The young boys who camped with Pud at The Last Resort in the winter of 1942-43 were novices, members of his Boy Scout troop whom he patiently tried to teach fire building and First Class Cooking. Bobby Cole and Rinky Routt had already gone off to adult training camps sponsored by the U.S. military. The youngsters Pud recruited to replace them struggled to know what to pack for their weekend in the woods. According to the mildly frustrated Scoutmaster, “Those boys carted the biggest pile of grub and accessories you ever saw, and of course didn’t take along enough blankets.”
Winter camping and winter hiking hold a special appeal for me. First, there are no annoying insects. You rarely work up a sweat hiking or taking care of routine chores. If you’re lucky, the ground will be frozen and mud will be at a minimum. You may even have a little snow on the ground whose whiteness brightens the entire landscape. Dripping waterfalls may have transformed into elaborate ice sculptures.
But one of my favorite aspects of winter hiking is being able to see the contours of the land amid the denuded trees. You can almost imagine how the quiet little stream carved out the trench now at the bottom of the steep hillsides. You can get a close-up view of the heavy rocks that have shifted with the earth, now forming primitive sculptures reminiscent of a Cubist painting.
And today, with the availability of aerial drone photography, we can even get a true bird’s-eye view of the topography of an area, as if we are one of the Red-tailed Hawks Pud regularly saw soaring above the camp.
Thanks to the skills and beneficence of Bobby Cole’s son-in-law, Brad Wilson, I am able to provide you an aerial tour of Pud’s Salt River camp as it appears today. The land has changed little since Pud and Bobby wandered the woods and fields 75 years ago. The road leading from Fox Creek to Bonds Mill is now paved, but the river is untouched and the rich bottomland is still being used for agriculture.
The following video starts just east of the camp and follows the river downstream to its intersection with U.S. 62 near the little community of Fox Creek. As the video ends you’ll see the cemetery in the foreground and the church steeple in the background. During the journey, you’ll see the mix of woods and plowed fields surrounding the camp. If you look closely about 35 seconds in, you’ll see the drone dip its camera to catch a fleeting glimpse of the boys’ masterful stone chimney, which still stands.
What a gift! It took me 56 years to find my way to my father’s beloved camp for the first time. Now I can indulge in a virtual visit, refreshing my memory of the terrain and the contours of the land, any time I'm unable to hike through the actual woods. Thank you, Brad and Julie Cole Wilson, for letting my imagination soar.