Going Down Home Timeline

May 2018 Third trip Down Home

July 2015 Second trip Down Home

October 2014 First trip Down Home

July 2013 to October 2014 Online research and interviews

July 2013 23andme results received

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tyrrell County, Day One

On Monday, October 13, I drove from Philadelphia to Tyrrell County, North Carolina.  

It rained until Virginia.  When the skies cleared, I entered an unending T-Mobile dead zone, which left me without that directive yet reassuring little voice that says “In a half mile, remain in the right lane and turn right onto US 17 South.  Turn onto 17 South!” 

At 20 miles long, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnels was a far longer and more beautiful crossing than I had imagined.  Everything was shimmering, silvery and ethereal.

After the bridge, I made a few wrong turns and had a few time-wasting off-road adventures.  Everything looked the same to this traveler: flat farm fields, planted with yellowed soy beans that shone golden in the late light, broken by the occasional cotton field and long expanses of forested swamp. 

As I got closer to my destination, Columbia, the billboards began to advertise Outer Banks destinations, and the horizon began to promise nearby water.  I spotted a road sign that said “red wolf crossing.”  There was a subtle shift in the landscape, a sense of increasing wildness and isolation.

It did not feel like going home.  It felt like going toward something unknown and unaltered by the 21st century, a perfect landscape for travelling back in time, hunting ancestors.

It was also blackpowder deer hunting season in North Carolina, I learned after I checked into the Brickhouse Inn Two hunters in the room across the hall from mine were also traveling back in time, using muzzle-loading rifles to recreate an earlier hunting experience. 

I was about to learn just how much Tyrrell County -- with its sparse development, swamps, forests and humidity -- welcomes retrospective pursuits.

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