked his reel, taking in slack with a click.
There was rebar and concrete mangled along one section of the island, and salty marsh grasses and stunted briny trees might hide something sinister in the thrush. I wondered if in that moment whether my life resembled some melancholy art film or if this was the eerie calm at the start of some horror slasher. The grey clouds were so thick that it was impossible to tell where the sun was, and all the colors - of the sand, the rocks, the marshes, the lake water - faded to gloomy grey. Even I looked grey in my pale skin and pale blue shirt and steely shorts, perched on a flat bit of broken asphalt that bled rusty red rebar.
This was a sallow, rotting place. Abandoned. Discarded. Refused - something broken and left to the catfish and ospreys and red-tanned fishermen. And me.