Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ten Years Later: Hikin' in Blair Witch Country

One day, the week before Halloween, I decided to take a hike up at Seneca Creek State Park, where the majority of the forest footage in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was filmed. I'd been there before the film was made, and always meant to go back at some point, but now that it's the film's tenth anniversary, I thought what the hell, laced up the hiking boots, packed a lunch, and drove up there.

The area had been the site of a mill in the 1700s, then was a prosperous farm and mill, and even had a woolen factory in the mid-1800s. The business went into a decline, and the land was acquired by the state in 1955, with a reservoir being created twenty years later. Much of the forest there is new-growth; this isn't the deep primal woods you'll find in the mountains to the west, but it's still evocative.

I thought that maybe, just maybe, they'd have something about the movie at the ranger's office...but nada. Instead, the focus there was mostly on frisbee golf and preparations for a drive-through holiday light display.

It was a gray, overcast day, and it had been raining for a few days previous, so it was fairly damp conditions for hiking. I'd watched the film the night before so I kept my eyes open for any locations that I recognized. However...only a small portion of the park has hiking trails; much of the rest is undeveloped and it was probably that portion that was the BWP locations.

Still, I got some good snaps...

This rock grabbed my interest...looks like a great landmark for secret meetings.

This pine grove might have been the place where the BWP kids found all those stick figures hanging from tree branches. But I can't be positive. The trails took me through several pine groves, but this one looks like the best candidate.

The trail crossed a road that led to a picnic area, but it was barricaded for whatever reason; probably closed in the off-season. From here I could see all the lights they were setting up for the holiday, but I did my best to keep them out of my photos. I found it slightly obscene to be walking through the woods, my thoughts deep in supernatural terrors, only to emerge from the woods and find signs pointing to "Teddy Bear Land."

Another pine grove had this alarming find, a deer leg hooked over a branch. Someone has a sick sense of humor, I thought, but I made sure to move on as quickly as I could, just in case.

Although the colors are past their peak, Clopper Lake was still pretty. (I was VERY careful to keep the light-display sea-serpent and jumping fishes out of the frame!)

Another view of Clopper Lake; you could imagine some horrible phantom rising from the depths. The lake is an artificial reservoir that covers the remnants of the woolen factory, as well as the ruins of a mill and flume. Hm...perhaps there's a story waiting to be told there?

Another interesting old rock, in slightly clearer land. Perhaps the meeting place of a witches' coven?

This lonesome pine tree stands in a clear area by the lake.

I ate my lunch in another pine grove, this one a picnic area. It was a Thursday so there was hardly anyone there at all, and those who were, were technicians working on the holiday lights. I read a few stories in the book I had with me, munching a sandwich and an apple, and then just sat, taking in the forest air. There's so much about the deep dark forest that excites the imagination, and depending on my mood could have me thinking of horror movies, or fairy tales, or anything. And that's probably why so many people found BWP to be so effective...the forest, so deep and primal, evokes much of our imaginations, and for too many who only know urban or suburban existences, the forest is a haven for our deepest fears.

The ironic thing about Seneca Creek is that suburban development is only a few miles down the road. It's really become developed up there since I was last through, alarmingly so. Thank goodness for parks, I thought, driving home.

As an aside, Friends of the Montgomery County Library has a bookstore not far from the park, so I went shopping after I was done. Cool find: a 30's edition of the Hardy Boys mystery THE SINISTER SIGN POST. And for you bibliophiles out there, have you discovered Book Sale Finder? And another aside, I used the route described in Alan Fisher's Country Walks Near Washington, so if you're in the DC area, go scrounge up a copy.

So take time out and go explore the woods near where you live. You may find some fun and adventure, or at least stimulate your imagination.


matthew28 said...

Great pics,man.It must have been really cool.

Anonymous said...

Really cool pics,id love to visit there.